We awoke on our first morning in Tucson to learn that Roberto Rodriguez, a professor at the University of Arizona, was holding a press conference to address death threats he had received by an apparent white supremacist. Roberto’s writings were part of the curriculum of the school’s Mexican American Studies program, which was dismantled by the Tucson Unified School District (TUSD) in January 2012. Roberto’s unwavering support of the program is believed to have motivated the death threats.
The Mexican American Studies (MAS) program, created in 1998, devotes an accessible curriculum to teaching high school students history from the perspective of the oppressed. The program provided an alternative to traditional high school curriculum that glossed over or in some instances, outright ignored, significant pieces of Mexican American history. While the dropout rate of Chican@ students was 50 percent within the TUSD, those in the program had a 98 percent graduation rate.
Originally known as the Raza Studies program, the MAS program was forced to change its name in October due to state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne’s incessant and ignorant criticism about the word raza, which translates to ‘race.’ Horne, now Arizona Attorney General, was instrumental in devising the constitutionally questionable Arizona State House Bill 2281 (HB2281) legislation passed in May 2010, which sought to ban the MAS program and prohibit Arizona school districts and charter schools from teaching classes that:
At the Occupy National Gathering this past July, we found ourselves completely in awe of two people who spoke at a group discussion on people of color and Occupy hosted by organizers of (A)GITAT(E), an anarchist convergence happening concurrently. After a long conversation on the grass, we learned Amalia and Maria were organizers with (un)Occupy Albuquerque who had consented to sending them as representatives, and raised funds on their own for travel costs. With the overwhelming feeling that getting to know our new (un)Occupy friends and hearing their thoughts was the the highlight of our time at the National Gathering, we looked forward to visiting Albuquerque on the Radical Resistance Tour more than ever.
Maria told us that when visitors come to (un)Occupy, they almost always ask about “the name-change.” That was easily understandable, since it was one of our first questions to them during our interview. As they often do, and as Amalia skillfully did at the National Gathering, they touched upon several reasons how and why the name-change happened.
Modestly located next door to a tire shop, Occupy the Stage is one community with access to a multi-purpose warehouse—something which other Occupy communities may call a privilege, especially when the weather is too cold for outdoor General Assemblies.
Originally a wooden stage of just a few square feet at the Duncan Plaza encampment facing City Hall, Occupy the Stage (OTS) provided live entertainment to the Occupy NOLA community, ever-cherishing of a good time. After evenings of many a burlesque show, reggae band, and stand-up comedian, OTS grew into a working group, which seems to unite artistically inclined protesters and Anonymous enthusiasts. Following the eviction, several members of OTS found an unused warehouse and repurposed it using personal funds. OTS thus evolved into a physical space that provides a home for Occupy NOLA’s library, media station, performances, meetings, tents, as well as art, bike, computer workshops.