October 2006 - Paula Crisostomo
2006 Hispanic Heritage Month
Paula will be speaking the Thursday, October 5th at 7:00 PM.
Her keynote is in conjunction with the film Walkout, which will be privately screened the evening before. Wednesday, October 4 from 8:00 - 10:00 PM.
The struggle for equal rights in America has often been advanced through the courageous actions of ordinary individuals. Paula Crisostomo is one such person.
It was as a high school student that Paula stepped into the spotlight of the Chicano struggle for equality and the fight against racism. Appalled at the deplorable quality of the education she was receiving, Paula led the largest high school student protest in this country's history. In early March, 1968, Chicano students from five East Los Angeles high schools walked out of their classes as a direct protest against the sub-standard quality of their education. Not only was it the first time Chicano students walked out, but it was also the first major mass protest against racism ever undertaken by Mexican-Americans. It was a watershed in the struggle for equal rights. By the time the historic "blow-outs" were over, a week and a half later, more than 20,000 students had participated in East Los Angeles and in sympathy walkouts at other high schools across the city.
This story has been made into an HBO movie, Walk Out, which premiered in March of 2006. Directed by Edward James Olmos and starring Alexa Vega as Paula, the movie tells the story of a piece of history that has become a seminal point in the struggle for educational equity in the Chicano community. It is told through Paula's voice and experience. Walk Out is Paula's courage and leadership in this historic event has been documented in numerous books and she is featured in the PBS documentary Chicano!: Taking Back the Schools.
Today, Paula Crisostomo is the Director of Government & Community Relations for Occidental College in Los Angeles. She provides leadership and direction for the college's community outreach strategies, including neighborhood relations, local and federally sponsored services programs in education and local and state government relations.
History comes alive as Paula Crisostomo talks about the East Los Angeles high school walkouts that were the first mass protest by Mexican-Americans in our country's history. She talks about the racism that she and her classmates struggled against in their efforts to get a quality education, and the momentous decision they made to stand up for their rights as citizens. At a time when we are celebrating the anniversaries of some of the seminal moments in the Civil Rights Movement, Paula's story provides an excellent perspective on the struggle for equal rights from the Chicano perspective, and highlights a forgotten but important moment when a community, and a people, found their voice.