Dr. Martin Luther King, MLK Day, Wisdom

Wisdom of Dr. Martin Luther King

Soon we will enjoy the holiday that commemorates Martin Luther King Jr. Day. In 1957, he was cited as one of the most admired religious leaders in the world. Time Magazine selected him, in 1957, as one of the ten outstanding personalities of the year. 

Dr. King was the author of several books and received awards for “Measure of A Man,” in 1958. He was educated in the public schools of Atlanta, Georgia, studied at the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard University. In 1955, he received his Ph.D. degree in the field systematic theology from Boston University in the east.

Many of us are acquainted with Dr. King’s celebrated “I Have A Dream,” speech given in 1963 in Washington D.C. However, his wisdom can be found in several of his lesser known writings and speeches. Here are some to reflect on as the holiday approaches:

“…I never intend to adjust myself to economic conditions that will take necessities from the many to give luxuries to the few. I never intend to adjust myself to the madness of militarism, to self-defeating effects of physical violence. But in a day when sputniks and explorers are dashing through outer space and guided ballistic missiles are carving highways of death through the stratosphere, no nation can win a war. It is no longer the choice between violence and nonviolence. It is either nonviolence or nonexistence…”
“Social Justice and the Emerging New Age” address at Western Michigan University, (18 December 1963)

“The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it. Through violence, you may murder the liar, but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth. Through violence, you may murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. In fact, violence merely increases hate. So it goes. … Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.

‘Where Do We Go From Here?” as published in Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community? (1967)

“We must live together as brothers or perish together as fools.” Speech in St. Louis, (March 22, 1964)

“I say to you that our goal is freedom, and I believe we are going to get there because however much she strays away from it, the goal of America is freedom. Abused and scorned though we may be as a people, our destiny is tied up in the destiny of America.” “Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution” (31 March 1968)

“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” Letters from Birmingham Jail (1963)

“I accept this award today with an abiding faith in America and an audacious faith in the future of mankind. I refuse to accept despair as the final response to the ambiguities of history. I refuse to accept the idea that the “isness” of man’s present nature makes him morally incapable of reaching up for the eternal “oughtness” that forever confronts him. I refuse to accept the idea that man is mere flotsam and jetsam in the river of life, unable to influence the unfolding events which surround him. I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality. I refuse to accept the cynical notion that nation after nation must spiral down a militaristic stairway into the hell of thermonuclear destruction. I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right, temporarily defeated, is stronger than evil triumphant.” Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech (1964).
Celebrate the holiday by reading and sharing his words and remembering his special place in our history. 

Authors, Chingona, Chingonas, How to be a Chingona, Latina writer, Loose Woman, Sandra Cisneros, Strong Women, Wisdom

How to Be a Chingona in Ten Easy Steps-Sandra Cisneros

For some reason I had Sandra Cisneros on my mind. In my quest for something interesting to read tonight I pulled out her books from my bookshelf. 

LOOSE WOMAN is always an interesting book of poems and seemed apropos to read on a full moon night. I reread my favorite poem “You Bring Out the Mexican in Me,” and wished I had picked up a Cabernet at Trader Joe’s. If you’ve never heard it before, take a listen. She read the poem on NPR a few years ago.

So back to Sandra. I put the book of poems away and jumped on my laptop to view Sandra’s site (yes, I know I’m being very familiar but that’s what her writing does to me,I think she’s my amiga or comadre). I looked for her 2012 presentations, but they are in North Carolina and Japan.

Sandra spoke at the Coca Cola Tour Adelante a few days ago (unfortunately the video disappeared),
I took notes of her talk so I’ll list the points. 

1. Live for your own approval. Center yourself. Be alone. Create your own space.

2 .Discover your own powers. What floods you with joy?

3 .Find true humility and practice it.

4 .Keep your palabra, your word.

5. What are you using to cover or mask your pain? Address it.

6. Your only true possessions are your actions.

7. Seek forgiveness.

8. Live in the present moment.

9. Depression has a purpose if you use it before it uses you. (Profound wisdom). Transform it to light. Compost it through art. If you can’t do it by yourself, see a professional curandera (healer, therapist).

10. Listen to your body.

There you go, 10 steps in 10 minutes. Are you feeling the power yet?


These are my own thoughts on a definition for Chingona*. Feel free to add your own:

*Bad ass, powerful, wise woman, muy macha, activist in their community and/or home, talented, smart, resourceful, kick ass…

Cesar Chavez, Cesar's Last Fast, Wisdom

Cesar’s Last Fast-Part II

The Kickstarter campaign to raise money to complete the documentary “Cesar’s Last Fast,” began on September 25, 2011. Last week’s article discussed some of the reasons why filmmaker Richard Perez decided to make the film. This article explains why the film is important and how you, the community, can help complete the film and carry it to small and large screens everywhere.

People who grew up in the 60’s-80’s remember the boycotts, chants of huelga and numerous discussions about social justice. My mother and I participated in boycotts and she attended César’s funeral because “…he was a great man, like a good friend…”

But do our children know of this time in history. Do they know the reasons for the boycotts, UFW, or the man behind an historic social cause? Will they ever feel the stir of César’s words, the emotion behind the 36-day fast, the marches, the huelga flag? Give them the opportunity to see this film, because after they see it they will not only know the reasons, they will feel the emotion and understand the need to continue advocating for social justice.

The film opens with original footage of Chavez’s funeral. It continues with his organizing efforts in 1965 when he and his supporters stood on dirt roads encouraging fieldworkers to join their cause and the actions of those who opposed him and assaulted UFW supporters. The lump in my throat grew as I watched the human drama unfold and heard the speeches Chavez gave to his supporters while in the midst of difficulties. The scenes are poignant and stirring, not only for what is actually occurring on screen and what took place in real life, but because of the universal resonance of justice, integrity, and a man’s belief in “…one dream, one goal, one vision…”

In my interview with the director, Mr. Perez, it is evident that “Cesar’s Last Stand” is more than just a film. His mission is to utilize the documentary as a powerful tool to engage people and organizations to participate in social justice movements using Cesar Chavez’s inspiring story as a model for how individuals and communities can address the inequities they confront every day.

The website explains this further, “To carry out this social impact initiative, the filmmakers will partner with national civil, labor, human rights, and faith-based organizations. These partner groups will organize community-based screening. This strategy will ensure the film reaches a new generation of immigrant workers who may not know Chavez’s story and his impact on Latino civil and labor rights in the United States.”

All of the money raised from this campaign is for the completion of the production of Cesar’s Last Fast. This project will only be funded if at least $21,000 is pledged by November 24, 2011. The filmmakers will travel to California’s Central Valley to interview farm workers in the fields and in their homes and capture the conditions under which they work and live. The target date to complete the film is early Spring, 2012.

After that, a series of community-based screenings are scheduled to reach the audience who most needs to see this film: today’s generation of farmworkers, workers in other low-wage industries, and young people who came of age after the historic rise of the farmworker movement and Cesar Chavez’s passing.

Support levels range from $1 to $1,000. Recognition ranges from acknowledgement on Facebook to receipt of a special edition DVD all the way up to on-screen Associate Producer credits.
Taking part in a social justice campaign is only a click and a few dollars away.
Cesar Chavez, Cesar's Last Fast, Dr. Lorena Parlee, Farmworker Rights, Latinos in film, Richard Perez, UFW, Wisdom

Cesar’s Last Fast

 “One man taking on Goliath like forces in a fight for social justice.”*
This article is a two part series:

A couple of weeks ago I chatted with a friend about the need for more films by Latino filmmakers that highlight Latino accomplishments. This was on the heels of the Katt Williams tirade and the frustration of reading about a movie (see my post)  which had Robert Duval playing a main character, Mr. Crawford,  based on real life pro golfer, Johnny Arreaga.  This had me thinking how the Latino community can get involved in pushing for more Latino films with Latino actors by Latino filmmakers and producers.

My friend mentioned filmmaker *Richard Ray Perez’s documentary, titled “Cesar’s Last Fast.” The film, structured around Chavez’s 1988 thirty-six day fast, calls attention to Cesar’s spiritual commitment, values, and humanity. There are eighty-five hours of never seen before footage about this fast, which includes Martin Sheen, Edward James Olmos, Ethel Kennedy, Jesse Jackson, and several other people close to César Chavez.

His political activism and leadership, grounded in non-violence, followed the teachings of Gandhi, Nehru and Martin Luther King. It was Chavez, who coined the phrase “Si, se puede.” His actions were a living example of a life dedicated to fighting for people who are among the poorest.

In my interview with Richard Perez, his passion for bringing Cesar’s spiritual commitment to light is evident. His goal is to illustrate how one person can better society through personal sacrifices. “César Chavez had the type of commitment few people have had in history. We hope to raise his profile, not as an ethnic labor leader, but as a spiritual leader. He was an incredibly unique man…his commitment has been largely overlooked.”  

How Mr. Perez came upon this project is amazing for the connections to his past and present.
“My fellow producer … likes to say that I was destined to make this film. My father was a migrant farm worker for 22 years…My aunts and uncles, his siblings were all farm workers, too. And when I was 4 years old, attending Head Start in…San Fernando … there were some (CSUN) Chicano students who volunteer(ed) at the Head Start… about 1969, 1970… I noticed one day that one of those Chicano volunteers was taking his grapes out of the fruit cocktail out of the lunch that we got, the sort of free government lunch.

I asked him, ‘Oh, why are you doing that?’ And he said, ‘Well, because, the people who pick the grapes are treated very poorly by their bosses. They get paid very little money. They often have to live in shacks. If they complain, they get fired. It’s just a very, very hard job, and their bosses treat them horribly.’

I remember looking down at my grapes in my fruit cocktail and realizing that all of a sudden they looked very, very ugly. So I started picking the grapes out of my fruit cocktail. And pretty soon the rest of the students sitting at that table all did the same, and for the rest of the year none of us ate the grapes in our fruit cocktails that were in our lunch.”

Twenty some years later, Mr. Perez made a proposal to the César Chavez Foundation to make a documentary. They couldn’t give exclusive agreement because a similar project was in the works by filmmaker Lorena Parlee, PhD., Chavez’s Press Secretary. Dr. Parlee was a Professor of Mexican and Chicano History at the University of California’s Santa Barbara, Irvine and San Diego campuses. She had exclusive rights but asked if Perez would like to collaborate, but he was working on another project and said he could it in six months. He didn’t hear from her and months later, he received a telephone call from Dr. Parlee’s family. She had died from breast cancer and left instructions to contact Mr. Perez and give him the private videotapes to finish the project.

Mr. Perez and fellow filmmaker Molly O’Brien reviewed the footage and decided to focus on how he inspired a generation of people to participate in the struggle for social justice. They are close to two thirds completed and need to raise money to continue filming and editing this documentary.

They have coordinated a Kickstarter Campaign, a crowd funding method of raising funds. The campaign will launch on September 25, 2011, with a 60-day run. The goal is to raise $20,000. Click on this link to see a one-minute trailer and go to www.cesarlastfast.com for more information. Like them on Facebook too. After all, it takes a community.