Grace Kelley|Students for a Democratic Society – U of MN- TC
I first met Carlos Montes at the National “They Say Cut Back, We Say
Fight Back” Conference in October of 2009. After hearing him speak at
the RNC protest in 2008, I was excited to meet one of the co-founders
of the Brown Berets. As a student activist for education rights, it
was inspiring to meet a leader who played a big part in the Chicano
education rights movement. But what was even more inspiring was
learning that he continues to fight for education rights and many,
many other social justice issues in L.A. today. I was proud to be
fighting along side him for the right to an education for all.
I ran into Carlos again in July of 2010, at the massive protest of
SB1070 in Phoenix. I was still a little star-struck, and was pleased
to help Carlos with whatever he asked me to do. I found that Carlos
does not have any ego about the role that he has played in history; on
the contrary, he is quick to praise the work of others, and to
encourage younger and less experienced activists to keep fighting. He
made the four SDSers from Minneapolis feel welcome and included by
introducing us to all of the wonderfully brave organizers in Phoenix.
He also is very considerate, as I found out when he took one look at
my beet-red face around noon on July 29th and directed me to the
closest air conditioned public building. I am used to protesting in
arctic temperatures, not 110 degree asphalt deserts, and it was very
nice of Carlos to help me avoid fainting from heat stroke.
It is easy as a student activist to look around and see the legacy of
the movements that Carlos has helped to lead. Last year, SDS and La
Raza Student Cultural Center hosted a screening of the film “Walk
Out,” at the U of M. The movie depicts the famous walk outs in LA in
the 60’s, walk outs that Carlos and the Brown Berets helped organize.
Those walk outs kicked off a Chicano movement that has absolutely
impacted this country, and even though we are seeing a push back in
the form of English-only laws, attacks on cultural studies
departments, and SB1070s, the work that Montes and other Chicano
leaders did a generation ago lays the foundation for activists
fighting for justice today.
We have much to learn from Carlos, including how to make the
connection between oppression here at home and U.S. imperialism
abroad. During the Vietnam war, Carlos connected the anti-war movement
to the Chicano struggle. Why should young Latino men fight for the
U.S. military when their communities and families are brutalized by
U.S. police officers everyday? Why is the U.S. spending our tax
dollars bombing other countries when we need that money for housing
and jobs and educations here at home? As our country continues to wage
war several decades later, the activists of my generation continue to
make these connections. We have a right and a responsibility to stand
up to the hypocrisy and the greed and the cruelty of our government.
But now, it seems, that right is under attack. We need to defend
Carlos, not only because he has taught us so much, but also because in
defending Carlos, we are defending ourselves. We are defending our own
rights as activists who speak truth to power. We are defending our
rights as activists to associate with other activists without having
the FBI break down our door. We must defend Carlos not only because
that is absolutely the right thing to do, but also because, in
standing up for Carlos, we are standing up for our movements and for
the rights of us all.