On Monday, June 25, 2012, a remarkable coalition of librarians, writers, researchers, and thinkers came together to discuss the removal of educational materials and elimination of Mexican American Studies (MAS) classes in the Tucson (AZ) Unified School District (TUSD). This program — “Ethnic Studies Under Fire: The Role of Librarians, Publishers, Teachers, and Activists” — at ALA’s Annual Conference in Anaheim was co-sponsored by ALA’s Intellectual Freedom Committee, the Association of American Publishers, and REFORMA: The National Association to Promote Library and Information Services to Latinos and the Spanish-Speaking.
After an introduction by Barbara Jones, Director of ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom, Adriana McCleer, PhD student at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s School of Information Studies, laid a foundation for the session. McCleer provided a thorough overview of the history and events leading up to TUSD’s decision to suspend MAS classes and pull materials associated with that curriculum. Carmen Tafolla, Poet Laureate of the City of San Antonio, then gave a rousing and personal defense of the materials in question and the value to young people of seeing their lives reflected in literature.
Tony Diaz then inspired listeners with his story of the Librotraficante activist movement, which was responsible for smuggling 1,000 books across the Southwest and into Tucson to defy Arizona House Bill 2281. Finally, Oralia Garza de Cortes provided perspective from REFORMA on the targeting of ethnic studies materials and the important role that librarians have to play in supporting access to such materials. Attendees also heard from, Adelita Grijalva, the lone TUSD school board member to dissent in the board’s decision to eliminate the MAS program in compliance with state law.
Each speaker shared a passion and conviction for the issues that was truly contagious, generating whoops of affirmation and applause from the audience. We’re very pleased to share full video from the program below.
The discussion continues: OIF has committed to work with those interested in moving forward with this discussion. For instance, there will be a program on censorship of books by authors of colors at the Joint Conference of Librarians of Color in Kansas City in September. Both Jones and McCleer will be featured speakers on the panel. The program will be Thursday, September 20 at 11:00 a.m.
If you’re interested in being involved in this issue, please contact Barbara Jones at firstname.lastname@example.org.