Taking A14 to the MEChA National Conference

April 12, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us


From readers:

April 11—Over this weekend, the MEChA chapter at DePaul University in Chicago has been hosting the 2015 National Conference of MEChA, a national organization of Mexican-American high school and college students [Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan]. MEChA was born in the late 1960s out of the struggles for justice of the Chicano (Mexican-American) people of the Southwest U.S. And it has a long history of social and political activism.

Hundreds came from across the county to be at this conference held in the historically Mexican Pilsen neighborhood of Chicago. Some MEChA veterans from the 1960s invited the Stop Mass Incarceration Network to bring the message of April 14 Shut It Down to this gathering. So for the last two days, we have had a table at the conference with piles of A14 literature and a big enlargement of the Stolen Lives poster.

At the 22nd Annual National Conference of MEChAAt the 22nd Annual National Conference of MEChA (Movimiento Estudiantil Chican@ de Aztlan). The Idaho Chapter stands with A14 and the Stolen Lives Families.

And for two days the MEChA youth came by—usually in small groups—to check out the poster, learn more about A14, and almost always leave with materials and ideas for how to shut shit down at their schools when they returned. Sometimes it was more of a trickle and at other times a rush. We talked to well over 100 youth from more than 33 schools. Sixty-seven people left their contact info and significantly more are taking materials back to their campuses. Many came from the western U.S., with large delegations from colleges in Arizona, California, Oregon, Washington, and Utah. But we also met students from five high schools and five colleges in the immediate Chicago area.

Over the two days there was very little time when were not involved in deep and earnest discussions about how outrageous—and for some unbelievable—it is what the police are doing every day to unarmed Black and Latino people. Almost everyone we talked to knew about (and most had seen) the North Charleston, South Carolina video of Walter Scott being shot in the back by a cop. This was a very raw nerve.

Our approach was to call on each new person (or group) to start by looking at the big Stolen Lives poster. What is the message of this poster? Most people quickly understood that these were all people murdered by the police. But the fact that they were all unarmed and none of the cops were punished—that was news to some. Some initially thought that that these were all the people murdered by the police, so for them it was shock to learn that this is just a tiny fraction and at least 80 more unarmed people have been murdered just since January 1, 2015—and this after all the massive protests of the fall. It wasn’t like these youth had no understanding of what the police do, but for many the scope—and the utter depravity of it—still took them aback.

There were many moments with different groups when the conversation would just stop for a moment and looks would be exchanged that said “oh my god, this is really serious. We have to stop this shit.” This was the point at which stacks of materials would start to be grabbed up as people asked about what they could do and how exactly did we intend to shut this country down. Everybody got stickers, which many put on right there and wore throughout the conference. They got copies of the A14 student organizing flyer and stacks of the Stolen Lives poster to take back to their campuses. Almost everyone left with a copy of Revolution newspaper. We also made wide use of the fact that A14 was a recent cover of La Opinion which brought to many just how big a deal this is becoming. We encouraged students to take pictures of themselves with the large Stolen Lives poster and post it on line, and many did. And while there were some students who shied away from publicly identifying themselves with shutting the country down on A14, they were a definite minority. The more common response was anger at this epidemic of wanton police murder and eagerness to take a stand against it and to let others know that.

But we also tried wherever possible not to settle for just uniting with their anger. We asked people how they would explain why the police just keep killing people and getting away with it. This was a hard one for most people. Some would talk about how the police are trained, but most were not very satisfied with their own answers. So we dug deeper with them—to the fact that things have developed in this country where there really is no future for millions of non-white youth—the factories have fled overseas and only prison or the street are realistic options for so many. And the rulers of this country really don’t have any option other than terror to try and keep the lid on all this. That’s why they can’t stop the killing nor punish the killers. You can’t be a gangster and show any weakness. In a number of conversations, digging into things this way lead to an “ah ha” moment for the students involved. And as the genocidal logic behind this became clearer, so did the urgent need to act.

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