Berkeley High School’s (BHS) Chicano Latino United Voices (CLUV) club hosted an assembly which aimed to celebrate the diverse array of Chicano and Latino heritage at BHS, according to CLUV’s staff advisor, Karen Zapata. The assembly was held on Thursday, October 12.
The event was a part of the Associated Student Body Speaker Series, a series of assemblies hosted by various student groups at BHS roughly every month throughout the school year.
Though in the past the assemblies have been centered around issues of social justice and activism, the CLUV event was more celebratory, showcasing culture from across South America, Central America, Mexico, and the United States. “Today, we have prepared an assembly to remind you of the beauty Latinos bring to Berkeley High and to this country,” said Marielena Rodas, president of CLUV, in her opening remarks (disclaimer: Rodas is a Jacket columnist).
“When you leave here today, I hope that you remember our contributions, our hard work, our food, our art, our history, and our spirit,” Rodas said. The assembly consisted of poems read by students in the Chicano Latino Literature Studies course at BHS, salsa and reggaeton dance performances from BHS students and alumni, and a mariachi song performed by BHS junior Yessenia Verdin.
“My people are intellects because that’s the only way to escape our own perception. Our worries of being just like how they see us, just like how they want us to be,” Elicia Garcia said in her poem.
Leonardo Gonzalez was the second poet who shared. “My people are survivors. In the five hundred years of reconstruction they tried to shut us down, yet we’re still here,” he wrote.
The variety of performances highlighted the unification and diversity of Latinxs in the United States. “Latinos oftentimes are just clumped [together]. When you come to this country, you’re just a Latino,” said CLUV staff advisor and BHS teacher Karen Zapata. “But actually, our home countries both in Mexico and Central and South America are very important to us. They are very much part of our identity and so lumping us together is really problematic,” she said.
Riley Kirkman-Davis, a BHS junior who attended the assembly, said, “I enjoyed the assembly because I got to experience cultures that I’m not usually exposed to and all the performances were spectacular.”
BHS senior, co-vice president of CLUV, and co-host of the assembly Diana Gonzalez explained that CLUV aimed to challenge the perceptions that many people have about Latinos. “Our goal for the assembly was to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, to show the beautiful culture the Latino community brings to this world,” said Gonzalez. She continued, “We are not here to commit crimes, but to [share] our culture with America, to achieve the great big American dream to become educated and become successful in life.”
Rodas urged audience members to consider how all of the showcased aspects of Latino culture were jeopardized by the Trump Administration. Many of the performances pertained to the experience of undocumented immigrants in the United States and the fear that they live with every day.
Earlier this year, many students became more aware of CLUV’s work through participation in the human chain demonstration that stretched around the school. The purpose of the protest was to demonstrate solidarity for undocumented students and the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, explained Rodas in her opening remarks.
“Our club works to create a safe space for students of all immigration statuses, we are dedicated to our mission which is to advocate and begin a dialogue for social justice in our community,” Rodas said.