Interview with Chicano Activists in Houston:
“Yeah, we do demand to be treated like humans”

September 4, 2017 | Revolution Newspaper |


Revolution correspondent Travis Morales talked with several people from the Brown Berets—a Chicano activist group—in Houston this past week. The following are excerpts from the interview.


Revolution: Did any of you receive any warning before the hurricane struck that where you were could get flooded? And what can you say about the impact of the flooding?

Jenn: They said it might rain. I mean, no one seemed to take it seriously. It seemed like just another bad storm in Houston. And, you know, business as usual. It wasn’t really elevated that it would be dangerous. Until the last minute. Then we started getting these alerts. And, you know, most people can’t leave. They don’t have anywhere to go. I can’t go anywhere. I don’t have a car. So I was trapped in there.

Antonio: Speaking for another member that’s not here today—she got flooded out of her whole house. And her grandmother—she looked like she is over 70—she had to be taken out in a boat. And she’s in chest-high water. It sucked. You see the whole thing documented on her Snapchat. The water just kept rising. It was horrible. She smiled through the whole thing, so it’s the power of our people out here that keep us going. And I mean, it’s horrible the way it goes. They waited from six in the morning, I believe. She said on her Snapchat that she talked to some rescuers. They were supposed to come get her and her grandmother out of there. They didn’t get help until about 6 or 7 the next day...

And I seen a lot of schools go under. I seen daycares go under... No army, no nothing. You didn’t see none of them people. I seen a couple of army trucks off of Uvalde and Wallisville by San Jacinto College. But they were only like two. And they weren’t really trying to help nobody. I seen people in boats pass right by people.

For the majority of it, seemed like people did come together. But it was our own people helping us. There were no officials, no authorities, no nothing. Nobody to reassure you of nothing. Nobody to tell this store might be open; that store might not be.

My mother stays in south Houston. Her house, the water went all the way up to the window sills. They didn’t get no help out there. The police station is right around the corner, kitty-corner to her... They didn’t do nothing out there. They didn’t put no sandbags. They didn’t do nothing. They didn’t do anything. So we’re left to pick up the pieces. We’re left to fend for ourselves. So that’s what we’re doin’.


Revolution: You read these demands that we are getting out at George R. Brown Convention Center to the thousands of people there. It’s getting around other places in the country. What do you think of these demands?

Jenn: I think they are very necessary. Whenever a natural disaster happens it does affect the disenfranchised, it affects people of color. It seems very intentional the way Houston’s zoned out, that those in poor communities are people of color, and they usually don’t have access to sandbags, they don’t have access to elevation. And it does seem intentional to me. Because when natural disasters happen, those are the people it affects—the disenfranchised, the working class, poor people. And so yeah, these demands need to be met. Because as we saw with Katrina, and a little bit of what we are seeing now—we are dehumanizing people by not giving them the help they need.

I do want to point out too, the media seemed to only focus on only the upper middle class people who lost their homes. There was no poor people on those news channels. They only interviewed the upper middle class. And so they’re only showing one side of the disaster and sympathize for the people who are better off. They completely ignored all the places where the flooding really did affect others.

Esmeralda: So one of these [demands] that it says here—“There must be intense search and rescue efforts in all area. People must not be allowed to die. All necessary resources, including mobilizing volunteers, must be brought to bear on this. The government must not repress people who volunteer or prevent them from helping but instead assist these efforts.” I agree with this one so much, because while they were over here trying to stop people from saving others, there was people who already were drowning. And, you know, the death toll on the news is really off. It’s way off. There’s been rescue teams on their own settle right now. There’s been so many people that are rescuing others and they are getting told by officials that they can’t go unless they have them there with them. And it’s like—do you really expect us to wait? And sometime some of them say “How far are you?” And they be like, “Well it’s probably goin’ take an hour and a half or two hours.” By that time it could be too late.

They are repressing people. They’re putting this curfew. And I understand that they want to do it because they don’t want to endanger themselves. But if you keep waiting... It’s like right now in Port Arthur, last night was when it started hitting. Everyone was starting to drown already. I mean the water was starting to rising already into their homes. And they kept calling. And they said, “Well you are going to have to wait because we have a curfew at 12, from 12 to 5.” That’s five hours. Five hours...How many children don’t know how to swim?! They’re stopping people from saving these other people. It’s like, why do we have to be certified? Why isn’t it just a human thing to want to go help somebody? And if they want to help, why would you stop them? No, you need to work with them, you need to tell them OK, well if you are going to go do it by yourself then, then do it. Instead of they’re like, “I’m sorry but you’re gonna face consequences. You’re gonna get arrested.” NO!

I live [in a] mostly Hispanic community. And also around there we are close to Homestead. And Homestead is also an African American community. And all these areas are getting affected. And for a lot of our communities, they are undocumented. Unfortunately. And they’re not paying them to fix their homes.

Revolution: Anybody else want to speak to these demands?

Emmanuel: The most important one, I guess, is the one on the bottom—ICE must keep away from hospitals, shelters, schools, jail... How can people continue to persevere and thrive, and overcome this storm when they are not able to use their full resources? Or ask for help? We must continue to push boundaries and our rights. And not rely on police, and not rely on the state. This is the perfect time for people to not live in gated communities, I guess, mentally. To reach out to your neighbors and really organize amongst themselves. And empowering themselves to take civic duties as a badge of honor, and not just seek comfort, you know. It’s very vital, and especially when you’re subjugated and oppressed. You have to figure that your rights are going to be taken away from you.

Antonio: Two things I want to touch on that. Number one, somebody already touched on that, but it’s going through background checks and trying to make it harder and make people go through obstacles to help other people. There’s plenty of people out here—I mean, your past is your past they say but—they have felonies maybe. Not just undocumented people or what they call “illegals,” which is crap. They are out here saving people too...

STOP threatening us. I will not have my daughter raised in a society where she has to be scared outside because of her skin color, or because she lives in the wrong neighborhood and don’t make enough money, or didn’t marry a white man, or whatever color man she has to marry to get rich and be out of these problems. NO! Not me; not today. Yeah, we do demand to be treated like humans, not like animals. We’re not dogs...



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