Wednesday, November 28, 2007

DREAM Act Fails

In late October, Congress rejected the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, known as the DREAM Act, along with the hopes of students who were depending on the bill to change their lives.
The DREAM Act failed to get the 60 votes it needed that would have brought the bill up for discussion and possible legislation.
The bill, which is supported by both Republicans and Democrats, has seen many reforms and adjustments since its inception in 2001 and keeps growing as time passes and voters become aware of it.
The problem with the bill is that there are still many people and voters who aren’t aware of the bill, but they are also ignorant as to how this legislation would drastically change the lives of thousands of students, the majority of whom are enrolled in community colleges and universities.
Students who attend colleges and universities under California legislation AB 540 have to pay for all their fees free from all financial aid outside of select scholarships.
They have been brought to this country as luggage by their parents at such a young age that they didn’t have a choice in the matter.
They are subject to deportation at any given moment if caught by immigration officials.
They are forced to hide and make ends meet at menial jobs drastically below their intellectual capacities such as waiters, clerks or manual labor.
The DREAM Act would help students currently attending a college or university and those who have already attained their Bachelors and in some cases, Masters degrees in law and medicine by allowing them to use the degrees they have worked so hard for and spent their life savings paying for.
There are those out there who argue that immigrant students are taking up valuable seats from American students in colleges and universities robbing them of their chance for success.
The U.S. is the land of the free and if you choose to deny yourself higher education that is your choice, but don’t get mad if there are those out there who take advantage of all the educational resources this country has to offer.
There are those out there who want to accomplish what their parents could never dream of back in their native countries because of political unrest, corruption and poverty.
Stop and think for a second how drastically different your life would be if you couldn’t drive because you can’t attain a drivers license?
Think about if you couldn’t get a decent, respectable job that paid you the state minimum wage with possible health benefits.
Think about if you didn’t qualify for any kind of financial aid and had to pay for your schooling while still maintaining a home.
Imagine not having any help from any type of government service while keeping a low profile from fear of being deported and yet you are college educated in this country.
This is what the students relying on the DREAM Act have lived with all their lives.
They live in fear, day by day not knowing where their next meal is coming from or if they’ll even be able to pay the rent.
Immigrant students put in more effort and work harder because they know if they don’t, they’ll never get anywhere.
The average immigrant student has aspirations of becoming a teacher or lawyer because they want to go back to their communities and help those like them.
At the same time, there are those out there who see the DREAM Act as a free pass to the children of immigrants.
Some say the DREAM Act would only cause more and more people to immigrate here to the U.S.
Under the DREAM Act, students only qualify if they arrived in the U.S. before the age of 16, attended and graduated high school successfully and have attained a degree from a university or college or are currently enrolled in one.
The DREAM Act would only benefit students who are asking for a chance to be legal residents of this country and the opportunity to work hard, get a well paying job, buy a home, have kids and contribute to this great country.
With the upcoming presidential election there is a growing fear that something has to happen with the DREAM Act as soon as possible because all of the nation’s attention will be focused elsewhere.
Yet, no matter how many protests are organized and how many letters and phone calls are made to congressmen and senators, people don’t comprehend the massive impact the DREAM Act will have in the lives of immigrant students.
It would give them a chance to be something they have all worked hard for and have paid their dues for, a chance to become citizens of the country that became their adoptive home.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The East Los Angels Classic Roosevelt vs Garfield

The funny thing that happened after the game was that all the friends I know at school saw me at the game. I was running around the stands taking pictures going up and down. i was on the side lines talking to people and again taking pictures. Everyone comes up to me and says "dude I saw you at the classic. I was yelling at you and you didn't even hear me."
It's amazing how many people know me now and recognize me and the work I do.

The Roosevelt High Rough Riders defeated the Garfield High Bulldogs 23 to 15 in the varsity game while the Garfield sophomores defeated the Roughriders 29 to 14 at the 73rd East Los Angeles Classic.
After losing the last two meetings to Garfield, Roosevelt football players and fans returned to Weingart Stadium ready to get some payback.
With generations of family both young and old attending the historic match up, the rivalry between these two schools is as strong as ever.
A Roosevelt alumni, and one time coach for both schools, Al Padilla says the rivalries origins can be traced to inter-marriage between families, “You come to this game and the mother would be sitting on the Garfield side and the father would be sitting on the Roosevelt side while their kids are out in the field going at it,” said Padilla.
“Stevenson and Belvedere feed the schools. A lot of these kids went to the same junior high and then had to be split when they went on to high school.”
Former alumnae like Yolanda Ruisen, who was in Roosevelt’s graduating class of 1968, says she has two nephews playing for Garfield and that they always make fun of each other and poke fun all in good spirit.
However, when she was a cheerleader she recalls the bus being pummeled with bottles and rocks as they tried to enter or leave the stadium.
Fourteen district council member Jose Huizar was at the game as a fan but was also there to give scholarships to the top two academic students from both schools in the sum of $500.
Huizar has been giving away the scholarships for the last fours years,
“[The scholarships] are given to students showing promise to return to their community and give something back,” said Huizar.
Huizar himself has been coming to the games since a child supporting his older brothers and sisters who were either in the band or on the football team and said that while the rivalry remains as strong as ever, the violence has faded. “I remember coming as a young boy you’d see gang fights outside in the streets.
Thankfully this game has gotten to a level that’s showing on a competitive level our community and schools pride in a positive way.”
Luis Cortez who was a Roughrider senior in 2002 said that now that the classic has returned to ELAC after being moved from L.A. Coliseum, the fans and players become more involved in the game, “The intensity of the game brings it out of the [players] and the fans get into it,” said Cortez.
“You can hear more of the fans, it’s really close [compared to the coliseum]. I would have loved to play here as a senior.”
Before the game, Cortez gave players a pep talk about the game saying, “As long as you put your heart out on the field, you shouldn’t cry after win or lose.”
Janine Olmos who was a student at Garfield in1979 has a son, Juan Lopez played in this years game. She also remembers when the rivalry was far more heated than it is now, “ I was a freshmen with the band and as we were driving out, our buses were bombed with bottles and rocks,” said Olmos.
She said that she’s happy that rivalry isn’t as bad as it use to be.
She says that now she can, “Watch my son play and see him have a good time out there.”
The games significance goes beyond the rivalry as both schools crown their home coming kings and queens at the game. Bands, cheerleaders and the flag drill team also had a stake in the game.
During half time they all faced off dueling each other.
As one school would take the field the opposite side would fill the stadium with boos and heckling showing that the rivalry is as strong as ever.
However, it was all in good clean spirit as the community got together to see old friends again and to remember their past as a new generation of students make theirs.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Illegal Immigrant Students ProtestFor DREAM Act Legislation

East Los Angeles college club members from the Student Advocates for Higher Education and Equality club participated in a mock protest to respond to the DREAM Act, legislation s.2205, failing to meet the required number of votes that would have put the bill up for discussion. SAHEE members joined protest organizer CHIRLA, The Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, students from Glendale community college, UCLA and Cal State University Northridge in the mock graduation on Seventh and Flower in Downtown L.A. during rush hour from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. asking “Now What ?” Students attend colleges and universities over coming great economic and personal strides to attain degrees in teaching, medicine and law only to be stopped dead in their tracks because of their resident status in the U.S. Ana Verdin, who just recently graduated from Glendale, participated in the protest handing out fliers to people passing by wearing her cap and gown, as were others, explaining to them what the DREAM Act is and asking for their support to pass legislation of the bill. Lizbeth, who only wanted to be mentioned by her first named, said the goal of the protest was to “Send a message to the Congress that has failed us so many times. We need the DREAM Act and we need it now. We’ve followed the American ideology, we’ve studied hard, worked hard and we’re graduating. We’ve done everything [the U.S.] wanted us to do, now what? Now what do you want us to do? We’ve got our degrees, we can’t work and we can’t do anything.” During the graduation, students received a paper that said “Now what?” as their educational goals were being read aloud, the majority of them wanting to be attorneys and teachers. During the students impersonated ICE agents dramatizing the round ups of immigrants across the country and the fact that students can be just as easily deported. Students also marched around Grand and Flower as people were getting off of work, giving them fliers and causing traffic congestion. Director of the student support program at California State University of Los angles, Steve Teixeira was on hand to support students who CSULA and are immigrants. He says that they are the students who work harder while still holding a job and supporting their families, “A Fuersas.” He respects that they put so much time and effort to organize and realize that change will have to come from a change in government legislation. Emotions ran high as the mock graduation got underway and students chanted protest slogans like “Hell no we won’t go” and “Si se puede.” Valedictorian Imelda Placencia, an undergraduate at UCLA, cried as she was explaining who she has worked so hard to attain her High School Diploma and her Associates Degrees. The struggles and obstacles she had to ever come and endure only to be denied of her ability to use them. “The DREAM Act is not just another piece of legislation. It holds the future of thousands of undocumented students across the United States,” said Placencia. Hector Elizalde, field representative of Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allerd, was on hand to let students know that the Congresswoman is supporting them and their cause as she was in Washington fighting for the bill. Elizalde read a letter stating that Congress would not stop working until the DREAM Act would pass and for students to not be discouraged and continue on. “Despite the setback in the senate, the house of representatives will continue to fight to pass the American DREAM Act. The DREAM Act students should not be left behind during [Senators] efforts to pass immigration legislation,” said Elizalde. He encouraged students to continue their efforts by calling California legislators and writing letters letting them know that the DREAM Act needs to pass. Alma Marquez, Director of Government Affairs and Community Organizing for Green Dot Public Schools, was also on hand supporting the DREAM Act and letting students know that they are behind them supporting them, “This is the civil rights issue of our generation, of your generation and of future generations and we must act now. We must hold the democrats in Congress accountable and as people who can urge other people to vote we must encourage them to be bold for you, bold for children who cannot yet speak. We cannot let another year pass without this legislation. We need this legislation to ensure that we have a well educated work force so that we don’t have to import talent,” said Marquez. Seth Brysk, Executive Director of the American Jewish Committee, assured students that they have the support of the American Jewish Committee in their struggles to pass the DREAM Act. Brysk said that because he knows how much of a difference public education can make in a community; they will continue to support the DREAM Act and pro immigration legislation's. “We must give students the opportunity to complete their education regardless of immigration status to pursue higher education, to obtain their legal status and to contribute to American Society.”

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Ofelia Esparza Dia De Los Muertos Altar Maker

Renowned “Dia De Los Muertos” altar maker Ofelia Esparza, who is a former ELAC student, clarified and explained misconceptions about the day’s origins and its true meaning.
“An altar is a healing experience. It’s a unique way of celebrating the dead and not how they died, but how they lived,” she said.
“From my experience, most people see altars as sacred pieces,” said Esparza.
“It’s not a Mexican Halloween just because you see skeletons and skulls. The meaning of an altar is to honor our loved ones and to remember them in a loving way.”
Esparza, who grew up in East L.A. attributes her passion for her art and altars to her mother.
“I was greatly influenced by my mother and the people I grew up around when I was a child. My mother had this tradition of making home altars and I became involved in helping her,” said Esparza.
During those years her mother gave her advice as to why she celebrated “Dia De Los Muertos,” and why she built altars.
Esparza says that it is the essence of why she does her work “Las Tres Muertes,” the three deaths.
Esparza said that in life we all go through three stages of death: the day we die, the day we are buried and the day we are forgotten.
She said that the worst death a person could go through is dying and not being remembered for who they were and how they lived.
She contributes this to the reason as to why she has continued to build her altars, so she will never forget her family, mother and ancestors.
As a child, Esparza recalls her mother making altars at home and at the local cemetery with marigold flowers, candles and various pictures of her grandparents and great grandparents.
Esparza said that these three elements, the marigold flowers, candles and personal items, are vital elements needed for any altar.
“I got to know my [ancestors] even though I never met them and through the altars they became a part of my life,” said Esparza.
Over the years, Esparza has had help from her own children in building altars.
Her sons and daughters help in the construction of the altars, building frames and tables to decorating the altar with flowers, pictures and various decorations.
One of her daughters, Rosanna Ahrens was responsible for creating the visual presentation used by her mother during her talk at the Edison Center for the Performing Arts on Oct. 10.
Even though Esparza has been creating altars for a number of years, she didn’t start to get recognition until she started working with Self Help Graphics in 1980.
At SHG, she began working with founder Sister Karen Bocalerro and other local artists.
Since then she has been involved with SHG’s annual celebration of “Dia De Los Muertos,” and has created altars dedicated to immigrants who died in September 11, soldiers who have died in the Iraqi war and altars for incarcerated and dead prisoners.
“SHG opened up many doors for me and as a result I was able to travel to many places and continue making altars,” says Esparza.
She traveled to Chicago to build an altar for the Mexican American Museum, and to Scotland.
While in Scotland, she visited a community that through her altar mourned the death of children who died in a bombing.
Even though people never heard or knew anything about altars and “Dia De Los Muertos,” they embraced and accepted her contribution.
Syvil Venegas, who is a Chicano Studies instructor, has been hosting Esparza in her Chicano Studies 62 class for the last three years.
Venegas has her students create personal altars and have been on display in the library for the last couple of years.
However, this year with the help of Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano(a) de Aztlan club and Vincent Price Gallery’s Director Karen Rapp, they were able to host the event not only for Elans, but also for Roosevelt High School students.
Ben Gertner, who is an English and Journalism teacher at Roosevelt, brought students to listen to Esparza speak because like Venegas, he is having his students create “Dia De Los Muertos” altars for their class project.
Esparza will be building an altar again this year at SHG for its annual celebration.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Dia De Los Muertos True Meaning

"Dia De Los Muertos" not a Mexican version of Halloween. DDLM is and has nothing to do to with going around in a costume asking complete strangers for treats in neighborhoods you don't even live in. DDLM is a family tradition celebrated in Mexico and parts of South America. In the last two weeks I had the opportunity to write a story for my schools news paper about Ofelia Esparza, a reknowed DDLM alter creater. DDLM has many aspects of it tradition and it varies with families, locations and generations, but the over all reason DDLM should be celebrated by Mexicans or anyone in particular is to Honor those that family memberrs that have come before us and paved the way so the the next generation could havething better than they had themselves. To never forget who they were because no one is truely gone until know one remembers who they were are that they were once alive in the same world we live in.. Esparza in her presentaion talked about her various experiences going all over the world doing what she loves nad helping people understand our traditions and involving them. However the major portin that I took from it again is the fact that DDLM is about remembering our ancestors and to never forget the sacrifices they made for us to get where we are today. This can be best described, as Esparza put it as "Las Tres Muertes." She explained that we all go through three levels of death in our life times. The death from the physical world, the death of being buried in the earth and the worst and most brutal death anyone can go through is the death of being forgoten. If no one remembers who you once were or that you lived how can you live on ? I was lucky to write that story because like other Mexicans I wasn't too sure what DDLM truely meant. I know about all the food and celebrations that go into it but never the true purpose or reason for it. As a result I have found new inspiration to start my own personal DDLM alter when ever I can and pay tribute to MY ancestors because if it wasn't for them I wouldn't be here now would I ? DDML is a time honered tradition that is now becoming more popular thanks in part to a new generation of kids who are embracing their roots and traditions, along with Rage Agaisnt the Machine. DDML is one of those meaningfull times that has grown obscure through time, but now it's returning to what it once was, a time to remember those that came before us family, friends and pets.