Friday, April 08, 2005

Some cool people in Urbana-Champaign

A guy named Abel was the dj at tonight’s noche de cultura event at the YMCA.  His wife, like him, is from the LA area.  She is studying w/ the Profesor from Juarez, who is in the department of Anthropology.  She spoke of the struggle she has been fighting to counter old-school ideologies that suppress free thinking and educational equality at UI, in the Anthropology Department in particular.  She appeared to get increasingly frustrated and distraught as I listened to her describe this struggle.  I see so many of our people working, not only on their degree plans and scholarly pursuits as students, but also having to doggedly construct strategies of negotiation or postures of resistance in order to merely survive as humans in their particular academic setting.  This was making me very sad to hear.  Our people--as usual--culturally isolated, and marginalized by the admin./faculty hierarchies of power.

(I remember when my friend, journalist/writer and Michener Fellow Belinda Acosta, told me that one of her professors at UT-Austin pronounced that Chicana Literature would NEVER be part of the "LITERARY CANON." Whatever.)

I also met Joe and Laura, from E. Los Angeles, who moved here to Illinois in order to study under the tutelage of Profesora Antonia in the Department of Education Policy Studies.  Joe told me that he was in the audience for my show at the Caffe Paradiso on Thursday night, and that he was so happy to hear someone saying “Chicano”, cuz he doesn’t happen to hear that very often at UI or in Urbana-Champaign.

He was so happy to introduce me to his wife, Laura, who immediately warmed to me.  She offered me something to drink and somewhere to sit. She reminded me of so many of my Austin/Califas/Denver compas, who exhibit sweet generosity while also being chingonas (used in the most affectionate sense of the term) in the battlefields of activism and academia. You go, girl!

At that same event (YMCA Noche de Cultura), La Profesora Antonia---sang and played a sweet song on guitar.  Earlier, she’d made an announcement about having a lump in her breast, and being ready to confront that, though she is far from her family.  She said that she would have to seek comfort from her family in “the school”—her students and colleagues.  So many students and others moved to her side, offering hugs and soft words, after she revealed this.  She is in the Department of Education Policy Studies, and apparently has a great influence on many of her students.

I felt, watching all of this and meeting such cool gente, that I had really encounted "comunidad" in Urbana-Champaign.

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