For the next few weeks, my WWW posts will focus on resources that provide ideas to teach Black History Month through a Latino lens. What I mean by that is two-fold:
1) Focusing on Latino peoples, cultures and experiences that are also centered on an African identity and history. Afro-Caribbean cultures — from Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, and numerous other Caribbean islands — have a deep history in helping to shape Afro-Latino identity, society, culture, history and tradition. Yet, even when the US has designated a special month for celebrating Black History, these cultures are largely left out of this dialogue. Black History Month generally focuses on the contribution of African-Americans, as well it should, as they themselves are largely left out of cultural studies and discourse to the detriment of all. However, what about the experiences of Afro- Puerto Ricans/Cubans//Dominicans/Haitians who also identify as estado unidenses (Americans)? Their history is equally important and should be researched and brought into our classroom discussions.
2) During the Civil Rights Movement, when Dr. King, Malcolm X, and millions of others were fighting for equality in the South and Eastern US, in the West, Latinos were fighting for the same. Their story, however, is also largely left out of the civil rights dialogue when in fact, the fight put on by Latinos and African-Americans (and Caribbean-African-Americans) goes hand in hand. Court cases from both factions helped support wins for the other; marches, protests, walk-outs and more were centered on the same beliefs: equality. We must expand our Civil Rights Umbrella to include the struggles, identities and successes of these two groups in order to round out our history and teach our kids that all groups can and do fight for justice.
With that being said, I want to start out our conversation (as this topic will encompass a few WWW posts) by bringing to light the first successful desegregation case in US History: The Lemon Grove Incident. In 1931, Mexican-Americans challenged the school board of San Diego for the desegregation of classrooms and the equal right and opportunity to education as their Caucasian counterparts.There are a few, though sadly not enough, resources for teaching on Lemon Grove:
- Author Robert R. Alvarez, Jr. wrote an excellent historical essay on Lemon Grove for the San Diego Journal of History.
- Images from Lemon Grove can be found through the San Diego Journal of History.
- A YouTube interview with History scholar John Valdez about Lemon Grove.
- Another historical resource from the San Diego State University.
- The Full Documentary is available on YouTube. (Zinn Ed. offers a video on Lemon Grove that can be ordered through their web site.)
It goes without saying, though sometimes in this world we have to say these things anyway, that there is no contest going on between which groups of people were more successful at combating racism and segregation in the US during the 20th century. Latinos, African-Americans, Puerto-Ricans, Native Americans, and numerous other groups were all fighting for the same end result: equal opportunity, equal access, equal protection and an equal say in their own government and lives. It’s not a zero-sum game: success on the part of one group does not take away the success of another. I illustrate that Lemon Grove was the first desegregation case not to somehow place it “above” Brown V. Board of Education but rather, to highlight the fact that history is told through the dominant discourse lens, which until recently (and certainly not when I was in school) has left Lemon Grove out of the dialogue surrounding the civil rights struggle. The goal then, should be to change the hegemonic discourse surrounding all education and bring in incidents that add to our understanding of more groups, more struggles, more successes. There is always — always! — more to learn, more to teach and more to include. Lemon Grove is of paramount importance, equal to Brown V. Board; the fight was the same. Our fight now, is to include Lemon Grove in the large repertoire of the civil rights movement.
–Highlighting Civil Rights luchadores of all types,