I grew up here, I went to school here…

I grew up here, I went to school here, and I think my first experience of activism was in high school, and I probably didn’t even realize it. I put a collage together about the war. About the Vietnam War. I remember my instructor was very taken aback by this collage I had put together, and I really didn’t recognize it for what it was until she did.  This collage was protesting the war.  I think I was 15, and every now and then I’ll reflect on that.  When did I get involved? When did things start to matter to me?

I think when my brothers were struggling with the law and were in and out of prison it became an issue personally for me because that was my big brother and I looked up to him and I loved him so much, both of my brothers.  I grew up working in the fields in the summertime with my parents until I was about 13. Five cents a tray or three cents a tray picking grapes and dealing with these types of issues.  And then at the same time looking back on that era, there was just so much going on. There was an uprising happening all over the country during the movement of the Brown Berets, the Black Panthers, Martin Luther King.  And I think that was a turning point.  That’s when that collage rose up.  That’s when I recognized that I was different.  We were different.

It was sad but at the same time it was… My eldest brother mentoring me a little bit, helping me towards dignity and empowerment with his big brother talks.  I’d come home from school crying, I’d just got spat in the face and somebody called me the n-word or something, and he would grab my chin and say, “Don’t ever let anybody get you down.  Be proud of who you are.  Get your education. Chicano power.” Or he’d say something that would just make me smile and look forward to the next day.

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