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¡Todo el Pueblo al Sueno!

team-china-slideI love sports.  I relish the drama; the feats athletes accomplish in a heat of competition against themselves; the poetry of a team that becomes greater than the sum of its parts.   

What leftist doesn’t like watching human beings overcome tremendous adversity, often while also challenging racism, sexism, able-ism and empire at the same time? Former colonies face off against the colonizers they once overthrew, working class discipline shines, women shatter glass ceilings and oppressive notions of femininity.  Even the rivalry between imperialist countries makes appearances, in the form of handsprings, javelin throws, and slam-dunks.  

In the Olympic games, the whole world is watching. Millions of people are connected across geography, language, and culture.  I’m struck, in these first few days, by awful US reporting on China’s Olympic Team.   Women’s weightlifting, swimming, gymnastics, and diving come with voiceovers and articles espousing endless speculation about China cheating. Xu Qi, captain of China’s swim team commented on this, saying “Ryan Lochte, Missy Franklin are both recognized as geniuses.  There were geniuses in France and South Africa.  We admit and accept these geniuses, but why can’t a genius come from China?”

literacy-brigadesI'm pretty sure the first time I heard the word "Anti-Intellectualism," I said "that word is so elitist!" Luckily, I was in the company of one of my greatest teachers, June Jordan. After giggling uncontrollably (her giggle-fests were legendary), she asked me what I thought the word meant. Little did I know we were beginning a dialogue that would last more than a decade, and shape my view of the world.

I explained my logic to her "If I label something as inaccessible because of it's advanced vocabulary, then I'm defending the working class, right? I mean, even if I know what the word means, that's just because I had the privilege of education. And we're all responsible for building a movement culture that doesn't exclude people!"

June did not giggle. She peered over her glasses, ashed that Nat Sherman she was smoking, and cocked her head "Really? Have you ever asked a working class teenager if she would rather be fed easier words or get an education that allows her to read any word she wants?"

latino-graduates-1(From a commencement address I delivered at the Latino Commencement at the University of San Francisco in May 2012)

I went to college a long time ago. In those days, if you can believe it, Shakira had black hair, and was an alternative rocker!

Also, at that time, Affirmative Action was being destroyed. I was part of a student movement that fought to defend Affirmative Action, a policy that acknowledged the historical and current discrimination against people of color and women, and made it easier for both to gain admission into colleges & universities.

What I learned, during teach-ins and meetings and, oh yeah, even sometimes in a classroom, was that I was defending a policy that was the outcome of a movement. My parent's generation had fought hard against racism in the US. They not only defeated segregation, winning the Civil Rights Act of 1964, but also created Affirmative Action to push educational institutions to start to comply with the law.

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About the Author

  • Raised in Buenos Aires, politicized in East Los Angeles, Maria Poblet is a nerdy Latina rooted in the San Francisco Bay Area.  Building off a decade of radical community organizing and movement building work, she lead the merger of the Latino organization she built with a Black organization, forming a single, multi-racial powerhouse called Causa Justa :: Just Cause (www.cjjc.org). Before organizing, she was Artistic Director of Poetry for the People, and had the honor of being mentored by June Jordan. Follow her on twitter @mariadelpueblo

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