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  • Category: Heritage Series

    Los Angeles, 1963

    I was born in Los Angeles, and in 1963 I experienced the greatest moment of my childhood when the Dodgers won the World Series in a four game sweep over the New York Yankees. The city was euphoric. Little did I know at the time that this joy was built on the pain of a once-vibrant Latinx community. Chavez Ravine would be the eventual site of Dodger Stadium. Through eminent domain and other coercive means, most of the ravine’s residents were dislocated for a housing project that eventually stalled. The land was later conveyed to the Dodgers in 1958. As a result, the authorities forcibly removed families from the homes built by their grandparents.

    We see life through our own lenses, and the only way to broaden our perspective is to explore the rich kaleidoscope of other cultures and worldviews. By doing so, we gain a context from which to better judge our own values and approaches to life.

    When my mom and dad first took me to Olvera Street, the birthplace of Los Angeles, it was then, as it is today, a tapestry of art, clothing, jewelry, food, music, and dance. My dad was born and raised in Ecuador, and it was fascinating to listen to him speak Spanish with the merchants as they exchanged greetings and laughter.

    Hispanic Heritage Month

    Hispanic Heritage Month, which runs September 15 through October 15, 2021, is a full exploration of Latinx culture including, of course, the small slice I experienced on Olvera Street. Yet, we can never allow celebration to obscure inconvenient truths. Spanish colonizers were obviously not the first people in California. Millennia before they arrived, over 100 Kizh (pronounced keech) villages dotted the LA basin. One of their largest villages, Yaanga, was located near Olvera Street. The story of Spanish migration into the region and throughout California, Mexico, and the Southwest has its own brutal tragedies, and before the Kizh, who occupied these lands? Who might the Kizh have displaced, and what might be their untold story? History, culture, and heritage are ultimately an amalgam of tears and joy, agony and elation. The gumbo always has some fishbones.

    The importance of heritage month celebrations is not to uncritically acclaim but to discover and reflect. To the degree that we can all learn from one another, we can make progress. We invite the Michigan Tech community to consider Hispanic Heritage Month 2021 as an opportunity to better understand others and ourselves. Consider joining the Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion for the Parade of Nations, held on Saturday, September 18, beginning at 11:00 a.m.

    Why do we Celebrate Pride Month?

    Guest Blog by Erin Matas

    June is recognized as Pride Month—and with the increased visibility of the rainbow flag as a sign of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ+) pride, it’s hard to miss. But why do we celebrate Pride in June and what’s it all about? What is Stonewall?

    In 1969, The Stonewall Inn was a popular New York City gay bar. Regulars included trans women of color, gay men, queer homeless youth, lesbians, professionals, students, and folks in drag. It was an eclectic and exciting environment for drinking, dancing, and socializing. 

    Historically, gay bars and clubs have been treasured as safe spaces where folks feel acceptance and belonging, where being your true self is applauded and empowering. This nightlife culture was particularly important because, come daylight, many in the LGBTQ+ community lived in the closet. They couldn’t tell anyone about their true sexual orientation or gender identity. For many, then and now, coming out could mean losing employment, being rejected or disowned by family, losing custody of children, losing friends, and other innumerable varieties of loss.

    The Scene

    It’s 1969. Serving alcohol is illegal in disorderly businesses—and the presence of gay folks automatically categorizes your bar or club as disorderly. Although The Stonewall Inn is a private, mafia-owned club, which does offer a little bit of protection from police, raids of gay bars and clubs are common. A raid usually involves harassing, degrading, and arresting staff and patrons, removing cash and alcohol, and shutting the place down. Many arrested are those violating gender norms, including women who aren’t wearing at least three articles of “feminine” clothing and those dressed in drag. Female police officers take those dressed as women into the bathroom to verify their sex and arrest anyone whose clothing don’t match the sex listed on their ID.

    However, the police raid on The Stonewall Inn the night of June 28 is different. 

    Instead of cooperating with police as they raid the club, patrons refuse to show their IDs, refuse to be frisked, and fight back against police officers. The uprising spills into the streets and the public joins the clash. The Stonewall Rebellion lasts for five nights, growing in numbers and strength each night. Marches and demonstrations fill the streets of the Greenwich Village neighborhood.

    About the Author

    Erin Matas

    Interest Areas

    • Academic libraries as integral partners in university initiatives
    • Accessibility of library spaces, services, and resources
    • Student Success
    • Information Seeking Behavior
    • Study of Expertise

    50 Years Later

    While the movement for LGBTQ+ civil rights didn’t begin with Stonewall, the uprising energized the movement both in the United States and internationally. As more LGBTQ+ folks and their allies came out of the closet and into the streets, pride took on a meaning of its own. LGBTQ+ Pride has become something to celebrate—something visible and tangible. Pride Month is celebrated with parades, events, and flags, and honors the courage of those at The Stonewall Inn who asserted their humanity and fought for respect.

    Although gay marriage is now legal in the US and other supportive legislation is in place, many in our community still suffer from discrimination, exclusion, and violence because of who they are and who they love. New legislation attempting to bar transgender youth from playing sports and laws denying hormone support for trans youth are just a couple of examples of current challenges. Right here in Michigan, it remains legal for businesses to discriminate against LGBTQ+ individuals, and many schools and colleges lack LGBTQ+ anti-bullying policies.

    This is my 27th Pride. I know we’re not there yet, but I believe we will reach true LGBTQ+ equity when every individual has the ability to be their true self and feels belonging in a culture of genuine acceptance.

    To learn more about Stonewall, check out these 12 Books to Commemorate the Stonewall Riots. The Featured Reads book display on the first floor of the Van Pelt and Opie Library highlights selected books in celebration of LGBTQIA+ Pride Month. Check out the Center for Diversity and Inclusion’s lending library for another offering of great titles, too!

    What is Juneteenth?

    The summer season in the US includes several holidays celebrated widely across the nation—Memorial Day, Father’s Day, Independence Day, and Labor Day. But do you observe Juneteenth? Have you heard of this day, short for June 19?

    Current American history textbooks proclaim Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, as the end of slavery. Truth be told, slavery remained relatively unaffected in many places, most prominently in Texas. It was status quo for slaves well beyond the Proclamation date—they carried on with their lives of bondage and subjugation oblivious to the fact they were legally free. It was nearly two and a half years later, on June 19, 1865, when federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas, with the news that the Civil War had ended, slavery was abolished, and enslaved people were now free.

    June 19 became known as Juneteenth. It is a holiday recognized by nearly all our country’s 50 states as a celebration and remembrance, a kind of Independence Day for African Americans. It is the oldest national celebration commemorating the end of slavery and honoring African American achievement and resilience, and goes further in promoting continuous self-improvement and respect for all cultures. Most commonly celebrated in Black communities, Juneteenth typically features prayer services, memorials, parades, and barbecues. Though attempts have been made, Juneteenth has yet to be recognized as a federal holiday—another reason why few celebrate Juneteenth or are even aware of its existence and legacy.

    Our country’s victory over an oppressive, divisive, and immoral system is worth celebrating.

    Collectively, we are exploring appropriate ways to reconcile the trauma inflicted on 4 million enslaved people and their descendants, in addition to the impact slavery has had and continues to have on our country. I empathize with the sentiment that a federal Juneteenth holiday would be valuable—in both recognizing a wrong and setting about making it right, and providing a healing moment for individuals, families, and the nation. Coming together as Americans to commemorate such a significant and triumphant day would be an opportunity to find strength and peace in each other. Like Memorial Day, Juneteenth could be a day of conscious focus that binds and connects us. Our country’s victory over an oppressive, divisive, and immoral system is worth celebrating.

    In the Gettysburg Address, Lincoln referred to sacrifices made on the battlefield as a “new birth of freedom.” Each generation must renew our Founding Fathers’ pledge to do the hard work of forming “a more perfect Union.” In solidarity, we must remember the past to avoid repeating its mistakes. We must continue to work toward a society where all are appreciated, loved, respected, and included. Let us use this day to fuel our fight for liberty and justice for all. We are one in humanity.