Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Precious Knowledge: Movie to move America

The film Precious Knowledge airs on PBS's Independent Lens on May 17. I've seen the movie, and it is a knock-out. Don't miss this show on Thursday at 10 pm (check local listings). Set your DVR if you can't watch it live. Here's why:

The film documents the contentious battle in Tuscon, Arizona over their public high school's highly successful Mexican American Studies Program. Students and teachers fought to rescue this innovative curriculum from state officials who legislated the deletion of ethnic studies programs and the local school board who colluded with the decision.

Filmmakers Ari Luis Palos and Eren Isabel McGinniss spent a complete year in the classroom, documenting the transformation of Latino students who became engaged learners, active citizens and self-actualized persons as they participated in classes they found to be relevant.

Photo credits: PBS
Yes, Precious Knowledge explains the program's success: statistics about improved drop-out rates and boosted numbers of students who subsequently choose to pursue a college education. But the beauty of the film is in the stories of individual students who welcome us into their homes and lives to show us the personal impact of the program. This is where film excels!

Equally important, the film shows us the bigoted political process that led to the ultimate demise of the MAS (Mexican American Studies) program. You may draw your own conclusions from the testimony of the decision-makers who pulled the plug...and openly told the film-makers why they did.

I was fortunate to preview the film this spring at a private showing in El Paso, Tuscon's border neighbor. I choose the word "fortunate" pointedly because the emotional impact of the movie literally disturbed my sleep for days afterward. Always one to immerse myself in a film, in the wake of the Precious Knowledge I felt angry and beaten down by ignorance and blind power. I felt defeated, and it hurt.

To cope with my emotional aftermath, I recalled the screening room on that sunny April afternoon. An empty chair separated me from a woman in my row who didn't know me. As giant figures of white men spewing ignorant, prejudiced statements towered over us on the screen above, I saw her literally bend forward from the waist, lean into her lap and cradle her face in her hands. I felt her pain. I shared it in that moment. It somehow comforted me to know that I was not alone. She understood.

The memory of her reaction still comforts me. It was a full-bodied lament...a grieving.

Those who are on the side of Arizona lawmakers will not likely benefit from this movie because no movie will ever change their racist mindsets. But there are many in the United States who will be moved by this production. They have not yet heard about this recent attack in the ongoing war against humanity that we name "racism."

Precious Knowledge is a movie powerful enough to move many in America. Don't miss the opportunity to be moved.

Here's the movie trailer:

After viewing Precious Knowledge, you may wish to sign this petition for TUSD to reinstate the MAS program and or join the Precious Knowledge Facebook page.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Massachusetts immigrant advocates act to denounce S-Comm implementation

Boston, MA-The announcement that the Department of Homeland Security would start the Secure Communities program in all of Massachusetts on May 15 has prompted immigrant advocates to call for action in response
The response is part of a campaign called "Just Communities" against the implementation of S-Comm in Massachusetts. The campaign, led by the agency Centro Presente, has been operating in Massachusetts for the past two years.

“Starting on May 15 we are going to denounce every case of the deportation of undocumented immigrants who have no criminal records and denounce the violation of the basic human rights of undocumented immigrants in our state,” said Patricia Montes, Centro Presente’s Executive Director. 
Immigration reform rally (file photo)
The Secure Communities Program, known as S-Comm, is one component the U.S. Government’s current “Enforcement Only” response to immigration in this country. The agency is certain that the US government does not have the political will to transform the US immigration system, relying instead on a problematic enforcement only approach.

“The US government does not have the political will to address the real causes that force people to come to the US without the proper documentation in the first place. People are coming as a result of the implementation of US economic foreign policies that are increasing poverty in our countries of origin, policies that are just benefiting multinational corporations. 

"In the U.S. corporations like the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) are part of a five billion dollar a year industry that benefits from the implementation of anti-migrant legislation like SB-1070 in Arizona that they helped to write,” concluded Montes.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

U.S. Catholic priest honored for lifetime of solidarity

Fr. Peter Hinde, O.Carm, co-founder with Sr. Betty Campbell, RSM, of Tabor House in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, and a co-founder of CRISPAZ, Cristianos/as por la Paz en El Salvador, will receive an honorary Degree of Doctor of Divinity from Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis, IN on May 12, 2012. The award was announced on Interconnect, the Latin American Solidarity Committee's quarterly newsletter.
Quoting Marty Schladen of the El Paso Times:
Hinde, known now as Father Peter, has gone from World War II fighter pilot to a member of Veterans for Peace who comes to El Paso every Friday to protest U.S. military involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan. He lives among and ministers to some of Juarez's poorest residents. And he argues that U.S. policies help keep them poor.
After experiencing the civil-rights movement while living in Washington, D.C., and the beginnings of the movement known as liberation theology while living in Peru, Hinde plans to end his days in Juarez trying to demonstrate what he sees as the effects of trade policy on Mexican workers.
(l-r) Fr. Peter Hinde, Pat Delgado and
Sister Betty Campbell address a group of university
students visiting the U.S.-Mexico border.

Cathy Cornell, President of the Board of CRISPAZ commented:
"Peter's accompaniment of the people of the Americas - his walking and working with people in the South and then sharing their stories with people in the North in a form of reverse mission - embodies the mission of CRISPAZ. He provides us with an example of how to be a responsible citizen of the US."
Father Peter and Sister Betty are the two people most responsible for my own annual pilgrimages to the U.S.-Mexico border. Throughout the bloodiest years of the Juarez drug war, they have never wavered in their commitment to live solidarity with the common people of the city. As friends of theirs, I received an insight into the reality of terror that the people of Juarez have lived, as they shared the real-life stories from the barrio.

Father Peter is a really smart man who has not neglected rigorous systemic analysis even though he cast his lot with the poor. He fully deserves a doctorate. Even more, his life--as well as the life of Sister Betty who has been his team player and partner in ministry--deserve greater recognition and fame, although neither of them would seek acknowledgement in a self-seeking motivation--quite the opposite! But lives like theirs rightfully inspire the masses, causing us to reflect, take stock, and--perhaps--to change.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

The Hispanic Institute Calls on Romney to Reign in Anti-Immigrant Extremists

Mitt Romney
WASHINGTON, DC -- Today, The Hispanic Institute called on presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney to denounce a House bill that would effectively militarize America's borders.

The National Security and Federal Lands Protection Act (H.R. 1505), authored by Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah), would give the Department of Homeland Security expanded powers to obtain operational control of federal lands within a 100-mile swath of the northern and southern U.S. borders. Bishop claims the bill is necessary to help protect the country's borders.

The agencies tasked with border security disagree. The United States Border Patrol has been slow to embrace the bill and has asserted that it has the border security issue under control.

A recent report from the Pew Hispanic Center buttresses the Border Patrol's claims. The report concludes that immigration from Mexico slowed to "a standstill" between 2005 and 2010.

H.R. 1505 proposes a solution to a problem that simply does not exist. By stretching Homeland Security's increased powers to states like Maine and Minnesota, it demonstrates that its real intent is not to bolster national security -- but instead to undermine federal regulations over a host of lands and industries.

This breathtaking cynicism is obvious to Hispanics, who are angry at being portrayed as bogey-men to advance the agenda of Rep. Bishop and the Tea Party -- an agenda that professes to reduce federal regulation.

Immigration is an important issue that this country must address and resolve. But using immigrants as legislative props, in such a clumsy and reckless fashion, erodes faith in good government.

Now that Governor Romney is the presumptive Republican nominee and the de facto GOP leader, he must move to silence the extremists within his party, lest they continue the damage done during the primary. The Hispanic Institute calls on the Romney Campaign and the Republican Party to convince Republican members of Congress that H.R. 1505 is a dishonest and corrosive bill. Doing so would represent an easy first step toward convincing Hispanics that the GOP values their voices and votes -- and intends to take their issues seriously.

Source: The Hispanic Institute
Photo source: Wikimedia Commons--FlickrMitt Romney caucus eve in Clive 022,

LINK: Sign The Wilderness Society's petition asking Congress to stop H.R. 1505.