walkout 1968
Students were forbidden from speaking Spanish in class or from using the restrooms during lunchtime. JASMINE CHAVEZ: Moctesuma, I wanted to end with Jasmine in the studio in Los Angeles. Walkout: In 1968, East L.A. Students Led a Movement Fifty years ago, 17-year-old Paula Crisostomo helped organize a multi-school walkout that galvanized the Mexican-American community in … We had been working together with the Admissions office since September of 1967 on the question of admissions. LEaders of the walkout and other civil rights leaders, such as members of the Brown Berets or the Free Press continued to be arrested. But some of the principals called in the LAPD for what they called crowd control. I felt like I didn’t have any other choice. AMY GOODMAN: Jasmine, did you see this movie, Walkout? Thanks to CYLC, the Chicano Youth Leadership Conference, I met up with more than 20 schools. So when the parents and community saw that—and again, it was a peaceful protest, we were not violent but we were met with violence—when the parents heard about or saw that, they knew that it was more serious than they had imagined. This is an excerpt. Knowing that their public schools would lose money for each student not attending class, the organizers decided to plan a walkout. They felt they were receiving a substandard education because they were Mexicans and Mexican Americans. And throughout the world, young people are looking to change the world. They showed us a documentary, and I did see it. To read the story of the walkouts, visit our article Part 1: The Walkouts. You have a lot of ways that young people are communicating that didn’t happen in 1968 the way that it is now. They also serve as a clear demand. Eventually, the walkouts led to the school district hiring more Hispanic teachers, the end of paddle beatings for speaking Spanish, and the introduction of bilingual classes and ethnic studies. The police started using their batons and beating students. It was vital, because it gave us the ability to show HBO that what we were re-creating was absolutely accurate and real. We are joined on the line by now by award-winning film producer and community activist, Moctesuma Esparza. I went to UCLA. On March 6, 1968, students at four high schools marched out the doors to protest the school district’s treatment of students of Mexican-American heritage, pushing back against norms that included corporal punishments for speaking Spanish. I had the privilege of having Sal Castro as a teacher, and he was an out-of-the-box sort of guy, especially for those times. So I also developed that work and got the leadership training. Did most of the other students have familial support? Young people themselves are gaining the leadership that took a few years in the past. It is an astonishing event that this movie got made at all. We speak with the executive director of the film, Moctesuma Esparza. I was a founder of UMAS there. Esparza is portrayed in the film by Bodie Olmos, son of the movie’s director, Edward James Olmos. All of ours were closed, because we weren’t allowed to use them before school, during lunch, or after school. He noticed the injustices against Mexican-American students as a social Studies teacher in the Los Angeles Unified School District. We rely on contributions from our viewers and listeners to do our work. And we then gave ourselves the assignments for each campus to mentor the high school students of a particular high school. AMY GOODMAN: Moctesuma Esparza, can you talk about how it happened in 1968, what role you played, how the students responded, and then how the police responded?


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