Maya Angelou, Mexican History, poetry, Poetry Month, poets, Sandra Cisneros, Social Justice, Strength

Poetry on Wednesdays-Political Poetry

Poetry and Politics-JFK quote. alvaradofrazier.com
Poetry and Politics-JFK quote. alvaradofrazier.com

Remember high school English classes?

That was my first introduction to poetry. Old poets. Lot’s of ‘thee’s and thou’s,” and too much Old English stuff.

I was a studious person, more logical than emotional, so many poems went over my head.

That was until I went to college, in the mid ’70’s. It was an eyeopener when I read the profound words of contemporary poets Maya Angelou and Nikki Giovanni, who spoke of racism and the strength of women.

I found only two Chicano/Mexican American poets, both male: Alurista and the political activist, Rudulfo “Corky” Gonzales.

Yo Soy Joaquin, I am Joaquin, gripped me from the beginning.

This bilingual poem, published in 1967, summarized Mexican and Mexican American history, from the exploitation of the natives through colonial times, to the present. The poem served as a nationalist ideology for political activism, using the historical events of the 19th Century social rebel, Joaquin Murrieta.

The poem was groundbreaking, revitalizing, and began a social movement. Since it is several pages long, here’s an excerpt from the middle of the poem:

I am Joaquin. 
I rode with Pancho Villa, 
crude and warm, a tornado at full strength, 
nourished and inspired by the passion and the fire of all his earthy people. 
I am Emiliano Zapata. 
“This land, this earth is OURS.” 
The villages, the mountains, the streams 
belong to Zapatistas. 
Our life or yours is the only trade for soft brown earth and maize. 
All of which is our reward, 
a creed that formed a constitution 
for all who dare live free! 
“This land is ours . . . 
Father, I give it back to you. 
Mexico must be free. . . .” 
I ride with revolutionists 
against myself. 
I am the Rurales, 
coarse and brutal, 
I am the mountian Indian, 
superior over all. 
The thundering hoof beats are my horses. The chattering machine guns 
are death to all of me: 
Yaqui 
Tarahumara 
Chamala 
Zapotec 
Mestizo 
Español. 
I have been the bloody revolution, 
The victor, 
The vanquished. 

 

You can read the entire epic poem here. 

In the 80’s and ’90’s, I fell in love with poems and novels by Sandra Cisneros. My love affair with Ms. Cisneros’ work is well documented on my blog. For me, her poems in “Wicked, Wicked Ways” and “Loose Woman,” spanned the politics of women.

Ms. Cisneros is my ‘she-ro.’  My favorite poem is “You Bring Out the Mexican In Me.”

It’s also fairly long, so I’ll print one of her short poems:

Black Lace Bra Kind of Woman

 

Watchale! She’s a black lace bra

kind of woman, the kind who serves

up suicide with every kamikazi

poured into neon blue of evening

A tease and a twirl. I’ve seen that

two-step girl in action. I’ve gambled bad

odds and sat shotgun as she rambled

her ’59 Pontiac between the blurred

lines dividing sense from senselessness

Ruin your clothes, she will.

Get you home after hours

driving her ’59 seventy five on 35

like there is no tomorrow.

Woman zydeco-ing into her own decade.

Thirty years pleated behind her like

the wail of a San Antonio accordion.

And now the good times are coming. Girl,

I tell you, the good times are here.

From LOOSE WOMAN, 1994 pg. 78

 

Until next week, thanks for reading.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cesar Chavez, Cesar Chavez Day, Dignity, Inspiration, Latino culture, Social Justice, UFW

A March Down Memory Lane

Cesar Chavez-1974
Cesar Chavez-1974

 

When I drove my car over the railroad tracks, my friend, Dani, said she had never been to La Colonia, the working class neighborhood of my birth and youth.

I felt my memories stir.

We drove pass decorated bakeries, ‘hole-in-the-wall’ restaurants, liquor stores, and the very old, concrete church. A blend of sweet and spicy aromas entered my car.

La Colonia, which literally means, “The Colony” or neighborhood, had and still has a negative connotation by many because of the crime-much of it perpetuated and unevenly reported by the media.

Police cars blocked off a few of the streets, so I went down the well traveled pot-holed alleyways to find parking.

“Those fences must be ten or twelve feet,” my friend, a retired teacher, remarked on the chain link fences surrounding an elementary school. “I’ve never seen them that high.”

We left my mom off so she could join the people on the fire truck. In her eighties now, she didn’t have to walk the 4.5 miles to mid-town.

I felt proud of my mother. She always “walked the talk.”

Dani and I walked a few streets to join the well organized crowd of 1,000 people for the commemorative march for Cesar Chavez day. (A holiday in only 11 states). I smiled to see so many people on an early Sunday morning.

Around me were monitors for crowd control. While Dani and I waited for the march to begin I stepped outside the double yellow street line to snap a photo. One of the monitors waved at me to get back in line-just doing her job and a good one at that.

Cesar Chavez March-Oxnard, CA-alvaradofrazier.com
Cesar Chavez March-Oxnard, CA-alvaradofrazier.com

The signal was given to begin. Women with strollers, a Brownie and Daisy troop, a Congresswoman, and people of all ages holding UFW flags or wearing T-shirts depicting Cesar Chavez or Dolores Huerta began to move forward.

 

While we walked, I pointed out the housing project. “It looks so modern now, like condo’s, not at all how they looked when I lived there,” I said. Back in the 60’s/70’s the ‘projects,’ were flat topped, square looking buildings painted army green and dingy yellowed cream.

 

The roofs and overhang section had hundreds of rocks, which were used for many a rock fight. I noticed that the old telephone poles still abounded, their low hanging electrical lines a hazard.

 

At the corner, the church where I had my eight grade graduation and my first marriage, stood with a big banner across it, “Mariachi Mass for Mother’s Day.” Behind that church was the Catholic grammar school, where my sisters, brother, and cousins attended first to eighth grade.

 

“Hey, wait, are some of these places in your story?” Dani had read one of my manuscripts.

“Yep, my neighborhood is the setting,” I said with some nostalgia.

 

Soon we passed small houses, many filled with flowers and fruit trees, squeezed into miniscule front yards. Several women and children leaned on their fences and watched us walk by, a moving wave of red flags, banners, and colorful tee-shirts.

 

An elderly man in a walker stood on his porch. With one hand, he gripped his walker, in the other he held up his red with black eagle flag.

 

The red line moved forward as a slow wave of water. Chants of “Si Se Puede,” “Viva Cesar,” and “Justice,” rang out around us. I felt my heart stir.

 

Cesar Chavez March-Over the Bridge-Oxnard, CA-alvaradofrazier.com
Cesar Chavez March-Over the Bridge-Oxnard, CA-alvaradofrazier.com

The march slowed to a stop as we made the turn to the bridge. “I remember when we didn’t have a bridge,” I said. “We took the city bus to school. If the train was stuck on the tracks, which happened half the time, their was no way out of Colonia.

The group of us would be late for school. When I went into the office for a late note, someone would inevitably say, ‘must be a Colonia kid.’

Over the bridge we flowed, 1,000 of us, to the plaza park area. My march down memory lane was over but it’s never forgotten.

Cesar Chavez Day March-Oxnard, CA-alvaradofrazier.com
Cesar Chavez Day March-Oxnard, CA-alvaradofrazier.com

 

After the march ended and the Aztec Dancers finished with a ceremonial dance, we entered the movie theater to watch a movie on Cesar Chavez.

The film was very well done, with historical facts blended with personal, family dynamics.

I have to say that Michael Peña and America Ferrera did a much better job than I thought they would, based on their other movies. I wished Rosario Dawson, as Dolores Huerta, was given a meatier role as Dolores Huerta deserved.

This movie is one that everyone should see to further their knowledge of social justice, non-violent activism, and history.

Happy Birthday, Cesar, and may future generations come to recognize your non-violent work for social justice, worker’s rights and equality.

Courage, George Zimmerman, Justice, Legal justice, Morality, Parenting, Social Justice, Stand Your Ground law, Trayvon Martin, Values

Legal Justice and Morality

gettyimages.com


The reality of being a parent guarantees there will be fearful moments in our life. The verdict in the Zimmerman trial brought out intense feelings from thousands of people. It’s heartbreaking that a young man is dead, and one goes free, without being charged with any crime. Legal justice and morality are different. You cannot equate the two. One is a system, one a value.


If you’re a parent of color or have children of color, you already know about racial bias. There’s no need to spell out the statistics. I’m a parent of three kids, of varying shades of brown. My college education, socio-economic status, and career in law enforcement haven’t shielded my children, or myself, from racial or gender injustice.

As mothers, we want to protect our kids from the kind of situation Trayvon Martin experienced. As a community, we are sick of situations like this occurring. 

We may think we can offer little protection to the realities of life. That is a very scary thought and makes some people fearful.

We can’t succumb to fear. This is not an option. Fear hides, courage doesn’t. And this is what we can offer our children, the courage to take action and do something positive to ensure moral justice is served.

Individuals around the nation have signed petitions for the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate the Zimmerman case. Some bloggers started a “We Are Not Trayvon Martin” blog, encouraging dialogue:

 “It’s not enough to know you aren’t Trayvon. What will you do to change our country?” 


A call to scrutinize the 2005 “Stand Your Ground,” Florida law was initiated.

Hundreds of community leaders have called for peaceful protests on this case. With the exception of a few, the numerous protests have been peaceful. 

Stevie Wonder said he won’t perform in certain states, “I decided today that until the ‘Stand Your Ground’ law is abolished in Florida, I will never perform there again…As a matter of fact, wherever I find that law exists, I will not perform in that state or in that part of the world.”

All of these peaceful actions take courage. This is what helps our community; this is what helps our children. This is what can help the legal system, criminal justice and morality to come closer together. 


California Strawberry Festival, Education, Foster aftercare, NLPOA, Rebozo Festival, Social Justice

Shawls, Strawberries, and Social Justice

This weekend is going to be busy-in a good way. Two famous Ventura County festivals are held this Saturday and Sunday. I’ll attend both of them since I’ve had a long association with the non-profit groups, but even if I didn’t have that association I’d still attend because both contribute all profits to social justice causes that I believe make a difference. 

The Rebozo (Shawl) Festival is a cultural event, where the rebozo (shawl) is the centerpiece highlighting Mexican heritage. It’s a colorful garden party of women wearing sundresses, garden hats, and a wide variety of shawls and  men who don guayabera‘s and Panama hats to enjoy a three hour brunch with Mariachi music. Besides the food, clothing and music the main impetus for the festival is to raise money for community non-profits that serve youth and families. This ranges from foster after care, arts education, mentoring, and counseling services.

alvaradofrazier.com-Rebozo Festival

I’ll also work with the National Latino Peace Officer Association at the California Strawberry Festival, an event that draws 40,000 people into our city. There are strawberries galore, they’re everywhere from drinks to desserts. The group of law enforcement people I work with are dedicated on the job and off the job. All proceeds from two days of working concession booths go to a scholarship fund awarded to high school and community college kids. 

After 28 years working within prison walls I’ve accumulated a few theories on what keeps youth out of juvenile halls, jails, and prisons. We could go into the nature versus nuture (innate qualities versus personal experiences) debate about criminality, but there is no clear cut winner. 

I’m not speaking as a sociologist, however that is my university degree, but  my personal and professional experiences lead me to say that there are a few things that help youth stay out of the criminal justice system: Mentoring, education, and employment.

Who would have thought that shawls and strawberries could be so powerful.