Junot Diaz and Other Global Writers Condemn Arizona’s “Racist” School Curriculum Law

Tuesday at the Edinburgh World Writers' Conference, writers from all over the world—including Pulitzer Prize novelist Junot Diaz—issued a statement condemning Arizona's House Bill 2281, the law that allowed for the banning of books at Tucson Unified School District  and the dismantling of TUSD's Mexican American Studies program.

 

We, the undersigned writers attending the Edinburgh World Writers’ Conference have learned, to our dismay, that the state of Arizona has passed House Bill 2281, which among its other provisions, specifically prohibits, in the public schools, books ‘designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group’. This is being used to ban Latino studies and the dissemination of books written by and about the Latino community. In future this legislation could be used to target any ethnic group and its literatures.

We abhor this racist law and the infringement of the rights of readers and writers. This is a clear case of censorship, which we oppose, and we call upon readers and writers in the US and all over the world to demand the overturn of this law. House Bill 2281 is not just the beginning of a dangerous trend – this is a drastic assault on civil liberties.

Edinburgh, 21 August 2012

Andrey Astvatsaturov

Nick Laird

Ben Okri

Junot Diaz

James Robertson

Ewan Morrison

Xiaolu Guo

Theresa Breslin

Kapka Kassabova

Nicola Morgan

John Burnside

Aonghas Macneacail

Denise Mina

Chika Unigwe

Ian Rankin

Janne Teller

Alan Bissett

Margo Lanagan

Alan Gibbons

Michel Le Bris

Kyung-Sook Shin

Patrick Ness

Kim Thúy

Preeta Samarasan

China Miéville

Bernado Atxaga

Matthias Politycki

Jackie Kay

Keith Gray

Sophie Cooke

Owen Sheers

Carlos Gamerro

Manu Joseph

Garth Nix

Melvin Burgess

Kamila Shamsie

Ali Smith

Yiyun Li

Xi Chuan

Kirsty Gunn

Dag Solstad

José Rodrigues dos Santos

Week 2 of Unprecedented “Todos Somos Ilegales” Tour Travels Through Arizona’s Border Regions

The "TODOS SOMOS ILEGALES/WE ARE ALL ILLEGALS" Tour, an unprecedented musical, social, political, and cultural journey that celebrates the release of Outernational's “TODOS SOMOS ILEGALES/WE ARE ALL ILLEGALS” album traveled through Arizona last week. From the account we received from Leo Mintek of Outernational below, this tour is more than just songs and an album. Instead, it uses the universal language of music to unite us all, while raising awareness about the real issues surrounding what it is to be an American living in the 21st century. Music has no borders. Neither should human beings. Mintek's account provides a vivid snapshot of a world that is often vilified by the mainstream media and is rarely understood.

As their press release says: "The “TODOS SOMOS ILEGALES/WE ARE ALL ILLEGALS” album is a bilingual cinema-in-sound concept album about the border, the USA, and the system which criminalizes those who create the wealth it rests upon. With tightly-woven soundscapes referencing hard rock, hip hop, cumbia, corridos, gypsy punk, spaghetti westerns, chicha, vintage soul and even bachata, Outernational's "TODOS SOMOS ILEGALES: WE ARE ALL ILLEGALS" is a singular album for 2012." We agree with that last sentence. A lot.

Released as a name-your-price download, the record features collaborations with Tom Morello (Rage Against The Machine), Chad Smith (Red Hot Chili Peppers), Calle 13 (9-Time Latin Grammy Winner in 2011), Ceci Bastida (Tijuana No!), and Uproot Andy (Que Bajo?!) 

LISTEN TO THE ALBUM AT THE FOLLOWING LINK: 

http://outernational.bandcamp.com

Here is Week 2 of the tour's Arizona diary. The Week 1 diary can be read at the HuffPost.

Leo Mintek – April 20, 2012, writing to you from Santa Maria, California: the Strawberry Capital of the USA.

April 11, 2012

We left Sunset Heights, El Paso, the hilltop above Ciudad Juárez, and drove for the Arizona desert. We crossed the obligatory checkpoints and strip malls and made our way to Sells, AZ, the capital of the Tohono O’odham Nation. We had been invited by TOCA (Tohono O’odham Community Action) for their Cholla Bud harvest feast day. TOCA and the Desert Rain Café are part of a project to farm and revitalize traditional foods of the land—cactus fruits, bean pods, mesquite, etc.—for an indigenous reservation otherwise fed from one huge Basha’s supermarket. It’s being done with the bigger picture in mind: survival and education of native people on their native lands and in particular for the youth who will inherit it all.

We sang campfire style for the small group left after sunset in the community garden – organizers, teenagers, gardeners, O’odhams. We sang about the illegitimacy of the border, they told us what it means for them: the checkpoints they must face every time they come or go from the rez; the helicopters, satellites and militarization; the broken connections to their families and their land south of the line. They told us about the thousands crossing through their reservation, of immigrant deaths from dehydration and coyote infighting, and arrests and captures by the migra. We ate Cholla Buds with garlic and bacon in tortillas. It was our first performance that wasn’t in a bar/club since we left the Galeria way back in Brownsville, TX. This week would be all community venues, off-the-grid spaces, and outside-the-box venues. We planned to return.

April 12, 2012

At 8 a.m. we drove onto the West Campus of Arizona State University in Phoenix. We were invited to perform and close out their “Border Justice Conference.” Carlos from Puente gave the keynote speech including a modern history of Arizona’s war on immigrants and battle for white supremacy. Starting with NAFTA, he laid out an escalating series of legal attacks on civil and human rights and told stories of heartbreaking deportations and the resulting climate of fear. Students from Tucson (UNIDOS) Skyped in and gave a Q&A about their work trying to save their nationally recognized ethnic studies curriculum and mentorship programs, which are being eliminated from the top down.  Afterwards we talked with members of BAJI (Black Alliance for Just Immigration) about the importance of solidarity against white supremacy and the need for everyone’s voice against this systemic problem. We talked about the lack of non-black people in the actions following Trayvon Martin’s murder and the message that sends to black youth that once again they can be killed with impunity.

And we performed. Fighting songs, dancing songs, thinking songs, stories and heart. It was a great show. Afterwards we sat down with the graduate students and discussed our music, the concept, the songs, the tour and why were here in the Southwest singing about the border. We discussed the deeper issues of capitalist-imperialism that create these nightmarish conditions for millions of people.  We talked about revolution. We took off in the evening and drove the furthest north we had yet on the tour—to Flagstaff.

April 13, 2012

We were at the Taala Hooghan Infoshop in Flagstaff, AZ—the “Indigenous established, anti-colonial, and anti-capitalist space.” Next door is Outta Your Backpack Media, an organization that teaches and provides youth, many of them Dine Navajo, with video/photo/Internet skills and equipment. On the bill were Tuba City punk rockers The Blissins, a crazy touring band from the Bay Area, local sober rockers, and our new tour partners in AZ, Shining Soul. Watch their music video for “PAPERS.”

Great music, important lyrics, catchy, strong, soulful beat; it is a great song on many levels. 

April 14, 2012

We dug the van out of the snow which had fallen at night in Flagstaff and alongside our new partners Shining Soul, we traveled to Tucson for a benefit concert at a hip-hop breakdancing space: “Breaking Boundaries”.

The show was for the UNIDOS students who were fighting for their education/future and the O’odhams fighting to stop a new freeway being built through their reservation. First on stage were local young MCs, including a student who you can see in the following video, taking at a Tucson School district meeting voting to end ethnic studies programs.

Shining Soul rocked it, including their remix of “Papers” set to a chopped+screwed sample of “Bulls On Parade”. We played loud and electric but stepped into the crowd to sing “Ladies of The Night” and “Deportees” with accordion and acoustic guitars. Between breakdancing intermissions, an O’odham “Chicken Scratch” (Waila) band performed, and couples broke out dancing all around. “

Chicken Scratch” is the popular music of the O’odham. It sounds like a mix of Mexican music, cumbias and rock and roll, all with a certain musical accent I have yet to digest fully. Really cool music, great melodies played by a multi-generational band on drums, bass, sax, bajo sexto (like a guitar), and a mighty accordion. Watch these to get a sense of it:    

April 15, 2012

We traveled back to Sells on the Tohono O’odham rez. We unhitched the trailer, loaded up the van with Shining Soul and folks from Outta Your Backpack Media and TOCA, and drove south to the border. Cows and horses crossed the road and thousands of different cacti passed by the windows.

The desert valley is surrounded by mountains, which they told us are the preferred route of coyotes and their parties of immigrants since the desert ranchland is too hot with Border Patrol.  We walked up to the border, which is a metal “vehicle barrier.” You can simply step over it. It’s the miles and miles of desert, mountains, and military surveillance that are the real obstacle to cross.

Empty water bottles litter the ground, we found a razor and toothbrush, and were repeatedly checked out by migra in pickup trucks. An O’odham elder told us all the ways the desert holds life for them—the different cactuses, fruits, flowers, and beans. We even saw tiny wild fish and bees inhabiting a well of fresh water, which I can imagine has served many globetrotters coming to the USA. It was beautiful to tour the land and learn its past and its bounty, and very sad to face the current state of events. Native people live under militarized surveillance created to keep out travelers from thousands of miles away. Native people have been completely left out of the story since this land was colonized by the Spanish, then by Mexico, and now by the United States. They have never been consulted about the border, which is now more traveled than ever as the Texas and California border operations drive migrants here to the open desert.

We left Tohono O’odham and the barrier that splits it in two. We drove west through the checkpoint leaving the rez, which included a van search by a German shepherd, and passed through Yuma into Southern California. The next morning we needed to be on campus at Cal State Dominguez Hills for “Music Mondays.” But we could only make it as far as a gas station outside of San Diego, where we parked for a few hours rest.

And so ended our journey through the native lands of Arizona, just another stop on the borderline we had picked up 2000 miles back at the Gulf of Mexico in Brownsville. Now we were entering California, the destination of so many who cross Tohono O’odham, crossing to find work in the cities and the fruit fields of the central valley: the next stop on our "Todos Somos Ilegales" Tour.

The tour continues in Reno tomorrow night before heading back to San Diego and then Tijuana. Here are the latest tour dates:

4/25 – Reno, NV @ Reno Underground

4/27 – Tijuana, Mexico @ Black Box

4/28 – San Diego, CA @ Roots Factory

5/1 – Los Angeles, CA @ The Echo - TICKETS

 

5/2 – Arizona TBA

5/3 -  El Paso, TX @ Lowbrow Palace

5/4 – San Antonio, TX @ Night Rocker

5/5 – Houston TX @ Continental Club w Los Skarnales

5/8 – McAllen, TX @ TBA

 

5/9 – Brownsville, TX @ Cobblehead's

5/10 – Houston TX @ House Of Blues w Calle 13

5/11 – Austin, TX @ Pachanga Fest w Calle 13

5/12 – Austin, TX @ Pachanga Fest – Hierba Stage - TICKETS

 

5/16 – St Louis, MO @ 2720 Cherokee Performing Arts Center

5/18 – Chicago IL @ Abbey Pub - TICKETS

5/23 – Buffalo, NY @ Mohawk Place

5/24 – NYC @ Dominion NY - TICKETS

 

Take a Stand Against Banned Books in Tucson: Submit Your Video

The power of community and social media occurs when different ideas from different people come together to fight for a cause that is matters to them. With all the controversy surrounding Tucson Unified School District's banning of certain book as it eliminates its Mexican Studies program, a new blog is asking for people to submit their videos to protest this decision.

Here is the information from the blog, Banning History in Arizona:

 

Videos must contain reading of a passage of one of the books on the list.  You can read it, sign it, sing it, draw it, or otherwise showcase a passage in one of these books.

Do not do anything that violates copyright laws and make sure you quote the title of the book, author and page number from where the passage you are reading is from.

If it's a poem, make sure you state the name of the poem.

You can upload to YouTube and then email us that link or embed code to [email protected].  Please include the title of your submission, your name and the date submitted.

Please make sure when uploading to YouTube that you include the hashtag #banninghistory so we have all the videos together in one place.

Please make sure you're not cussing or trashing the state, etc.  ONLY read the passage.  If the passage has cussing then so be it.

If you are an author of one of these books, we want to hear from you.  We want you to read from your favorites too!  Let us know your thoughts.

Every single submission will be posted.