Respecting and Honoring the Legacy of Cesar Chavez

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Tim Wise’s “Majoring in Minstrelsy”

With the Cesar Chavez holiday this Friday, March 30, 2012, I thought this a good time to post a link to Tim Wise’s “Majoring in Minstrelsy: White Students, Blackface, and the Failure of Mainstream Multiculturalism.”  Wise addresses the issue of students dressing in blackface in his article; however, the same argument can be applied to those individuals who choose to don sombreros, serapes, and the like to “celebrate” having the day off from work and classes.  In response to the argument that the wearing of blackface or dressing up as Latino/as is an innocent act fueled by ignorance, Wise writes 

“They didn’t ask Latino students to come to ‘Tacos and Tequila,’ so as to lend authenticity to the fun. Had they been acting out of pure ignorance, they wouldn’t have hesitated to try and make the events into multicultural funfests. But they never made this mistake, suggesting that even if only subconsciously, they had to know something was wrong.”

Wise suggests that we are all responsible for challenging and critiquing the behaviors of those individuals whose actions, whether they be intentionally racist, innocent, or ignorant, run counter to our attempts “to form a more inclusive community”:

“Until white students become less concerned about hurting the feelings of a bunch of racists, or drunks (or both) by calling them out, and more committed to the creation of a respectful and equitable environment on campus, those whites who engage in acts of racism will feel no need to change their behaviors. Unless whites ostracize such students, those who find racism humorous will continue to push the envelope. Only by making clear that these kinds of things are unacceptable to us, will other whites apparently get the message that their actions are inexcusable. It’s obvious by now that they won’t respond to black and brown protests alone.”

You can read more of Tim Wise’s “Majoring in Minstrelsy: White Students, Blackface, and the Failure of Mainstream Multiculturalism” here

Interested in other ways to pay honor to the life and legacy of Cesar Chavez?  Check out this listing of events:

  • TUESDAY AND WEDNESDAY: “Cesar Chavez: Hero or Fraud?” Two-day film and discussion series. 5 p.m., Cross Cultural Leadership Council, Meriam Library 172. Enter from outside library on east side of building, near Bell Memorial Union. 
  • WEDNESDAY: Conversations on Diversity: “The Legacy of Cesar Chavez.” Noon, BMU 210. 
  • THURSDAY: “Educating the Heart: The Values of Cesar Chavez.” 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Student Services Center Plaza (west of the BMU). 
  • FRIDAY: Cats in the Community — Service work in community. Registration 9-10 a.m. at Trinity Commons (lawn on south side of Trinity Hall). People who register will be assigned to projects and work on them from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. 
  • FRIDAY: Cesar Chavez March for Justice. 4-6 p.m., starts at Student Services Center Plaza. 
  • SATURDAY: Honoring the Life of Cesar Chavez: A Cultural Celebration. 1-6 p.m., City Plaza.

HT: Susan Green, professor, History department, for the Wise article.

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Providing Outreach to the Community

Jamile Balli

By Jamile Balli, Admissions Counselor

Have you ever heard the saying that some can’t see the forest for the trees?  Colleges and universities can be guilty of that sometimes too.  Before coming to Chico State I worked at UC Merced.  While there I had the unique experience of seeing the First Lady of the United States, Michelle Obama, deliver the commencement address in 2009.  For me, one of the most significant parts of the First Lady’s talk centered around her  experiences growing up just miles away from the University of Chicago (U of C).  Mrs. Obama shared that while the University of Chicago was “a major cultural, economic institution” in her neighborhood, “it never played a meaningful role” in her “academic development.”  She also said that the U of C, made no effort to “reach out” to her, though she was “a bright and promising student in their midst.”   For this reason, when it came time to attend college she “never for one second considered the university in my own backyard as a viable option.”

What does all this have to do with Chico State? One of the things I value most about our campus is its long term commitment to engaging with its local community.   Programs like Educational Talent Search and Upward Bound have spent decades cultivating and nurturing the academic talent of the students within our service area.    Chico State also believes that academic success is a family affair and so has funded programs like the Parent Institute for Quality Education (PIQE) since 2006.   PIQE’s mission is to “connect families, schools and community as partners to advance the education of every child through parent engagement.”  To accomplish this goal, PIQE conducts a series of workshops in local area K-12 schools.  These workshops center on higher education information and try to bridge the gap that sometimes exists between parental aspiration and the university admissions process.   Although it may be an overused term, this partnership is about empowering students and their families to succeed in higher education.

In another effort to engage with our local community, the Office of Admissions, along with the Offices of Financial Aid and Educational Talent Search, hosted 72 primarily Spanish speaking families on our campus for a one day parent conference on January 28, 2012.    The invitees were graduates of the Gridley, Red Bluff and Live Oak PIQE programs.  The purpose of the event was to reaffirm the value of higher education and instill a sense of Chico State as a campus that is welcoming, accessible and place of innumerable opportunities for future students.    Responses to the conference were overwhelmingly positive.  My two favorite quotes from the day came from a high school student who said, “I’ve been here two hours and I love it already. I want to come here!” One of the fathers who visited called our campus, “a temple; a temple of learning.” I thought that an amazing compliment.   It may be difficult to know if a future First Lady of the United States will come from the North Valley, but I am satisfied in knowing that Chico State does look to our own backyard for those with unlimited potential, like Mrs. Obama.

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Take Back the Night

Nikki Allair, Women's Program Coordinator GSEC

By Nikki Allair, Women’s Program Coordinator, AS Gender and Sexuality Equity Center

Rape culture has permeated through our most blatant forms of communication these days. It is right before our very eyes and we do not even see it unless it’s screaming the word “RAPE” over the image. Our culture punishes those who are seeking asylum from a horrible experience and coddles and reassures those who are the creating this dark, scary world. I lock my door and window every night because I live on the first floor. I will not walk outside of a well-lit building at night without my keys in hand, protectively. I would never be caught alone on a street without my pepper spray out in the open, ready to go at a moment’s notice. I am on constant alert and it is exhausting.

I did not actually realize what it meant to be in a rape cultured society until I took a women’s studies class. It was then that I was exposed to how the world around functions to keep me in doors, on edge, and constantly trying to protect myself from possible threats. I just always accepted that it was stupid for me to be out past sundown in our city and I never examined why I believed that or where it all stemmed from. Then I took a women’s studies class with Elizabeth Renfro and we read an excerpt from Adrienne Rich’s On Lies, Secrets, and Silence. She was able to put into words what I had felt for years and could not understand fully. “The capacity to think independently, to take intellectual risks, to assert ourselves mentally, is inseparable from our physical way of being in the world, our feelings of personal integrity” (Rich 243).

The visual and verbal cues I receive from my surroundings tell me constantly to not go outside because it is dangerous for me as a woman. I am slight built, I should be indoors, and I have not always been out in the public sphere like men have been before me. However, this is not the life I wish to lead. “But long before entering college, the woman student has experienced her alien identity in a world which misnames her, turns her into its own uses, denying her the resources she needs to become self-confirming, self-defined” (Rich). The culture that engulfs my every move has defined the parameters in which I and other women are allowed to move in.

Take Back the Night is a way to combat this and rise against what society has told women for so long. The subtext of victim blaming is no more during this night. It is a time to embrace our survivors, to express our emotions, and to take a stand for what is right and just in this world. We deserve as women, as men, as human beings, to not feel fear while we are traveling through the streets to our destination. The anxiety, the pressure, the constant alert is unhealthy, unruly, and inhumane. We cannot continue on to live this life looking over our shoulder at every twist and turn.

We march silently on behalf of those who cannot speak. We march through a popular area of downtown for those who are too scared to join us. We hold candles to light the way. Never breaking our line, our connection, our bond. The patrons of this town take to the streets in protest against intimate partner violence, sexual assault, and rape. May we find hope and solidarity along the way for our silenced peers.

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Chico State Celebrates Women’s History Month (continued)

In “Free to Love: Celebrating Women’s History Month,” Lori Beth Way ends by challenging readers “to learn about the radicals, the outsiders, the ones who didn’t fit into the mold of the white rich woman activist,” asking them, “who would you recommend we learn about?”

Casey Huff (Publications Editor) responded to Way’s challenge.  His suggestion:

Lucy Gonzales Parsons (1853-1942), labor organizer, socialist, and orator of Native American, African American, and Mexican American descent; a founding member of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW).

According to William Loren Katz, author of Black Indians: A Hidden Heritage (Atheneum, 2012),

Lucy Parsons’s determined effort to elevate and inspire the oppressed to take command remained alive among those who knew, heard and loved her. But few today are aware of her insights, courage and tenacity. Despite her fertile mind, writing and oratorical skills and striking beauty, Lucy Parsons has not found a place in school texts, social studies curricula, or Hollywood movies. Yet she has earned a prominent place in the long fight for a better life for working people, for women, for people of color, for her country and for her world.

To read more of Katz’s article about Parsons, click here.

Vikki Bass (Educational Opportunity Program [EOP]) also responded to the challenge.  She offered up two individuals–Ella Jo Baker and Alyce Faye Wattleton.

Alice Faye Wattleton (July 8, 1943 – ), first African American and youngest president of Planned Parenthood, 1978 to 1992.

Wattleton received a Bachelor of Science degree in nursing from The Ohio State University (’64) and a Master of Science degree in maternal and infant care from Columbia University.  As a nurse, she attended to women who were suffering from botched illegal abortions.  To learn more about Wattleton, continue reading here.

Ella Jo Baker (1903-1986), civil rights activist who served as secretary of the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People),  Executive Director of the SCLC (Southern Christian Leadership Conference) and “Godmother of SNCC”/coordinator of SNCC (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee).

Baker’s “influence was reflected in the nickname she acquired: ‘Fundi,’ a Swahili word meaning a person who teaches a craft to the next generation. Baker continued to be a respected and influential leader in the fight for human and civil rights until her death on December 13, 1986, her 83rd birthday.”  To learn more about Baker, continue reading here.

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Picturing Ishi

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Remembering Ishi

By Adrienne Scott, Curator, Valene L. Smith Museum of Anthropology

The devastating consequences of European conquest and contact with the indigenous peoples of the Americas have yet to be fully told and recognized.  Many Native American voices and faces over the past centuries mirror this misunderstanding and culture clash. Names like Crazy Horse, Sacagawea, Sitting Bull, Geronimo, Squanto, Pocahontas, Chief Pontiac, Tecumseh and Sequoia, all evoke romanticized, limited portrayals of American Indians.  So too does the name Ishi.

A hundred years ago, on August 29, 1911 Ishi, the last living member of a small band of Yahi Indians, chose to walk into the Euro-American society of the early 20th Century.  He arrived during dangerous times for Native Americans.  Since the land grab of post gold rush California, the rolling hills of the North State turned into private property and farm lands, greatly diminishing the resources for hunting and gathering, and forcing many tribal groups to assimilate, disperse, or go into hiding.  Most were hunted down when rewards and bounties were put on their heads. Slogans like The only good Indian is a dead Indian flourished across the United States.  There were no choices left for indigenous peoples, especially as the US Government embraced the ideology of manifest destiny

Against this backdrop, Ishi comes out of hiding near Oroville, California. Ishi’s appearance has been interpreted by some as a signal of the defeat and starvation of the Yahi people. Others believe it was possibly his way of committing suicide at the hands of white settlers. Still others tell the story of a brave man willing to protect the dignity and remnants of a culture by giving himself up to the modern world.  Telling Ishi’s story is also a lesson in the difficulty, in fact, the impossibility, of having one person’s life represent the story of an entire population.

Holding these ideas in mind, the students in the CSUC Museum Exhibition Design and Installation course, under the direction of Dr. Stacy Schaefer, have created an exhibition to reflect on aspects of Ishi’s story. The exhibit will run through July 26, 2012. The exhibition traces his many encounters, transformations and adaptations to the modern world.  From the beginning of his journey with a short stay in the Oroville jail to entering Victorian society in San Francisco, Ishi became a part of a new chapter in Native American history.  With Professor Alfred Kroeber in the anthropology department of the University of California, Berkeley, Ishi provided a first-hand and personal account  into a bygone way of life.  Ishi shared parts of his culture even in the face of personal tragedy and the devastating reality of the annihilation of his tribe. His stories and his work with the anthropologists has left a profound history of insight, information, and material culture that help better explain the cultural practices of the Yahi people and of  California Indians, in general.

The memory of Ishi and his long journey are preserved into the future as many Native Americans and others continue to honor his life. His legacy lives on in the collective memories of other California Indian tribal groups who are still here.

The exhibit contains a display titled the Ishi Digital Memory Project, allowing many voices to contribute their reflections on the impact Ishi has made on their lives and this area.  The museum has provided a web cam interactive to encourage our visitors to reflect on the significance and example of Ishi’s life and its continued meaning for a new generation. The museum staff and students recognize that one exhibition, like one man, cannot represent the entire telling of a complex and still unfolding story. We invite all of you to join the story….

The museum is centrally located on campus in the CSUC Meriam Library complex across from the library’s main entrance in MLIB 180 Open Tues- Sat 11-3;  Call for more info. 898-5397

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Chico State Celebrates Women’s History Month

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Free to Love: Celebrating Women’s History Month

By Lori Beth Way, Professor, Criminal Justice

The 2008 Presidential election drew a lot of attention to the topic of women and the presidency. Hillary Clinton ran in the Democratic Primary for President and Sarah Palin ran for Vice President on Senator John McCain’s ticket. A total of thirteen women have run for U.S. President. Six women have been Vice Presidential candidates. It was not until Shirley Chisholm in 1972 that a woman ran throughout the country for a major party’s nomination (Center for American Women and Politics). Surely, then Clinton and Palin are members of a tiny group over a more than 200 year history.

The first woman to run for President was Victoria Claflin Woodhull in 1872 as a candidate for the Equal Rights party.  She is very unique in women’s history for more reasons than her candidacy. She was born poor, but relying on her brilliant intellect, she became the first woman Wall Street broker and made a great fortune (Underhill 1995). Woodhull was a woman before her time.

Woodhull was a very strong advocate for women’s suffrage (i.e. women’s right to vote) and women’s rights more generally. She was a well-known speaker on the topic of “free love.” Essentially, she argued that freedom entitled women to be divorced when love was no longer present in a marriage. She lectured “Yes, I am a free lover. I have an inalienable, constitutional and natural right to love whom I may, to love as long or as short a period as I can; to change that love every day if I please, and with the right neither you nor any law can frame have any right to interfere.” Not only did she lecture on this topic, she also practiced her views with a series of relationships of which the society of that day did not approve (Underhill 1995).

Overall, Woodhull was viewed as extremely radical. She was a professional woman in a time that such a role was very rare. Not only was she a stock broker, but she also later started her own newspaper. Because of whom she was and the negative attention she received, the suffragists basically erased her from the history of suffrage (Underhill 1995). Women who fought for the vote were much more diverse than the typical textbook tells you. Poor women, women of color, working and unionized women, and men were all involved in ultimately granting women the right to vote (Ford 2010). Women’s history month is a time to learn about the radicals, the outsiders, the ones who didn’t fit into the mold of the white rich woman activist. Who would you recommend we learn about?

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Need Help With Your Unit Diversity Plans due April 16th?

April 16th, the deadline for unit diversity plans to be submitted to the Chief Diversity Officer, is well-nigh upon us.  Need help with your unit diversity plans?  Members of the President’s Diversity Council (PDC) will conduct a series of workshops to assist you with your efforts.
The dates are as follows:
 Friday, March 2nd, 8:00-10:00 a.m., Colusa 110
Friday, March 9th, 1:00-3:00 p.m., Colusa 110
Friday, April 6th, 8:15-10:00 a.m., Colusa 110
Not sure where to start of if you are on the right track?  Stumped about a particular task’s relevance to your unit?  Just want to gloat because you are almost done with your unit plan?  Want to find out what others are doing? Come join us.  Bring your colleagues, drafts, questions, and ideas.
So that we can get a sense of how many people to expect, please RSVP with Tracy Butts at or ext 5202.
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