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Central Valley | Education & Student Activism

New Times Coming
by Lucas Moises Sierra
Wednesday Mar 31st, 2010 9:06 PM
Photo below: Hundreds of students, faculty and staff marched from Shaw and Blackstone to Fresno State on March 4 to protest rising fees and cutbacks to education.

The March 4th Day of Action was a collective of students, faculty, staff and concerned citizens. The objective of the demonstrations was to highlight awareness of the state's continuous lack of prioritizing education primarily exemplified by its insufficient funding of education. Just as in cities and campuses across California, protesters in the Central Valley demonstrated with a march down Shaw Avenue ending at the Fresno State campus where a rally took place with more than 500 students present.

Satvir Dhah, one of the student organizers, commented on the importance of the Day of Action and the students' role in bringing about real reform to the state's educational infrastructure: "March 4th is the coming out of a range of generations all around the world that are frustrated with the current privatization or marketization (as they say in Europe) of public resources; prime among those resources is education. The importance of this day of action cannot be overlooked because it this day and others like it that will create the tension (as MLK would say) necessary to lobby for grassroots and eventually structural change.

"The role of students is absolutely vital to this process of structural change because they represent the populations of institutions specific to bringing about progressive change in a society. As historically shown, youths have been on the frontline of many movements in this country and abroad."

The day's events ended with an occupation of the Student Affairs office in the Joyal Administration Building that lasted more than eight hours. Matt Ford, one of the sit-in participants and coordinators, commented on the symbolism of the occupation. He said, "Occupying is resisting unjustified authority and putting the power in the people's hands to run their own affairs."

The sentiment was strong. California's once proud jewel of public education has tumbled to a degrading place with overpriced tuition, oligarchic rule, crowded classrooms and fewer classes. In its place, the returns are overcrowded prisons, a deadlocked legislature and a debt-ridden state. But like so many other times, the conscious of the country awakened to point out the many faults in the system.

Students participated who are na‹ve and idealistic to dream about a better world not just for themselves but for everyone else, for the next generation and the generation after that. We are na‹ve enough to say that we spend too much on prisons and not enough on schools. (Which by the way would be a positive investment in the state considering the cost-benefit analysis.)

So on March 4, 2010, the kids got angry and they mobilized along with faculty and staff and took to the streets like so many of our predecessors. We made noise, chanted rhythmic phrases, carried signs and philosophized about better days. We occupied buildings, closed down highways and shut down schools. Words like freedom, justice, equality and democracy began to ring in our heads again and we saw, maybe for the first time, that the world wasn't like they had painted it in grade school, like they had told us it was.

There is no democracy, not in education, when unaccountable, unelected individuals dictate the future of the students. There is no democracy when money dictates how much a politician will listen to you. There is no equality when Wall Street fat cats get bailed out with no hesitation, and then when education is on the brink of collapse it becomes a debatable policy issue.

Here in Fresno alone the inequality becomes self-evident with homelessness, unemployment on the rise and people losing their homes. Where is their bailout? The caged prison soul can tell you of America's great equality and justice; he will tell you how he grew up in a neighborhood where there were more liquor stores than businesses, where opportunity came from gangs and thieves, not from politicians or schools. The hypocrisy becomes self-evident after a while, but the ship's sails have turned and the country's conscious is waking up once more.

We the young, the beautiful, the rebellious, have figured out what it means to be young. We have the power and the energy to make this world exactly how we want it to be. Many look at past generations and reminisce in jealousy at how bold they were in standing up to authority. Well, the 1960s have past; this is the new millennia, and we are this millennia's first generation. Can we become the greatest generation this world has ever seen? Can we succeed where others failed? Can we end war once and for all? Can we bring about real democracy and equality?

Our methods are to resist and occupy. Occupation is nothing more than a tool, a weapon to combat the capitalist structure by reclaiming the commons that are a common heritage to the masses who constructed and paid for it, and not the profit-oriented, two-faced bureaucrats who serve as the henchmen of the corporate elites that try to dictate the use of our resources for their profit models.

Our demeanor is nonviolent, and our attitude is nonviolent, for violence is reserved for the capitalist. We fight bullets with words and propaganda with reason in order to bring about a more open democratic society. "Democracy is not a spectator sport," Ford said, and we all need to engage the system in order to bring about change.

We will need the help of those who have seen and done that, those of faith and non-believers. For we all strive to be good and decent people in a rather ruthless and indecent world. We need a coalition of brown, red, black and white, rich and poor. For in this new world we dream of there are no color distinctions and there are no rich and poor for we are truly equal.

We make a calling for poets, writers, artists and revolutionaries for this is a people's revolution, and we've come to take back our world from those who want to make it just theirs. So today we fight for education, tomorrow the world.

*****

Lucas Moises Sierra is a first-year student at Fresno State. Contact him at mhdz1 [at] csufresno.edu.
§Raise Hell, Not Cost!
by Lucas Moises Sierra Wednesday Mar 31st, 2010 9:06 PM

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