The Latina Heritage month kick off event this past Thursday emphasized more than just immigrant rights.
Panel speakers underscored the importance of improving working and living conditions for immigrant workers through legislation and unionization as well as fighting for voting rights to an audience of 70 students, staff and faculty.
“Revolution is a process,” Maria Jimenez of Mujeras Unidas y Activas said while she was speaking about valuing the work that immigrant household workers do in the United States. She said most of the immigrant women who come to this country are private household workers and are often exploited and underpaid.
MUA recently advocated AB2536 a bill that passed the California assembly and state senate that would protect household workers from employer abuse. The bill is now on governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s desk awaiting his signature.
Larisa Casillas of the Bay Area Immigrant Rights Coalition talked about how organizing voters will help pass these types of bills in the future.
The organization is currently working on the Mobilize Immigrant Vote campaign (MIV).
“We want to increase the number of voters in the immigrant community and communities of color that are vastly underrepresented,” she said. According to Casillas only a small percentage of the 38 percent of Latinos who make up state population vote.
“We’re building a broad movement for economic rights and social justice,” said Evelyn Sanchez of the Immigrant Worker’s Freedom Rights Coalition. She said it was important to all of these organizations that the immigrants rights movement was not just about making reforms in legislation targeting immigrants, but a movement to included everyone.
“We all have to move up together,” she said. “We’re creating unity between working people, races and ethnicities.”
The majority of attendees were students. Senior Mary Gordon said she understands the significance of Latina Heritage Month because “it’s a special time to celebrate, and it’s important to join people.”
Gina Rosabal, Director of Student Diversity programs said that it’s essential to set aside heritage months ” to reflect, raise awareness and bring people together as a community.”
Ethnic Studies professor Julia Sudbury said that heritage months are a good time to “highlight the work that students of color and the community of color [whether in Oakland or at Mills] and Ethnic Studies do.”
“Even though we call it heritage months we really look at more than just a rosy image of this is a ‘black event’ – we look at the political struggles, the resistant struggles facing latinos/latinas today,” she said.
The diverse audience echoed these same sentiments in their questions and comments to the panel.
This is only the first of several events this month sponsored by the Ethnic Studies department and the campus affiliated Mujeras Unidas. Please visit the Ethnic Studies calendar on the Mills Web site for further event information.
The Ethnic Studies department will be putting on several socially responsible events during the school year. If you would like to participate in the planning of an event or submit an idea that is grounded in a social justice perspective please contact the Ethnic Studies at firstname.lastname@example.org.