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At war with the state in order to save the lives of our children: the battle to save ethnic studies in Arizona.


QUESTION: What would you expect a state to do with a successful academic program that has: a) inverted the achievement gap between Mexican American students and their peers (regardless of ethnicity); b) reversed the graduation rate between Mexican American students and their Anglo peers; c) raised the college matriculations rates for Mexican American students significantly higher than the national average; and d) virtually eliminated suspensions and expulsions of Mexican American students? The data supporting all of these points are forthcoming in the Outcomes and Voices section.

Over the last eight academic years the Tucson Unified School District's Mexican American/Raza Studies program (MAS), its Social Justice Education Project (SJEP) and its Critically Compassionate Intellectualism model (CCI) model have created and nurtured the academic environment described above. Yet, before I go into detail about the program, I return to my opening question. I believe that most rational and sound minded people would say, "Replicate that program." However, remember I live in Arizona.

Let me tell you what the State of Arizona did. On April 29, 2010 the Arizona State Legislature gave HB 2281 final approval status, thus sending it to the governor for her signature. On May 11, 2010 the governor of the State of Arizona signed House Bill 2281 into law. I believe the sole intent of HB 2281 is the abolishment of Tucson Unified School District's Mexican American/Raza Studies program (MAS), our Social Justice Education Project (SJEP) and our Critically Compassionate Intellectualism model (CCI) (Romero, 2008).

Briefly, it is critical that I explain the difference between MAS and the three departments that make up our Ethnic Studies Department. These three departments are: Native American Studies, African American Studies, and Pan Asian Studies. The primary functions of these departments are what I refer to as "associated academic services" which include mostly tutoring, mentoring, and student advocacy. Mexican American Studies has a "direct academic service orientation that focuses primarily on direct classroom instruction, with some attention given to teacher mentoring, and continuing education opportunities for teachers." I believe that one reason why MAS has been singled out for eradication is because of the transformative, historical inclusivity, more holistic, and consciousness raising nature of its departmental orientation. Quite truthfully, many non-progressives view the fact that we enrich and enlighten the American historical narrative as a negative thing that disrupts and erodes the fabric of their fictitious and self-serving narrative. For these people the truth is irrelevant; for these people the level of academic success is irrelevant; and for these people the fact that we have, do, and will save the lives of many children is irrelevant. These critical factors are irrelevant because they all have the potential of disrupting the status quo within the America's historical racial and social order (Romero, 2008).

This essay will illuminate the context in which this unethical, immoral, dishonest, and anti-humanistic political battle is being waged against us in the name of patriotism, morality, and "American" values. Moreover, this essay constitutes a counternarrative that highlights the academic, social, and cultural transformations taking place with our students and in our communities.


I BEGIN with a brief narrative of the creation of MAS and its roots within Tucson's Mexican American community. Second, I will discuss the creation of the SJEP and the subsequent creation of the CCI model. The third section focuses on the three foundational structures of the CCI. In this section, I will present student voices. In the next section, I continue the presentation of student voices and articulate the academic and social impact of the courses. The fifth section examines the numerous legislative attempts to abolish MAS program over the last three years. The sixth section discusses some of the counter-strategies I have used to preserve MAS. The last section interrogates SB 2281's implications and discusses our national outreach campaign.

As for a district overview, Tucson Unified School District is 61.6 percent Latino and 26 percent Anglo, with an enrollment of nearly 58,000. Over the last eleven graduating classes within TUSD, the Latino enrollment has declined by anywhere from 32 percent to 49 percent. This means that from the time a Latino enters TUSD school doors as freshman, his peers' overall enrollment when it is time to walk across the graduation stage as seniors has been reduced by as much as 49 percent (Class of 2000) to as little as 32 percent (Class of 2007) (TUSD Accountability and Research, 2010).


TUSD's Mexican American Studies Department was created in July of 1998 as a result of a grassroots movement for greater levels of academic achievements for the Chicana/o children in the district. For many Chicana/os in Tucson the establishment of the MAS was a victory for battles fought nearly thirty years earlier when community organizers such as Raul Grijalva, Guadalupe Castillo, Salomon Baldenegro, and Eduardo Olivas led a series of school walkouts in 1969. The creation of Chicano Studies was one of the primary demands of community and student activists. Beyond the Chicano Studies issue, the student organizers were distressed by a school system that was truly separated and unequal. The majority of the district's resources flowed to the vastly predominate white eastside schools, and very few resources went to the predominantly African American and Chicano westside schools.

Despite the issuance of a federal desegregation order in 1978, the social and education conditions for Chicanos in TUSD changed very little. As a result, in 1996, a group called Communities and Neighborhoods for Mexican American Studies, led by the likes of Lorraine Lee, Gustavo Chavez, Martin Sean Arce, Rosalie Lopez, Anna Maria Chavez, Essence Arce, J.J. Rico, Leanne Hernandez, Tomas Martinez, Edgar Reyes, Patrick McKenna, and Salo Escamilla were united with some of student organizers from the 1969 walkouts. The unification of these two groups of community and educational advocates was instrumental in the realization of a community dream, the creation of MAS (Romero & Arce, 2010).

THE CREATION of MAS, and the Mexican American/Chicana/o educational struggle in Tucson is part of a larger legacy of the Mexican American/Chicana/o quest for educational justice This struggle for justice and equal opportunity in education can be traced back seventy years to: Independent Schools District v. Salvatierrra (1931), Alvarez v. Lemon Grove (1931) Mendez v. Westminster (1947), Delgado et al. v. Bastrop Independent School District of Bastrop County et al. (1948). In fact, the Mendez case demonstrates the strong relationship between the Mexican American and African American liberation struggles; it was one of the precedents used by the Honorable Thurgood Marshall in the landmark Brown v. Board of Education (1954) (Romero & Arce, 2010).

In 2003, in the effort to honor the voices of those who struggled for its existence, and in concert with the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), as director of MAS, I implemented the CCI as a means of ensuring an equitable educational experience for Mexican American/Chicana/o students. A more elaborate explanation of the CCI model is forthcoming. This model was created from student voices, and established on the basis of equity. The model expresses what students said they and others like them needed to experience educational equity and to achieve greater academic success.

Social Justice Education Project

IN THE SPRING, of 2002, Dr. Julio Cammarota from the University of Arizona's Mexican American Studies and Research Center and I (then the Director of TUSD's Mexican American Studies Department) proposed a course that would use the Arizona State Standards, Critical Pedagogy, Critical Race Theory, and authentic caring as the foundation of an equitable educational experience to the district's leadership. We believed that, given the appropriate structures and an authentic culture of caring, historically marginalized and underserved students could reach their intellectual capacities (Cammarota & Romero, 2006a; Cammarota & Romero, 2006b; Romero, 2008). With this in mind, I recruited Lorenzo Lopez, Jr. to he our lead teacher. Two years previous, Mr. Lopez was my student teacher, and over the four months we shared together, I found him to be a highly talented educator who could firmly understand and effectively administer the politics of authentic caring.

In the early summer of 2002, Dr. Rebecca Montano, Deputy Superintendent for Public Instruction gave approval for The Social Justice Education Project. Dr. Cammarota, Lorenzo Lopez, Jr., and I established the Project in the Fall of 2002. The Project, a collaboration between the University of Arizona and TUSD, originally offered students the opportunity to replace their traditional 11th- and 12th-grade social science courses with an 11th-grade US history course that was centered on historical contributions of Mexican Americans, and a 12th-grade US Government course that uses the principals of critical race theory as a lens through which to examine the functions and actions of our government, the precedents established in the Declaration of Independence, the US Constitution, the Amendments, and relevant Supreme Court decisions and state laws (Cammarota & Romero, 2006; Romero, 2008; Cammarota and Romero, 2009). Since the fall of 2002, the Project has expanded to five other high schools. Moreover, including our 2010-2011 enrollment, since 2002 we had the privilege of serving the more than 3,200 students who have enrolled in our courses.

In addition, the Project required that students engage in participatory action research that focuses on their own social realities. We helped students develop the skills needed to implement the methodologies needed to assess and address the everyday injustices limiting their life chances, their freedom, and their ability to pursue happiness. Proudly, over the course of the last eight academic years, we have designed and developed courses that offer students an advanced level social science curriculum from the fields of critical race theory, critical pedagogy, and social theory. At the same time, our students develop the anthropological skills needed to name, assess, and engage the injustices of their social realities (Cammarota & Romero, 2006; Romero, 2008; Cammarota and Romero, 2009).

BEFORE I MOVE to the next section, I must establish the academic profile of our first SJEP student cohort. It was made up of seventeen students (mostly Mexican American/Chicano); each student had dropped out at least once (Romero 2008). Instead of having twelve credits after their sophomore year, most students had between four to seven credits, and the average grade point average was in the low 1.0 range. However, despite the cohorts' less than impressive academic record, at the end of the spring semester each and every one of the original seventeen students was still with us. I was blessed to walk into our classroom on one early May afternoon, and ask one question.

Critically Compassionate Intellectualism and Its Construction

THIS ONE QUESTION WAS, "Why are you still here? The dialogue around this question led to the construction of the CCI model. Our students had three responses to this question: 1) What you taught us; 2) How you taught us; and 3) How you treated us and our parents and us. These three comments totally validated our fundamental beliefs about what was most critical to promoting an equitable educational experience. It was our belief that our curriculum should not be watered down, but rather we should offer our students college-level curriculum and materials. We made this material more accessible by first making it relevant to the social reality of our students, and then making it relevant to their historical and cultural realities. Equally important, we connect these realities to Arizona's state standards for US History and US Government courses (Cammarota & Romero, 2006; Romero, 2008; Cammarota and Romero, 2009).

When I created the SJEP curriculum, I deliberately attempted to create a curricular experience that would counter the oppressively reproductive nature of the traditional secondary school curriculum. This conscious political decision was based on three perspectives: 1) Jules Henry's notion that the traditional curriculum fostered stupidity in students when it came to issues of race, labor, economics, poverty, and war; 2) Frances Fitzgerald's notion that the traditional curriculum is intended for the rich as a means of maintaining the status quo within the social and political order of American society; and 3) Sonia Nieto's belief that the curriculum is inadequately designed to serve, much less build upon the cultural and social strengths of Chicana/o students (and other students of color). Given the response of our students, I believe we are on the mark when it comes to offering them a curricular experience that meets their academic, cultural, and intellectual needs (Romero, 2008).

I translated "how you taught us" to pedagogy. Pedagogy is critical to the creation of an effective classroom environment. Moreover, we understood that a curriculum by itself is not enough for students. It was and is our belief that in order to increase the level of our effectiveness and student critical consciousness-building, pedagogy is critical to this process (Gay 2002).

Our primary pedagogical orientation is the critical pedagogy strand that was developed from the work of Paulo Freire (1994; 1998; 2004). Freire's critical pedagogy is a social justice project that announces the goal of the oppressed (Chicanas/os and other people of color). Freire 1994 states:
   This, then, is the great humanistic and historical
   task of the oppressed: to liberate themselves and
   their oppressors as well. The oppressors, who
   oppress, exploit and rape by virtue of their
   power, cannot find in this power the strength to
   liberate either the oppressed or themselves. Only
   power that springs from the weakness of the
   oppressed will be sufficiently strong to free
   both ... in order for this struggle to have meaning,
   the oppressed must not, in seeking to regain
   their humanity (which is a way to recreate it),
   become in turn oppressors of the oppressors, but
   rather the restorers of the humanity of both.

Our pedagogy is centered on the lived experiences of the students, and it promotes the literacy of these experiences. In this approach, we, like Freire and Macedo (1987), advocate for "the reading of the word and the world." As with our curriculum, this critical literacy builds upon the cultural literacies/cultural reality (Romero, 2008), cultural wealth (Yosso, 2006) and the funds of knowledge (Gonzalez et al. 1995) that the students carry with them as they enter the classroom doors.

ONE of the primary exercises used in our classrooms is the My History exercise. The My History exercise is usually offered during the second or third week of school, after some context has been built and after student-teacher relations have had time to materialize. This exercise consists of five sections: The History of My Life; My Family's History; My History at High School; My Views of My Community and the World; and, My Future. Each section includes a series of questions from which students choose what to address. Moreover, these questions are simply starting points or thought provokers. For many of our students, these questions are the first opportunity to question and reflect upon their epistemological and ontological understandings. We strongly encourage that teachers invest in some one-on-one time with students as the students explore their responses, and in some cases, reinvent the questions they are answering. It is in this space, that we believe that dialogue is critical. Through dialogue we help students through their questioning process, as we introduce questions to their questions or as we answer our own epistemological and ontological questions (Romero 2008).

This process within My History is not overly complex; however, the depths that our students frequently reach are most often deeper than they are accustomed to attaining. Nevertheless, students should be encouraged to ask questions regarding the questions they are posing, and to ask questions about their answers; and as they dialogue with parents and other family members, students should be encouraged to ask for family members' thoughts and perspectives. A few simple but provocative questions are "Why do you believe this?" "Where did that belief come from?" "Who does that belief benefit?" "Who are we?" "Why do we do these things?" "What is our identity?" and "How was our identity constructed?" In our experiences, we have watched students search deep for the meaning of their responses and the responses of their family members.

AS STUDENTS start to construct their histories or counter-histories, it is important that teachers build dialogue in both group time and one-on-one time with students (Romero, 2008). The group dialogue will cover many questions and concerns, and will help students towards a greater social, cultural, and historical reality because these are their counter-histories. However, the teacher-student one-on-one after a more intimate dialogue is often needed when covering authentic social realities. Moreover, these processes give each student the opportunities they need to construct his or her own counter-history. This is often the introduction to the notion of counter-narratives (Delgado, 1989). Counter-narratives are the stories that counter the majoritarian story that legitimizes the Anglo story as the "American" story (Romero, 2008). It is important that our students understand that their stories and the stories of their families and communities are legitimate "American" stories and that they are a significant and vital component of the fabric that makes America and Americans.

This ability to remake or recreate their schooling experience offers our students the opportunity to realize and strengthen their humanity. For this reason, engaging students in the epistemological practice of Tezcatlipoca is vital. In this liberating process students move toward realizing their humanity through self-, familial-, and community-critical reflections (Romero, Arce & Cammarota, 2009). Without their humanity, our students struggle to gain a critical consciousness. Without humanity and a critical consciousness, they become the premier prey for cultural and capitalist predators (McLaren, 1995).

Tina: You guys were like our tios ... like my dad even. There was that love, there was that carino, there was that touch; you guys could relate to us, it was a relief. Finally, somebody that understood where we were coming from; we didn't have to make this big 'ol explanation to try to make you understand us.... There was still that type of security and it was there and a lot of love, a lot of love from all of us to you guys and from you guys to us because you guys show it to us--how much you guys went through for us. You guys did ... hicieron lo imposible (did the impossible) ... to make us get back on our feet and to make us want something out of life. (Romero, 2008, p. 205-06)

THE INTERSECTIONALITY of culture as a resource and Tezcatlipoca created a space wherein Tina felt more whole. It was in this whole state that she felt as though she had greater control of her current space. We were able to help tri-dimensionalize her reality in terms of social, cultural and historical aspects. In essence, because we were able to help her develop a strong sense of agency that led to a more secure socio-reality. This healing and development took place through an understanding of her historic and cultural self, and how this perceptive grounds her and creates roots in the moment. These two intersections have helped Tina recognize the hope that exists in her future, thus completing the tri-dimensionalization of her reality.

Student-parent-teacher interactions is how I interpreted, "How you treat us and our parents." With regard to students, relationships were created through the understanding that students come to us with cultural assets that can be used as learning tools. Having an understanding (see Delgado Bernal's 1998 "cultural intuition") of these cultural assets are critical to establishment of strong student-teacher relationships. Identifying and building upon these cultural assets is the next step. Each of the students in my 2008 study about the SJEP stated that he or she had a significantly greater appreciation for his or her experiences in the SJEP because the teachers in the project related to them and loved them for all that they were. The experiences were relevant and engaging for the students in this study because experiences both inside and outside the Project were centered upon their lives. Olvia Guevara said, "For the first time in my life, I was important; for the first time, who I was; and where I came from was important" (Romero, 2008, p. 230).

The relationships developed within the SJEP and through the CCI model were started by a demonstration of humanity and solidarity. This is a form of praxis that I used in my classes prior to the SJEP, which was widely appreciated by countless numbers of former students. This praxis involves what I refer to as the revealing of our hearts and souls. The revealing of teachers' hearts and souls transcends the dialogical method (Freire, 1994) in that love becomes the foundation on which dialogical relationships are built and upon where critical praxis is nurtured. In this praxis, the teacher demonstrates risk taking, the sharing of trust, and the realism of her/his humanity. It is my belief that before we as teachers can expect our students to take risks, trust us, and claim, reclaim or nurture their humanity, we must demonstrate that the space for these critical elements exists in their/our classrooms (Romero, 2008).

Outcome and Voice

OVER the last seven academic years, our students (over 1,100) have outperformed all other students on the high stakes state graduation exam, have graduated from high school at a higher rate than their Anglo peers, and our students have matriculated to college at a rate that is greater than the national average for Chicana/o students.

In regards to our students' performance on Arizona's high stakes graduation exam, when you compare them to their similarly situated peers at the four high schools where our program has been implemented, our students have inverted the achievement gap. Our students are three times more likely to pass the Reading section, four times more likely to pass the Writing section, and two-and-a-half times more likely to pass the Math section than their peers not in our program. At these same four sites over the same time frame, 97.5 percent of our students have graduated. During that same time and at the same sites, Anglos have a graduation rate of 82.5 percent. During this same period, slightly more than 67 percent of our students were enrolled in post-secondary education after they graduated high school. This is 179 percent greater than the national average of 24 percent for Chicano/Mexican American students.

Over the past seven academic years, we have conducted more than 1,900 student pre- and post-course surveys. Some of the highlights revealed by these survey are: 1) 96 percent of the students agree and strongly agree that they talk to their parents and/or other adults about what they have learned on this project or in this class, 2) 95 percent of the students agree and strongly agree that they are willing to do homework in order to keep the project moving along on time or to ensure participation in the class, 3) 97 percent of the students agree and strongly agree that the project or the class has better prepared them for college, and 4) 98 percent of the students agree and strongly agree that working on this project or taking this class has help them believe that they have something worthwhile to contribute to society.

ONE of the primary objectives of our courses is to instill a strong sense of identity, purpose, and hope in our students (Romero, 2008). I believe that if we can augment these human capacities, then the academic capacities of our students will simultaneously be elevated (Romero, 2008, Romero, Arce, & Cammarota, 2009). The following are some of the students' articulations of identity, purpose, and hope:

Identity--"Before your class and this project, I don't know who I was. It is like I was living outside of myself and just about everybody else. I am now alive; before I do not know what I was." (Oliva Guevara, from Romero, 2008, p. 125)

Purpose--"The class, the project, I mean you guys showed the students that we could say something, and we didn't have to be scared. Now, we know that we need to stand up. We are conscious, and we need to use our consciousness for justice, and to fight racism. Damn, mister, this was the best part, one of the best parts." (Rolando Yanez, from Romero, 2008, p. 158)

Hope--"I love the project, it was great, and it helped me feel smarter and know that 1 could challenge the teachers, and the project gave the idea that I could help my community, and that is what I am going to do with my life." (Tina Verdugo, from Romero, 2008, p. 203)

In this era of accountability and No Child Left Behind, our programs have exceeded the mandates of the era; however, despite our substantial success we have fallen victim to the hypocrisy of those who seek to preserve the status quo of America's racial and social order (Romero, 2008). In fact, for Tom Home, this battle "...Is not about education or academics, it is about values" ("Horne Seeks Info on Ethnic Studies Programs in TUSD," 2007). My question has been and remains, When did education lose its status as one of our country's core values? Moreover, how convenient, in the middle of the accountability game, the Department of Education is going to change the rules on us. Hypocrisy at its finest.


IN EACH of the past three years a bill has been introduced into the Arizona legislature to abolish the MAS and all Ethnic Studies programs from the state's secondary schools. I must make it clear that Tucson Unified School District is the only district in the State that has an Ethnic Studies program. Moreover, during his testimony to the Arizona Senate's Education Committee on April 7, 2010 State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Home stated that his only concern his the "Raza Studies Department in TUSD"(Arizona State Legislature, 2010).

The first bill established the truth within the hearts of our attackers. In the spring of 2008, Senate Bill 1108 (SB1108) was introduced in the Arizona State Legislature. In essence, SB 1108 would prohibit the use of any curriculum centered in the voices and experiences of people color. The authors of SB 1108, argued that these voices "denigrate American values" and "overtly encourage dissent" against American values. Moreover, the discourse within this bill becomes crystal clear when one realizes that SB 1108 was a Homeland Security Bill. The very idea that the abolishment of our program was advocated as a matter of National or State security fully exposes the level of hatred, paranoia, and fears that resides in the hearts of our attackers. We were fortunate that this bill was the most egregious, hateful, and the broadest reaching of the three bills. This bill included not only K-12 education, but also all of the community college and university Ethnic Studies programs. It also included any and all K-12, community college and university clubs and organizations that had any kind of ethnic orientation. Therefore, clubs like that the Association of Black Engineers Students or Latino sororities or fraternities would have been abolished by this piece of legislation. We were able to recruit the support of the three major Arizona universities, and many of there ethnically rooted clubs and organizations.

THE VAST OPPOSITION to SB 1108 led to its death on the floor of the state senate. However, we knew that this was just the beginning. We knew that in the future the political will would be greater, and we knew that when the time was right there would conservatives that would use the devastation of our program, our communities, and our children for political gain.

In 2009, Senate Bill 1069 was introduced in the Arizona State Senate. SB 1069 was less egregious than SB 1108; however, it still forwarded a discourse of dishonesty and fear mongering. This bill established some of the language that would appear in 2010's Senate Bill 2281, "A school district or charter school in this state shall not include in the program of instruction any courses or classes that either: 1. Are designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group. 2. Advocate ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals" (Arizona State Legislature, 2010).

In 2010, House Bill 2281 (HB2281) was introduced in Arizona's House of Representatives. Once this bill passed from the House to Senate, it was heard in the Senate Education Committee on April 7, 2010. At this hearing Arizona's then Superintendent of Public Instruction, Tom Horne, stated in his testimony that he sponsored this bill because he believed that Mexican American Studies promoted anti-American sentiment, and resentment towards white people. In a four-to-three vote that went right down party lines (R's yea and the D's nay), HB 2281 moved out of the committee. However, the most repulsive part of the hearing was that despite the presence of numerous groups and individuals supporting the MAS program, the Chairmen of the Education Committee, Republican John Huppenthal denied them the opportunity to testify, despite having given our adversaries all the time they needed to fully articulate their lies and opinions. In fact, he did so despite the fervent protest of the committee's three Democratic members. He arrogantly ignored the protest and called for the vote. Adding to the level of arrogance and ignorance is the reality that the Republicans cast their votes in the blind (the Democrats had previously requested information about our program). None of them had any real understanding of our program other than what they had most likely read in Phoenix papers, and the lies they heard during the allowed testimony of our adversaries. As stated above, HB 2281 was signed into law by Governor Jan Brewer who herself does not have any first-hand knowledge of our program; moreover, she was not willing to meet with us to gain an honest understanding of the nature and scope of our program nor its educational and social merits.

HB 2281 states that classes in Arizona public schools cannot: 1.) Promote the overthrow of the US government. 2.) Promote resentment toward a race or class of people. 3.) Be designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group. 4.) Advocate ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals. The fact of the matter is that we do not do any of the things prohibited by HB 2281. However, in this case, we are guilty in proven innocent. This fact runs contrary to the core American legal value that one is innocent until proven guilty.


OVER the last three years we have used a variety of counters to the proposed anti-Ethnic Studies legislation. In 2008, I was a member of the Governor Janet Napolitano's Latino Advisory Board. In April of 2008, I made a presentation on MAS at the governor's monthly meeting. After the presentation, Governor Napolitano guaranteed me and the rest of the Board that if the bill made it to her desk, she would veto it without hesitation. Fortunately, the bill died on the House side of legislature, and we did not have to use the Governor's veto.

In 2009, SB1108 passed out of the Judicial Committee in the Senate, and went to the third of the required three reads, which made SB1108 eligible for vote on the Senate floor. Fortunately, we were able to negotiate our way out of this bill. On Father's Day 2009, we met with one of the republican power players, and in this meeting it was agreed that the bill would be killed (details of this meeting are confidential). Despite this agreement there was coalition of community groups that wanted to demonstrate their support for MAS. This coalition decided that it would sponsor a run from Tucson to Phoenix in the middle of summer. The Equality and Justice Run that took place over three days. On June 27 and 28, 2009 over fifty Tucsonans (youth, students, parents, community members, educators, and district administrators) ran over 130 miles in heat of up to 117 degrees, across the desert from Tucson to Phoenix. Over the course of the run, hundreds of supporters from the barrios and communities of Tucson, Eloy, Casa Blanca, Guadalupe and Phoenix joined our runners. The run culminated on June 29, 2009 with a nearly 300 person march to the State Capitol Building.

IT MUST BE NOTED that one of the most critical aspects of the Equality and Justice Run was the spiritual support we were given by the Yoeme and Akimel O'odham nations as we ran through their lands. In addition, it must be understood that this was about healing and it was linked to indigenous traditional practice. The Run was used as a channel to carry out positive change in our communities, and in our State. The Run was not a march, a rally, or a race; but rather, an opportunity for our supporters, teachers, and students to unite for purpose of healing, and to do so through an indigenous tradition that generates change through prayer. The Yoeme and Akimel O'odham nations believe the energy that is projected from the momentum of the run, its runners, their intentions and their constant connection to the earth will be reciprocated in the form of a healing and ultimately a blessing.

In 2010, we did not have a friendly governor, and due to the fact that there is a heightened sense of republican political will (2010 is an election year in Arizona), we had no leverage to negotiate HB 2281's withdrawal or defeat. As a result, we were left to the mercy of demagogues that planned to use our program to advance their political platform. After the billed passed out of committee on April 7th, we knew the end result was a foregone conclusion.

Implications and Outreach

AT THE CURRENT MOMENT we are gearing up for a legal battle, but are not quite sure what the future holds for our program. As the dreamers that we are, we believe that truth and justice will prevail. However, as we do need more public support, we have established a Save Ethnic Studies Defense Fund. I hope that each person who reads this article will support our struggle for educational sovereignty and the preservation of cultural studies in K-20 education.

Please be aware that we are the first domino; our programs are the first proving grounds for the attacks on Ethnics Studies, Cultural Studies, Multicultural Education, etc. If we are successful, we will prevent the fall of the next domino, which may be your program or a program that you support or find valuable. However, if we fall, I am certain that your program will be next.

Works Cited

Arizona State Legislature. (2010). Arizona State Legislator Bills. Retrieved from

Cammarota, Julio & Romero, Augustine. (2006a). "A Critically Compassionate Pedagogy for Latino Youth." Latino Studies, 4(3), 305-312.

Cammarota, Julio & Romero, Augustine. (2006b). "A Critically Compassionate Intellectualism for Latina/o Students: Raising Voices Above the Silencing in Our Schools." Multicultural Education, 14:2, 16-23.

Delgado Bernal, Dolores. (1998). "Using a Feminist Latina Epistemology in Education Research." Harvard Education Review, 68, 555-582.

Delgado, Richard. (1989). "Storytelling for Oppositionists and Others: A Plea for Narrative." Michigan Law Review, 87, 2411-2441.

Freire, Paulo. (1994). Pedagogy of the Oppressed. New York: The Continuum.

Freire, Paulo. (1998). Teachers as Cultural Workers: Letters to Those Who Dare to Teach. Oxford: Westview Press.

Freire, Paulo. (2004). Pedagogy of Hope: Reliving Pedagogy of the Oppressed. New York: The Continuum.

Gay, Geneva. (2002). "Culturally Responsive Teaching in Special Education for Ethnically Diverse Students: Setting the Stage." Qualitative Studies in Education, 15:6, 613-629.

Gonzalez, N, Moll, L., Tenery, F., Rivera, A., Rendon, P., Gonzales, R., & Arnanti, C. (1995). "Funds of Knowledge for Teaching in Latino Households." Urban Education, 29, 443-470.

"Horne Seeks Info. on Ethnic Studies Programs in TUSD." (2007, November 15). Arizona Daily Star.

McLaren, Peter. (1995). Critical Pedagogy and Predatory Culture. New York: Routledge.

Romero, Augustine F. (2008). Towards a critically compassionate intellectualism model of transformative education: Love, hope, identity, and organic intellectualism through the convergence of critical race theory, critical pedagogy, and authentic caring. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Arizona.

Romero, Augustine F. & Arce, Martin Sean. (2010). "Mi Otro Yo: Academic and Intellectual Apartheid as Legislative Policy, and the Attack on Critically Compassionate Intellectualism." Hamline University School of Law Journal of Public Law and Polio..

Tucson Unified School District, Accountability and Research Department. Retrieved from http://

Yosso, Tara J. (2006). Critical Race Counterstories Along the Chicana/Chicano Educational Pipeline. New York: Routledge.
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Author:Romero, Augustine F.
Publication:The Black Scholar
Article Type:Viewpoint essay
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Dec 22, 2010
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