Laureate of the Texas poet Lupe Mendez on Forbidden Books and Librotraficante

Ten years ago, in March 2012, a group of writers, artists, educators and activists came together to fight the deplorable actions of the Arizona state legislature. State lawmakers have recently passed a law banning the teaching of “ethnic studies” illegally, along with a ban on courses that “promote resentment against race or class of people” and “are intended primarily for students of a particular ethnic group.” The bill also created a list of banned books. Of the more than 80 books that were eventually added to the list, many authors were Black and Latinx.

Arizona laws were so restrictive that they brought news here in Texas, where we created Librotraficante A movement to draw attention to the attack on books, educators and education by “conservative” politicians. Librotraficante means “book smuggler,” and that’s what we did: collect books in Texas and “smuggle” them into Arizona, where the same titles were suddenly banned. We used all of our book nerd talents to create an old school freedom ride, assembled 35 bus drivers, and set out in a caravan to six cities: Houston, San Antonio, El Paso, Mesilly, Albuquerque, and Tucson. We have collected more than 1,000 copies of banned books in Arizona and distributed them to community libraries through volumes of books for Arizona high school students. The Librotraficante The movement was essential to give a voice to skin color students across the country.

Ten years later, you have this work to do. The attacks are now taking place right here in Lone Star State.

At the last legislative session, lawmakers approved Senate Bill 3, which banned the teaching of “critical race theory” in Texas classrooms. Gov. Greg Abbott and other Texas Republicans also called for a ban on books in the school library that could cause “discomfort” to students. Attorney Matt Krause, a Republican from Fort Worth, named 850 books he would like to remove from libraries. As in Arizona, the lists seem to target non-white and LGBTQ authors. This is clear: the Republican Party intends to deny children access to books, authors, and education that would accelerate their intellectual growth. And in an effort to satisfy their base, Republicans in Texas are pushing away one population that needs their attention the most: youth – and even more so – colored youth.

Lupe Mendez

The Republican attack on libraries and classrooms comes as the state’s demographic change continues to change. In the academic school year 2019-2020, Hispanic students accounted for the largest percentage of students enrolled in the state, at about 53 percent. White students made up only 27 percent of the student body; Black students accounted for 13 percent and Asian students for 5 percent. Every year, Texas schools are more diverse, but the same cannot be said of state legislation.

It is worth noting that at the same time that the legislature was preparing Senate Act 3, the body quietly shot down another law that could create a whole new set of opportunities for youth in Texas. House Act 1504, passed by Attorney General Christina Morales (D-Houston), would allow school districts to create an ethnic studies course as an alternative to world geography and world history courses. The bill did not create any mandates, but would give thousands of school districts across the state the opportunity to tailor course work to their specific student bodies. It was a beautifully fair bill that won both Republican and Democratic sponsors.

However, the bill could not survive the growing cultural wars of the state. In May, before his death, he was placed on the Senate’s deliberate calendar.

This brings us to the present. As for instructions on how to combat the new worrying events in Texas, I remember the last days of this year Librotraficante caravan. When we arrived in Tucson, where the school district closed a Mexican-American course, several of us were assigned to sort more than 1,000 books collected during the caravan. It was early in the morning – about 7:30 – when we noticed that a small group of teenagers came around. They approached quietly to see the books, some grabbing them and stepping back without a word. Later, the young lady grabbed the book and took it to the corner to read it.

As the day went on, the young lady returned with the words, “Thank you for giving me this moment. I was just about to finish this book on the day the district staff came to force us to pick up the books. ”After her years, the wise left us farewell advice:“ I want you to return to this book. Give it to someone else. I hope someone learns from this book. ”

As an educator and writer, these words were especially strong. If you can get a child to take a book they haven’t seen in three months, then read it like it’s a sacred text – hell, you’re witnessing all the good in education.

Now, 10 years later, I’m still and Librotraficante. And I’m ready to do it again.

David Berry

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