Academic journal article Educational Foundations

Students Informing Now (S.I.N.) Challenge the Racial State in California without Shame ... SIN Verguenza!

Academic journal article Educational Foundations

Students Informing Now (S.I.N.) Challenge the Racial State in California without Shame ... SIN Verguenza!

Article excerpt

It is absolutely essential that the oppressed participate in the revolutionary process with an increasingly critical awareness of their role as subjects of the transformation.--Paulo Freire

On a cold and wet Friday night in January of 2006, thirteen of us gathered together in a small room on campus at the University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC). It was a combination of a need to survive and a feeling of hopelessness that brought us all together for a future of joined hopefulness. We were all first-year undergraduate students who had grown up in California, attended and graduated from California public schools, and gained admission to UCSC. Some of us were born in the U.S., but many of us had migrated here as young children, and a few were considered undocumented. There we were at the same university with different histories and backgrounds, but tonight we had gathered with one goal in mind. The goal, if over simplified, sounds something like this: to create an organization in support of AB 540 students, labeled by this nation as illegal aliens. AB 540, or the California nonresident tuition exemption, allows any student, including undocumented immigrants, to be exempt from paying nonresident tuition at public colleges and universities in California if they can show that they have successfully attended a high school in California for at least three years and successfully graduated or obtained a G.E.D. Not all AB 540 students are undocumented immigrants; approximately two-thirds of AB 540 students are U.S. born citizens who temporarily left the state and would be required to pay out-of-state tuition if it were not for this legislation. For the purpose of this article, however, AB 540 student refers to an undocumented immigrant student. We use this term because it reflects the language used within S.I.N. Little did we know that we were about to kick off a new chapter in our communities, our schools, and our own lives.

On that cold Friday night in January, we gathered together for a six-hour meeting to solidify our purpose as a new student organization called Students Informing Now (S.I.N.). Inspired by Paulo Freire's philosophy of popular education (see Freire, 1970/1999), we used an activity called "the flower" to develop our organizational mission and vision statement. The activity was prepared by one of our founding members, Metztonalli, (1) and it used the analogy of a flower to represent our new organization: the roots, the stem, its center, the petals, the sun and the wind that also contribute to the growth of the flower. The center of the flower represented our organization, Students Informing Now. As a visual, the acronym S.I.N. was written at the center of our flower. The roots represented the social-economic factors that influence our lives. The stem represented the things that support and transmit nutrients needed for the flower to grow. The petals that surrounded the center represented our values. Our first activity in that meeting was to create this flower together by writing in the specifics for each part of the flower. This was our first step in using the tools of popular education in S.I.N.

An important outcome of the flower activity was to agree on our key values of solidarity, unity, and education. Second, we agreed that the "stem" of our flower would be a non-hierarchical structure based on participative democracy, where all of our members regardless of their seniority can vote, as long as they are present at a meeting. After agreeing on these key values, we were ready to develop our vision and mission statement. For this, we used dinamicas, which are inclusive dialogue-based activities with specific purposes to gain a better understanding of our present reality, to acknowledge our struggles, to recognize our oppressors, and to challenge the structures of domination in our community and society. Through the dinamicas, we analyzed our role as students in a society that denies equal acccess to higher education for everyone. …

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