Panelists discussed Latino identity, history and community relating to civil rights during “Latino Involvement in The Civil Rights Movement: Then and Now” at La Casa Latino Cultural Center Wednesday night.
Facilitated by Adrian Lopez, the panel included John Nieto-Phillips, director of the Latino Studies department at IU; Melissa Britton, associate director of the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies; and senior Holly Juarez.
Carlos Bakota, who taught in IU’s history department and was involved with La Casa when it first opened in the 1970s, also participated in the panel.
A slideshow of important dates in Latino history was shown, including events like the Zoot Suit riots of 1943, Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers Union in the 1960s and the Immigration Reform Act in the 1980s.
Panelists discussed what reality was like for Latinos in history, compared to what students read in textbooks today.
“How come our family history is not part of history textbooks?” Nieto-Phillips said. “We’re often left out. We need to think of Latino history as an integral part of US history.”
Bakota acknowledged the civil rights movement was not just one movement, but a whole host of movements.
“The civil rights movement gave us the opportunity to open up dialogue,” Bakota said.
Britton talked about her work with the city of Bloomington as the Latino outreach coordinator.
“There has been an 80 percent growth since 2000 in the Latino community,” Britton said. “The main issues I saw in low-income Latino families were access to healthcare and the education system for children. And it was caused by the language barrier.”
Britton said her role in local government was sometimes a challenge.
“What was needed in the community was not often what I was told to do,” Britton said.
However, she praised the city for its action with immigration reform.
“One thing I was proud of was that the Bloomington city council passed resolutions in opposition to legislation in Arizona about immigration without any need to,” Britton said.
Juarez said the best Latino activism she has seen on campus is through Dream Corps International.
“It works for better education for Latinos,” Juarez said.
After the panelists answered their questions, the discussion transitioned to how students can make a difference in the Latino community.
Sophomore Juan Jose Jaramillo said he attended the program to understand the state of affairs regarding Latinos at IU and see how people can help.
When the discussion opened to the students, he discussed how he was confused about his identity as an Ecuadorian.
“We need to build a culture of support at IU,” Jaramillo said. “One way we can do that is by having different organizations talk to each other.”