Don’t Let Up the Pressure on Arizona

Education repression is nothing new. It often walks arm-in-arm with political and economic exclusion along race, gender, or class lines.  Funding Exchange is proud to support grassroots organizing work in Arizona that mobilizes the community against education repression.

In 2011, Arizona’s HB 2281 took effect, which banned public school courses that “advocate the overthrow of the United States, promote racial resentment, are designed for pupils of a particular ethnic group or advocate ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals.” (Emphasis added.) The last section targeted Tucson’s Mexican American studies program specifically.

Within a year, Schools Superintendent Huppenthal determined that Tucson’s Mexican American Studies program was out of compliance with HB 2281 and ordered the school district to abandon the course of studies or lose 10 percent of its funding—about $14 million over the fiscal year. An administrative law judge upheld Huppenthal’s order in December and the school board voted four to one to shut the program down the very next month.

It has also resulted in the growth of community based popular education where students, teachers, and parents come together to learn about history and build relationships with one another to strengthen community bonds.  Community-based organizing telling the real story of women and men who fought for justice, equality and self-determination.

One such group is SIMAS – the Students In Media Action Stories project.  A collaboration between Pan Left Productions and student youth groups from recently-banned Tucson Mexican American Studies classes. Pan Left, a 2012 Bold Frontiers grantee organization, is a mostly-volunteer group of artists and activists, who collectively has created dozens of short films with over with close to a quarter-million views on YouTube.

This grant will fund training, resources and support for Latino youth in media production and distribution so that they create their own narratives about life for Latinos in Arizona. It’s one of our 2012 grants made with the support of the Paul Robeson Fund for Independent Media.