Last night the Chicano community lost Reies Lopez Tijerina, someone who I only know from alternative history books to have rubbed elbows with Cesar Chavez and Corky Gonzalez. As with Chicana Role Model, Michele Serros, I’m learning more about him now that he’s gone.
“Tijerina was known internationally for his research and political activism on behalf of land owners in northern New Mexico that wanted to recuperate land lost in violation of the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. His mercurial appearance on stage at the 1972 Raza Unida Party National Convention in the El Paso County Coliseum is considered a milestone in national and Texas politics, the birth of an American ethnic political party.” Dennis Bixler-Márquez, UT El Paso
This moment and an interaction with Sean JS Jordan, whose family connects to Tijerina’s work, made me think about some videos that I’ve been meaning to share with you all for over a year. They’re from Summer of 2013, when Brave New Voices was held in Chicago and I first came onboard the BNV train.
“Some people think I’m dead but the spirit of the cause still excites me… Nobody can erase my story.” – Reies Lopez Tijerina
BNV 2013 Finals: Albuquerque, NM
They may not have won medals that year but they certainly annexed my heart. The way this team carried themselves from the beginning of the competition inspired me. After the first round, shooters from the Online Crew were talking about a line in their Border poem: “The border is a color-coated revolving door that only moves in one direction”
Their poems are even more poignant now that some time’s passed. These are the four poems that they brought to the finals:
Rd1: School to Prison Pipeline
“It’s cheaper to hire guards than teachers – Put pencils in our hands so we don’t need guns”
Rd2: White Privilege
“Don’t let your inheritance be one of ignorance – We cordially invite you to join us. There’s plenty of room”
Rd3: The Border
“We are the children and grandchildren of mothers and grandmothers that managed to slip past the radar.”
Rd4: Drug Addiction
“Every penny I saved for college had been crushed and snorted – I was never a good enough reason to stop feeling the high and start feeling the pain”
These Brave New Voices spoke real truths and fought demons that many of us still can’t face today. I weep at the weight of the burdens they carry but find immense hope at how strong they are in the face of those challenges. I was back stage for this competition, collecting footage from the different crews that were in the audience.
It was an honor to watch them compete from my vantage point. When they walked off stage after bearing their souls about the pain that drug addiction is inflicting on their household and communities, I watched them collapse into each other arms and hold each other up. Neither of them had the strength to stand on their own but the three of them got each other through the pain of bearing their souls.
I want to end this post by saying that I feel that same love from the kind souls that have contributed to My Father’s Knee. Your support helps me take ownership of my own narrative, and follow the path of Chicano leaders like Michele Serros, Reies Lopez Tijerina and Team Albuquerque.