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Monday, August 17, 2009

Efrén Speaks to Youth in Toronto, Urges Calm

Saturday, August 15, 2009 Efrén spoke to 160 youth via phone at the Second Annual Justice for Alwy 3-on-3 basketball tournament held at Carlton Park in Toronto, Ontario (Canada).

The event is dedicated to all victims of police brutality. It began in 2008 in remembrance of 18-year-old Alwy al-Nadhir, an unarmed teen who was shot and killed by Toronto Police on Halloween night, October 31, 2007 in Riverdale Park, Toronto. Click here to read more about how Alwy died.

After Alwy's tragic death his family, friends, and other local community organizers saw the need to get organized to put an end to the siege on their communities. Together, they created the Justice for Alwy Campaign Against Police Brutality.

Since Alwy's murder tensions between the police and youth have escalated, resulting in conflicts and additional acts of police brutality towards youth. Many Toronto urban youth have conveyed experiences about the daily harassment, false arrests, brutal beatings and verbal confrontations many have had with the police.

Efrén was invited to speak to youth at this year's Justice for Alwy basketball tournament by Pablo Vivanco, community activist and producer at Barrio Nuevo, a Latino community radio program based in Toronto. Efrén has previously appeared on two Toronto-based radio programs, Barrio Nuevo and Radio BASICS, to discuss his case and the imposition of life without parole sentences on juveniles.

At the basketball tournament Efrén urged the youth to remain calm and exercise patience and restraint. He urged them to take a proactive approach to finding lasting resolutions to existing problems, and cautioned them against allowing themselves to be reactionaries responding to taunts and acts of aggression or unprofessional conduct by police.

Efrén told the youth that there would be serious consequences for acting impulsively and ignoring the future of their actions. He told them that they could end up like many prisoners he sees every day who are condemned to die in prison because of their impulsiveness and refusal to listen to reasoned advice.

During his message Efrén told the youth they should work to resolve conflicts intelligently and in a non-violent manner. He told them they should organize rallies and engage the community in meetings to bring attention to the injustices they are encountering. They can call on local and federal investigations, meet with legislators, file complaints against police officers, initiate legal action against them, and even file human rights charges against the violators in an international forum, if necessary.

Efrén wanted the youth to know that avenues for redress and improving matters exist. He did not want them to feel a sense of hopelessness and or believe that violence or rebelling were the vehicles for them to obtain an illusion of justice.

He told them if elected officials do not listen or respond to their grievances they can always seek to recall and replace them with officials who will fulfill the responsibilities of their office. There is a process for officials to take office, and a process for them to leave if they are ineffective or remiss in their duties.

The event was a success and it was a reminder to all who participated that through organizing and a shared vision we can create space and events we need to achieve a desired purpose.

As Efrén stated, "If the youth could all work together to organize the tournament in Alwy's memory, they can work together to make other things materialize in his honor as well. They just need guidance and encouragement along the way."

Efrén's voice transcending prison walls to reach the listening youth in Canada served to do just that.

Friday, August 14, 2009

"The Wise Latina" by Efrén Paredes, Jr.

The Wise Latina

by Efrén Paredes, Jr.

Saturday morning,
protected by the colossal frontal columns
of the nation's Supreme Court
that were once like prison bars
seeking to lock you out of its halls —
before the blinding glare
of flashing cameras
bouncing off adorned walls
absent any images celebrating
your likeness —
there you stood,
the Wise Latina.

Your confirmation hearing
the true identity politics,
the underpinnings of tilted scales,
an indictment of a racist patriarchal system
that stains justice
with its misogynist ways.

Opponents clamored to defame you,
attempted to relegate you
to a footnote in history,
dismissing you
as a child of affirmative action,
as another marginalized brown face,
like the ones they built the wall
along the Mexican border to keep out.

Somebody forgot to tell them
affirmative action
didn't do your homework,
didn't graduate you summa cum laude from Princeton,
didn't edit the Yale Law Journal for you,
didn't make difficult choices
or bequeath you wisdom.

Your strength and poise made us proud
as we were fixated to television screens
at viewing parties
in skyscrapers and barrios,
inspired by your courage,
displaying your buttons and posters,
watching you deflect
the barrage of attacks
you bravely endured
to become the nation's
111th U.S. Supreme Court Justice.

The eyes of many Latinas y Latinos
filled with tears,
as their exuberant smiles
brightened the morning sky.

Your detractors never gained an advantage,
even in their failed attempts to diminish you.
They couldn't erase our illustrious past
or replace it with illusions of inferiority.
They couldn't write our Quinceañeras
or love for arroz, maíz y frijoles
out of our rich culture and heritage.

Carrying a legacy of struggle on your back
you transcended the tide of ignorance,
the protests and intimidation,
and rallying cries for your defeat.
The impotent Kyls, McCains and Sessions
couldn't change destiny,
they could only fulfill it.

It was the Wise Latina who prevailed,
who captivated the world.
Speaking loudly through your elegance
and quiet strength
you silenced your critics,
scattering them like the winds
of a fierce Summer storm.

At that moment
we all briefly touched the sky,
danced in the sun's warm glow,
and summoned the Ancestors
to celebrate your victory.

Copyright © 2009 Efrén Paredes, Jr.

Click here to download a PDF version of this poem.

This poem was featured on the Latina Lista blog on 8/14/09. It was featured on La Raza Chronicles on 8/18/09 and most recently appeared on ¡LatinoLA! on 8/19/09. In the Fall the poem will be part of an exhibit at the Cesar Chavez Library, Chicano/Latino Studies Department, Michigan State University.

Update 8/18/09 11:25 PM EST

You can listen to an MP3 recording of Efrén reading this poem to celebrated poet, storyteller and independent media producer, Nina Serrano, on the show "La Raza Chronicles" below.

Friday, August 7, 2009

"Where We Still Discover" by Efrén Paredes, Jr.

Where We Still Discover

by Efrén Paredes, Jr.

Sitting on our mother's laps,
Speaking in a language
of only our own,
surrounded by the wonders of life,
we see the world
moving ...
shifting ...
Guiding us
as we expand our consciousness.

Our eyes open wide
inhaling the brisk morning air.
Thoughts percolating ...
Releasing the energy
that feeds new experiences.
Pulsating around us like tiny heartbeats ...
We slowly awaken.

Each moment is an opportunity.
A chance to learn
to build
to grow.
Life blossoms
and ushers in the unknown.

We travel
through time and places.
Corridors filled with infinite possibilities
waiting to receive us
with its tender hands
to carefully guide us
along our journey.

In our mistakes
we find lessons.
Like rocks polished to become gems
we enter each experience
and mine its treasures.
We make it a new part of us
and harness its power.

In our Winter years,
after experiencing the fullness of life,
exploring the complexities of its winding roads,
swimming through its vast ocean of dreams,
we find,
this magical place.

It never eludes us,
never far away.
Like the air we breathe,
it is,
in the end,
as in the beginning,
Each Moment,
the place,
where we still discover.

Copyright © 2009 by Efrén Paredes, Jr.