March 1, 2018 marked the 50th anniversary of the 1968 “Walkouts or Blowouts” Chicano student movement where 15,000 students from East L.A. walked out of their classrooms at Belmont, Garfield, Lincoln, Roosevelt, and Wilson High Schools to challenge inequalities in Los Angeles public schools.
Today, 826LA works with students from some of these very same East L.A. schools. In 2015, Walkout student leader Bobby Verdugo partnered with 826LA and Felicitas and Gonzolo Mendez High School students for the Young Authors’ Book Project (YABP) publication We Are Alive When We Speak For Justice, an anthology that centers on the landmark Mendez v. Westminster case that desegregated California schools and set the precedent for Brown v. Board of Education.
Mendez students had the unique opportunity to interview Verdugo and fellow Walkout participants Heriberto Garza and Miguel Roura (both former educators at Mendez High School and Roosevelt High School, respectively) for the YABP publication. Today, Garza and Roura are two of 826LA’s most dedicated In-Schools and College Access program volunteers, often supporting the very schools they walked out of as students fifty years ago!
“I had given up on myself, but I walked out for my brother and his friends, who were only freshmen. And for people I had never met, like all of you.” —Bobby Verdugo to students at Mendez High School
826LA is also proud to announce that long-time 826LA partner and Ethnic Studies educator Jorge Lopez from Roosevelt High School received the Sal Castro award this year in commemoration of the Walkouts. Sal Castro was a revolutionary teacher who joined his students in 1968 to fight for educational justice, and Lopez was honored as a student-nominated educator from the five predominantly Mexican-American high schools in East L.A. where the walkouts began (Belmont, Garfield, Lincoln, Roosevelt and Wilson).
This month’s 50th anniversary of the Walkouts is a reminder that although much has changed since 1968, there’s still much to be done for education equality.
We Are Alive When We Speak for Justice is available in-stores and online at the Time Travel Mart here.
Check out photos from the We Are Alive When We Speak For Justice release party here.