One year to the date that the Librotraficante Caravan launched from Houston to smuggle books banned in Arizona back into Tucson, the Empire struck back.
On Friday, March 5, 2012, the Federal Court upheld Arizona Governor Jan Brewer's Anti-intellectual law Arizona House Bill 2281 (AZHB2281).
This is the legal trigger that prohibits Mexican American Studies.
This is a story full of ironies.
AZHB2281 prohibits courses that promote the overthrow of the government yet none of the 80+ books in the Mexican American Studies Curriculum even speculated about overthrowing the U.S. Government.
Actually, Jan Brewer is promoting the overthrow of the government.
Forty years ago the Department of Justice ordered the State of Arizona to implement courses culturally relevant to minorities as part of a desegregation lawsuit.
For six years, Tucson Unified School District had the leading Mexican American Studies Program in the nation which covered Kindergarten through 12th grade.
But with one stroke of her pen, Brewer signed AZHB2281 setting civil rights back decades.
The day we must all comply with AZHB2281 some of the above sentences will not make sense to a generation of American students.
Under AZHB2811, should we eliminate the study of the American Revolution? The Civil War? Not only did the "rebels" speculate about overthrowing the government, they actively engaged in it.
The sense that AZHB2281 makes is non-sense.
And a Federal Court just okayed it.
Jan Brewer and her minions are spreading the fear that by learning about certain events in history, Mexican Americans will become resentful. Mexican American Studies does not teach resentment; oppressive laws teach resentment.
I didn't become resentful after studying Mexican American history. I was intrigued. I was inspired.
I didn't pick up a gun. I didn't pick up a machete.
I picked up a pen.
I picked up a book.
I picked up books like Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States, one of the books in the prohibited curriculum.
Zinn writes about the evolution of the sedition act, which prevents individuals from advocating the overthrow of the government.
Seems like we have that covered in the U.S.
We don't need another sedition act.
Yet AZHB2281 now accuses courses of sedition.
I have never read the excerpt from any of the 80+ banned books that advocates the overthrow of the U.S. What combination of the 80 books leads Arizona lawmakers to fear that?
Would teaching just 79 of the books alleviate that fear?
Another book on the list is Sandra Cisneros's House on Mango Street. Far from advocating the overthrow of any government, Esperanza, the main character, hopes -- as her name suggests in Spanish -- for her family to progress, to live a full life, to be happy in their own home. Sounds like the American Dream.
Cisneros was the first of her family to go to college. She went on to become an American treasure, and a Genius Mac Arthur Fellow.
That is what Jan Brewer and her anti-immigrant movement and her anti-intellectual movement fear most.
But Brewer has created what she feared most.
Another of the banned books, Bless Me Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya, is now a full length film that has been released nationwide.
Carmen Tafolla, whose collection of poetry Curandera is banned, is now the Poet Laureate of San Antonio. Although the title of her book is Spanish the work is in English. All of the banned books are in English. AZHB2281 keeps books in English out of the hands of American citizens.
Dagoberto Gilb, author of the banned short story collection Woodcuts of Women, edits the Latino Literary Journal HUIZACHE whose latest issues not only contains the work of banned poets such as Lorna Dee Cervantes, but also archives the origins of our Librotraficante Movement, and writing inspired by our caravan.
People from around the nation donated thousands of books for us to open Librotraficante Under Ground Libraries last year, and we will open at least six more this year.
We have put more books into the hands of our youth.
Brewer's ban on our culture has sparked a Renaissance.
Every Under Ground Library has a binder to archive the names of all the teachers who taught in the Mexican American Studies program at TUSD, the list of all the banned books, all the plaintiffs suing Arizona, the lawyers working pro-bono, all the student groups who were on the front lines of this battle in Tucson.
We will keep a list of the all the court rulings, the people who rode on the Librotraficante Caravan, all the allies who volunteered for the Save Ethnic Studies coalition, all the allies who are part of the Librotraficante Movement and our 50 for Freedom of Speech events every September 21.
And we will also share the writings created by youth from one Under Ground Library to the next to the next to the next from now on.
If you missed the Civil Rights movement of the 60s and 70s, you should know you are watching history unfold again, right before your eyes.
Chican@s shall suffer the brunt of this struggle but with our allies and friends from all walks of life together we shall usher in a Renaissance that will be a new Age of Enlightenment for everyone.
Richard Martinez is one of the lawyers working pro-bono to represent the teachers and students of Tucson ISD fighting for everyone's freedom of speech. They will now take this case to the 9th District Court. Regardless of who wins, that decision will be appealed at the Supreme Court level. This will take over $100,000's in time, energy, and money.
This can take years.
I still believe in Democracy.
I trust this un-American law AZHB2281 will be overturned.
But many lives will be crushed in the process.
The brilliant teachers who created and conducted the Mexican American Studies courses should have been extolled, not fired.
There will be an entire generation of students who will drop out because they will not benefit from the MAS program that was proven to stem the dropout rate.
And we cannot begin to measure the students who have to watch as their leaders are vilified, who must wonder if in fact our people do intend to overthrow the government when we pick up books.
This brings me back to Jan Brewer.
I wonder what she and her minions will do when Freedom Rings and AZHB2281 is overthrown.
What will she do next to defy and overthrow the government?