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50 Years Later: ELA Walkouts Relived

Yamani Wallace

Yamani Wallace, Contibutor

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In the late 60s, Los Angeles housed a school system entrenched in blatant racism, discrimination and prejudice. Lack luster facilities and constant underestimation of student capabilities by teachers and administrators translated into a hostile learning environment.

The oppressive conditions, paired with the unwillingness to make changes, compelled student activists and teachers to band together and discuss their situation. They decided the best way to be heard was to make their issue public and pressure the school board to comply with their demands for equal opportunities and education.

During the Educational Legacy of the 1968 ELA Walkouts: Walk-in to Cal State LA Academic Conference, Margarita Cuaron, a retired educator and 1968 Garfield High School student said,

“The only weapon we had was our voice.”

Other student leaders like Paula Carisostomo, Victoria Castro, Racheal Ochoa and Cassandra Zacarias along with Teacher Sal Castro and organizations like United Mexican American Students (UMAS) and the Brown Berets developed 36 demands to present to the Board of Education.

The demands included: bilingual education, bicultural education, smaller class sizes, Latino teachers and administrators and the revision of textbooks to include correct Mexican American history. Unfortunately, their demands failed to be met. This this lef students to walk-out—to show their passion and willingness to do anything for equal education and change in the education system.

After being shut out from academic equality for so long, they took it upon themselves to make a change.

On March 1, 1968, the walkouts began and went on for several days. 10,000 students from each of the five-main East Los Angeles high schools participated.

50 years later Cal State LA’s Office of the Vice Provost for Diversity and Engaged Learning held a two-day conference commemorating the 50th anniversary of the East LA Walkouts.

Dolores Delgado Bernal, a professor of Chicana-o/Latina-o studies, moderated the Women as Participants, activist, and Leaders in the 1968 Blowouts panel. She wants students and participants to walk away with confidence and willingness to make a change.

“Part of bringing them here is to educate and inspire the college students who are listening,” Dr.  Bernal said.

“I think the opposition that was faced back then continues today,” Cesar Ramirez-Gamino, senior theater major said. “The opponent may look the same, but the opponent has expanded and there are many more variables that youth are facing.”

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