*Note: Many in the Church do not observe Lent on Sundays. For the sake of continuity in our devotional, we are including Sundays in our devotional schedule and counting them in our days of Lent.
Lord God, during this Lenten season, teach us to come before you in humility, lamenting the signs that your kingdom has not yet come in its fullness. Help us to acknowledge our finitude and failings, and guide us into a journey of remembering rightly, repenting honestly, and responding faithfully. We long for the coming of your mosaic kingdom in Jesus Christ, our Lord, and invite your Holy Spirit to lead us now.
THIS DAY IN HISTORY: MARCH 5, 1968
East L.A. Blowouts: Walking Out for Justice in the Classrooms
In late 1967, the Mexican American community rallied to combat the systemic injustice inherent to the East Los Angeles school system. At the time, students were forbidden from speaking Spanish in class or from using the restrooms during lunchtime. Schools taught a curriculum that largely ignored or denied Mexican-American history and Chicano students were steered toward menial labor and away from college by counselors and school officials. Mexican Americans had the highest high school dropout rate (60%) and lowest college attendance among any ethnic group. The poor facilities and constant underestimation of student capabilities by teachers created an atmosphere hostile to learning.
These oppressive conditions, coupled with the inability to make changes, compelled students, activists, and teachers to meet and discuss the situation. They decided that making their plight public was the best way to pressure the school board into compliance with their demands for education reform. Teacher Sal Castro, along with student leaders such as Paula Crisostomo, college students like Moctesuma Esparza, and groups such as United Mexican American Students (UMAS) and the Brown Berets, developed thirty-six demands to bring to the Board of Education. These goals included bilingual, bicultural education, Latino teachers and administrators, smaller class sizes, better facilities and the revision of textbooks to include Mexican American history.
On March 5, two thousand students walked out of Garfield High. They were met by policemen and an angry administration. The next day 2,700 students walked out carrying leaflets on education reform. They continued to walk out on the 7th and the 8th. Two student beatings were reported during the March 6 walkout at Roosevelt. On March 8, 10-15,000 students from the main five East LA schools held a 9 AM rally at Hazard Park. They carried signs reading “Chicano Power” and “Viva la Raza.”
After a week of protests, the LA Board of Education set a meeting for March 11. Chicano students, parents, professors, and community members formed the Educational Issues Coordinating Committee (EICC) as their representative voice. At the meeting, the EICC asked for amnesty for all students involved in the walkouts as well as a community meeting to discuss the needed education reform. The Board agreed and the students returned to school.
Many of the students who participated in the walkouts went on to successful careers in politics, academia and the arts. One of them was Antonio Villaraigosa–who later became the mayor of Los Angeles. Another was award-winning filmmaker Moctesuma Esparza, who was indicted for his role in organizing the walkouts and became the executive producer of a new HBO film about the 1968 protests entitled “Walkout.”
SCRIPTURAL REFLECTION: PSALM 34:15-18
15 The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,
and his ears are attentive to their cry;
16 but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil,
to blot out their name from the earth.
17 The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them;
he delivers them from all their troubles.
18 The Lord is close to the brokenhearted
and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
RESPONSE OF LAMENT AND CONFESSION: Please spend some time in personal response, crying out to God with prayers, poems, songs, or art that expresses your lament and confession. If you feel led, please share these responses with others, using #lentenlament #day5
You may close with the following:
Lord have mercy,
Christ have mercy,
Lord have mercy.
CLOSING PRAYER: UNITED FARM WORKERS PRAYER
Show me the suffering of the most miserable, so I may know my people’s plight.
Free me to pray for others, for you are present in every person.
Help me to take responsibility for my own life, so that I can be free at last.
Grant me courage to serve others, for in service there is true life.
Give me honesty and patience, so that I can work with other workers.
Bring forth song and celebration, so that the Spirit will be alive among us.
Let the Spirit flourish and grow, so that we will never tire of the struggle.
Let us remember those who have died for justice, for they have given us life.
Help us love even those who hate us, so we can change the world.
-From the National Farm Worker Ministry website