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Boyle Heights celebrates International Women’s Day

By staff

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Los Angeles, CA – On March 7, Centro CSO: Community Service Organization hosted a celebration of el Día Internacional de la Mujer (International Women’s Day), filled with poetry, singing and political discussion at the Benjamin Franklin Branch Library in Boyle Heights. This year’s event, the third that Centro CSO has put on, honored the women of Boyle Heights and East Los Angeles who have fought back against the privatization of public education, police terror, sexism and transphobia.

Sol Marquez, a member of Centro CSO and Freedom Road Socialist Organization, opened the event by explaining how International Women’s Day emerged in the 1900s out of the struggles of working-class women in New York City, Germany and the Soviet Union. She then connected International Women’s Day’s origins to current examples of patriarchy, including the election of Trump, recent laws banning abortion in certain parts of the U.S. and the #MeToo movement. Marquez asked the attendees at the event, “How many of you marched when Trump was inaugurated January 2016? We marched in the rain to protest him as U.S. president! And women again stood up in January of 2019 to participate in the UTLA strike.” She finished the introduction by reading from The Duty of Working Women in War-Time by Clara Zetkin, the German Marxist whose proposal led to the first International Women’s Day.

Chicana artist Vibiana Aparicio-Chamberlin read poems and excerpts from her memoir Mi Amor, about growing up on the Eastside of Los Angeles in a Mexican and indigenous family. She also spoke about her experiences at the mass protest against the Vietnam War – the Chicano Moratorium on August 29, 1970 – where she was beaten and sexually abused by two white police officers. Aparicio-Chamberlin then led a creative exercise, asking the crowd to reminisce together about the different spices and herbs their mothers and grandmothers used in their cooking. She closed with a poem about the femicides in Juarez made worse by the opening of maquiladoras along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Lupemar Torres, a Centro CSO and United Teachers of Los Angeles (UTLA) member, moderated a panel that included Marquez, Rosario Bonilla (Centro CSO), Garfield High School senior Sam Garcia (East Los Angeles Women’s Center), Josefina Rizo (Centro CSO and Justice for Jose “Peruzzi” Mendez”), and Eloisa Galindo (Eastside Padres Contra la Privatización). Torres asked the panelists a series of questions: “What organization are you from and what do you do?” “Why is it important for you as a woman to fight back?” “What advice do you have for other women?”

Marquez detailed her activism as a member of FRSO in Tampa, Florida, which included campaigns against deportations and around the murder of Trayvon Martin. Since moving to Los Angeles, she’s fought for public education and organized families who’ve lost loved ones at the hands of LAPD and LA County Sheriffs. She also emphasized how FRSO places women in positions of leadership and highlighted the role of socialism in historically improving conditions for women, particularly in Venezuela and Cuba.

Rosario Bonilla, a Centro CSO and Eastside Padres Contra la Privatización member, talked about how she joined the struggle against charters after KIPP Promesa charter school attempted to open a new large school close to her son’s school in Boyle Heights. Centro CSO and other allied organizations fought back and won, as protests and Centro CSO’s lawsuit forced the KIPP corporation to cancel its plans. Bonilla told the crowd, “We are the voices of our children. We have to fight for the rights of our children.”

Sam Garcia described how their work as a youth organizer with ELAWC helped them regain their voice as a survivor of sexual assault. Josefina Rizo, whose 16-year-old son Jose Méndez was killed by LAPD in 2016, discussed how she went from attending Centro CSO meetings because of its support for her family’s case to now enjoying being an active member of the organization. Eloisa Galindo summarized the history of the Eastside Padres Contra la Privatización, explained her own process of learning about the impact of charters, and recognized the many parent activists involved with her group’s work.

Torres closed the event by highlighting the role of primarily women teachers in the UTLA strike on LAUSD in January 2019 and saying that all women, regardless of their personality and capacities, have a role to play in the movement.

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