Obtained from Mas Bakersfield, posted by Matt Munoz on March 8, 2006
Heritage of America Educational & Cultural Foundation will host a free
screening of Walkout — an HBO Films docudrama based on a protest staged
in 1968 by a group of Mexican-Americans students in east Los Angeles — 7 p.m.,
Monday, March 13, at the Bakersfield Fox Theater.
Directed by Oscar-nominated actor, Edward James Olmos (Stand and Deliver; Mi Familia) and produced by Moctesuma Esparza — a real-life member of the actual student uprising — “Walkout” is the first movie of its kind on the subject.
“Walkout” is currently on a statewide screening tour with several scheduled stops before the film debuts on the HBO cable network March 18.
Its special preview showing here in Bakersfield is owed to a “group project” by students from Cal State Bakersfield; Bakersfield College; and Taft College, all actively involved in promoting cultural awareness, according to Jess Nieto, executive director for Heritage of America.
“We look for films that are compatible with our mission to educate,” Nieto said. “The screening of Walkout in Bakersfield is a continuation of that effort.”
The peaceful action against the alleged injustices of the east Los Angeles public school system began after a group of student mentors inspired their classmates to protest what they viewed as direct discrimination toward students of Mexican descent.
Some of the allegations made at the time included the denial of bathroom facilities to Mexican students at lunchtime and the restriction from speaking Spanish in the classroom.
As problems worsened, concerned students reportedly approached school authorities with their grievances, but believed they were ignored.
After numerous attempts to bring notice to their cause, support grew outside of the high schools and into colleges and the local community.
Beyond the high school unrest, Walkout also includes the story of the Brown Berets, comprised primarily of older students from local colleges and universities.
Inspired by the Black Panther movement of the same era, the Brown Berets were said to be instrumental in the organization of the high school protest, working as advisers to the students.
Similar to the “Black Power” movement in the African-American community, the student walkouts of 1968 are also credited as giving birth to the urban Chicano civil rights movement.
Staging simultaneous walkouts in five separate high schools in east LA, some students and members of the Brown Berets were ultimately arrested for their actions, but set free after students came to their aid and helped get the charges dropped. The group would be heroically named the “East LA 13.”
Esparza, who participated in the original student walkouts, was also a mentor to the students involved. His participation in getting the movie produced was 20 years in the making.
Seeing the movie project through to completion, Esparza described this experience as a “labor of love.”
Looking back on those turbulent and historical days, Esparza called the time as “a moment in which people took back their own power and there was a lot of emotion and joy.”
Of course, there was some inner conflict of sorts, according to Esparza.
“It was profoundly affecting to all of us back then, because the people that we had to break free from were our teachers, counselors and parents. These are the people that you ordinarily believe are there for you and inspire you,” Esparza said in a press release.
Olmos termed the walkouts a period of “education in America.”
“The key issue for the 1968 walkouts was that there was a real lack of cultural history being taught in the East LA school,” Olmos said in a press release.
“Basically, 70 to 90 percent of the children that lived in east LA and were going to school at the time were of Mexican-American descent, and knew very little about themselves.
“Even today, in the year 2006, they (students) still know very little about themselves.”
In addition to Olmos, “Walkout” also stars many of today’s most popular Latino actors, including Alexa Vega (Spy Kids, Sleepover); Michael Pena (Crash, Lords of Dogtown); Efren Ramirez (Napoleon Dynamite); Laura Elena Harring (Mulholland Drive); and Bodie Olmos, who portrays a young Moctesuma Esparza in the film.
Edward James Olmos and Esparza, along with some of the other actors from the film, plan to attend the Bakersfield screening of “Walkout,” according to the Heritage officials.
Beau Caballero, 37, a graduate student of education at Cal State Bakersfield, also plans to see the screening, saying he feels strongly about the struggles today’s younger generation often forget.
“It gives me a sense of pride,” said Caballero of the 1968 student walkouts. “To defy the very hand that feeds you is pretty incredible, and that’s what they did.”
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