Pasadena Time Travel

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East Los Angeles Sheriff’s Station Protest, February 13, 1971 (after Pedro Arias)

In 1994, students across California walked out of schools to protest Proposition 187, a ballot initiative that would have restricted access to education and other services based on immigration status. (The measure passed but was found unconstitutional by the federal district court and subsequently repealed.)

“My mother would tell me stories about her youth, how she would fight back and protect herself. ‘M'ija, I grew up fighting with my fists. You’re going to fight with your books and words.’ And I was like, that makes sense. I’m going to use tools that are not going to get me in trouble.

The idea that emerged was to organize a march against Prop 187 and include as many community organizations as possible. So we had a wonderful march, very successful, hundreds of people participated. It was devastating to wake up the next day and see that prop 187 passed. It hurt. I didn’t understand why the general public would vote in favor of a law that was so divisive and insensitive to the needs of hundreds of thousands of people. But what that did to me is, it made me an activist forever for my community. It strengthened me. This has been a long fight and we have to just keep at it.

I would hope that our youth understand that their voice is important, whether it’s putting it on their social media account, writing a petition and taking it to the school board, or creating a club at their school so they can all connect with and gain strength from each other. Our students are the most powerful voice in the room.”

-Cynthia Olivo Ph.D, Vice President of Student Services, Pasadena City College, San Jacinto High School Class of 1990

©2018 Deborah Aschheim. This project is made possible in part by the Pasadena Arts & Culture Commission and the City of Pasadena Cultural Affairs Division. Courtesy Pedro Arias, La Raza Photographic collection, UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center; Cynthia Olivo.