An Aug. 21 Chula Vista protest organized by We Stand United included a march through city streets with calls for justice. It also included speeches about education reform and upcoming election measures.
Organizer Nick Martin, 22, said the protest, which started with impassioned speeches at Memorial Park and closed with information on upcoming election measures issued from the steps of the Chula Vista police building, was deliberately designed to focus on the importance of voting.
“In order to keep this momentum up, we’re going to have to keep our core audience involved. This time we chose to educate folks on upcoming propositions; we want to make sure we have a holistic approach. This movement doesn’t just affect our physical lives,” Martin said.
Speaker V. Tatoy opened the event with a question for the crowd:
“Why’d you all come out here today? As important as it is for us to come out together, to unite and take a stand against what is wrong, it is just as important for us to move forward,” she said.
Tatoy issued three demands to the space around her as a motivational tool for attendees to take action and vote.
“First we need a civilian oversight committee of the Chula Vista Police Department, independent future accountability… Second we need curriculum reform, to start teaching our history in schools and mandatory ethnic studies classes in all Sweetwater schools… Third we need to call for the immediate resignation of Dr. Karen Janney, the superintendent for Sweetwater, because we have a board that denied funding for ethnic studies but could vote for a pay raise,” she said.
In actuality, results from a June audit of Sweetwater Union High School District conducted by the independent Fiscal Crisis and Management Assistance Team suggested the district might have participated in fraud, misappropriation of funds or other illegal fiscal practices.
After encouraging attendees to message organizers, stay in touch and mobilize to keep moving forward, Tatoy turned over the microphone to Mesa College Professor and activist Jenn Frost Moreno.
“Be that loud, bad kid who speaks up in class. Push back and ask questions,” Frost Moreno said.
“It is so important for students to learn about themselves, to put ethnic studies into high school curriculum. It does students a real disservice to not take these classes and learn more about their own culture and history. By the time they reach me, in college, they already have a gap,” Frost Moreno said in a follow up call.
Martin later referred to Frost Moreno’ s speech and said changing how Sweetwater uses school funding, including prioritizing ethnic studies is particularly important.
“We want to best serve the Chula Vista community directly and part of that is emphasizing the importance of education for our youth, where we’re putting funding for that education. If they can give pay raises, why can’t we afford ethnic studies and why are we cutting things like music classes,” Martin asked.
After the introductory speeches and a march through downtown Chula Vista, the group of about 150 participants— mostly younger attendees— stopped in front of the Chula Vista Police building where Martin and other organizers briefly described California state propositions that will appear on the upcoming November ballot.
After going over each proposition, organizers had the crowd repeat their voting suggestion three times over, reminiscent of a class repeating a mnemonic for recall later on during a test.
Martin said he believes the best way to steer activists from protesting toward permanent change is through education and petitioning for causes he feels are important.
“There’s this disheartening thought that one vote doesn’t matter but we’re strongly encouraging people to remember there are thousands of dollars being put into how we vote. If this is a just government, a fair government, we have the power to make change,” Martin said.
His final lesson for the day: vote early.
“I strongly encourage folks, the moment they get their ballot to send it in, I believe there’s going to be some long delays in mail-in ballots this year,” Martin said.