Revisiting the Mexican American Studies court victory



On August 22, 2017, Federal Judge Wallace Tashima ruled that the Arizona law banning Mexican American Studies was unconstitutional. Although delivered on a single day, this decision marked a watershed moment in a battle for ethnic studies that had been raging since the 2010 laws were enacted in reaction to the Mexican American Studies program in the Tucson Unified School District. The struggle to reinstate this program has been championed by students who enrolled in the courses, teachers who designed and taught the curriculum, and community members. It’s been some months, and the central figures in the legal battles gathered recently to reflect on the struggle, the victories it wrought, as well as some of the damage sustained through struggle.


Below is an abridged version of that conversation with teachers Curtis Acosta and Rene Martinez, program director Sean Arce, and lead attorney Richard Martinez.


What is the significance of the court’s ruling?

Sean Arce:     I think it’s really further legitimized ethnic studies, Chicano studies. And then with Richard Martinez, his communication to California Latino School Board Association last night that this ethnic studies and Chicano studies can move forward. There are actions moving forward, they’re setting a policy and creating departments like these that are protected by the first and fourteenth amendment.

Richard Martinez:     There are a number of legal significance issues. One is we took away the impediments to Mexican-American studies and cleared the path for ethnic studies to grow across the country. And these court decisions will be an important precedent in stopping the inevitable movement to end ethnic studies, which will surface in other places but under the same kind of arguments. And I think that the other that happens as the resurgence occurs, they will continue to use code words. Judge Tashima’s ruling on the way that we used code words as evidence of racial bias. The judge saying I came to that conclusion on my own and then goes on to no end, that was further affirmed by all the work of Dr. Pitti. So I think that there’s significant importance in the use of code words, because we all know that means that’s a bias statement, a racially charged bias statement that the courts have been looking to embrace and here you have a decision that embraces it.

And then the third thing that I think that’s critical is that absent a legitimate pedagogical reason then it clearly implies the racial bias, both in the context of denying equal protection and in the context of the first amendment, the right to receive. So, it’s critical the school boards adopt these curriculums, they understand what they’re adopting, why they’re adopting it and then grow it. Mexican American Studies in TUSD you had 10 to 12 years to grow it.

One thing the court cases do, both the ninth circuit and Judge Tashima’s ultimate decision, is that it reverses that whole stream of losses that we had regarding bilingual education. And those decisions that looked at those propositions or those initiatives and said no that’s not the product of racial bias. That those were somehow political decisions outside of the racial context, I think everybody knew that wasn’t true.



What did you learn in the process of fighting this in the legal system, in the media, and in communities?

Curtis Acosta:     I think Richard hit on a real important point about needing to be diligent, needing to be exhaustive in what these actors, these racist actors are doing. And our collective was definitely on top of it, from you and the legal arm all the way to us in the classroom and making sure we knew what they were saying about us. And to be honest that’s not a fun part of the job, is to look at what they’re saying about you in the media, social media, and how they’re building their case, they’re narrative. You talked about the importance of us getting the narrative back last night during our talk. But that’s all part of it, understanding what the narrative is against you as well as the narrative that you know is in your heart and what you’re trying to do.


What does this mean for academic freedom?

Richard Martinez:    Not only being inclusive, but always being open ended, and evolving, and contemporary. So I think that even though there was attached a negative view about how you used to occupy America, or if you wrote a poem, if you used hip-hop, whatever. It came back to if you contextualize the state has no ability to take away the efficacy, the educational efficacy of what you are doing. Legally, that’s how you defend that because they have to be able to then deconstruct you, your program, your curriculum, your curriculum units. And in the absence of that, whether it was Kathy Hrabluk (Associate Superintendent at the Arizona Department of Education) or anyone else, they don’t have your expertise, they don’t know how to deconstruct Mexican-American studies or ethnic studies. They don’t even know what it is, all they know is they don’t like it.



What are the implications of this decision for what teachers can do? What should they be careful of?

Richard Martinez:    I think that many teachers agree with it, but in terms of making it a mandate on the school district it’s at the local level. They must develop a curriculum in this manner. Where I disagree or think the mistake is to assume one class anyway comes close to what was occurring in Mexican-American Studies. Much more comprehensive.

Sean Arce:        That’s not systemic. You’ve got classes here and there it’s not systemic.

Richard Martinez:     The other thing is I think it’s a mistake to make the classes compulsory. I think they should be voluntary, those who want to take them fine, those who don’t. Because to the extent you make them compulsory and thus those individuals are students and those parents and those families that don’t want their child, their student in that class, they become your enemy. And that’s I think a problem. You’re building in an enemy that’s going to attack that school board, that superintendent, that site administrator, that teacher.

Curtis Acosta:      Yeah there’s antagonism already built in.

Sean Arce:     But yeah, we have to be cautious. We have to be, what’s the word that I used Friday? We have to be strategic on how we do this shit. Alright, we’re going to make it mandatory, where are the teachers at? Where’s the teacher training?

Rene Martinez:     And then what do you do when the pushback happens? Do you change the curriculum or do you just like, you know?

Rene Martinez:     But I think we’re only beginning to feel what the implications are.

Curtis Acosta:      Yeah, I feel like, I felt this sense of end in the micro. Cause if we can’t escape the macro of where we’re at as a nation. What we did in the classroom is what we do everyday now. And we just do it in different ways. So it’s not like anything ended in that sense but this particular story has a beginning, a beautiful beginning. Has a beautiful growth period of us all growing together as maestros, and maestras, as friends, as compañeros. I mean we went from strangers to beyond any relationships that many people will ever understand because we were, for lack of a better word, we were in the fox hole together for a long, long time. And you just don’t give up on each other. And when you don’t give up on each other you create a different kind of bond, but it’s forever.

Sean Arce:     That’s why we do it, and we do it for our own personal children. On personal level, but the meaning behind it is for our entire community cause we know the history of our community. We know that anti-Mexican, anti-Raza, anti-Black, anti-different color in this country is real, man, and we engage in that. We stood up to that. And the reason why we did that is for our own children, but for all the children in our community.


Our Power is Our People: Melinda D. Anderson


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Who are you, where do you work, and why do you do what you do as an activist, organizer, and/or advocate for education justice, freedom, and liberation?

My outlook on education justice is most informed by my experiences as a mother. As an education writer I spend a lot of time documenting and commenting on racial injustices and inequities in public education—as the mother of a Black public school student, this matters to me personally. So as I read the research and listen to scholars and experts, it’s all filtered through the prism of a Black mom with a Black son in public schools.

Every time I see a reference to how some aspect of education “disproportionately affects Black students” I know my child is part of that data set. Suspending Black children at a higher rate for mostly minor offenses is the symptom of a racist and unjust system. It’s also a real thing that happens in public schools to students who look like my child. The importance of anti-racist, culturally-relevant curriculum and pedagogy moves from theoretical to concrete when I observe how my child responds positively to these practices in the classroom. Consequently, that drives me to push, prod, and pressure educators to change.

That was the impetus behind #CharlottesvilleCurriculum. It was rewarding to create the hashtag as a tool for crowdsourcing resources. Teachers were able to talk with their students about what occurred in Charlottesville, and also examine white supremacy more deeply. Some teachers don’t consider anti-racism relevant to their syllabus. But Charlottesville is a forceful reminder that we have to address these issues in the classroom. That’s how we energize students to disrupt and resist—and create an America that’s more equitable and just.
What are three things you love about what you do?

Basically, I get paid to talk to smart people, share their insights, and watch readers reflect and respond. I also intentionally seek out opportunities to share the expertise and experiences of youth of color, educators of color, and scholars of color. As an education journalist, I believe my most important job is to turn an ear to those who are seldom heard and amplify their voices. That’s how I can do the greatest service and the most good.

What keeps you up at night or worries you (we hope everyone gets healthy sleep, of course)?

Educators must be willing to have these difficult and thorny conversations about racism and social justice. Refusing to engage with these crucial issues is refusing to acknowledge the humanity of children in your classrooms. It’s denying what Black, Latinx, Native, LGBTQ, Muslim, disabled, immigrant, and other marginalized students live each day. In ways both overt and subtle, perceptions, stereotypes, and biases follow educators and students into the classroom and have enormous implications for children’s education. Following the murder of Mike Brown in Ferguson and the grand jury’s refusal to indict the police officer who killed him, I wrote a post titled, What Lessons Were Missing in Darren Wilson’s Classrooms? I felt it was necessary to probe what white children were learning—and not learning—in school that allowed a 28-year-old man to have such a shocking disregard for Black life and our humanity.

The current moment leaves me skeptical but hopeful about the prospect for change—with my hope bolstered by educators, activists, and organizers who vigorously challenge the dominant narratives and, to paraphrase social historian Dr. Lerone Bennett Jr., are revolutionaries in a system of oppression.
What misconception about education would you like to correct?

I want to see the words “achievement gap” placed in a box, encased in cement, and dropped into the depths of the deepest hole. The entire “achievement gap” conversation in education policymaking is anchored in the belief that Black children are deficient. And countless time, energy, and resources are spent trying to close this pervasive “gap” between Black children and the idealized student, otherwise known as white students. But who decided white achievement was the benchmark? Who determined what testing companies deem fundamental knowledge is the knowledge that Black children need to survive, thrive, and advance? It’s all a ruse, where the underachievement of white students compared to Asian students receives scarce attention, and the underachievement of Black children becomes the basis for charter schools, vouchers, and school closures—the core of education’s three-card monte game.

At Free Minds Free People in Baltimore in July, I was introduced to Freebrook Academy in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn, N.Y. It’s a community school where the educational foundation is built on culture, social justice, and independent and critical thinking. This is what schooling can be when our children are seen through the lens of liberation,  rather than viewed from a place of lacking.


Melinda D. Anderson is an education writer whose work has been published in The Washington Post, Vox Media, Ebony Magazine, and The Root. She is a frequent contributor to The Atlantic, where her reporting brings context to the complicated and critical topics of race and racism in education. Consequently, her thoughtful and thought-provoking writing is among the most-read on Education Channel.

Our people is our power: Cait Vaughan





  1. Who are you, where do you work, and why do you do what you do as an organizer for education activism?

I live and organize in Maine, where my fatherwas born & raised, though I grew up primarily in New Hampshire. I’m a white, cis, queer woman from a working poor family, survivor of childhood sexual & domestic violence, and the ‘one who got away’ and earned a degree. Importantly, I organize and engage in political education because of what Black mentors here in the Deep North taught me when I escaped to university. Particularly, I am referring to Black women cultural workers of NH, JerriAnne Boggis and Valerie Cunningham, who have worked tirelessly to tell the story of Black New England, to write themselves and their people into the public narrative, and wrest their stories away from white authorship, aggressive cultural amnesia, and distortion of public memory. The histories they amplified upended every story I’d ever been told about my own place in the world, what it means to ‘belong’ and who decides. They also hipped me to the inherently radical act of oppressed peoples declaring, We are here and we speak for ourselves. Their work blends public history and preservation efforts with education and activism that has literally changed the landscape of one of the whitest states in this country. They are shifting us towards a collective, multiracial reckoning with who New Englanders really were, are, and want to be. This type of education is public humanities, and it is also political as all get-out. JerriAnne and Valerie have shown me (and so many others) a blueprint of how to lead a life dedicated to liberation by doing the work where you live, and beginning by telling (often painful) truths in very public ways. Everything I do in the world is in some way fueled by the investment they made in their own dreams, and in my development directly; it is an honor to be in their debt.

With roots in the humanities, my daily organizing work focuses primarily on health care justice. I am a staff organizer for an indie abortion care provider that is constantly innovating to expand real access to poor people statewide. I work to connect ordinary folks (including young people) to opportunities to: support the clinics staying open; protect and advance their rights and access; engage in education initiatives about sex, sexual health, abortion & the reproductive justice movement; as well as learn from/with our communities about how we can be more a more relevant, accessible, and radical resource in this largely rural state. In my non-paid organizing life, I am also a member-leader of Maine’s Health Care is a Human Right campaign with the Southern Maine Workers’ Center. I am honored to serve with Survivor Speak USA, a survivor-led organization working to end sexual exploitation and sex trafficking in our state by addressing root causes of systemic racism and poverty. For the past 9 years, I’ve been lucky enough to do support work for JerriAnne Boggis in organizing the Annual Black New England Conference. The BNEC is a gathering for academics, artists, cultural workers, public intellectuals, organizers, educators, and students to learn about and honor the rich history and present of Black life in New England. I engage in other types of activism and organizing labor as local situations demand. At the moment, I’m working with statewide Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ) chapters to organize several canvasses in neighborhoods targeted by the KKK with recruitment propaganda. We have been called to support folks in these neighborhoods in organizing and community defense efforts to oust the Klan and move in solidarity with People of Color in Maine.  There is no shortage of work to be done here. There is a need for us all to be flexible, hold multi-faceted roles, and labor through ‘politically impure’ structures to keep the work going and growing.

  1. What five books have been essential to your formation as an education activist?

I’m going to cheat and specifically also name some essays and poems that profoundly shaped my thinking and action, and to which I relate as companions for life, returning to them over and over.

  • Poetry Is Not A Luxury // Poetry Makes Something Happen, Audre Lorde (different iterations exist across multiple publications with slightly different titles, including I Am Your Sister: Collected & Unpublished Writings of Audre Lorde, 2009)
  • Power, Audre Lorde (poem published in The Black Unicorn, 1978)
  • The Difficult Miracle of Black Poetry in America; Something Like A Sonnet for Phillis Wheatley, June Jordan (poem essay published in On Call: Political Essays, 1985)
  • Playing in the Dark: Whiteness & the Literary Imagination, Toni Morrison (Vintage Books, 1992)
  • The Erotic Life of Racism, Sharon P. Holland (Duke University Press, 2012)
  1. What are three things you love about what you do?
  2. What keeps you up at night or worries you (we hope everyone gets healthy sleep, of course)?

Learning for liberation is often painful. White people ought not to set the bar at what “feels good” but instead ask ourselves: Did we come here to genuinely move & be moved? Did this process show us something about how we got here, and how to go forward differently? I don’t think rounded edges do much in service of liberation; I’d love less certainty and more seeking. I worry that (my) white people are simultaneously too fragile and too destructive to do the work consistently and effectively, despite an embarrassment of riches when it comes to POC leadership. I am not hopeful, but I am resolute.

  1. What misconception about education would you like to correct?

While my parents and family were not schooled, they were very learned in the ways of supremacy. The workings of domination are pervasive, oppression is SMART, and we learn it via daily living. I knew very young that I wanted another way to be, and yet for the longest time, I had no models for finding or creating this within the world I knew. This is why the educational uses of lived experience must not be confined to the merely performative or illustrative (story telling) or as raw material for creating “real knowledge.” We can examine the rituals, rhythms and practices of our daily lives and explore how we came to know what we think is true, or to question it. How the mundane structures and institutions of our days instruct us to feel and move, and how we push against it or comply. We learn from what happens when we ‘break a rule’ no one explicitly outlined; and we cannot be the same after. I want us to honor the kitchen table talk of family life and survival as one of the deepest sources of education any of us receives. This is not anti-intellectual; it is asking for a recognition of all the thinking and seeing (or refusals to see) that we accomplish each day. It acknowledging that the structures we (re)create, inhabit, come into conflict with on a daily basis cumulatively result in a frightfully formal education. We are forever receiving instruction in the machinations and pathways of power—whether or not we learn is a question of collective, principled reckoning and relentless imagination.

Lastly, I want us to assume that poetry *is* a natural language, medium, and site of learning for poor and dispossessed people. I struggle sometimes to reconcile that I believe so deeply in learning through lived experience AND it is reading/poetry that led me to frame that experience in relation to things bigger than myself. If someone had not put a volume of poetry in my hands that included Audre Lorde’s “Who Said It Was Simple” when I was 16, how long might it have taken me to understand the violence of white feminism? Poor kids can read, write, and learn from poems—and we can come to see our own lives as poems we author, even/especially against great odds. We need the poetry of young people’s every day resistance. And I believe young people need to know that someone has been before where they are now, and wrote to them across time and space to say: You continue a beautiful struggle; write your name with what you do to be free in spite of all attempts to stop you.

Our Power is Our People: Connie Wun



Who are you, where do you work, and why do you do what you do as an organizer for education activism?

I’m a Vietnamese, feminist of color research scholar who ended up getting a Ph.D. in Education from UC Berkeley in 2014. I’m also the Founder and Director of Transformative Research, an institute that trains organizations and community groups in community-driven research and data analysis as well as works with agencies as a strategic partner on issues of racial/gender advocacy. In this capacity, I’ve worked with organizations such as Girls for Gender Equity in NYC and Monsoon: United Asian Women of Iowa to train their staff in community-driven qualitative research and data analysis. We’ve written and published reports and articles based upon our research for the purposes of community organizing, popular/political education, and advocacy. Through this work, I’ve also been asked to co-develop and facilitate local as well as national forums about the intersections of interpersonal, institutional/state, and structural violence for educators, students, community organizers, service providers, and policy advocates. I’ve recently been brought on by EducationTrust-West as an Education Equity fellow to help inform their work on racial and gender justice in education.

My current work is informed by my personal, political, and professional experiences. As a former Ethnic Studies and English high school teacher, advocate for sex workers, anti-sexual assault counselor, and community/student organizer, I hope to bring a particular lens to the field of education and educational settings. I think that because of my experiences and knowledge, I am acutely aware of racial and gender violence in its micro and macro forms. My political education began 20 years ago, when I attended the Asian Left Forum, Critical Resistance, and Color of Violence conferences and when I was a community advisor to the Prison Activist Resource Center. The education I received in these spaces from feminists of color and other radical scholar educators helped me to understand the things that I experienced as a first generation, poor-working class Vietnamese girl who was born in Oakland and raised throughout the Bay Area.

While I am fortunate to have had a handful of amazing high school teachers (including a white woman who helped me to fall in love with Toni Morrison and a Black male MacArthur Genius speech coach), it wasn’t until I was in these alternative educational settings that I became an active learner. In these spaces, I learned about the history of imperialism (its indefinite impacts upon myself and my family), the prison industrial complex and carceral state (their relationship to my communities and people I’d never meet), and complexities of intersectional violence (as they played out everywhere in my life). In time, I learned about how they were all connected.

My experiences with these various educational spaces informed my doctoral research on girls of color, violence and school discipline. They also informed how I understand the ways that racialized patriarchy plays out in K-16 education, namely the ways that mostly white liberal educators and some cis-gendered men of color scholars relate to cis, trans girls and women of color and our politics. I am acutely aware of the micro and macro aggressions that happen – consciously or unconsciously.

As an extension of this history and to pay it forward, I do this work because I am invested in the type of educational experiences and lessons that help more individuals to identify racialized gender violence as it structures society, its institutions, relationships, feelings, and politics. My work centers the experiences of cis and trans girls and women of color because I think we sit at the interstices of multiple forms of violence. And as Black feminist scholars and other women of color scholars have historically noted, our experiences with violence – including strategies for survival – can help others to understand violence much more complexly. It is these narratives and analyses that will help to develop more imaginative solutions or alternatives to the world that we have lived in and that exists as at the expense of communities of color. My goal is to help others to own our experiences with this world, to complicate and expand our understanding of its violence against our communities, and to galvanize support for our efforts to change things as they have been. It’s a lofty goal, but because of all the violence I’ve known, it is long overdue.

What five books have been essential to your formation as an education activist?

Anzaldúa, G. E. (1990). Making face, making soul: Creative and critical perspectives by feminists of color. San Francisco: Aunt Lute Books.

Fanon, F. (1963). The wretched of the earth. New York: Grove Press.

Hartman, S.(1997). Scenes of subjection. New York: Oxford.

James, J. (1996). Resisting state violence: Radicalism, gender, and race in U.S. culture. Minneapolis: University Minnesota Press.

Meiners, E. R. (2007). Right to be hostile: Schools, prisons, and the making of public enemies. New York: Routledge.

Richie, B. (2012). Arrested justice black women, violence, and America’s prison nation. New York: New York University Press.

What are three things you love about what you do?

I love that I get to teach people what I was teaching my undergraduate and graduate students, but outside of the academy and with the purposes of advocacy, community organizing, and political education.

I love that people I train, especially young women of color researchers, are enthusiastic about research and learning theory. It is especially amazing when researchers ask for more readings on topics such as criminalization and colonialism so that they can better understand their communities and the data they have collected on contemporary political and social issues.

Most recently, as a feminist of color scholar, I am thrilled that I am able to use my different resources to support important projects and organizations as they work against the carcerality of schooling in the U.S., gender based violence in their communities, and structural violence at large. When I was in graduate school, one my advisors asked if I was planning to be either an activist or a scholar. I think that I’m proud to say that I’m able to do both in this lifetime and with such amazing groups of people.

What misconception about education would you like to correct?

Education happens everywhere. It is a dynamic, vulnerable, and humbling experience. I don’t know if I’d correct anything about “education,” but I would challenge educators and students to feel as though good education is a creative process. It is an emotionally   challenging experience. It requires introspection and limited defenses. In order to learn, one should be able to feel safe enough to do so. In my experience as an educator and learner, students, especially those that have experienced violence, have to feel safe enough to not know before they (or we) can begin the journey of owning our own expertise and to learn from others. I believe that traditional U.S. educational institutions – which are structures and sites of violence for many, especially gender non-conforming, cis/trans Black and poor, working class non-Black girls of color – have a difficult time selling themselves as “safe spaces” for learning. It then becomes the objective of critical educators to own and display their own humility and vulnerabilities to their students – to genuinely lead by example and to welcome the growing expertise of their students (without romanticizing them). As responsible educators, we should be able to own what we know, support our students with what they know, encourage everyone to learn more, and be willing to not know anything. Hopefully, that gets us to a feminist of color educational praxis.


Legal victory for Ethnic Studies!

The core focus, mission, and practice of the education for liberation network is that through education, we can liberate ourselves from knowledge systems that erase and suppress for the purpose of domination.

As many know, the fight for ethnic studies has been a crucial expression of education for liberation. With its start in the 1960s on college campuses, ethnic studies is now a well-developed and integrated curricular and pedagogical endeavor in dozens of districts and states.

Predictably, though, this work to reconnect learning to the cultures of marginalized students brought backlash from the dominant culture. For the past six years, former and current students and teachers of Ethnic studies in Arizona have been battling in court systems and continuing the work of ethnic studies without the sanction of schools or district offices.

So, it is with tremendous joy that we share the wonderful news that a federal judge has preliminarily ruled that an Arizona law banning the teaching of ethnic studies violates students’ constitutional rights. The full decision and consequence for the ruling is still to be announced, but the ruling fully describes the racial animus behind and explicit in the Arizona law.

As network member Carla Shalaby wrote,

“This legal victory for ethnic studies in Tucson is a victory for all who believe young people deserve the teaching of their ancestors in our schools, the hearing and telling of their own stories, and the recognition of their particular place in our history and in our future.

It is also a reminder of the power of youth and educator activism, and I’m grateful to the teachers in Tucson who made their way to the courtroom after losing their classrooms in the unconstitutional ban of their courses.”

save ethnic studies

Carla also shared a link for the full decision – check it out.

Here’s the NPR story on the ruling and a previous story that details the racist legislation in Arizona.

And, following Carla’s lead, we’d also like tribute artist and cultural worker  Julio Salgado for the artwork that so clearly depicts the stakes.

Battling white supremacy requires many strategies. We are thrilled to join thousands in celebration of this important victory. And then we get right back to work.

In Lak Ech


Acting UP for Justice: FMFP in the Streets



On a hot Sunday, July 9, hundreds gathered in front of the Enoch Pratt Free Library, blocks away from Baltimore’s Patterson Park.

Like in many cities across the United States, we gathered because the park, embedded in Baltimore’s Latinx community, continues to be targeted by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids. We rallied because we oppose not only these raids, but like national organization Mijente, we know our neighborhoods are stronger and safer without policing, borders, immigration bans, and ICE raids.

Reminded of the importance of taking care of our people and called to action by Mama Victory, local organizer and the mother of Victorious Swift the 19-year-old Baltimore art student killed in March weeks before his graduation, we headed to the park.

Core local organizers, including fierce leadership by young Black and Brown folks with The Baltimore Algebra Project, led the chants, and the local and national participants marched with signs like ICE-FREE BALTIMORE, We are VICTORIOUS and NO ICE RAIDS IN OUR COMMUNITIES.

With a federal administration that continues to champion white supremacist policies — immigration bans and border walls — our political moment is like too many before. Resistance isn’t futile, rather across the country, it is our only pathway, together.

Also notable, this march was the first time, and hopefully not the last, that the Free Minds Free People gathering ended with an action, and with delicious cupcakes and cakes, made by the amazing Christina “V” Villarreal.


Celebrating the Life of Antonio Nieves Martinez

antonio huitzin .jpg



The Education for Liberation community joins many siblings across Turtle Island in grieving the loss of our beloved Antonio Nieves Martinez. Ed4Lib family member Patrick “Cam” Camangian wrote the loving tribute below.


Dear People’s Community, friends, colleagues, and allies,

In case you do not already know, it saddens me to share news about the untimely death of our good brother, committed comrade, loving community member, and dear friend in Antonio Nieves Martinez last Tuesday, July 11, 2017.  The People’s Education Movement was first conceptualized at a coffee shop meeting between Antonio, Carolina Valdez, and myself in Koreatown, Los Angeles in January 2013.  Through Carolina, his wife and exceptional educator, Jerica, and Antonio’s organizing efforts with other founding members in LA, People’s was established during a summer retreat in July 2013.  During this summer retreat, I was encouraged to organize People’s Education Movement, Bay Area with other like-minded educator-organizers.


Here is the Facebook announcement for the bay area celebration and memorial of Antonio’s life:  And here is the information for a gathering in NYC on July 26th.


Donations can be made here:


Antonio has long been involved in multiple community projects and coalition of educators, activists, community members, and researchers working towards liberatory education:  He was also a former council member of the Association of Raza Educators and board member of the Education for Liberation Network (EdLib).  Antonio’s commitments with both People’s and EdLib led him to take on leadership and committee roles for the Free Minds Free People (FMFP) national conferences held in Chicago in July 2013 and Oakland in July 2015. Before moving back to the SF Bay Area, Antonio and Jerica were engaged in establishing equitable, restorative educational spaces in the Holyoke community of Western Massachusetts.




As a scholar, Antonio studied the importance of teachers collectivizing to transform larger systemic issues undermining the humanity of people in culturally wealthy communities of color.  Through this work, Antonio helped further establish the importance of developing popular education programs to challenge some of the more colonial, deficit, and neoliberal narratives and practices reproduced in society.  Antonio argued why and showed how the concerns of students, families, community members, and critically conscious teachers should inform the type of education needed to transform dehumanizing social conditions. Antonio also took on leadership roles within the Critical Educators for Social Justice (CESJ), Special Interest Group for the American Educational Research Association. A colleague who worked closely with Antonio in this capacity said, “He was fiercely dedicated to social justice and supported CESJ however he could. In fact, much of the growth and more communal nature of the grad forum can be attributed to Antonio.”


Attached is a research article titled, “Solidarity with the People,” which he co-wrote with Carolina Valdez and another People’s founding member, Stephanie Cariaga.  Solidarity EEE


Thank you for your positive thoughts and prayers for Jerica, their wonderful daughter Huitzin, and Antonio’s family at this time of unimaginable loss.

In sincere community solidarity,

Patrick “Cam” Camangian