Tuesday, September 8, 2009

I too give speeches to students

Today President Barack Obama gave a speech to students. Later today, I will be giving a little talk to students as well. I never thought that I'd have a day similar to a president's. I wonder if he had a few drinks at a tranny bar last night too?
Young kids freak me out. Specially nowadays. I know way too much about my teenage cousins, that's only because they spill their guts out on Myspace. 
My high school years weren't as bad as my fellow guetto nerdians. That was only because I had the ability to get out of bad situations due to my awesome ability to make fun of myself. Somehow I managed to be a prom king.
Well, that time is gone. I don't think I have that ability to connect with the young peeps. 
But since I will be talking to AB 540 students, I think I will feel more at home. These are my fellow guetto nerdians and their desire to go to college is bigger than any typical rage that teenagers have against anyone over 25. 

Monday, September 7, 2009

El Presidente to give speech to students

"Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it. I do that every day. Asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of strength."
-President Barack Obama

Easy for him to say that when you've got the Secret Service behind your back. How can you say no to a man who's being followed around by men with guns. But he's got a point. 
I just read President Barack Obama's prepared comments for tomorrow's speech. And let me tell you something: it's not that bad. 
He makes a few points regarding struggling kids who manage to go to college no matter how bad they have it at home. Or if they have a disease. Or if English is not their first language. I really hoped he'd added all them DREAM Act kids and the AB 540 students in grad school, but maybe that's just going too far. 
The quote above came directly from the speech. I know it can be extremely hard to ask for help. I should know. As a student journalist, you're constantly drilled about the importance of asking for help when you're not familiar with a certain subject. Nobody is born knowing about everything, except my mother. That lady knows it all. 
Asking for help ain't easy. But not asking any questions at all can be even harder.
I really hope that kids across the nation listen up and fully devour this speech. Whether Obama has a "hidden agenda" behind this speech, them kids should indeed stay away from the Xbox and pick up a book or two and better their grammar. God knows I need to. 
So, kids listen up:
1) Check out Obama's speech tomorrow from a Virginia high school
2) Stay away from that Xbox at least for a couple of hours
3) Pick up a good book
4) Make Julio sound less preachy

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Feeling the pressure

This whole fundraiser is extremely humbling. Though I must not see it from a I-am-begging-for-money-to-go-to-school perspective, sometimes is just hard not to see it that way.

These damn budget cuts and fee increases have me freaking out. I can feel the pressure. The days seem to be running by extremely fast. August 31st is soon approaching and I've yet to come up with the cash to pay for school.

Though the fundraiser is a good idea, it's still very frustraiting that I have to do this. I don't qualify for financial aid, so I must go out of my way to figure out how the fuck I'm going to pay for this. Can you feel the anger in my words?

Then I calm down. I look back at the things I've accomplished and I give myself a pat in the back. Then I feel like a narcisit and I start to bring myself down again. Sometimes I think I'm depressed. Sometimes I think I'm just over analyzing shit. Other times I stay in bed and don't want to wake up and face the problems.

But if I didn't have it this hard, maybe I wouldn't appreciate things the way I do. It's easy to take things for granted when they are handed to you. Without much work. Without much worth.

I know I'm rambling here, but I was about to have a nervous break down. I'll try not to think about the situation much and focus on the fundraiser. My mind is going tick, tock, tick, tock. Fuck it. I must get up and move then.

Budget Closure Day aka first furlough day

"Due to state budget reductions, California State University, Long Beach will be closed August 13, 2009. Most facilities will be closed to increase cost savings through energy savings. Summer session classes and summer camps will be held as scheduled. For additional information regarding what will be closed or open on August 13, call for prerecorded information on the CSULB State Budget Closure Day Information Hotline, 562-985-8080."
-CSULB's website on Aug. 13

Well, thank God for the Raza center. Otherwise, Claudia and I would have been without computer access.

Everything is closed today. Brothman Hall. The Horn Center. The libary. In other words, every single place that is extremely necessary to use just week before school starts. But I see they're fixing the fountain. Maybe new lights. Who knows? That big ASI, Inc. logo by the University Student Union also looks cute. Wonder how much they're paying for that?

This is only the first of 11 furlough days the school will be having in order to "accommodate nearly half of the campus’ $42 million budget reduction from last year."

To quote CSULB's President F. King Alexander in a Press-Telegram article, his indeed looks like a ghost town. Now, back to trying to raise money for Claudia's and my tuition.

Monday, August 3, 2009

How to live without a laptop/desktop/working phone

Sometimes I feel like I'm the only person in the U.S. who does not own a computer. Yes ladies and gentlemen, it's 2009 and I do not own a computer. By the way, when I say ladies and gentlemen, I really mean Gustavo and Tina. You guys are the only ones who read my blog.

Of course I'm being dramatic here. I'm pretty sure I'm not the only person without a computer. Times are tough and people are having to decide between paying for rent, gas or Internet. Somehow, I've managed to live without a computer and have not died.

Now, to be able to live without Internet, you must be willing to share certain information with your friends. Whether is school work or someone who has gotten a hold of my business card and wants to hire a cartoonist, there are times when I must check my e-mail. It's up to you to decide who in your circle of friends is trust worthy to acquire your e-mail password. Will it be a) the friend who tends to reveal secrets when inebriated, b) the friend who you know will blackmail you if you don't let them borrow money or c) the friend who drinks but won't blackmail you.

My friend Tina has literally become my personal secretary without pay. Poor thing, I've called her one too many times for "internet help." The person whom you chose to check your e-mail
will have access to your e-mail account. Be sure you make the right choice.

Now, if your thing is "privacy" and you're not like me, there's always the public library. I don't own a public library card, but I hear they have internet access. I do however go to a public university, and it is here where I do a lot of my writing, blogging and Photoshoping. Like the public library, the school's own library and computer lab have a set schedule. I've set my own schedule to fit the computer lab's. Though I'm not enrolled in summer school, I'm still technically a student so I have the right to use the lab.

That's pretty much it. Sorry if this doesn't help you much. Now I have to go and try to get a new/borrowed phone. My Metro PCS phone's battery is a mess and I cannot actually talk on the phone. So if you're trying to get a hold of me, texting will be easier!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Reed is the word

Since May, fees for the CSU system have raised 32%! Well, I'm fucked. Oh wait, how selfish of me: WE'RE ALL FUCKED!

Last week's protest outside California State University Chancellor Charles Reed's office was a clear message of how all students agree about this fucked of a situation. Though I wasn't allowed to use such beautiful language for the piece I wrote for the Daily 49er, every single student I spoke to shared the same feeling. With more swearing than me of course.

Starting next fall, I'm going to have to fork over an extra $672 if I want to enjoy full-time rights. I've applied for two scholarships and I've yet to begin saving the $100 I promised myself I'd hold on to from every summer paycheck.

Peter Kreysa, California Faculty Association treasurer for the CSULB chapter, told me that this is a sign that the Legislature has lost sight of the 1961 CSU Master Plan and its promise to create educated leaders for the job market. It's all about the dough now. The dough that this state ows and the toll it's taking on us, the "leaders of tomorrow."

Worst of all is that "as of July 6, 2009, CSU campuses are no longer accepting applications for the 2010 winter and spring terms." We're in, but what about our little primos and primas that are currently in high school? Now they're really fucked!

Chancellor Reed wants to believe that all college students go through the same experiences (his spokesperson told me that students whose parents make over $75,000 a year won't feel the fee hikes too much). I've got plenty of friends whose parents barely make a little bit over the minimum wage and soley depend of financial aid. Did I mentioned AB 540 students who don't qualify for governmental financial aid and must pay out of their own pocket?

For students like myself who must worry about helping out at home and stick to a job they despise, it could be too easy to fall off the wagon and quit. Too easy. These thoughts have navigated my mind lately and it's hard to shake them off.

But I also know that my compulsive behavior to finish what I start won't let me quit this whole college thing. As God and this CSULB Apple computer is my witness, I shall graduate next Spring.

Photo by Claudia Ramirez

Monday, July 20, 2009

Inspired by Richard Wright's "Black Boy"

The heat surrounding the Chipotle employees and customers is enough to bring the worst in all of us. That damn AC we've been hooked on isn't working properly so we only have our hands to fan ourselves.

I drag myself to clean all of the tables in between ringing customers up. That damn heat getting the best of me. I've been sick all week and this is the last place where I want to be.

"What are you guys laughing at?" I aske my superior and another co-worker when they mysteriously stop giggling upon my arrival from cleaning tables.

"At your 4-hour career as a cashier today," my superior says.

I toss the rag under the register and lean against the brand new metal-top table. For some reason that I can only blame on the heat, I flip out.

"Well at least I'm not making a career out of Chipotle," I reply.

I feel bad. Their suspicions that I think I am better than they are because I'm attending a university suddenly become a reality.

"Don't forget to clean the bathrooms before you clock out," is the only reply I get.

I want to apologize to them. To tell them that they too can manage to get a college education while working there. But I stay quiet and don't say a word. My face burning with shame.

These co-workers of mine have been working there around the same time I have and they've already moved on to managerial positions. I, on the other hand, have passed up the offers to become a manager for fear of getting stuck there.

I constantly think about it, but I never mention it out loud for fear of sounding like an asshole. Though I think it's too late now.

If I'm reading a book or a newspaper, they say I'm just showing off. That I ought to think about my reality and get that promotion before it's too late. What's the point, they say, you're not even going to be able to use your college degree once you graduate.

They're probably right. But at least I can say I try. I'm booking Ceci Bastida for Gustavo's show tomorrow for God's sake. I'm a show-off prick for being proud of my humble success?

I swallow my pride and knock at the women's bathroom. I spray degreaser all over the sinks and clean until I can see my reflection on the metal sinks. I look at myself in the mirror. I look exhausted. Sweat dripping from my pimply forehead.

I clock out and walk out under the damn heat. Hoping that everything will be just fine.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Immigration and drag queens

"You mean you didn't reserve a table?" the man at the bottom of the flight of stairs asked us with a hint of disgust.

"When I paid at the door they told me the show started at 9:45 p.m. and did not mention anything about a reservation," I said as I looked around Ripples, the popular Long Beach gay joint.

The man told us to hold on a few minutes until he got word that there was extra seating. I laughed because the place was no were near full. But we waited.

"Go ahead," the man signaled while opening the velvet rope strapped across the entrance of the flight of stairs.

We sat next Cindy and Kathy, a couple of nice lesbians who were probably in their late 30s or early 40s. In conversation with Kathy, I found out that she was a German immigrant who had recently received her green card.

"I'm so happy that I finally count in this country," she said in between sips of Pacifico's and bites of stale pretzels. "But getting it took so damn long."

Kathy worked as a waitress for nearly 12 years. While working as a waitress, she paid her way through law school and eventually received her green card last year. Her girlfriend lives in Seattle and their long distance relationship is taking a toll on her.

We shifted from the sad topic of relationship and started talking about how fucked up the current immigration system is.

"They make it so fucking hard for you to try and become legal," she said.

Aside from being gay, Kathy was an undocumented immigrant. Despite the fact that she had been with her girlfriend for nearly five years, there was no way that they could get married and fix her immigration status. Like many straights couples have done for years.

I told her about the many AB 540 students who are graduating every year from U. S. colleges. I told her how they cannot use their college degree due to their immigration status.

The lights went off and a Cher-look-a-like welcomed everyone. Kathy and I looked at each other and cheered. We indeed felt welcomed.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Drawing ispired by Ceci Bastida

So last Wednesday I met the great Ceci Bastida. Yes, the same Ceci that sang on Tijuana No's "Pobre de ti." I couldn't have been more star-strucked and I don't remember what I said. I think I kissed her hand.

Last week I also found a bad picture of me. I think I was around 4 or 5 years old. Yes, I had the bowcut and the ADIDAS shorts with the tube socks. Anyhow, I was inspired to do this little doodle. Enjoy.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

I could have, but didn't.

"A news reporter's duty can sometimes be difficult. It is not easy to approach someone in such distress to seek answers to the questions that need asking. "
-Walter Cronkite from his book A Reporter's Life

"Can you just do me that favor, man?" the man in the red Quicksilver t-shirt said as the passengers in Transit Long Beach Bus No. 94 turned towards his direction. "I'm sort of homeless today and I need to store my stuff."

My instinct as a reporter was to get up from my seat and bombard him with questions. But the fact that I'm not currently employed by any publication or writing for the Daily 49er, I wasn't sure how to approach him without a paper to back me up. 

"I guess I'm going to stay at a shelter until I find a place to live," he screamed at the person on the other line. 

Here I had a possible feature story in my hands and I just let it go. I could have pitch the story to my contacts at The District Weekly (if they still remember me) or to The Beachcomber.

But he got off the bus and no contacts were made.

Then I get to school, log on to The District Weekly webpage and what do I find? A beautifully written story by the talented Jenny Stockdale about a Cal State Long Beach graduate who is currently homeless and is living in his car. 

Stockdale—a former Daily 49er writer, illustrator and an all-around amazing person—writes that "the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development reported in 2007 that there are more than 750,000 Americans experiencing homelessness at any given night."

Dereck, the story's homeless graduate, says that his procastination is the only thing to blame for his current homeless situation.

I wonder what caused my Quicksilver t-shirt guy to end up homeless. He didn't look like a junkie or some sort of insane person. But shit happens.

A couple of years ago, a friend of mine was homeless for two weeks. She told nobody. She showered at the gym, eat at friend's house and slept in her car. For two weeks. 

My friend and her mother were renting a room in a house. Their landlady was actually a friend of her mom. But her alcoholic ways made it impossible to live at peace and my friend decided that enough was enough.

She finally found an apartment, but it wouldn't be ready for two weeks. My friend told her mother to move in with her brother and she'd stay at a friend's house. The deal with her friend didn't go well and she ended up with no place to live. That's how she became homeless for two weeks. Oh, and did I mentioned that she had a full load of classes at CSULB? 

"We're all seconds, or inches or dollars away from tragedy and failure," Stockdale says.
That's right. 

I'm not sure why I didn't approach the man. Not being employed as a journalist was not a good enough excuse. There are ways to get my writing out there. 

To go up to him in what could probably be one of the worst days of his life and ask him to tell me his story so I can write about it just seemed so selfish. 

Either that or I lost a chance to help a fellow human being. 

Monday, June 29, 2009

Two men, a Monster energy drink and Michael Jackson.

The inside of my Monster can was nearly empty and the Long Beach Transit bus No. 61 still a no-show. I know that these sort of energy drinks are extremely bad for me, but I've been feeling extremely exhausted lately. I need that extra push in my life to keep me from falling asleep. One last sip. Still no bus.

"Damn fucking bus," said the man with the bright green sweatpants. "I've seen two No. 51's go by but this one is taking forever."

"What's the rush, son?" asked the well-dressed man next to him. "This world is always rushing."

I took a look at my empty energy drink can. The familiar M Logo looking back at me as though saying "don't listen to that man, you need me."

Feeling that familiar buzz in my body, I walked closer to the two men and asked how long they'd been waiting for the bus.

"Too damn long if you ask me," said the man with the bright green sweatpants.

"When we're young, we can't wait to get old," the well-dressed man responded as he removed a speckle of dirt off his perfectly ironed pants. "We rush to make money. Then we worry about keeping that money. We rush, rush, rush. Next thing we know, we retired and want to rush to death."

I look around to see if anybody else was as captivated by this man's wise words as I was.

"But we need to make that money man," said Mr. green sweatpants as he walked near the middle of the street to see if our bus was approaching. "It may not be all there is in life, but it helps a whole lot."

I reached for my cellphone to check for the time. 3:10 p.m. I still had to transfer to another bus and if I wanted to be at work on time, the bus had to be there in the next five minutes.

"Now son, don't be thinking that money is everything," the wise man said. "Look at Michael Jackson. He had every single thing that money could buy. Do you think he was completely happy? Did he die happy?"

Neither man had an answer. The bus arrived just in time and the three of us boarded the new Hybrid vehicle.

We crossed the long bridge and both men got off on the next stop. They got off the bus and walked in separate directions.

I looked at the time and figured that I'd be just fine as long as the other bus didn't leave me behind.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The conscience of our nation

The noise coming from the buses' engines were not enough to drown David's voice. The South Korea native and UCLA international studies major nearly broke down in the middle of his AB 540 testimonial but the support of the nearly 150 students behind him were enough to give him the strength to go on.

All of these students—clad in graduation cap and gowns—stood in solidarity with the thousands of students who graduate every year from U.S. high schools but face huge challenges when it comes to college because they're undocumented immigrants.

"I have a freind that rides the bus for six hours a day just to get to school," Santa Ana College student Maria Robles said. "I just wouldn't do that."

Robles, like many of the students present, is an AB 540 ally and was there to show her support to students who she considers "work 10 times harder than anybody I know."

As part of the National DREAM Act Graduation Day, these students took part of a mock graduation in front of City Hall urging Congress to pass the DREAM Act. If passed, the DREAM Act would allow these students to apply for financial aid and contribute back to this country.

The we-cannot-afford-to-help-these-criminals excuse is so 2008. This country is in dire need of the money that undocumented students can bring into the economy. Just think about it for a second. If the 60,000 or so undocumented students paid the fees needed in order to apply for citizenship, a large chunk of money would a good boost to the economy. Now, imagine if the 14 million or so undocumented immigrants were given the chance to apply for a green card and pay for their fees...that's math I can't even do!

"They're here as the conscience of the nation," UCLA Labor Center Director Kent Wong said during a passionate speech. "These students are risking a lot by being here but they're taking a bigger risk by being silence."

Well said Mr. Wong.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Obama committed to passing comprehensive reform

Last week, President Barack Obama committed to pass comprehensive reform. Today there was an feature article in the Los Angeles Times about two kids from different economic backgrounds—a Latino kid from South Central and a white rich kid from La CaƱada—and how their path to college has been so different but at the same time so the same. Oh the oxymorons!

And tomorrow? Students from all over the country will be heading over to Washington D.C. for the National DREAM Act Gradtuation Day. Los Angeles and Orange County will be having their very own graduations as well. The point of these mock graduations is to show how undocumented students--AB students por favor!--are trying to do anything it takes to get out of the shadows and do something to resolve their current legal status in the country. And getting a good education in the process of course!

The main goal of these graduations is to pass the federal DREAM Act, which will allow all of these students a legal path to citizenship.

I mentioned the L.A. Times article because of its blunt look at two kids who are essentially working for the same goals, yet one of the is facing far bigger obstacles to get there. Now, I don't know if the Latino kid in the article is an AB 540 student, but judging by the nature of his "lifestyle" it is not unlike the lives of many of the undocumented students that live in this country.

"If our children don't get the world-class education they need to succeed then America will not be able to compete with other countries," Obama said during the Esperanza National Hispanic Prayer Breakfast last Firday. Well Mr. President, I hope you're closely reviewing tomorrow's mock graduations.

For AB 540 students who graduate from colleges ever year, their graduations are just that: a mockery of a flawed system that allows them to fall in love with education in elementary school, but are later told that their dreams must come to a halt because they're "different."

Obama also mentioned the stories of Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor and a kid from Nicaragua who joined the service just become a citizen. Imagine if the DREAM Act passes? There will be a bunch of Sotomayores tomorrow, fighting for their humble right to dream a little dream.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Las Vegas, me and a hair show.

LAS VEGAS—The nail-salon smell hit my nostrils as I walk inside the Las Vegas Convention Center for the 2009 International Beauty Show. I take a look at my badge, which reads BEAUTY PROFESSIONAL. No, I didn’t lie. I just didn’t answer when the lady at ticket counter asked to see my hair-dresser license. I left that to my friend Miguel, an actual beauty professional who was kind enough to invite me to a free trip to Las Vegas to get an inside look at the industry of beauty. That, and he didn't want to drive by himself.

I couldn't have been more out of place. My cargo shorts and Payless sandals were enough to get a few looks of disapproval from women carrying expensive designer bags and orange face glows.

While thousands of Iranians were marching due to a fraud election, I was roaming around isles that featured the latest pair of hair irons and blond extensions. Tables dedicated exclusively to beauty magazines and hair gel just blew my mind. Or maybe it was the fourth Jack Daniel’s Lemonade.

“Even in the recession people are going to spend money on beauty,” said Sally Bencke from Myperfectsalon.com, a networking site that focuses on connecting clients with beauty salons around the world.

I don’t know that people will choose to buy hair product over food if they lose their jobs, but you never know.

Like comic geeks at a ComiCon, these attendees were fascinated by products that probably cost more than the little spending cash I took to Vegas. At first, I was annoyed that such a convention existed. Come on, three days dedicated to an industry that makes chubby girls feel bad about themselves and dictates how one should look in order to feel better and succeed?

But my cynical attitude was subdued when I realized that I was doing exactly what I was making fun of in the first place. When Miguel described how he viewed his job as a form of artistic expression, I gave in. According to him, there aren't many things in life that we can control. Being able to create a masterpiece with your our hands and call it your own is priceless. What can I say? I'm a fool for the arts.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

$5 McDonald's gift cards for the homeless

The up-to-no-good vato standing outside the Union Station is the ultimate danger sign lingering around the minds of people who fail to recognize their hidden prejudices. The African-American man next to him talking to the homeless guy is probably enough to keep some people walking.

As soon as I crossed Cesar Chavez Ave. towards their direction, I noticed their t-shirts. The 2009 Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count was sprawled across their chests.

"There's a lady with a baby asking for money," a man told Draper Hughes--the guy chatting with the homeless guy.
He finished up his conversation with the homeless guy and walked up to the woman, who was accepting a bill from a young girl.

After a short conversation, he went back to his formal spot and this time I noticed the clipboard. Turns out that Hughes and his friend (who's name I failed to catch because I was in a rush and he was on his cellphone) work and also volunteer for the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority through the Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count.

During our even shorter conversation, Hughes explained that his job consists of asking homeless citizens a couple of questions regarding their situation (why are they homeless, health issues, etc.) The surveyed people get a $5 McDonald's gift card after answering the questions. More information on Hughes and the 2009 GLAHC on a later blog.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Lakers (101), American journalists in North Korea (12 years)

As I made an (illegal) run for the Transit Long Beach bus No. 5, I was sadden to find out that the sentencing news of American journalists Euna Lee and Laura Ling to 12 years of hard labor was pushed to page A 14 of the Los Angeles Times. Meanwhile bearded man Pau Gasol of the Lakers was featured on the cover. Must be nice to be a Lakers' player right now! Not so nice to be a passionate journalist.
Maybe I'm being too biased here. Who am I kidding, I'm totally being biased. I don't necessarily hate sports, but I just have never been a fan. Bad memories of being a chubby 12-year old getting picked last for flag football may have something to do with it. But to know that there are two individuals who are potentially facing "extreme labor under extremely brutal conditions" just for doing their job and pretend like this is just another bit of "world news" is very frustrating for a journalism student.
We live in a very strange world. Why aren't we crying out in the streets about this injustice the same way that we'll be rallying when the Lakers win the NBA Finals. Most importantly, why is the L.A. Times pushing such important stories to its middle pages? Is it money? Of course. Is it bad journalism? Claro que yes. There's a new breed of journalism out there that is probably answering this questions. Current TV, the San Francisco-based cable news outlet Lee and Ling were reporting for when they got arrested, is an example of the development of journalism. Is it good or bad development? I don't know. Former Vice President Al Gore co-owns the station and everyone should fear politicians. All I know is that good journalism is dying and we, as the heirs of an exploding mother Earth, must keep our ears and eyes open to what is really important. Or whatever.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Latino Graduation at CSULB

Rosa Carrillo gave me an skeptical look when I informed her that I was a reporter with the Daily 49er trying to cover the 20th Annual Chican@/Latin@vGraduation Celebration.
Why wouldn't she? After all, there were many people outside Cal State Long Beach's Walter Pyramid trying to get into the sold out event. Thank God for my validation via Student Life and Development assistant director Brett Waterfield, who congratulated me for a profile I'd written about him and the rest of the Cultural Graduations.
Carrillo, like many of the students working on the event, was volunteering her time and creativity to try and make this celebration a successful one. The Long Beach City College counselor had been in charged of the celebration in the past and was asked to return with her keen sense of organization and dead-on coordination skills.
"I think the language brings everyone together," Carrillo said about the bilingual celebration in between trips to the exit doors where graduates were lining up and arranging last minute details with security--apparently they had an issue with air horns inside the place.
As the 214 graduating students--including 30 Master's candidates--walked into the basketball court, the 4,000 plus guests stood up and began clapping and snapping photo after photo.
Women that looked like my grandma and men with Stetson hats screamed out the names of their graduates. Children would lean against the bleacher rails--which was decorated with Latin American flags--and jumped up and down with excitement as their brothers, sisters and cousins waved their zarape-embroided sashes.
Right before the celebration, I "bumped" into CSULB President F. King Alexander. With the economy throwing up on itself, I asked Alexander to level with the students and tell them what realities they will be facing in a job-less market.
"I'm really pushing students to go to grad school," he said. "The job market is tight, but once the economy recovers, they will be prepared."
Sugarcoat anyone?
After a couple of minutes on the stage, Mr. President and Vice President Douglas W. Robinson had to leave to attend other activities. On a Sunday.
I really wished they could have stayed behind and listened to Chicano Studies Professor Jose Moreno--this year's graduation Marshall--and his heart-felt speech to the graduates asking them not to be too happy just yet because the number of Latino college graduates is not big enough.
"I'm nervous, excited and angry," Moreno told the audience. "But we have to celebrate because too many of our accomplishments are not celebrated."
According to Moreno, out of 100 Latino kinder gardeners, eleven manage to graduate from the California State University system. Bittersweet celebration for the masses!
Photo by Maria Ventura

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

"Gay, straight, black, white, marriage is a civil right!"

Alex Aguayo was holding on to his boyfriend's arms as he approached Long Beach's Bixby Park. The young college sweethearts listened as Long Beach Equality co-founder Tom Crowe rallied up the hundreds of marchers who showed up to protest the California Supreme Court's validation of Proposition 8 after a march along Broadway Blvd.
Aguayo is a film student at Cerritos College and the president for the school's chapter of the Queer-Straight Alliance.
Marchers from all walks of life (students, mothers, hippies, etc.) proudly held rainbow flags and signs that expressed the sentiments of people that were also marching across the Golden State.

"We want to march already," a man screamed from the parking lot of Long Beach's Hamburger Mary's, where all participants gathered before the march through the popular gayborhood.
"This was the ruling I was expecting," Aguayo said in a near matter-of-fact joke.
This seemed to be the popular belief amongst the attendees and the people who spoke at the park's band shelter.
Long Beach's First District Councilman Robert Garcia, who spoke at the rally, is hopeful that this decision won't be a step back in the fight to grant marriages to gay couples.
"I think that within the next two or three years this will happen," Garcia told me as fans of the guy came up to him to shake his hand or ask if he had a Facebook account. Which of course he does.
The openly Latino, I mean, gay politician, is making history at his own pace in the city of Long Beach. He is the the youngest elected City Councilmember, bringing with him a fresh breath of air to Long Beach politics.
As far as accepting other human beings, this country is a bit far behind.
Towards the end of the event, when people began to make that walk home and empty the park, Crowe mentioned that he and another LB Equality member were gay bashed while scouting the place for the event.
"We were assaulted on our own fucking turf,"Crow said.
The people who assaulted him were later detained.
As we made our way back home, a car passed by and screamed "faggots!"
I asked Aguayo if he thought gay marriage would ever become a reality.
"If I didn't believe in that, I wouldn't be here." Well said.

Photos taken by Valerie Kelly for LBPost.com