What Does #NuncaMás Mean to Different Generations of Argentines?

On March 24, 1976 in Argentina, a military dictatorship took over. Today Argentines remember the ghosts of the disappeared and still try to make sense of it all. Hashtags such as #NuncaMás (Never Again) and #DiaDeLaMemoria have been trending on Twitter to knowledge those who disappeared 38 years ago.

(The ESMA, the tortures, the babies born in captivity, the disappearances, the deaths, the books and the prohibited music. Never Again)

Those who still disappear today, and suffer the consequences of violence, poverty, and injustice in the present, have also been added to the commemoration. Declared a national holiday, today thousands headed to Plaza de Mayo—a central political gathering spot in front of the presidential house in Buenos Aires where activists, citizens and students march every year. The older generations and the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo are still looking for their sons, daughters, and grandkids that disappeared, and asking for justice against the murderers. The younger generations commemorate this day, but have also added their own concerns about what #NuncaMás should represent.

For example, the students from the National Buenos Aires, a historically prestigious public school in the city, tweeted today:

(We are going to “the Plaza” for the 30.000 disappeared, but also for those who disappear in democracy: for Luciano Arruga, for Julio López).

Luciano Arruga was 16 when he disappeared in 2009. He was intercepted by police in Buenos Aires Lomas del Mirador, a low-income neighborhood in Buenos Aires Province, Argentina. So far, no policemen have been judged for this case, although family members claim policemen were beating him up before he disappeared.  His sister Luciana Arruga declared in January 2014:

This keeps happening even in democracy. More than 4,000 young people have been murdered due to police violence or shootings. More than two hundred people have disappeared. I am not counting the women who disappear due to sex trafficking networks. So this is a problem of the present and the past. It is urgent we make visible the problem of violence because young people are getting killed in low income neighborhoods and we have to talk about real security.

In 2006, Julio Lopez. who survived the last Argentine military dictatorship, presented himself as a witness in the trial against military repressor and torturer Miguel Etchecolatz. The day he was supposed to show up to court in La Plata, he disappeared and no traces were left.

To the new generations, #NuncaMás means that we also don’t forget those who disappear during democracy.

(For Luciano Arruga, for Julio Lopez. For all those disappeared in democracy. Because without them there is no NUNCA MÁS).

The women disappeared in democracy are also a pressing issue caused by the intersections of poverty, race, class, and patriarchy or machismo in Argentina. The popular site La Marcha released an article today expressing that we also need to say “Nunca Más” to current female trafficking and sexual exploitation:

Before, it was the activists who were killed. Now, women carry in their gender identity the failed marks of freedom and the uncompleted promise of their liberation. They live lives reduced to their bodies-simplified and objectified as consumption objects-young girls, teenagers; women are taken from poor neighborhoods. They are kidnapped and disappeared systematically by sex trafficking networks. For them, we also claim “Never Again.

A source from Argentina, who studies in the University of Buenos Aires and attended the 2012 march for the disappeared, explained to me today in an e-mail, that when she made the signs to promote #NuncaMás, her student group included the images of current disappeared along with those who disappeared in the past dictatorship.

There are also those who disappear today, and violence today. When we made the sign, we wanted to include the portraits of those disappeared in democracy such as Florencia Penachi, who disappeared through sex trafficking networks, and Luciano Arriaga.

A 36 años del golpe

***

Carolina Drake is a NYC-based writer and journalist from Argentina interested in intersectional feminisms and Latin America. She contributes to Latino Rebels, blogs, and Latin American Radar. You can follow her on Twitter. Interviews and references were conducted in Spanish and have been translated to English. 

LatinoRebels.com Celebrates Latina Leaders for Women’s History Month

In observance of Women’s History Month, LatinoRebels.com celebrates the Latinas who are making important contributions to our society across industries, sectors and movements. This week, Rebeldes Mónica Ramírez, Jen Wilton and Luis Marentes worked together to highlight some of these incredible leaders. They are role models in their communities, schools and workplaces. We thank them for their leadership and for their tireless efforts to make our world better each and every day.

Rebelde Mónica Ramírez (second from left) with Dolores Huerta (far right)

Rebelde Mónica Ramírez (second from left) with Dolores Huerta (far right)

Today we begin our series by spotlighting some of the Latinas who have made a significant impact in the fight for civil rights, including the fight for immigrants’ rights.  Historically, Latinas in the United States have confronted a number of civil rights issues, including discrimination in employment, housing, and education.  Latinas have been denied their voting rights and have been subject to amplified anti-Latino and anti-immigrant sentiment, including an increase in hate crimes.

Below is a short list of some of women who have helped promote equal rights for all:

Dolores Huerta is one of the most important labor rights, civil rights, human rights and women’s rights activists of all time. Among her many accomplishments, Huerta co-founded the United Farm Workers with Cesar Chavez in 1962. Today she is the President of the Dolores Huerta Foundation.  Through her activism she has worked to achieve the passage of new laws and protections for farmworkers and others.  She coined the phrase, “Sí Se Puede,” which has been used as a slogan for the farmworker movement and many other important campaigns, including President Barack Obama’s  for President of the United States. Huerta has received many awards and recognitions for her incredible advocacy, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom.  She was also inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame.

Felisa Rincón de Gautier, commonly referred to as “Doña Fela, was a passionate and staunch leader. She first rose to the spotlight for her activism in the fight for women’s right to vote, which was achieved in Puerto Rico in 1932.  In 1946, Rincón de Gautier became the mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico, the first female to hold this post in the Americas.  She was mayor for 22 years. Rincón de Gautier promoted the well being of the Puerto Ricans that she served. She focused on improving the infrastructure and health systems on the island. She died in 1994 at the age of 97. Rincón de Gautier helped pave the way for other Latina politicians.

Sylvia Méndez and her siblings were catapulted into the limelight when their parents Gonzalo and Felicitas made the decision to fight for the right for their children to receive the same educational opportunities as white school children.  In 1943, Latino students in California and other parts of the U.S. were still subject to school segregation. Mendez’s parents, along with a group of other parents, sued four school districts in California in the case Méndez vs. Westminster for discriminating against Latino students.  The Court found that school segregation was unconstitutional. The Méndez case resulted in school desegregation in the state of California and laid the foundation for school desegregation throughout the United States.  Méndez was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011.

Ana Avendaño, recently appointed the Vice President of Labor Participation for United Way Worldwide, USA, previously served as Assistant to the President and Director of Immigration and Community Action at the AFL-CIO. Through her work, she promoted critical labor-community partnerships and worked to connect the labor movement with Latino and immigrant communities.  Avendaño helped represent the labor community in discussions with business leaders in the immigration reform debates, leading to the historic shared principles that were announced prior to the introduction of the “Gang of 8’s” immigration legislation. She formerly served as Assistant General Counsel to the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union where she was one of the leaders in the labor movements’ call for immigration reform and legalization.

María Gabriela (Gaby) Pacheco  is a leader in the immigrant rights movement.  Pacheco first gained national recognition in 2010 when she and three other immigrant youth leaders set out for a four month walk from Miami, Florida to Washington D.C. with the goal of raising awareness about the plight of undocumented youth.  Their action came to be known as the Trail of Dreams and their mission was to push for the passage of the Dream Act.  She and her colleagues set out to educate Congress about the reality of undocumented youth and adults who were brought to the United States as children.  Pacheco and her family moved to the United States from Ecuador when she was eight years old. Consequently, like hundreds of thousands of other immigrant youth, she grew up and studied in the United States.  However, she did not have legal status to live or work in the United States.  Pacheco’s leadership helped pave the way for the   federal government’s decision to permit certain qualifying youth to apply for deferred action from immigration deportation, along with the opportunity to attend college and work.

Of course, this list could go on and on. Who would you add to this first list? Share your thoughts in the comments section below. We will have another one tomorrow.

East Harlem Tragedy May Point to Larger Ticking Bomb

On the days following the March 12 tragic explosion that leveled two five-story tenement buildings in Spanish Harlem (that is being attributed as possibly gas-related), the death toll had been officially verified at eight. One of the victims was found just after sunrise, as the surrounding community arose to prepare for another work day, to send its children off to school, and to open the doors of their local businesses and service organizations.

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Among the confirmed and identified victims are Griselde Camacho (48), Carmen Tanco (67), Andreas Panagopoulos (43) and 21-year-old Rosaura Hernández-Barrios. Camacho worked at Hunter College’s Silberman School of Social Work campus located a short walk east at 119th Street and 3rd Avenue. The search for other missing continues, known parishioners of the Spanish Christian Church that occupied the ground level storefront in one of the buildings. Another 60 or more were also injured, some critically. About 100 have been displaced.

The unfortunate, and perhaps preventable, event in East Harlem shares a lot in common with the September 11, 2001 terror attacks on the World Trade Center towers that anchored New York City’s financial district in lower Manhattan. Both took place on a sunny, blue-skied morning full of promise. Although not on the same scale, in both cases two structures collapsed leading to the loss of valuable life. Likewise, the catastrophe that would eventually take place in each region was unimaginable to those who ultimately suffered through it.

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To me, the smell of the smoke billowing from the footprint of the blast in East Harlem is indistinguishable from the clouds of 911 smoke that permeated lower Manhattan for months following the attacks on the towers. It stands to reason, then, that Congressman Charles B. Rangel would call the East Harlem tragedy “Our community’s 9/11.” Could these two dramatic events also share the kind of knee-jerk political whitewashing and “not our fault” entrenchment that often follow these kinds of tragedies?

In my thinking, there are two paramount questions that need to be kept at the forefront following the East Harlem tragedy:

  1. What caused the explosion that demolished two tenement buildings in East Harlem, and is there any culpability and/or neglect that resulted in the tragic event?
  2. Does the air quality following the explosion and fire pose a dangerous and potential health risk to the residents who live near the blast site, the East Harlem community as a whole, as well as the first-responders who put out the fire and attempted to rescue possible survivors in the wake of the catastrophe, in addition to those now digging to find the missing?

In my humble opinion, new Mayor Bill de Blasio, not yet past his first 100 days in office, was all too quick to drink Consolidated Edison’s (Con Ed) Kool-aid and hold as gospel the utility’s claim about the 9:13 a.m. call on Wednesday being their sole insight into the possibility of a dangerous gas-related situation at 1644 and 1646 Park Avenue, as well as the local vicinity. He seemed to further underscore his belief of Con Ed’s account during the impromptu news conference, which took place at the intersection of 116th Street and Lexington Avenue: “This is a tragedy of the worst kind,” he said, “because there was no indication in time to save people.”

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Mayor de Blasio also rapidly brushed aside any possibility that the acrid smoke and noxious fumes rising from the still-burning rubble and debris of the collapsed structures could potentially hold hazardous health consequences to those who live within reach of those questionable elements. (Really? The blast took place at approximately 9:30 a.m. and you were certain of this by your initial afternoon news briefing?) At least former New Jersey Governor-turn-EPA czar Christine Todd Whitman waited seven days after the World Trade Center attacks to make a public statement to reassure New Yorkers that “their air is safe to breathe and their water is safe to drink.”

And given all the deaths of first responders, steel workers, and volunteers attributed to poisonous fumes from the WTC rescue and subsequent debris removal, we know how that turned out. Sound judgment on de Blasio’s part to jump the gun before all the facts are in? I don’t know that I’m that reassured, Mayor. Nor should anyone else.

In the early evening on the night of the blast, two plainclothes detectives came knocking. They were inquiring if anyone living in the apartment (which is at the corner of 115th and Park Ave.) had noticed the smell of gas prior to the explosion. They also wanted to know if we personally knew any of the people who lived in the buildings demolished as a result. The answer to both was “No.” The detective asking the questions flipped his notebook closed, thanked me for my time, and left.

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Very routine, I would imagine.

But their visit got me introspectively asking similar questions. And this, coupled with de Blasio’s out-of-hand early assessments got me to write this. Not as a hard-hitting, investigative journalistic piece, but rather as a community call-to-action op-ed. Was Con Ed really “on it” or are we merely being Con Ed? And why did Mayor de Blasio rush to judgment on the air quality in East Harlem, even before definitive testing could be conducted?

These questions are not being posed by a conspiracy theory aficionado, nor are they entirely accusatory in nature. They are being raised by a concerned community resident who lives in direct eye-shot of East Harlem’s ground zero. And I’m not the only one starting to ask these questions. A New York Daily News article published on March 13 by Pete Donahue and Greg B. Smith casts the first eye toward the possibility of neglect by Con Edison, and points to previous calls by various community residents who claim to have reached out directly to both Con Ed, as well as the city’s non-emergency 311 government assistance hotline about the smell of gas over an extended period of time. As a community we have to take charge and make sure these valid questions do not become mere fish-wrap after a few days of sensational news coverage. People in our community, our neighbors, friends, family members, loved ones, have died as a result of a tragic event. Why? We should know the unequivocal truth. We must demand it.

There are past events where the interests of the under-served and working poor, especially in communities of color, have been of less concern than that of the city’s own agenda (read “more affluent communities”). When the Bronx burned during the 1970s and 80s, municipal services like garbage collection, fire-fighting personnel and stations, as well as NYPD officers, were reduced or cut back entirely to ensure that those services could continue undeterred in Manhattan.

Brooklyn and the Lower East Side also felt the impact of these warped and failed policies. Why the civics lesson, you ask? Because whenever we choose to ignore the mistakes and indignities imposed upon us in the past, we are destined to relive them. And because the past also provides insight into the playbook and tactics that are undertaken to whitewash less-than-desirable outcomes that are better swept under the carpet.

More recently in 2003, fearing a potential blackout during the hottest days of the summer, Con Ed authorities intentionally created a “brownout” (no pun intended) by cutting power to upper-Manhattan’s Washington Heights region. And let’s not even get started with the City’s “stop-and-frisk” policies.

Did a backlog of unanswered 311 calls lead to a 911 emergency? Did Con Edison ignore repeat reports of leaking gas, only to respond once the explosion had actually taken place (‘en route’ indeed)?

The East Harlem blast was so strong that storefront windows were shattered as far away as Granada, a store that sells nightgowns popular with older “gentle ladies” called ‘batas’—even though the steel gates were down! The store sits diagonally from the blast site on the northeast corner of Park Avenue and 115th, more than a block away. How much gas would it take to cause such a chaotic and destructive reaction? After all, two buildings were completely demolished. These concerns cannot be allowed to become white noise, put on the back burner or diluted.

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Which makes utility VP Edward Foppiano’s comment all the more zany: “There was no evidence of that yet.” (Referring to gas as a catalyst. Say what?)

During a press conference related to the Park Avenue blast, National Transportation Safety Board Chief Robert L. Sumwalt offered that “We will be looking at Con Ed’s call logs to see when the first calls started coming in.” Likewise, as concerned community residents, we should make Sumwalt’s job easier. Contact the NTSB, or your local leaders and regionally-elected officials and provide information if you reached out to Con Ed or the city and felt ignored or never heard back from either one. The proof of your outreach lives in the call logs of both your smart phones and analog LAN-lines, from whichever you placed the call. And during an official, comprehensive investigation that data counts toward finding the truth at the core of this tragedy.

Unlike the aftermath of 911, you won’t find fliers from distraught friends and relatives in search of their loved ones posted on walls in East Harlem. The scope of the tragedy does not warrant that. But to be sure, we must put pressure on our elected officials and associated city and federal agencies, to ensure that this tragic event is not set aside as merely another trivia footnote in NYC’s history, or, more importantly, ever happens again. Those already confirmed dead—and those who are still to be recovered from the smoking rubble—deserve as much.

***

Edwin Pagán is a New York-based writer, photographer, filmmaker and cultural activist. He produced the hard-hitting documentary Latinos Beyond Reel, and is currently in production on his signature project BRONX BURNING, a documentary that chronicles the rise, fall and resurrection of the South Bronx. Pagán is the founder-in-chief of LATIN HORROR, a website and online publication geared to the genre of Latin horror in all its forms. He is also writing a book on the subject titled “MIEDO – The History of Latin Horror.”

Via Presente.Org: Fire Police Officers Responsible for Death of Luis Rodriguez

We got the following post from our friends at Presente:

WARNING: THE VIDEO CONTAINS GRAPHIC CONTENT AND MAY BE UPSETTING. VIEWER DISCRETION IS ADVISED.
Five Moore, Oklahoma police officers attacked and killed Luis Rodriguez in front of his wife and daughter as his family left a movie theater on Valentine’s Day. Luis was unarmed, innocent, and a threat to no one.

Police Chief Jerry Stillings said that his officers did nothing wrong that day—but he seems to ignore that his officers’ overreaction caused the death of an innocent man and traumatized his family.

Tell Chief Stillings to fire the officers who killed Luis Rodriguez.

The Message

Below is the message we’ll send to Moore Police Chief Jerry Stillings on your behalf:

I’m calling on you to fire the officers who needlessly escalated an encounter with Luis Rodriguez, leading to his untimely death. Luis was an innocent family man whose life ended as a result of your officers. That isn’t justice. I urge you to hold the involved officers accountable immediately.

You can sign the petition here.

img-Family-releases-video-of-Norman-man-s-in-custody-death-at-Warren-Theater

Here is a local report from a few days ago:

News9.com – Oklahoma City, OK – News, Weather, Video and Sports |

CNN also reported about it:

An autopsy may reveal more about why Luis Rodriguez died, and surveillance camera footage of the encounter in the movie theater parking lot may reveal what happened before his wife pulled out her cell phone camera.

What police describe as normal procedure, lawyer Brooks-Jimenez describes as something brutal and possibly deadly—pepper spray to the face and the weight of five men on top of him.

CNN has reached out to Brooks-Jimenez for further comment.

Lewis, from the Moore Police Department, said that three officers from his department who were involved in this incident have been suspended with pay while the Oklahoma Bureau of Investigation reviews the incident.

The two game wardens working security that day at the theater are continuing in their normal roles, according to Holmes of the state wildlife department.

An autopsy on Luis Rodriguez was conducted on February 16, said Amy Elliott from Oklahoma’s office of the chief medical examiner. His body was released four days later, but Rodriguez’s full report won’t be released until toxicology results come in, adds Elliott.

Regardless of when that happens, the Rodriguez family may have to wait for closure.
The Oklahoma Bureau of Investigation doesn’t anticipate it will make any findings for months, according to spokeswoman Jessica Brown.

Dehumanizing the Border

On the eve of World War II, the Nazis began to describe the European Jews as “Untermenschen.” The word literally means “subhumans”—a creature that resembles a person, but is nevertheless a bestial humanoid aberration.

This was a way to dehumanize them in preparation for a statewide programm of mass extermination. Since the Holocaust, scholars have recognized the process of dehumanization as a central part of genocidal campaigns, one that erases the moral dilemmas normally associated with hurting others by sanding down innate empathic capacities.

In any campaign of hatred, dehumanization is not the final endpoint; rather, it is a milestone that must be reached in order to enable a desired degree of violence. Dehumanization doesn’t always end in ethnic cleansing. It can take other forms, which, while they may be less extreme, are equally sordid, like teaching children how to shoot at effigies of people who are different from them.

At a community event to honor fallen agents in San Diego last year, the local Customs and Border Patrol outfit facilitated an activity in which children were given less-than-lethal rifles and shotguns and instructed by agents on how to fire at cut-out targets resembling adolescent migrants. One of the targets is even wearing a “Tapout” t-shirt, a common article of clothing donned by young people on either side of the border. In one of the images, a youth seems to be aiming his gun at the target’s head.

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For its part, CBP San Diego absurdly justified the event as a part of a community-wide expo meant to “build relationships and increase awareness about law enforcement.” The agency has reportedly claimed that they will continue to host the event in the future, but will use neutral targets to assuage public outrage.

It’s bad enough that the CBP fails to connect the dots between its showy display of mock violence and the renewed controversy in the media over its agents’ slaying of migrants. But even worse, the fact that CBP defended the activity as a community-building event indicates they see an aggressive disdain for migrants as a way to strengthen communal bonds. United in dehumanization we stand.

Activist Pedro Ríos of the American Friends Service Committee said that the incident is indicative of how border communities have become areas of low intensity conflict, where the specter of violence is something expected and even sanctioned. “When violence becomes normalized to the extent that civil society stops questioning it, you stop seeing how wrong it is,” he said. He mentions how the Border Patrol in San Diego possess a coveted space as leaders in the community, even visiting elementary schools to hand out good citizenship awards. “Could be that one day, a Border Patrol agent gives out a [citizenship] certificate to a kid, while next day he might be involved in a beating?”

Since 2004, the number of Border Patrol agents has doubled, and with such a rapid expansion the quality of recruits has suffered. Agents with less training are more likely to employ crude means of handling people they view as problematic. At least twenty unarmed have been shot and killed along the border by the Border Patrol since 2010, some of them in the back. None of the agents implicated in the murders have faced any form of retribution.

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Green shirts are even allowed to fire on migrants who throw rocks at them, whereas such excessive retaliation would be completely reprehensible if committed by a domestic law enforcement group. There is a reason for this discrepancy: Migrants are viewed as less than human. Instead, they are imagined as desperate, free-moving hordes infiltrating from a strange land, shouting and chattering in foreign tongues; subhumans, Untermenschen.

Agents operate in a broader society that automatically presumes the criminality of undocumented people. Their most doltish opponents freely call them “aliens,” but even mainstream sources describe them with the slippery term “illegal.” As if all of that didn’t make it difficult enough to attain value in the eyes of society, undocumented people are mostly relegated to bottom rung jobs with low pay and respectability. Although Americans value hard work, we don’t necessarily value the work of the lower class. We are a nation of aspirers, holding up the livelihoods of the super rich as ideals for which to strive, while giving little consideration—let alone respect—to the men and women who package our food and stich together our clothes.

The subhuman characterization of undocumented people becomes even more dangerous as the prospect of a hyper-militarized border grows inevitable. The immigration bill sitting in Congress would nearly double the number of border patrol agents to 40,000—the size of Serbia’s entire army—and create “the most militarized border since the fall of the Berlin Wall,” as Senator John McCain boasted last year. Even if the bill doesn’t end up passing, defense and surveillance corporations have such a vested interest in a dumping their war technology from overseas onto the southern border that any future iteration of the bill will likely look much the same.

It’s in the context of enhanced militarization and an already dehumanized perception of Latin American migrants that the San Diego’s obtuseness about their “community event” is so worrisome. It doesn’t matter their intention; history has shown, again and again, what happens when you simultaneously strip a person of their humanity and promote fatalistic solutions to social problems.

It’s unfortunate that any armed, aggressive agency can rise to such prominent civic stature in a community; but at the very least, the Border Patrol in San Diego and everywhere else could avoid teaching children how to violently dispense with people who are different from them.

Even that might be too much to ask for. Just last week, another unarmed migrant was shot dead across the border from San Diego.

***

Aaron Cantú is a Brooklyn-based journalist @alternet @truthout @thenation. A “revolutionary generalist” who focuses mostly on drug law, criminal justice, and [misc], you can follow Aaron on Twitter @aaronmiguel_ or visit his site: aaronmiguel.com.

Wichita Artists and Community Restore “Immigration Is Beautiful” Mural Defaced by Racist Graffiti

Remember the immigration mural in Wichita, Kansas defaced with racist graffiti this week?

Armando Minjarez

Armando Minjarez

We have some good news to share.

The folks at The Seed House/Casa de la Semilla updated us this evening about the mural.

It has been restored.

Here are three images the group shared on its Facebook page.

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Armando Minjarez

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Armando Minjarez

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Armando Minjarez

And this, too:

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Armando Minjarez

A local Kansas story adds more:

Dozens showed up Saturday morning to help repaint the mural called “Immigration is Beautiful” near 21st and Park Place. Armed with “Krud Kutter” and paint brushes to get rid of the graffiti, with racial slurs on top.

“The mural is not propoganda,” said Armando Minjarez, a cultural worker and resident artist who spoke to the group Saturday morning. “That mural is about experiences they have gone through.”

One group worked on fixing the mural, another team worked on creating a new mural that will go on the back of the building, and a third team went through the neighborhood to talk to neighbors about the significance of the mural and ask if they to would like to help.

“Pictures are worth a thousand words and we’re fixing this picture that someone tried messing up,” said Jan Swartzendruber, one of the volunteer painters. “That’s what’s so neat about this group, it shows you a cross section of Wichita and the ability to work together and that’s a really important message to me.”

Wichita Artists Say They’re “Ready to Strike Back” Against Racist Anti-Immigrant Graffiti

Reaction to the images of racist anti-immigrant graffiti from Wichita, Kansas shared with Latino Rebels earlier this morning has already gained momentum in our Facebook community and on our Tumblr. The story was also featured in Buzzfeed. The response by the artists who discovered their works defaced? They are “are ready to strike back.” 

Armando Minjarez

Armando Minjarez

In a release sent to Latino Rebels this afternoon from The Seed House/La Casa de la Semilla Inc., an “Army of Artists” is being launched tonight in Wichita “to create safe spaces where grassroots leaders, artists and activists can come together and, through the arts and self-reflection, have a critical understanding of their environment and create innovative propositions to ways of living together.”

Via Seed House

Via Seed House

The statement continues:

We want to mobilize Wichita’s creative community around collaborative public art projects that elevate a lively spirit of justice and colorful cultural expression in Wichita neighborhoods.

While there is a positive buzz leading into tonight’s launch, the Army’s mission is already under attack and has gotten attention of national news outlets.

Last fall, The Seed House organized a group of South high school students Latino Leaders, to paint a mural about an issue that affects their daily lives: immigration. The mural, on Park Place at 21st Street, was vandalized last night by an unknown person who scrawled the words “Wetback”, “KKK”, and “Welfare” across the mural in large letters.

Furthermore, Bluebird Arthouse, the art supply store hosting the first meeting for the Army of Artists tonight, was also targeted by the vandals spray-painting the words “wetback” and “Cut Welfare” outside the store.

Wichita creatives are ready to strike back

Sarai Melendez, member of Latino Leaders and one of the students who painted the mural reacts “All we wanted to do is bring a good message to this community, I feel upset and hurt, this was my biggest accomplishment. We will make more and continue to express ourselves…this DOESN’T STOP US!”

Dozens of artists and community members will lay plans for more public art projects and will concentrate their efforts in North Wichita; a vibrant community of immigrants, and the site of the cowardly act of bigotry that defaced the first mural.

The Seed House~Casa de la Semilla will focus the efforts by the ICT-Army of Artists one neighborhood at the time. There are several partnerships with business owners, schools, faith organizations and city government representing North Wichita.

“We want to measure the impact of our cultural interventions; we want to show the powerful transformations within the community, both visually and personally” said cultural educator and artist, Armando Minjarez.

The group also sent us two local media links that covered the work that it does.

Arizona Legislator Pushing for Undocumented to Not Even Exist in Public

When we got the following story from Addicting Info, we did not believe it. But when we read the actual bill that Arizona Republican legislator Carl See (Phoenix) is endorsing, we knew it wasn’t a joke.

Arizona

The HuffPost’s Roque Planas also wrote about Seel and since Roque is good peeps, we really knew that it wasn’t a joke:

An Arizona Republican wants to make it a crime for undocumented people to do almost anything in his state.

State Rep. Carl Seel (R-Phoenix) has proposed a bill that would make it illegal for undocumented immigrants to receive any public benefits – including attending public school or using a public road. Violating the proposed law would result in misdemeanor for the first offense and a felony for subsequent offenses. Driving while undocumented would result in forfeiture of the car, according to the bill.

You can read the rest of Roque’s piece here.

This local February 6 report from Phoenix shares more:

It never ends.

Powerful 33 Video Highlights Students of Color’s “Alarmingly Low Representation” at UCLA Law

We got this tip from @el_sanchez7

So we checked it out.

UCLA

On February 10, 2014 a group of students from the UCLA school of Law gathered together to raise awareness of the disturbing emotional toll placed upon students of color due to their alarmingly low representation within the student body.

Here is what these students had to say in this powerful “33″ video.

Why The Jeffersons Are Timeless: George and Weezie Deal with a Nativist Bigot

This is one golden find (h/t to Ghulhermo Memou Mamellowke).

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Yeah, it was the 70s, but how much different is this scene from now?

Remember when sitcoms actually dealt with these issues?