By Jeremy Arias
East Los Angeles College faculty and Associated Student Union discussed the importance of standing up for equality and each during the nations trying times. This panel focused on the National Chicano Moratorium’s fiftieth anniversary and inclusion politics as back drops for equality.
The panel discussion was facilitated by ELAC Faculty member and award winning Executive Producer Felipe Agredano, who introduced and welcomed the guest speakers Conrado Terrazas, a Chicano Mexican-American and Abel Alvarado, a Chicano Gay Man.
Terrazas introduced himself by sharing some of his memories and connections to East Los Angeles as well as the communities he was a part of.
Terrazas shared that his parents were both activists and organizers who lived through and fought against tough immigration measures like Operation Wetback, a military style operation that was led by the United States to deport Mexican Immigrants (and some American citizens) back to Mexico.
During the 60s, Terrazas worked with the United Farm Workers for about three years recruiting grocery stores and “mom and pop” shops to boycott certain foods like Delano Grapes as a protest for farmworkers’ rights.
Terrazas also shared his experience forming the Harvey Milk Lesbian and Gay Democratic Club as a way to create a political unity for homosexual people.
Terraza said that at the time, homosexual people didn’t have much representation or respect in society, so he made it their goal to elect an openly gay person to the City Council.
Their campaign faced challenges as they competed with other vigilant Chicano groups fighting for representation in the City Council as well.
They later succeeded in electing Jackie Goldberg, an openly lesbian woman, to the L.A. City Council.
Guest speaker Abel Alvarado also spoke about the lack of representation as well as attention to the Gay Community.
Alvarado said the 1967 uprisings as well as the Latino LGBT uprisings that received no attention from the media.
Alvarado said that later on he felt recognized by TV personalities and characters like Will and Grace.
“I felt like I didn’t have what Will had,” Alvarado said. As of five years ago, Alvarado published a play “Arena: A House MUSIC- al,” inspired by the clubs and communities of gay and lesbian people in Los Angeles.
Because they were discriminated against in other bars and clubs, they had to create a space of their own that wasn’t meant to be exclusive, but inclusive instead.
Alvarado’s personal journey of seeking acceptance also echoed a similar story.
“I had to be happy in who I was,” Alvarado said. “As a kid, I was always teased and called a girl and I had many girl friends, so they started calling me ‘girl’ too.”
Alvarado said that he accepted the stigma of being called a girl by his friends and stopped seeing it as being misgendered, and instead as being accepted by those he was closest to.
After accepting it for himself, he began to call others, including men he was close to, ‘girl’ as a sign of respect and unity.
Alvarado said that one of the challenges to gay men being accepted in society is the influence of the Bible.
“I started believing that book was written by men, and men are homophobic,” Alvarado said. “I don’t believe the bible dictates my spirituality… whoever wrote that book got it wrong, and they let their homophobia seep into those pages.”
The speakers said that these are important times to get involved and stand up for each other.