Filling the void
Latinos must step up to make a difference on the City Council and school board
By Randy Jurado Ertll 06/20/2013
One would think that a Latino candidate would have been elected to the Pasadena Unified School District Board of Education, since much money and time were placed on redistricting — so that minority candidates would have a better shot at winning in newly created smaller districts. What is most ironic and contradictory is that more than 60 percent of PUSD students are Latino.
Unfortunately, this is a sign that historical institutional discrimination continues to exist throughout the city of Pasadena. Those who would disagree are mainly those who are used to holding power, without being challenged or questioned and may not believe that racism and discrimination continue to exist.
Of course, discrimination is less if we compare it to the 1950s pre-Civil Rights Movement. But the reality is discrimination is alive. The question is simple: How many Latinos hold positions of policy- decision-making power within the city and PUSD?
The truth of the matter is demographics have changed dramatically in Pasadena and younger Latino leaders need to step up to fill the void of representation at the school district and city levels. Having one Latino on the City Council is not enough.
On the issue of school board representation, Ramon Miramontes decided not to run again for the school board, and now there are none. But, he is reportedly considering running for the council. One candidate is not enough. Other Latinos need to consider running for the council and the mayor’s seat.
We need highly qualified, energetic, competent and motivated individuals who will step up to advocate for the working-class communities in Pasadena. I am not just being a cheerleader for Latino candidates. We need diverse representation from Asian American, Armenian American and African American communities as well.
Pasadena has a tremendous history, largely because of Caltech, Parsons Engineering and Jacobs Engineering, Pasadena City College, Art Center College of Design and other world-known institutions. However; if we look at history at a closer level, we see that Albert Einstein decided to leave Pasadena and that baseball great Jackie Robinson did the same. One has to wonder why they chose to leave such a beautiful city. Pasadena must retain its homegrown leaders.
Pasadena losing many Latino activists and leaders may be related to the trend that I have observed over the last decade. Most Latino activists, community leaders and political candidates who have lost in elections stick around for a few years, but then leave town or are never seen again. Many feel burned out and underappreciated. No one said that fighting for social justice was easy.
We need to teach our younger generation that chasing money and prestige should not be the only driving factors in their lives. A job title should not determine one’s value as a human being. Also, having a big bank account does not make one superior, more intelligent, or better than the less fortunate. Most often, accumulated wealth is inherited anyway.
We need our young leaders to recognize that they must get a quality education and that they should give back to their community — especially by running for political office, so that they may make changes at the institutional policy level. Otherwise, Latinos will continue to be seen as second-class citizens in the City of Roses.
Established leaders need to embrace and support up-and-coming community leaders instead of opposing their drive and motivation. Such opposition shows there is intolerance toward activists who dare to speak up and point out inequities. Nonprofit organizations do have the right to advocate as long as it is not related to electoral politics or political partisanship. Yes, nonprofits can and should tackle issues of health care access, environmental protection, immigration reform, educational equity, law enforcement, women’s rights, civil rights, human rights … I could go on and on. But are nonprofits in Pasadena changing things at the root and policy levels?
Some are doing wonderful work, but they remain quiet on issues that we cannot afford to further ignore, like the fact that Pasadena has a wider gap between the rich and poor than most cities in Los Angeles County.
Programs and social services are essential, but nonprofits can go beyond the safe model of job security and wanting to fit in. Intellectual capacity, innovation and respectful discussions are some things that have made Pasadena world famous. Let us continue the tradition of the Pasadena Way of embracing and promoting tolerance and not contribute to some of the factors that led to people like Einstein and Robinson leaving town. We have to create the opportunities here in our own communities of the San Gabriel Valley. We know that the San Gabriel Valley gets neglected in comparison to other Los Angeles regions, such as Hollywood and West, East and South LA. The San Gabriel Valley should be proud of its history, roots and diverse communities.
My ultimate goal is to motivate young Latino leaders to obtain their educations and to eventually evolve into effective community activists and leaders. We need leaders to aim beyond their own self interests and reach out to improve Pasadena and embrace its diversity.
Randy Jurado Ertll, author of the upcoming book “The Life of an Activist: In the Frontlines 24/7.” To obtain more information, please visit randyjuradoertll.com.