04 April 2008

Poems by Jaleesa Johnston, M.E.Ch.A. de Vassar

Poems by Jaleesa Johnston, M.E.Ch.A. de Vassar

On a hot morning, melting butter near the flat iron
They go up
Short, long, small, big
Rounded up and bound like my cousins
Some tight, some loose
Coils of mettle wire springs

My cousins are bound to the Negro Root

Not a single prayer of salted drops
Not the hissing snake sound
Rising above the scent of burnt ancestors
Carried through smoke to the heaven above
Could break
Unravel the strength that survived straight chains

So moving coils
Day to Day
Fold and twist over themselves
Falling into my face
Making everything dark

This darkness that covers me
That grounds my feet deep through asphalt,
Below rocks
And into the still-growing kinks
Of the remains of my ancestors
Cannot be a curse

For the unanswered prayers
For hair that is not mine
Was long ago answered
With something truly mine
A history so tangible
And so strong
That I grab onto it

And feel its coils between my fingers
And at the center of my palms
Still moving with life

I know this past is not dead

And they go down
Falling freely
Running in different directions
But still bound together
Like my cousins
At the Negro Root.


"Picking Up My Old Pen"

It hurts to write
When the pain seeps down through my pores
First inflaming, then numbing the nerves
With a tremble followed by speeding trains of blood
Busting recklessly through my system
Deep within layers and layers of red and blue tunnels
Hollow now, but must have carried my life at one point

Sometimes, it’s too hard to write
When my eyes, barely open, clogged with sleep
Cannot read the hieroglyphics between the ink spills on the page
But can only see the water flooding my eyes
Red with stolen life and belongings
Rushing out from between the cracks of the broken dike

It hurts to write most
When I expect to feel a flow of release
Relief accompanied with a worn-down sigh
Like throwing a chair across the room
Braking the thick silence as a it hits the other side
Shattering into flying splinters and broken pieces

But instead I hold my breath
Still waiting for that tired sigh
With my stomach still boiling
My eyes still burning
My neck still throbbing
And my fists still clenching, trying to shake the frozen cold

And that horrible monster
From deep in my gut
Deformed and grinning with a green eye
Sinking its nails deep into my esophagus tissue
Firm in the gashes as not to slip when I swallow
Gripping and gripping
Till he climbs his way up and out of my throat
Forcing my jaw apart

I hate to write


I stand in front of you

On display

My hair out
Chest bare
My soul exposed

Clutching my pen
I undress

And gazes fall

Down at my core, bare self
Spreading open
No shame

And you look upon me

This white black tall curly-haired girl
Parts her lips
And spits

Carried on my breath
My words flow

And I am exposed
At my weakest,

As long as the blood of my ancestors
Pumps through my heart
My soul feeds
And lives to tell truth
Unique to you and real to me

So I stand in front of you
On display
My hair out
Chest bare
My soul exposed

Chicana/o Meet Up: Photos by Edgar Diaz-Machado, M.E.Ch.A. de Yale

Chicana/o Meet Up: Photos by Edgar Diaz-Machado, M.E.Ch.A. de Yale

"Quien soy yo?" by Angelina Calderón, M.E.Ch.A. de Yale

"Quien soy yo?" by Angelina Calderón, M.E.Ch.A. de Yale

Yo soy Angelina Calderón Pérez

Hija de inmigrantes mexicanos

Chicana en cuerpo y alma

What is a chicana?

(My mind twists and turns to find the right answer)

What is a chicana?

I am Chicana

It’s something I feel in me

No se si me nació o le herede

No, I don’t think its hereditary

Mi ma y mi pa don’t even know what I’m talking about when I say Chicana

And yet yo soy chicana por ellos

It is because of them, their struggle that

I can find the strength to call myself a Chicana

Yo soy Chicana

I am Chicana because I know that people have fought long and hard

so that I could be here today

Yo Soy Chicana

I am Chicana because I know I have to fight so others can have what I have

Yo soy Chicana

I am Chicana porque el ritmo de la cumbia y las norteñas flows through my veins

Yo Soy Chicana

I am Chicana because my taste buds melt at the sight of enchiladas and frijoles con queso

Yo Soy Chicana

I am Chicana because I know this world ain’t perfect

But I know que si nos unimos a la lucha,

We can make a difference

Por eso yo soy chicana!

Org. Report: Chicano Caucus of Columbia University by Julia Gonzales

Org. Report: Chicano Caucus of Columbia University by Julia Gonzales

To kick off the school year and welcome our wonderful first years, we, the Chicano Caucus of Columbia University, hosted a mesa (potluck dinner) in celebration of Dia de la Independencia. This was the first of our monthly mesa series in which we invite members and sometimes other organizations to bring a dish and share company, music, and dancing. We also hosted the Fall Conference of ECCSF in which we discussed dualities within our community. Though putting on a conference is always a lot of work, all in all we had a great time and really enjoyed having our fellow Chicanos come to visit. Later that month we held our second annual Dia de los Muertos Event inviting the community to come honor their loved ones Mexican-style. Though, as a group, we always try to keep positivity to a maximum, last semester at Columbia was a tough time for students of color. There were multiple acts of hate that spurred contentious debates about campus safety and administrative support for students of color and diversity initiatives. The most heinous act was the hanging of a noose on a black professor's door which incited media attention all over the country. Members of the Caucus participated in all of the rallies and walk outs that were organized in response to these vicious acts. In November there was also the highly publicized Hunger Strike that sought to raise awareness about Columbia's expansion into West Harlem, diversity in our CORE education, Ethnic Studies, and expansion of the Office of Multicultural Affairs and to put pressure on the administration to commit to making important institutional changes. During the strike there were nightly vigils of support, one of which our group was proud to sponsor. Though it was a challenging and exhausting semester for all multicultural organizations, it forced our campus to engage in some serious self-examination, which we believe it can only benefit from.

We hope the next semester will carry the momentum and hard work of the last as we continue to work towards a more cohesive Columbia community. We will be holding our second Dia de la Bandera event which explores the relationship between Mexicans, nationalism and pride, and the flag. This year we hope to open up the dialogue to other Latin American countries as well. For Super Tuesday Chicano Caucus is coordinating an event with Univision to air on the local and national news. It will be a chance for Latino students to talk about the Presidential race and how the candidates are addressing the issues most important to our communities. Members of our group also hope to relaunch our Ballet Folklorico group this Spring and we look forward to great performances from them. Later in the semester we plan to cosponsor an event with the Student Organization of Latinos and the Black Student Organization that would compare the political activism of the Brown Berets, the Young Lords, and the Black Panthers. And of course, who could forget about our annual Cinco de Mayo celebration? We have a lot of work cut out for us, but we are looking forward to a great semester.

We wish all our Chicano, Mexican/ -American, and Latino, brothers and sisters luck in all their endeavours, and look forward to seeing you all at the upcoming conferences!

the Chicano Caucus of Columbia University

Org. Report: Harvard Radcliffe RAZA by Diego Rentería

Org. Report: Harvard Radcliffe RAZA by Diego Rentería

This upcoming year is a promising one for Harvard-Radcliffe RAZA. Not only has RAZA continued hosting events meant to bring together students and faculty but also educate others about Chican@/Mexican culture, but RAZA has other events in the works for the year 2008 that we hope will increase membership and engage the Chican@/Mexican community at Harvard with the surrounding communities.

The H-R RAZA 35th Anniversary Dinner took place at the end of the previous academic year, reuniting RAZA members past and present, including founding members. In light of that, our alumni project is nearing its next phase. Building on the work of the previous three RAZA boards, we have a list of alumni and will contact them later in the year to establish a network between RAZA alumni and current members. This network will serve to inform alumni of what occurs at Harvard and as a conduit for alumni-undergraduate relations.

As a response to the hurricane that devastated the Mexican state of Tabasco, H-R RAZA, along with Harvard University Mexican Association and other campus groups, will host a dining hall event to raise funds for disaster relief and bring light to the current situation in Tabasco. Most students at Harvard associate the name “Tabasco” with the hot sauce; we want to change that perception, let them know of the damage the state of Tabasco encountered, and, in the process, aid in the rebuilding process. RAZA is also looking to hosting a party/fundraiser later in the semester to make up for the loss of funds recent changes to the funding process have wrought.

In the spirit of cultural awareness and cooperation, H-R RAZA is planning several events with other cultural groups on campus. Our greatest undertaking will be a Black Tie Casino Night with the South Asian Association and the Black Students Association, and we also have a “Make-Your-Own Wrap Night with the Harvard Vietnamese Association and a Solidarity Day of fasting with the Harvard Islamic Society in the works.

H-R RAZA aims to return to its political roots and raise its presence amongst campus political groups during this presidential election year through community service in the Boston area, political discussions concerning Chican@/Latin@ issues, and other avenues to “promote the objectives of Chicanos throughout the entire world, most especially at Harvard.”

En solidaridad,

Diego Rentería
Harvard-Radcliffe RAZA ECCSF Representative

Untitled Poem by José Olivarez, Harvard-Radcliffe RAZA

Untitled Poem by José Olivarez, Harvard-Radcliffe RAZA

"Try speaking English, this is the United States"- Lauren Geary

And if you don't learn,
try speaking bombs,
oil and air strikes,
this is the United States.

Try speaking eugenics,
forced sterilization, said
don't you know your racial hierarchy?

Try speaking Navaho,
we'll give you Purple Star,
a Hollywood movie,
but not your land.

This is America.
You must teach
your hands English
so they don't drive in Spanish,
I'm concerned for your safety.

Do not burden us
with your presence
and remind us
there are others not so fortunate.

Leave us
to pretend we are all
alone on this continent
speaking a universal tongue
do not shatter our Dream

It is not your language.
It is you
we find offensive,
like love and peace.

Please don't make us
democratize you.

Org. Report: M.E.Ch.A. de Brown by Rocío Hernández

Org. Report: M.E.Ch.A. de Brown by Rocío Hernández

This semester MEChA de Brown has primarily been involved in helping plan this year's Semana Chicana that will be held the second week of April. We are excited to see our hard work and that of the Semana Chicana programmer crystallized next week. This week's theme Celebrating Our Differences: Los Matices de Nuestra Comunidad illustrates our wide range of events but most importantly speaks to our diverse but common identity. The highlights of the week are a talk by guest speaker Rosa Rosales, the current president of LULAC, a performance by Teatro Luna, a Chicago-based Latina performance group, Noche de Cultura featuring a performance by Marisela Norte from East Los Angeles, and the screening of Made in L.A., a documentary about Forever 21's sweatshops. As part of Semana Chicana, MEChA will hold its annual Border Commemoration where we remember those who have died crossing our Southern borders (including the greater Latin America), while educating our larger Brown community about the harsh realities facing the border that have escalated since 9/11 and have led to the passage of national anti-immigration legislation.

Thank you,

Rocío Hernández

History of MEChA de Yale

"Failing Politics of Undocumented Immigration" by Oscar Benitez, M.E.Ch.A. de UPenn

Failing Politics of Undocumented Immigration

By Oscar Benitez C’ 09,
Urban Studies Program at the University of Pennsylvania
MEChA de Penn

The US government has historically intended to resolve the “immigration problem” through the use of force, exhausting the belief that if it only remains tough on undocumented immigration, all will be good. The greatest challenge to fixing the problems associated with excessive immigration is the politics of perception surrounding the issue.

It is intuitive to believe that a powerful border patrol will yield a decrease in undocumented immigration. Throughout the 1990s, highly funded initiatives in El Paso and San Diego successfully obstructed the undocumented flow of migrants by increasing fencing, surveillance, and ammunition on the border.

Scholars, including Doug Massey, Jorge Durand, and David Spener, however, have proven that militarization of the border since 1986 has failed as a whole in preventing undocumented migration. Highly militarized zones like those in El Paso and San Diego have diverted undocumented immigrants to less patrolled, rugged, and life-threatening regions. Furthermore, the tax burden in 2000 for funding a militarized and fenced border increased as much as threefold despite the fact that apprehension probability was not much higher than that of the early 1980s.

Militarization not only suggests an impregnable border, but implicitly highlights efforts to do what it takes, even if it means endangering the lives of border crossers, to reaffirm that Capitol Hill is in command of its boundaries. It is ineffective policy that elicits a vote of confidence from a “threatened” America.

As a result, border policy has narrowed the scope of the issue into one of security and the legality of immigration. Manning the border with the second largest armed branch of the government (outside of the military) and heightened sensitivity to homeland security after 9/11, coupled with cultural nativist sentiment, have created an environment that identifies migrants as threats to the well-being of the country. There are those like Lou Dobbs and Congressman Tom Tancredo who have effectively manipulated public perception by linking lax border security to terrorist attacks, rape and other crimes, and the extinction of the English language.

The politics of a perceived border control fails on two accounts. It does not to adequately prevent crossings and most importantly, funnels the public scope of immigration into one of defense, with a strict focus on the legality. “They are breaking the law. Their presence is illegal. Send them back.”

We must go beyond these inflammatory appeals. Our immigration policy should address border security and the heart of the issue: “Why are people coming to the US?” Even if the border is completely walled off, choices to emigrate are fundamentally linked to global labor markets, the affects of globalization and free trade, and poor governance of sending countries. Economic strategies like NAFTA, for example, contradict border policy. It seeks to merge international markets, promoting the free flow of everything economic while refusing to take labor into account. There are economic reasons aligned with the migration of labor that might explain why people chose to risk their lives to reside in the US. Failure to incorporate these aspects in our conversation on immigration leads us to incomplete and polarizing arguments on security, legality, and language.