Recent Presentations and Articles

The Age of Trump and the Rise of Authoritarianism

I like the title of this conference, flirting with Fascism, because what is happening in this country right now – has some vestiges of fascism – although this is not a settled question.  We still have democratic forms and some democratic rights – that we must use to advance a more just and democratic society.  However, what are some of these vestiges?

There is a form of authoritarianism that has emerged where power is at the top – decisions are made – and we feel powerless to do anything about it.  This is an authoritarianism that focuses on specific issues that raise emotions and have no context other than to benefit those in power, the wealthy – confuse working people – and divide our movements.   This authoritarianism threatens what vestiges are left of democratic institutions and social movements in our society.  The term democracy is thrown around and used by the Trump administration and the alt-right to advance policies based on quantity of profit over quality of life.  There are many, such a Noam Chomsky – who I agree with – that what is being promoted as democracy – is now presented in the realm of an authoritarian top-down government and state – where we have a never-ending war, more power being given to corporations, manipulation of the media, an increase in repression, and policies of racism, sexism, homophobia, etc. – to foment division.  These are blatant Policies that are aimed at blaming the problems in the economy on immigrants, women, and working people – to blame the problems on them – and advance an ideology that the problems will be solved if their power is diminished, if they are incarcerated, kept from voting, and deported.  This authoritarianism lives off of the politics of resentment, alienation, frustration, anger and fear. It is here especially – where the economic problems of working people – who are angry at their conditions – are used, much like they were used in Germany against Jewish people – to scapegoat and to dehumanize.  It involves power – controlling the power of the state and to violate all principles in ensuring that power.

An emphasis on the quantity of profit over quality of life has led to what I call a form of genocide to make sure that our potential power is scattered and decapitated – through deregulating and allowing corporations to spew chemicals in the air that result in more of us dying (particularly in people of color and low-income communities); through the cutting of our  health care; through incarcerating us (we have more African Americans in jail now – than we had in slavery) and keeping us from voting through gutting the voting rights act and unjust gerrymandering – and of course through increased enforcement, deportation, and limits on asylum of our immigrant young people, families, and refugees.  This authoritarianism is waging a war against our communities – and particularly those who have been in the forefront of any gains made in civil, human, and environmental rights in the last decades.  This authoritarianism is using deficits in the economy to cut Medicare, Medicaid, – to threaten social security – and ensures that the power over the future of our health stays in the hands of the profit-making health and drug industry.

We have the Alt-Right, the Bannons, the Rockford Institute, the neo-conservative movements in this country who promote white supremacist,racial-nationalist and neo-fascist ideologies —  who push a deregulated free enterprise system, more funding for the military, and stand against anything that promotes a system based on equality.  This is an authoritarianism that has allowed for the privatization of our economy and institutions to run rampant  – that has resulted in more of our people in debt – and remaining on the margins – with the result of creating a foundation of anger among working people – allowing for a politics of scapegoating.

It is a form that, rather than advancing spaces and places of a more just and equal world – is seeking to destroy our educational institutions, our unions – our research and science – to foment a politics of individualism and ignorance about global warming and the economy.

This authoritarianism promotes an unregulated economic system where corporations rule –  where the needs of our communities are put aside for the priorities of profit-making interests – and advances a form of neoliberalism that places emphasis on privatization and consumerism – with the outcome of destroying any ideology that truly builds a collective community or engages in practices for the collective good.

To combat this authoritarianism – we need a program that transforms power at the top – that abolishes  a structure that allows the wealthy, the corporations, and businesses to manipulate the tax system in their favor; that reverses banking concentration and supports a system of decentralized community accountable banks and credit unions – that combats unjust  gerrymandering, abolishes the electoral college, moves toward a form of proportional representation and builds a social movement in support of a living wage; health care with universal coverage; accessibility for everyone to a quality education;  a guaranteed basic income; investment in pre-school, k-12, and higher education; public financing of elections; and trade agreements that ensure environmental and labor standards.

Jose Zapata Calderon

Emeritus Professor of Sociology and Chicano/a and Latino/a Studies

1050 North Mills Avenue

Claremont, CA 91711-6101

(909) 952-1640




No Ban, No Wall Rally Video



Being Able to Elect Candidates is Not Enough

Pomona now is comprised entirely of Latino and Latina representatives on the council.  This is in a city that is 70% Latino, 10% Black, and 7% Asian Pacific Islanders. While, on the one hand, this is historic – on the other, it does not mean the interests of our communities will be fully represented.  While it is important to elect Latino/a candidates to positions where they can wield some political power, there is also the necessity of our community-based organizations ensuring that they will represent the issues that our communities are most concerned about – and that these representatives truly represent the needs of quality jobs, health care, education, environment, and community development.  In Pomona, although the council is now fully comprised of Latinos and Latinas, there is the example of Ginna Escobar who voted against a resolution opposing immigration raids, supporting the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, calling for imposing a moratorium on immigration raids, and calling for all city employees to not collaborate in enforcing federal civil immigration laws.  Another Latina councilmember, Adriana Robledo, abstained on the resolution.  Hence, electing Latinos and Latinas to political positions does not mean that they will represent the interests of our communities.  It is a step forward to register our people to vote and to get them to vote – but this has to be coupled with collaborative educational efforts which focus on the issues in our communities and what is in their interests.  Otherwise, Latinos/as can be elected that represent their own interests or those of power elites, such as greedy developers, whose interests are in the quantity of profit and not in the quality of life.  It is important for our communities to continue to be organized after the elections to ensure that the individuals that they elect are held accountable – and use their growing power of the vote to vote them out when they clearly are not representing the interests of our communities. 

Nevertheless, the election of a new mayor, Tim Sandoval and new city councilmembers Rubio Ramiro Gonzalez, Elizabeth Ontiveros-Cole, and Robert Torres is historic.  There was a time when, although the city had a majority of Latino/a people in the city, there was little representation from this community.  Back in 1990, after law suits were filed by the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund and the Southwest Voter Registration Project, Pomona residents voted to scrap citywide elections in favor of single-member districts to bolster minority representation, to facilitate more direct communication between the voters and their representatives, and to reduce the costs of running for city council seats.  The voters voted in this way, also to stop the reality that, although Pomona had changed demographically to over 50% in ethnic minorities in the city, only two members of racial or ethnic minorities, up until 1986, had ever been elected to the council in the city’s 99-year history.  Now, in recent years, we have seen the results of the voters’ decision in 1990 – as we have seen a diversity of city council candidates and elected city council members – and for the first time an all-Latino/a city council.  At the same time – why this has been possible is that candidates have been able to run from a district that they live in and not at-large.  The possibilities are stronger now, with strong community-based organizing, to have candidates who are closer to the issues that represent the people that they vow to represent, and that can be held accountable.  This is the challenge in the coming years in Pomona. 

Jose Zapata Calderon

Emeritus Professor of Sociology and Chicano/a and Latino/a Studies

1050 North Mills Avenue

Claremont, CA 91711-6101

(909) 952-1640





NOVIEMBRE 2, 2016 –


Me acuerdo de Gerardo, David, Don Luis –

Y todo los obstaculos que confrontaron —

El dolor que tenian en sus ultimos dias –

y verdaderamente –

Yo, como ustededs, no sabia que hacer.

Pero siempre – habia un sentimiento de

Sobrevivir todos obstaculos para hallar

Un espacio de unidad en este centro –

Que para todos de nosotros a venido a

Ser nuestro domicilio – nuestro santuario.

Gerardo, david, Don Luis apresiaban este centro con todo

Sus corazones – y lucharon por este centro

En las oficinas del concilio – En las juntas para asegurar

Que no lo cerraran.

En un tiempo – Gerardo, David, y Don Luis – eran parte de las juntas

De trabajadores – participaban con los estudiantes en los Encuentros

Y eran parte de varios proyectos con los estudiantes.

Me acuerdo que ellos se llenaba con tanta alegria cuando

Participaban con los proyectos de los estudiantes.

Ellos eran quienes somos – personas luchando para mejorar la vida –

Mientras que la ferocidad de la economia nos ataca en modos

Que ultimamente afecta nuestra salud.

Todo lo que tenemos – es uno a otros – y muchas veces

Yo se que este centro es mas que un espacio para buscar

Trabajo – Para Gerardo, David, Don Luis y muchos otros – a sido – amistad,

A sido un abrazo – a sido una fiesta cuando no hubiera navidad

O dia de gracia – a sido – y es lo que quiere decir familia.

Me duele mucho que no pude hacer mas para estos amigos –

Y a veces nos perdemos en tantas otras problemas – que nuestros

Amigos nos pasan – y a veces estamos ciegos –

Pero en lo ultimo – hacemos lo que podemos para sobrevivir –

Y nos acordamos unos a otros.

El acuerdo de Gerardo, David, Don Luis esta aqui en el centro – que continua

A sobrevivir por lo que contribuimos – y por lo que todos ustedes

Han contribuido y continuan a contribuir.

Yo se que Gerardo, david, y Don Luis quisieran que los acordaramos como los estamos

Acrodando hoy – Y yo se que ellos quisieran que los acordaramos en

Continuar la lucha – para que otros no tengan que sufrir –

Y para que el inmigrante que a dado tanto de su sudor para esta nacion

Pueda algun dia recibir la justicia y igualdad que merece.

Nos acordamos de Gerardo, david, y Don Luis hoy – y nos cometemos a continuar

Lo que este es este espacio – un santuario – un abrazo – una amistad

Un Esfuerzo para el futuro – y mas de todo – una familia.

Gerardo, David, y Don Luis y todos Jornaleros que viven en nuestras memorias – hoy y siempre – somos tu Familia.

Pomona Valley Hospital Workers Support Statement

by Jose Calderon
October 19, 2016

I am here today, as President of the Latina and Latino Roundtable of the San Gabriel and Pomona Valley, an Emeritus Professor at Pitzer College – and one who has known about Pomona Valley Hospital and the high quality of work by the service and technical workers – because I have been a patient here.  I am here – we are all here — to support these workers. We are calling on Pomona Valley Hospital to show the same commitment to patients as the people who directly care for them. What does this mean? It means respecting the workers’ decision to unite in a union.

-As many of you know,  I am a strong union and labor supporter and I have always supported the workers at Pomona Valley Hospital. I was here in 2001 in support of the nurses when the same tactics being used today were used against our nurses. We won then – and we will win now! Recently, I was dismayed when Pomona Valley Hospital Medical Center workers and community members informed me about the recent union election at the hospital where Over 1,100 service and technical workers won a union election in January to join SEIU-United Healthcare Workers-West (SE-UHW).

-On the one hand, I was so glad to hear about the National Labor Relations Board ruling that a majority of workers – that were eligible to vote at Pomona Valley Hospital Medical Center – voted for the SEIU-UHW in a fair and democratic election.  This was a big victory” On the other, I was dismayed to learn that  the CEO decided to file “exceptions” with the NLRB’s Regional Director in order to delay the NLRB from certifying the election results and, consequently, preventing the workers from joining the Union.   As many of you know, I come from a long history of supporting the unionization efforts of the United Farm Worker’s Union and I am well aware of how these types of tactics result in long delays with the intention of outlasting the wish of the workers.   It is my strong view that   Pomona Valley Hospital Medical Center’s full attention and resources should be focused on its patient care and not on legal tactics aimed at delaying the SEIU-UHW from representing workers.

-In these critical times, it seems that Pomona Valley is more interested in increasing executive pay than doing what is best for the staff and patients. The CEO is paid $1.7 Million – which is far more than CEO’s who run larger hospitals. And this – in Pomona where the median household income is $49,000 per year.

-In light of this, – today – we call on the CEO and top management to work with our service and technical workers – and not against them – to treat them with dignity and respect with a contract that treats them fairly and recognizes their contributions to quality care.

-Today, we call on Pomona Valley Hospital to stop using union-busting tactics and sit down and negotiate a contract that helps the patients, our workers, and our community. We know that when management and employees work together – the patients win, our diverse communities win – we all win. Now is the time for Pomona Valley Hospital management to honor the contributions of our workers here in a win-win direction – in respecting their vote — that will continue to sustain the best patient care – and ensure, in the long-term the retention and attraction of the best staff. Brothers, and sisters – what do we want? A union contract? When do we want it? Now.

Theory to Practice in Community Engagement

I have been deeply thinking about the meaning of the connections between theory and practice, teaching and learning as it connects to our continued efforts to connect the academic with pedagogy, research, and community-based organizing for social change (see my book Lessons from an Activist Intellectual). Some recent books which directly connect to this thinking include: On Intellectual Activism by Patricia Hill Collins (which directly applies to my history of connecting the issues of race, class, and gender to Public Sociology); Community Gardening as Social Activism by Claire Nettle (which directly connects to my practice of creating collective quality of life spaces as examples of the kind of local/global world we can help create); Publicly Engaged Scholars by Margaret A. Post, Elaine Ward, Nicholas V. Long, and John Saltmarsh   Liberating Service Learning by Randy Stoecker. The theories and practices in these books are something that I would like to build on to help further the thinking, scholarship, and practice of campus/community engagement for social change. Indeed, the commonality of these works is that they are all seeking new and visionary strategies for social change. All have in common a critique of service learning models based on mere service, charity, or dependence. Patricia Hill Collins focuses on two primary strategies. One that “speaks the truth to power” which harnesses the power of ideas toward the specific goal of confronting existing power relations” and a second strategy of speaking “the truth directly to the people” – one that argues “that ordinary everyday people need truthful ideas that will assist them in their everyday lives.” The others have in common – how to move from diagnosing and theory to actual implementation of concrete new models for social change. Both Liberating Service Learning and Publicly Engaged Scholars critique the practices in academia that have a tendency to implement a practice of market driven privatization. In Publicly Engaged Scholars, the authors argue that “higher education became viewed as a private benefit” where “education became part of the commodification of everything and its larger democratic and social goals were either discarded or redefined in market terms.” It included “relentless attachment to privatization and the destruction of an ethical and relational public – undermining the civic commitments of the movement.” Liberating Service Learning agrees with this perspective that institutionalized service learning “feeds into neoliberalism by promoting the belief that, since individuals all have assets, all they have to do is mobilize those assets and they will be successful in life.” Lacking a critique of the social structure, this perspective proposes that these types of practices result in the destruction of collectivities and turns the “consumer and person-turned-into-capital open to the … market persuaders that manufacture reality in the quest for market share.” All these authors have the commonality of which our work in connecting theory to practice should strive for: structural social change and the creation of spaces and places where community-based engagement is democratic, raises consciousness, builds collective leadership alongside our diverse communities, and results in collective quality of life outcomes.


Presentation by Jose Zapata Calderon

NAACP—Sponsored Forum and Candle Light Vigil in Solidarity With Family and Friends in Louisiana and Minnesota

Madedonia Baptist Church in Pomona, CA
July 8th, 2016

We are all here, as we have gathered before, to reflect – and to continue our work to stop the senseless violence in our communities. We cannot, for one moment, put aside the conditions in this country – and those who use these conditions to spread fear, hatred, negative stereotypes, and hostility. These conditions include the state of the ECONOMY, growing demographic changes — conditions that are forcing our diverse communities to compete, rather than collaborate, for the diminishing resources in health, education, employment, and quality of life. With an increasing global society — it is easy to scapegoat the most vulnerable among us and create anger toward our increasingly diverse communities.

We are all here today – remembering the lives of Alton Sterling in Louisiana and Philando Castil in Minnesota – two African American men whose deaths once again bring to light the issue – that more than 500 people have been killed by police in 2016 – and that racial profiling and excessive use of force are on the upswing.

We are also here to reflect on what happened in Dallas – and that a peaceful demonstration was turned into a stage of violence – with the media tending to blame “the Black Lives Matter” movement – when the violent acts were clearly carried out by individuals who had nothing to do with this movement. As we have said in the past, there is a foundation to the anger and frustration in our communities – but it is important not to take this anger out on one’s self, or on others (particularly those close to us in our communities) – but we need to turn frustration into organizing to change the conditions which are creating our anger.

It is no accident that we have an increase in hate crimes. When presidential candidates, such as Trump use the frustration of working people with the economy – to call for a ban on Muslims’ entry to the U. S. and targets Mexican and Latino people – and influences public attitude with the help of the news media — to call for the deportation of the eleven million undocumented — and force Mexico to fund a wall to keep them out – there is a direction being promoted here that targets specific groups as a threat to national security – and influences public opinion – (with 25% approving of such policies as religious profiling, surveillance, special ID’s, and incarceration).

There is no getting around the issues of poverty and race in our communities – and the problems of crime, violence, substandard housing, unemployment, lack of jobs, and environmental degradation. Mass deportations and mass incarcerations have been expanding to unconscionable levels in recent years – leading to separation of families – children left without parents – poverty, unemployment, homelessness – in our communities. We do have to change the stereotypical media portrayal of our Muslim and people of color communities. We do have to change the reality of a renewed form of racial segregation, profiling, and criminalization of our communities. We do have to take concrete steps such as those proposed in a report by the Center for Popular Democracy and Policy Link titled Building From the Ground Up: A Toolkit for Promoting Justice in Policing:

  1. Stop criminalizing everything: de-prioritize enforcing and prosecuting low-level offenses.
  2. Stop using poor people to fatten city budgets.
  3. Kick ICE out of your city. The report suggests that cities sever ties between ICE and local police department. ICE should not be able to request these holds. Nor should they have access to the address and names of family members of people detained by local police.
  4. Treat addicts and mentally ill people like they need help, not jail. Some issue – like acting erratically due to mental illness or possessing and using drugs due to addiction – are actually better served by medical attention, not incarceration.
  5. Make policy makers face their own racism. The report recommends that policy makers should have to evaluate the potential racial impact of any new laws they create, and involve community organizers and people who work with disadvantaged population in every step of the process.
  6. Actually ban racist policing. But at the very least, cities, counties and states should provide avenues through which private citizens can take the police to court when they believe they’ve been profiled.
  7. Obey the Fourth Amendment – prohibiting “unreasonable searches and seizures.”
  8. Involve the community in big decisions. Every city should have an adequately funded community oversight board with significant investigatory and disciplinary powers.
  9. Collect data obsessively. The report says that cities and departments should maintain a transparent and searchable database on every stop, frisk, summons, use of force, arrest, and killing they conduct.
  10. Body cameras. Body cameras are far from the solution. But they can be important and helpful, especially when the local community supports their use, guided by clear regulations.
  11. Don’t let friends of the police prosecute the police. Cases against police officers would be tried by independent prosecutors, not the district attorney who works with them all the time.
  12. Oversight, oversight, oversight. The report proposes external oversight committees – ones that oversee the implementation of reforms and proactively identify issues in police operations and practices.
  13. No more military equipment. President Barack Obama did recently issue and executive order prohibiting police departments from obtaining specific equipment – namely tracked armored vehicles, grenade launcher, large caliber weapons, ammunition, and bayonets.
  14. Establish a “use of force” standard. The report says that all departments should issue a statement affirming that their officers should use minimum force to subdue people. They should develop clear and transparent standards for reporting, investigating, and disciplining officers who do not comply.
  15. Train the police to be members of the community, not just armed patrolmen. Police should be trained on how to develop better relationships with their communities – training that incorporates culture, diversity, mental illness training, youth development, bias, and racism.

Brothers and sisters – it is time to build a movement to not take our frustrations, conditions, and fears on oneself – or take it out on our friends, families, and neighbors – but to use our energies and abilities to build unity in our communities – to fight for legislative actions (at the local, state, and national levels) that directly address racial profiling, excessive use of enforcement – without addressing the foundations. With so many problems being faced by our society, there is the need for coalitions to develop between all of us — in advancing a leadership that combats prejudice, racism, sexism, and homophobia — and builds our unity in advancing solutions to the structural issues of racism, poverty, and inequality in our communities.


Closing Plenary Presentation: “Summary Themes of URBAN Research, Action, and Activism Conference”

CUNY Graduate Center
Jose Zapata Calderon
April 1, 2016


First of all, I want to thank Celina Su and organizers of the URBAN Research, Action, and Activism conference. We have come a long way at a time when we are in a critical time period in this country. Thank you for including the elders (of which I am one) alongside the voice of the community-based organizations at this conference that are carrying out exemplary work – and leading the way in making the “road by walking.”

One of the overall themes that I take with me, from this conference, and that the speakers and participants consistently mentioned throughout the conference, is the need to develop and advance liberatory spaces – where we cross borders of self-determination and solidarity – where the resources that we produce are used, not to create a patriarchal greedy society that defines achievement on the basis of profit for a few – but that unites our communities in using what we produce to build a more just and equitable society. We have the power to do this! We have the power to build such spaces of equality! And we have the power to turn this country around!

We have the power to decolonize our educational system so that our Black and Brown children, our children of color, are no longer seen as criminals but are allowed to develop to the fullest of their capacities and to be treated like the geniuses that they are. It is true that every child is born a genius but this system destroys that capacity very early on. We have the capacity, as all of you have reiterated in the break-out sessions, to stop the school to prison pipeline by creating “safe spaces” where students are exposed to a curriculum that looks at the systemic and structural aspects of inequity, that brings to center stage the contributions of our diverse communities – who – because of poverty, racism, sexism, classism, homophobia, immigrant status, and physical/mental challenges have been historically excluded without a voice. Without this, our students will be taught to blame themselves and to take their frustrations our on themselves, on their families, on their neighborhoods – instead of taking out on the structure that is creating those conditions. As all of you have spoken – to get there – we need to love the children, our parents, our grandparents, our families – and organize our communities in solidarity – to advance a democratic movement that includes teachers, professors, and students to use research and data to advance new model of open spaces, collective spaces – where our children, our young people, are allowed to develop the highest levels of their potentiality.

We have the capacity to create new models of development – new models of research, teaching, and organizing that stops gentrification, stops the creation of homelessness, and stops charity-driven top-down pedagogies (that keep our communities without the needed information and new technologies to raise their voices). Yes, new technologies such as we have experienced at this conference in the application of Pluto data to expose gentrification and the ills of corporate capital where the sole measure of development is based on profit — the use of new “public space” research and engagement technologies that advance the historical beauty, culture, art, music, knowledge, and contributions of our diverse communities.

We have the power to make immigrant rights a human rights issue. We have the power to unite our diverse communities, our people of color communities – to defend the rights of our LGBTQ, Muslim, women, children, immigrant brothers and sisters – to stop the criminalization – the mass deportation – and support DACA/DAPA and full citizenship rights – while realizing that citizenship in itself is not an end all in ensuring long-term full equality rights. We know, as pointed out by the immigrant rights panelists today, that without the labor of our immigrant brothers and sisters, many industries in this country would be in economic distress – and that these industries are literally demanding the need for these workers – but want them, as in the past to continue as a cheap labor force. Our undocumented brothers and sisters have earned the right to full legalization, to keep their families together, and to receive back the benefits that they have already contributed to this economy and to economies abroad.

We have the power to create new examples of sustaining ourselves, sustaining our organizations, sustaining our communities, and building alliances through creating quality of life models such as URBAN, where we not only hug each other in acts of unity but support each other through our bold and non-compromising research and pedagogy.   This was the character of Marilyn Jacobs Gitell, why we have celebrated her life at this conference, and why we have brought to center stage the stories of others who, like Marilyn, used their research, teaching, and organizing to advance spaces in our communities that are liberatory, restorative, and transformative.

We have the power to create new spaces and new models of the future. We have the power to combat those forces that, rather than promoting policies to invest in quality of health, jobs, housing, education, and enrichment — advance the blaming of immigrants, the poor, people of color, women, the physically and mentally challenged, working people, and our LGBTQ communities – to divide us – to keep us fighting with each other over diminishing resources – and to keep our communities from coalescing around the issues that our people confront every day in their communities.

This conference, as Dee Dee Williams pointed out – has “lit a fire” in all of us – to keep us going – to not stop here – to leave this conference with the passion and vision to build new “spaces of equity” – true democracy – and where our research, teaching, and organizing serve the overcoming of systemic and historical injustices to build the kind of just and equal society that we all want to live in.

The Future of Public Education

At the The Next System Teach-in at UC Santa Barbara on
April 16, 2016
By Jose Zapata Calderon

Muchisimas Gracias por la invitacion. Hay momentos en nuestras vidas que nos transforman. Yo se que muchos de ustedes se acuerdan de momentos transformativos en sus vidas. La base de me mi transformacion era entre la connecsion de mi educasion, mi trabajo, mi familia, y movimientos para desarollar cambios. Mis palabras hoy vienen de mis experencias como trabajador, profesor, padre, abuelito, y – mas que todo – como un hijo de padres inmigrantes — y como lider y organisador por la mayor parte de mi vida — en los campos, en uniones, en escuelas, en colegios, y en varias comunidades.

  • Siempre comienso mis presentaciones en español para enseñar la fuerza del lenguaje – y tambien para enseñar un ejemplo de algo que se puede usar como forma de opresion o de liberacion. Si uno no puede participar – es muy duro desarollar las mas altas posibidades de desarollar nuestras capacidades. Cuantos de ustedes me entienden? Bueno, a todos ustedes que me entienden – Les damos una A y a los demas una F.
  • El poder de la palabra es muy fuerte y sabemos que puede resultar en excluir estudiantes – puede resultar en bajo autoestima – en ellos creer que la culpa es de ellos y no de un Sistema que da la culpa a los maestros y no a las condiciones historicas y estructurales que son el base del problema.   En este momento estoy usando el poder de la palabra para oprimir.


I will stop here because I know that there are many of you who do not understand Spanish.   I began my presentation by thanking all of your and especially the Next System teach-in coordinators Emily Williams and Gary Lytlefor inviting me to be here with you today.   I explained that there are moments in our lives that are transformational and that everyone here can point to transformational moments in their lives that became the foundations of principles and values for long-term change. The foundations of the transformations in my life had all to do with the connections between education, labor, family, and social change activism.

It is in this context — that my presentation today is based on — my lived experience as a worker, professor, father, grandfather – and most importantly – as a son of immigrant farm workers – and as a social justice organizer in the fields, in unions, in the schools, in colleges, and in diverse communities. I always begin my presentations in Spanish to reflect power relations – and to show, for a moment, how exclusion can be used as a form of oppression. If one is not able to participate, there is no way that one can develop one’s capacities to the highest levels. I asked how many of you understand me – and shared that those who understood me would receive an A and those who did not – an F.   We know that this form of structural exclusion can result in low self-esteem in our students with a belief that they are responsible – and a power structure that places the blame on our teacher – and not on the historical or systemic conditions that are the foundations of the problem.

It is this systemic and structural oppression that I want to talk about to you today – and I am so heartened to be speaking to so many of you who are building and constructing with the tools of education – for, as we know, education is truly a tool for overcoming domestication, scapegoating, and exclusion.    

With the growth of a global economy, there is the need for a type of educational system that promotes the building of new models toward a democratic society. However, there is a trend emerging in our present educational system that wants to take us back to the days of reproducing individuals to fit a more authoritarian philosophy. This trend seeks to promote a managerial “banking” system where the power of disseminating knowledge is being transferred to the needs of the business and political establishments. This shift fits into the early twentieth century industrial model of schools where students were socialized in assembly-like rows to be taught the status quo and not to be heard from. With the promotion of standardized tests and quantitative methods that evaluate the performances of both teachers and students, there is a diminishing of the space for the creation of democratic bridges between what is being learned in the classroom and the challenges of democratic decision-making in our communities. This trend is characterized by the growth of for-profit corporate charter schools and companies who are redefining the meaning of education by taking money out of public schools. In the debate over the state of our educational system, unfortunately — many taxpayers have been led to believe that the issue is only about the quality of our teachers and not about the poverty and racism – the structural inequities that many of our underrepresented students and their families confront every day in their communities. There is no getting around that in many of our cities half of all black and Latino young people are not graduating from our high schools – and that most are finding themselves on the unemployment lines, in poverty, or in jail. Einstein once said that every child is born a genius – but we all know now how easily this capacity can be taken away before and after birth. Think of the mother working in the fields in her 8th month of pregnancy – and pesticides swarming all around her – affecting whether that child is going to be born with hands, with legs, with the brilliant mind of our generations. Think of the child who is born without access to good nutrition, good health care – and immigrant parents who work double shifts without the time needed to fully care for the needs of that child. Think of the young woman who is scorned in school for not being able to speak English – scorned for having an accent – the young woman who is paid less because of her skin color, because of her gender – and the young man and young woman bullied because of their sexual orientation. There are structural issues here and that is why we have to fight for structural solutions such as supporting the campaign of Healthy Kids, Healthy Minds – for we know that the success of our students is also tied to the state of their health and the conditions in the homes and communities from where they come from.

Of course there are those who think that the success of our educational system can be done just by changing the curriculum or improving our teacher training. There are others who hail the growth of charter schools and advocate voucher systems to solve the problem. What we already know is that these efforts have been attempted and that there are consistent flaws in their implementation. We know now that the method of standardized testing has resulted in minimal improvements. And we know that charter schools are overall not doing any better than public schools – and, in fact, educating fewer English learners and special needs children – and contributing to racial segregation.

In this realm of thinking, there are those who advocate that low test scores are caused by bad teachers – and that if you Get rid of the bad teachers — all students will get high test scores.  The reality is, as we know, that teachers do not give tenure to themselves. Instead of acknowledging that test scores are highly correlated with family income – instead of acknowledging the structural issues of large class sizes, the lowest per pupil funding rates of k-12 schools in the nation, the decrease in programs and services for students with the greatest needs, the rise in tuition and fee increases in our system of higher education, and the limited access to public preschool — they prefer to blame teachers and the very idea of public education. We know otherwise – we know that the improvement of education will not be done through laws that blame all teachers, campaigns by privately-funded corporations, and solutions that leave out the economic, resource, racial, and historical factors ( the foundations of many of the problems in our educational system). This trend, brothers and sisters, — rather than tapping the passionate reason as to why so many college graduates become teachers — vilifies teachers and is forcing many to turn away from the educational world as a career.

The real issue, we know, is not the quality of education — but it is the issue of inequality. There is no getting around, as Professor Mark Warren in his article Transforming Public Education points out that children from poor families score lower than those from higher-income communities and that there is a growing achievement gap between high and low-income students. There is no getting around that students of color, particularly Black and Latino, end up in schools that have less qualified teachers, larger class sizes, fewer and older textbooks, older facilities, and fewer computers than schools in more affluent communities.

There is no getting around the issues of poverty and race where more than a third of all black children are in poverty – where large numbers of African American and Latino Children grow up in poverty neighborhoods – with problems surrounding them of crime, violence, substandard housing, unemployment, lack of jobs, and environmental degradation. These conditions affect the lives of the young children – young people. These conditions result in Black and Latino have the highest suspension and expulsion rates – with Black students, for example, who make up 16 percent of public school students have over 31 percent of the suspensions and expulsions. And we know where many of these students who drop out or who do not graduate – end up — in what is called the school-to prison pipeline.

Mass deportations and mass incarcerations have been expanding to unconscionable levels in recent years – leading to separation of families – children left without parents – poverty, unemployment, homelessness – in our communities. Our prison population has exploded from about 300,000 to more than 2 million in a few decades.  The majority of those incarcerated are black and brown. There are more African Americans under correctional control today — in prison or jail, on probation or parole — than were enslaved in 1850, a decade before the Civil War began. And these realities are connected to the right to vote. As of 2004, more African American men were disenfranchised (due to felon disenfranchisement laws) than in 1870, the year the Fifteenth Amendment was ratified, prohibiting laws that explicitly deny the right to vote on the basis of race.

Yes, we know the outcomes — And with a felony conviction – we know that these young people cannot get a job when they get out – they cannot vote.

With so many problems being faced by our society, there is the need for coalitions to develop between our parents, teachers, students, unions, and community-based organizations, and in advancing new forms of research, learning, and practice that can help develop a citizenry and a leadership in the future that takes up the structural issues of racism, poverty, and inequality in our communities. Brothers and sisters, we do have to change our schools.   We do have to change the media portrayal of our Black and Latino brothers and sisters – and the low expectations and bias – and the blame of parents — that some of our teachers and administrators have of our people of color as a result of some of these stereotypes. We do have to change the reality of geographic segregation – and the amount of resources that go to higher-income – upper-middle class schools – resulting in these students having less expulsions, more graduating – having privilege pathways to higher education and ultimately higher incomes and better jobs. We do have to change our schools but we also have to change how they interact and deal with the communities of inequality from where many of our students are coming from – yes we have to do this- – by accepting the reality of geographic segregation and that our focus also has to include organizing against all forms of racial segregation and taking up the issues in the communities where our students are coming from – the issues of housing, development, jobs, health, and immigrant rights. This is why, in my work, we are in unity with the movement to amend Proposition 13 so that, while homeowners and small businesses can be protected against escalating property taxes – that large businesses are properly assessed based on the fair market value of their properties – and that there is equality in ensuring equality of resources in all school districts – regardless of where they are located.

We need a movement – an educational justice movement – the seeds of which we are already beginning to see among young people nationally, among teachers, among parents that are focusing on both changing the schools from within but connecting to the larger issues of poverty, racism, inequality in our communities – which are often the source of many problems in our schools.

     As an example – In Pomona, a city, which is 70% Latino, 10% Black, and 7% Asian Pacific Islanders – my students used community-based engagement and research, alongside parents, in helping to defeat a bill that would have wiped out district elections (which have resulted in more representation of people of color). We have advanced community and coalition-building (again, with parents, students, teachers, and community-based organizations in transforming a city-based strategy of dealing with “gangs” simply through enforcement and incarceration to one that understands that “gang violence would not exist if they (gangs) did not satisfy the desperate needs of young people for family, education, mentoring, housing, employment, health, spiritual, and social support.” It has been these grassroots efforts that have been effective in developing an “economic justice plan” that includes the capacity-building strategies of quality jobs, housing, health, education, and pre-school/after-school programs (particularly in the low-income sectors of the community). More recently, we have brought Pomona Unified school and city officials together with parents, students, and our community-based organizations in joining together to implement the concept of “community schools.” This partnership has led to the school holding forums with the Center for Democracy – the school being a co-sponsor with community-based organizations and parents in implementing DACA immigrant rights clinics, driver’s license workshops, Matricula clinics drawing thousands – and Cesar Chavez Pilgrimage marches on the issues of funding for education, ethnic studies, and support for the minimum wage. More recently,   our coalition has endorsed and is actively organizing support for SB 1050 (introduced by one of my former students, Senate Pro Tempore Kevin De Leon) which, if passed, will help to level the playing field and create a pipeline of educational opportunity and success for K-12 public school students — especially those who are low income(with 58% who are from low income families) and includes English learners – and foster youth of all backgrounds — to be better prepared for and graduate from California’s public universities.

Our support for these initiatives needs to be based on an educational justice movement that is proactive in our schools — that is based on a type of teaching, learning, and organizing where: there is a passion for creating spaces of equity; but – where at the same time – connects to the issues of poverty, racism, exclusion, and inequality in our communities — where students are exposed to a curriculum that does not just deal with the problems in the society but that looks at the systemic and structural aspects of inequity; that brings to center stage the contributions of communities who (because of poverty, racism, sexism, classism, or homophobia) have historically been excluded from our textbooks; and that involves students in working alongside excluded communities on common projects to implement transformative social change.

As we seek to develop coalitions, it is important for us to look toward new ways of carrying out democratic forms of learning and curriculum building in our classrooms – that include a vision goes beyond the measurement of the quality of one’s capacity merely on standardized testing – to one that that allows for the fullest potential, creativity, and capacity of our students, of our teachers, of our parents, of our community leaders – to connect to new models of building democratic participation in our communities– new models that can help in advancing a more democratic and socially just culture in our schools and in the larger society.

There are too many media commentators, too many books, too many politicians, too many pessimists — that have us believing that we cannot cultivate. The reality is that our communities know a lot – but are diminished in the possibilities for positioning and taking back the legacies of creation that have been so much a part of our history.  

We know that there is no secret to reaching this level and that it takes our organizing efforts – and the support of each other to change the structural obstacles. Whether the optimal possibilities can come to be realities for our children – for our young people – for our brothers and sisters in the future – has a lot to do with the engagement of all of us here and our communities in advancing an educational justice movement locally and nationally for the resources, leadership, and changes that are needed to meet the needs of our children, parents, and families.

I want to urge all of you – to leave here with a passion – to use whatever opportunity the past and the present have developed – to go as far as you can – in accumulating all the knowledge that you can –and using that knowledge to build new schools — a new society – on the level of the future – in trying out new prescriptions of cultivation in how we structure our communities, our schools, our cities, our spaces of higher education. This is the real challenge – to not shirk our responsibilities of cultivation to the legacies of past generations – and take on the problems of our communities – This is the real meaning of why we need to build strong coalitions again and a strong movement locally and nationally.

We are geniuses – and we have to change the mentality of a society that begins to stratify one from the time one is born – according to the village that raises us – and the resources available to deter or advance the resources of potentiality.

We need you to cultivate – to create spaces in our homes, programs, and with families that are examples of the kind of world that we want to live in.

But, in addition to cultivating and creating those spaces- it is essential to build a powerful and political social movement – where we are together – not alone as individuals – but in coalitions, — in partnerships — finding a common ground with students, parents, and community-based groups – to take on the challenge of organizing our co-workers – in our schools, in our communities to build a strong movement for the future of public education – for the future of social and economic justice — to get involved in building new collaborations to ensure that the priorities of this country are not just about profit for a few – but are about sustaining and ensuring the resources necessary for the many.   Let us all cultivate together — then — so that our families – so that our future generations — have the type of high quality education, employment, nutrition, healthcare, and caring that they deserve. Si Se Puede!


Presentation at NAACP Journey for Justice Rally at Civic Plaza in Pomona, CA

By Jose Zapata Calderon
September 30, 2015
It is important to bring to center stage those who have contributed so much to the advancement of building unity in this country around the issues that affect our communities. Julian Bond was one who knew how to take up the issues of the African American community (such as racial profiling, incarceration, and segregation) while building coalitions of people from all colors, genders, and sexual orientations – to build a more just, equal, and democratic society. Julian Bond was a scholar at Morehouse College in Atlanta – but he did not just theorize or write or teach – but turned his theories and his learning into organizing as a social activist and leader in the 1960’s in the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. He was an example of one who, not only fought to ensure the enfranchisement of our communities, but he turned voting power into being an example of a community-based organizer who got elected to the Georgia House of Representatives and the State Senate, to the chairmanship of the NAACP and the Southern Poverty Law Center – and never lost his principles and values – or his connections with the communities who helped elect him. It was when Julian Bond was in the Georgia House of Representatives, in 1970, and I was Student Body Vice President at the University of Colorado – that I met Julian Bond. We invited him to speak on the campus – and I was honored to have dinner with him before he spoke. This was one of those moments that touched my life – and was part of making who I am today.
This was a time when Julian Bond was a symbol of the election of eleven African Americans in the Georgia House of Representatives as a result of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. He was an example of the voter registration and voter turn-out efforts – that he personally had helped to organize – to end the disenfranchisement of African Americans – and end the discriminatory practices which systematically excluded them from being able to vote. This was a time when I, and ten thousand other students, voted – at the University of Colorado to go on strike in protest of the Viet Nam War. He reminded us that evening that on January 10, 1966 – the Georgia State representatives had voted 184 – 12 to not allow him to take his rightful seat in the House of Representatives (when he had been voted in) because of his public support of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee’s position opposing U. S. involvement in the Viet Nam war. Imagine – Julian Bond took this position in 1966 – when it was at all not popular to take such a position. It took a decision by a United State District Court to rule that this exclusion was unconstitutional and ensure his position in the Georgia House of Representatives.
A good way to remember Julian Bond is to continue the efforts that he led in support of our diverse communities – in support of the disenfranchised.
The reality is that the demographics of the largest twenty cities in the U. S. today are now majority Black, Brown, and Asian Pacific. In New York City, three-fifths of those residing in the city are foreign-born with the majority not being able to vote. Among these are the undocumented who contribute much to the economy, pay taxes, but cannot vote. A 50-state study, Undocumented Immigrants’ State and Local Tax Contributions by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, shows that they collectively paid $11.84 billion in state and local taxes. We know that their legalization would lead to an additional $1.4 trillion as a stimulus to the economy. This means that the places where immigrants live are highly overrepresented but they are structurally excluded. This is also true for other historically excluded groups.
This is a time when Mass deportations and mass incarcerations expanding to unconscionable levels in recent years – leading to separation of families – children left without parents – poverty, unemployment, homelessness – in our communities. Our prison population has exploded from about 300,000 to more than 2 million in a few decades. The majority of those incarcerated are black and brown. There are more African Americans under correctional control today — in prison or jail, on probation or parole — than were enslaved in 1850, a decade before the Civil War began. And these realities are connected to the right to vote. As of 2004, more African American men were disenfranchised (due to felon disenfranchisement laws) than in 1870, the year the Fifteenth Amendment was ratified, prohibiting laws that explicitly deny the right to vote on the basis of race.
These realities come at a time when there are a a record number of Latino and Asian voters that have become the country’s fastest-growing voting blocs and have formed coalitions with African Americans, Native Americans, and progressive white voters to change the political landscape.
Alongside Deportation and Incarceration – as well as increased enforcement – as part of ongoing efforts to stop the growing political power of our diverse communities – is a case before the Supreme Court that could redefine “one person, one vote” and voting rights law. This case, Evenwel vs. Abbott, is aimed at changing how electoral districts are drawn across the country (revamping who comprises electoral districts) and reshaping who is ultimately represented by elected officials. The challengers in the Texas case, represented by the conservative legal group Project on Fair Representation, argues that the practice of drawing Congressional districts should no longer use total population from census figures as a marker for creating electoral districts – but that it should exclude those ineligible to vote, such as undocumented immigrants, felons, and young people below the voting age.
What this would mean – is that in areas where there are a large number of these groups – those districts would get diluted representation – because the districts would now be drawn just on the basis of the numbers of voters and not based on the total population. Again, this is another example of cutting back on the growing political power of our diverse communities – and the potential of the political strength of the diverse people of color, women, LGBTQ, labor, faith-based, and community-based coalitions – that have manifested themselves more than ever in recent years.
It is important to understand the foundations of these efforts to disenfranchise our diverse communities — as having a foundation in the successful organizing in recent years, in advancing the legacy of Julian Bond – in the development of broad multi-racial coalitions, and our growing political strength. In this context, it is important to not react to these attacks, to not be afraid – to not be passive –but to do as now has become our tradition – to organize as we always have – to vote with our feet, with our hands, and with our minds – to unite around our common efforts to have resources channeled for jobs, health, education and quality of life – to support efforts for simplifying voter registration – to get out the vote – to support candidates who support our communities – to hold those that are elected accountable — to not let them scapegoat us – to not let them divide us – but to respond with creative alternatives that can move us forward in implementing our vision for a more just, equal, and humane society.

Lessons from an Activist Intellectual (Book)

Over the years, I have written a number of articles as an activist intellectual and organizer.   A number of colleagues, former students, friends and family members had proposed that I compile the articles and publish them as a means of sharing the lessons learned from making the connections between teaching, research, and organizing for social change.  It is in that spirit that I have published a book, Lessons from an Activist Intellectual.  Although the publishing date is not until August 16th, there are various options to pre-LessonsPBKordering the book: 

1.  Pre-order by sending $25 to:  Jose Z. Calderon, Pitzer College, 1050 N. Mills Ave., Claremont, CA 91711

2.  Order through Amazon, cost of $32.95 at:

3.  Order through Barnes and Noble at $26.39:[p

4.  Order through Rowman & Littlefield at:

Description of book:
Lessons from an Activist Intellectual provides examples of how an academician can combine the roles of teacher, researcher, and activist with a community-based critical pedagogy for democracy and empowerment. This book discusses the interconnections made between José Calderón’s pedagogy and his history as an immigrant, student, social movement leader, researcher, professor, and community organizer. At the same time, it provides examples of an interactive, intercultural, and interdisciplinary pedagogy that involves both students andcommunity participants as both teachers and learners in social change projects. This style of pedagogy has a particular salience for historically excluded individuals from diverse racial, class, gender, and sexual orientation backgrounds,  for whom the educational experience can be both an alienating and empowering experience.  
Jose Zapata Calderon
Emeritus Professor of Sociology and Chicano/a and Latino/a Studies