I became politicized in the second semester of my freshman year at Manual Arts Senior High School, a predominantly Latino and black public school in South Central, Los Angeles. The specific date was March 27th 2006, the Monday following the historical 500k + people march that took place the previous weekend in Downtown Los Angeles in which people of various cultural backgrounds and citizenship status gathered in opposition to House Bill 4437, “Border Protection, Antiterrorism, and Illegal Immigration Control Act.” I was unable to attend because I had a weekend long retreat with a school organization. However, on Sunday night I noticed that Myspace posts were announcing that student walkouts would take place on Monday across the country. Assuming that my parents would give me a lecture about not engaging in civil disobedience I bothered not mentioning it to them; I waited anxiously to attend school the next day.
The following morning was gloomy but it was irrelevant; my curiosity enabled me to overcome the morning coldness, the lack of sleep, and the hunger that came after missing breakfast. I arrived at school as the bell rung and it was time get to our first class; I had Business with Mr. Bond, one of two white male teachers I had at the time. As I sat at my desk I tried to convince myself that walking out of class was indeed the best thing to do. I took into account my personal experience as a son of immigrant parents, the numerous immigrant neighbors and friends I had grown up with, and of course, my privilege as citizen of the United States of America. While I struggled with these thoughts there was an immediate silence in the room; everyone was listening to the chants that traveled through the hallways. Those chants included “Get out of Class” and “Walk out, walk out!” My heart raised, my hands became clammy, and my throat dry. I grabbed my backpack, stood up, looked my teacher right into his eyes, and I walked out.
I found myself walking through campus along “disobedient” students trying to find a way out of school. As we walked out of the hallway and into the lunch area I noticed that parents were waiting on the other side of the entrance; my mother was too. At first I feared that I would get reprimanded in front of all my peers, but instead my mother said to me. “Jonathan, asegurate que no hagan basura.” (Make sure that you do not make a mess) I picked up the trash bins that some of my peers had dropped; the unrest on campus could be heard with jerking of fences, trash bins dropping, and the siren of a megaphone. “Sit down right now or you will receive a citation!” stated one of the security guards. With their heads down, frowns on their faces, and banners dragging on the floor over one-hundred students walked over to the lunch area and sat down.
My heart rate dropped as I witnessed the shutting down of a small movement. The look on the faces of my peers conveyed defeat. Suddenly, the image of my mom on the other side of fence came to my mind. I then realized that this movement was greater than each one of us; it was about friends, family members, and neighbors that for many years had been marginalized. I knew right then and there that I had to do something for those who lived in fear, in poverty, in heartache. As I stood up the security guard shouted at me to “sit down” but I paid no attention. I walked over to a group of students that had taken the time to make banners for this day of civil disobedience. I told them “Hey guys, we don’t have the luxury of time. The longer we sit and wait the less likely we’ll ever get anything done. Let’s get up and rally up the students.” We marched together through the lunch tables shouting “Walkout, walkout!” and again, we were a movement. The security unlocked the front gate and out we poured into the streets of Los Angeles with one destination on our mind: City Hall.
I aspire to encourage people from all walks of life to engage with those around them and their surroundings, interactively. It is difficult to not recognize our differences but I suggest to you all that identifying our similarities will take us a long way and closer to fostering a socially just world. Here’s a similarity we all share: it is in our nature to “move” since each of us is a human being, a living organism. The more we learn and see the more impossible it is for us to stand still; we become curious which triggers responses from all our senses. That’s great! Let’s make it our life goal to always move! How about we move together? Better yet, how about we act together?
All movements begin when people think, advanced through mobilization, and then fulfilled with action. Only together can we expose and eradicate ongoing injustices around the world.