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Intergenerational Empowerment: Chicanas and the East LA Walkouts

In this reflection piece, our graduate researcher and PhD Student in the department of of American Studies and Ethnicity at USC, Cassandra Flores-Montano, reflects on her visit to the Boyle Heights Museum and how it has inspired her research.

Cassandra Flores-Montaño and Sophia Garcia visiting the Boyle Heights Museum for the first time on May 20, 2018.

My research on the Chicano Movement began as an undergraduate student at Wellesley College, in Boston, MA. Learning about the Walkouts that were led by high school and college-age students inspired me to become a student activist on my own college campus. I also tried to learn as much as I could about the people involved in the East L.A. Walkouts and attempted to write their stories. I could only learn so much about the Walkouts while working in Boston and knew that I needed to be in L.A. to learn more about the critical history of the Walkouts. When I first found out about the Boyle Heights Museum, the exhibit being featured at the time was titled, “Student Power: Walking Out For Justice Since 1968,” and I couldn’t believe my luck! My interests in the Walkouts and the Chicano Movement was mostly about the critical role that women and girls played in facilitating important events and efforts. The Boyle Heights Museum dedicated an event to this important history and enduring legacy of women and girls’ activism and commitment to improvising the social and political conditions of Mexicans, Mexican Americans, and Latinos in their communities. An intergenerational panel dialogue between women who were important activists during the Walkouts and high-school-age girls who were currently active in their communities was eye-opening. As we know, some of the issues regarding educational inequality and discrimination have endured. However, the current actions of the youth have proved that the flame of fighting for what is right and just continues to burn brightly. Activists from the previous generation have paved the way for younger generations to continue the struggle for equitable systems of education in their communities and the younger generations have built on those efforts and include issues of sexuality, immigration, and activism around undocumented issues at the center of their political platforms. After attending this event and learning from the exhibit, I knew that I wanted to be a part of a team that shared and uplifted the voice of women, girls, and activists from the Chicano Movement era and the present times.

Now, a year and a half later, since this panel and exhibit, I have joined the research team at the Boyle Heights Museum. I’ve learned that while the museum is primarily concerned with telling important histories, the museum is also always looking into the future. In the age of enduring racism, xenophobia, gentrification COVID, BLM, and many other social issues, we recognize that our work is important to preserving community histories and also encouraging ongoing community empowerment.

~ Cassandra

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