Remember Us in Tucson: The Battle Over Ethnic Studies in Arizona

photo courtesy AlterNet / Javier Gonzalez

A close friend and comrade of mine is an educator in Tucson, Arizona. As the battle over multiethnic education wages on, she repeatedly demands, “Remember us in Tucson!” It is imperative that we keep Arizona on our minds; these efforts against ethnic studies are wrapped up in the other major struggle of the southwest: immigration. SB1070, the staunchly anti-immigrant bill, recently reached its one year anniversary; Huffington Post reporter Victoria M. DeFrancesco Soto discusses its beginnings as a Tea Party stimulant and its recent defeat, due in part to the economic toll it has cost Arizonians already. DeFrancesco Soto also lists the anti-immigration bills that have been introduced to Arizona in 2011; she states, “The targeting of immigrants from 2010 grew into an assault on their sons and daughters.” To this end, the vehement effort to end ethnic studies comes as no surprise.

The Arizona Daily Star reports on the vote postponement for the ethnic studies ban:

TUSD Superintendent John Pedicone had urged the board earlier in the day to postpone the vote after hearing from a number of community groups. He hopes that the community forum will allow for a healthy dialogue.

The meeting moved at a slow pace as board members were often interrupted by audience members.

However, it came to a halt nearly two hours in when two members of the audience attempted to speak after the call-to-the-audience portion of the meeting ended. The women were asked repeatedly to leave before being escorted out by police in tactical gear.

The interruption resulted in a 15-minute recess. When the board reconvened and attempted to discuss the Mexican American Studies proposal, the interruptions continued and five more women were escorted out as a result.

Lupe Castillo, a longtime educator and community activist, was one of those escorted out.

“I wanted to say a few words. I wanted to read from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s ‘Letter From Birmingham,’ ” said Castillo, 69. “I’m horrified at the level of police presence.”

She along with six others – all adults – were issued a citation for criminal trespass and ordered to appear in city court.

Read the full article at the Arizona Daily Star, or watch a moving video of the event.

The vote delay comes barely a week after ethnic studies students chained themselves to TUSD Board members’ chairs, which led to the cancellation of a board meeting.

The community involvement on this front is nothing short of inspiring, and has been compared to that in Wisconsin by AlterNet reporter, Jeff Biggers. Ethnic studies students and teachers remain unwaveringly committed in the fight against the ban.

UPDATE: A video has been posted from last night’s protest.

“We prevented the killing of our classes for tonight…”

— Kate Wadkins

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