MALCS Institute joins Arizona boycott

Mujeres Activas en Letras y Cambio Social (MALCS) condemns Arizona’s SB 1070, “Immigration; law enforcement; safe neighborhoods,” signed into law by Governor Jan Brewer on April 23, 2010. We join with the many academic, research, and activist organizations that have called for a targeted boycott of Arizona as a protest to this repressive and unconstitutional piece of legislation.

For the first time in its 24-year history, the MALCS Summer Institute was to be held in Arizona. It was scheduled for July 21-24 and organized by Arizona State University. After deliberating about the implications of the law with our members and receiving an appropriate response from them, we have decided the following.

MALCS joins the targeted boycott of Arizona and will not hold the 2010 MALCS Summer Institute as planned.

Instead, conference planners at ASU will proceed with a statewide conference to address the significant issues of human, women’s, LGBT rights violations, repression, and harassment facing Chicana, Latina, and Native people in Arizona.

The national organization will seek an alternative date and site for its next institute.

The national organization encourages all to take concrete action in support of the activists, academics, and artists in Arizona resisting SB 1070 and work to prevent similar legislation in other states.

This dual action by MALCS—to join the targeted boycott of Arizona and to support the activists—is an extension of our organization’s history of activism. MALCS, made up of Chicana, Latina, and Native American activists, scholars and artists from all across the country, proudly claims our record of activism for social justice. We have supported the action of the students and youth who have protested with sit-ins and marches; we have participated in the marches and rallies across the nation; in our communities, schools and campuses, we have been active proponents for fair and just immigration reform legislation.

We pay tribute to the members of the Arizona Site Committee and other activists for their persistent work at the forefront for social justice. In addition to dealing with anti-immigrant hysteria, activists have been involved in a relentless cultural war involving Arizona schools. Over the past few years, they have had to defend Tucson Unified School District’s Raza Studies program. One week after the anti-immigrant bill was passed, HB 2281, which calls for eliminating ethnic studies, was also legislated.

The ASU Site Executive Committee has been diligently working for the past 10 months organizing the Summer Institute. The co-chairs and members of the site committee raised $15,000, planned the plenaries, and instituted a program track for youth. The theme of the Institute “Derechos Humanos: (Re)Claiming Our Dreams Across Contested Terrains” articulated the interrelationship between human rights and the urgent need to reclaim contested terrains and Indigenous homelands in light of the ongoing anti-immigrant and xenophobic legislation in the state. The site committee recognized that dreams in our communities all too often go unrealized. The paucity of economic security compounded by limited access to education, health care, urban survival, and civil rights was a call to reflect, theorize, and organize to challenge the powers and inequalities prevailing in our communities and institutions. By contested terrains, the site committee acknowledged the embattled contradictory borders and spaces of our everyday livs in geographical, spiritual, ideological, epistemological, political, and cultural arenas. In doing so, they claimed their rights to dream, and to instill those dreams in our loved ones and to honor the dreams of those who preceded us. In order to fully learn from each other, they instituted a youth track to inspire and forge cross-generational ties. In the spirit of this institute they invited scholars, activists, cultural workers, artists, students, and community members to join then in envisioning the possibilities and actualizing social change. In short, ASU site committee members, fully aware of Arizona politics, were already set to challenge the anti-Latina/o and Indigenous climate in Arizona.

In this national economic climate of budget cuts and the loss of jobs, at a time when Wall Street must account for its deeds, the anti-human-rights legislation of SB 1070 illustrates a historical pathology of targeting immigrants who are used as scapegoats during national economic crisis. Even worse, other state representatives across the country have stated that they will introduce similar legislation in their respective states.

U.S. Congressman Raul Grijalva has called for a nationwide and international economic boycott of the state of Arizona. This boycott is directed towards corporations, tourism, major economic activity in the state and the state government. It calls on organizations to refrain from choosing Arizona as a convention or meeting site, etc. At another critical moment in history, Cesar Chavez, leader of the United Farm Workers, considered the process and product of the social action in response to injustice, he stated:

My major concern is not this particular Arizona law…. My concern is the spirit of fear that lies behind such laws in the hearts of growers and legislators across the country. Somehow these powerful men and women must be helped to realize that there is nothing to fear from treating their workers as fellow human beings. We do not seek to destroy the growers. We only wish an opportunity to organize our union and to work nonviolently to bring a new day of hope and justice to the farm workers of our country. It is long overdue and surely it is not too much to ask. Justice for farmworkers is our only goal; it is the goal of our nonviolent lettuce boycott. Will you help us by making a commitment not to eat or buy lettuce. This is a small sacrifice that can bring a great change for migrant farm workers. I ask for your prayers and your continued help in our struggle.”

His letter, written in 1972, was entitled “Do We Exist?” It underscored the complexity before all human rights activists when assessing tactics and strategies. MALCS members believe that we must send a message to the state of Arizona: we will not spend our time and money to support a state that enacts such repressive measures. With approximately 300 members attending the institute, Arizona will lose about $300,000 in revenue from MALCS members. At the same time, we want to send a message to our colleagues in Arizona: we will continue to support your efforts for social justice. We recognize that national figures such as Shakira, Al Sharpton, Danny Glover, and Jesse Jackson have traveled to Arizona to join local activists in the fight against SB 1070. As democratic movement organizers call for action on the ground floor, MALCS will continue to develop nationwide strategies to support them. We are calling on all members to support the National Day of Action Against SB 1070.

Finally, in our commitment to social justice and women’s rights and to counter similar legislation in other states, MALCS will work with organizers in any state that passes legislation or ballot propositions that promote xenophobia, homophobia, sexism, racism, and classism.

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