Dr. Andrade told the crowd “thousands of Mexicanos, Tejanos were murdered” during that time, because they “stood up for themselves, asked questions.”
“This is not something they teach in textbooks. You have to research it on your own,” he warned. “But as more Latinos do succeed in academia, pursue degrees, and become authors, they write about ourselves.”
The USHLI president/CEO spoke of his childhood pastor, the first Mexican immigrant in Texas to receive a doctorate in religious education. His pastor encouraged him to learn Spanish, so he devoured the language at church, at home—wherever possible.
“But in Texas, we were prohibited from speaking Spanish in public places,” he recalled. “To me, this was God’s language. What’s wrong with this picture? Only at home and at church could we speak Spanish.”
When Dr. Andrade finished his undergraduate degree, he was recruited to be a teacher. 90 percent of his first—and only—Texas classroom was made up of Mexican kids, most of whom spoke only Spanish. He began teaching the kids freedom of speech and the First Amendment in Spanish.
By the third day of school, he had a knock on his classroom door from the principal, who told him the sheriff was in the office waiting to arrest him, unless he promised not to speak Spanish in the classroom anymore.
“That was the end of my teaching career,” he said. “I was going to plead not guilty because I was not wrong—the law was wrong if it said I can’t do this. The laws were eventually overturned. Today, you get paid a bonus for doing the exact same thing that got me arrested.”
Dr. Andrade told the crowd “it cost me my classroom,” but added that “some sacrifices are worthwhile.”
“I lost my classroom but gained a national audience to preach the gospel—the gospel of empowerment,” he declared. “The Gospel means ‘the good news’ and there’s a lot of good news to share about what Latinos are doing in this country. We have a lot to share and people have a lot to learn. We need to work in our spheres of influence to educate others. We would get the respect we deserve if others knew more about us—and who we are and what we bring to the table in this country.”
After drawing applause, Dr. Andrade fast-forwarded 40 years to present-day America.
“Mexicans are still being lynched. Lynching has changed, but the effects are still the same,” he said. “We’re not being hung by the neck like we used to be, but they go after our community, revoke some of the protected provisions of the Civil Rights Act.
“We’re being lynched when they say you can’t speak Spanish anywhere in this country. We’re being lynched when you see 20 states passing legislation of voter suppression, making it more difficult for us to vote. That’s lynching. The lynching continues.”
The USHLI president/CEO told the crowd that the loss of civil and voting rights and an increase in hate crimes and killings of undocumented workers “because of who they are” are modern-day forms of lynchings.
“There’s just this anti-immigrant sentiment sweeping this country that has to stop,” he declared.
Dr. Andrade accused state legislatures of withholding funds from universities that teach cultural studies. He spoke of books banned “because they mention César Chávez.”
“What did he ever do that was so bad?” he questioned. “Think of the pride he instilled in our community.”
Dr. Andrade was a farmworker at that time—and even though his group could not be organized, he said he “felt empowered” and joined the Chávez effort and became friends with the late Latino leader.
The USHLI president talked about the massive numbers of Latinos who lied about their age so they could fight for their country during world wars and acts of heroism that resulted from those efforts.
“But those stories aren’t told. They’re not shared because they instill that pride, that sense of empowerment in our children, in our young people,” he lamented. “They’re losing out on that. That is what we’re facing today. So the lynching hasn’t stopped—when you’re trying to keep a community ignorant of our own history like we didn’t even exist.”
Dr. Andrade spoke passionately of Latinos decorated for heroism from was fought 200 years ago to today—soldiers never mentioned in history books of any kind.
“That’s the kind of lynching I’m talking about today—it’s not being hung around the neck by a tree, but being kept in the dark, being kept in ignorance,” he said. “That’s what the fight is today—and I share that with you because there are young people here.”
Dr. Andrade called on young audience members “with that kind of energy, that kind of dream” to continue to fight the battles of today that are facing the Latino community.
“The future of this country belongs to those who hold onto their dreams,” he said. “But don’t confuse wishes for dreams. You’ve got to work at it. You have to struggle for it. You have to sacrifice. That’s the difference.”
One of those battles, Dr. Andrade told the crowd, involves the 1,500 deportations occurring each day, equating to 400,000 annually. He talked of families living in fear, children afraid of losing their parents.
“What we’re seeing is the dismemberment of the Latino community, a dismemberment of our families,” he said. “Anti-Latino sentiment is as bad as it’s ever been. I wish I could tell you otherwise.”
Dr. Andrade lamented that he’s “been fighting this fight for 45 years, but it’s no time to sit down.”
“The struggle continues and we need fresh troops. We need fresh minds,” he said. “We need young people who are bright, who are intelligent, who have a sense of community, who are moved with compassion to do for others—not just for themselves.”
He challenged young people to become leaders, “not just because they have the qualities, but because they understand” what servant leadership is about.
“It’s not about how high you can climb, but how wide you can reach,” he said. “How many lives can you touch this way?”
Dr. Andrade told the crowd his mission is to speak up and instill hope, because “there are too many people in this country getting paid to get on television to instill fear.”
“We need to see what they’re saying and hear what they’re saying and read they’re writing,” he admonished. “Simply regard my remarks as a call for unity.”
Dr. Andrade served as a political commentator on Chicago radio and TV stations and wrote a column for the Chicago Sun-Times. He has participated in the democratization of México, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Panama, Colombia, Paraguay, Bolivia, Haiti, and other countries.
Individual achievement awards and scholarships also were presented at the dinner by the Hispanic/Latino Commission of Michigan:
• The four scholarship winners—Israel Aquilar, Apryl-Jane Flores, Crystal Pérez, and Geovanni Pérez—all are students at Imlay City HS.
• State Rep. Bruce Rendón received the Legislator of the Year award;
• Robert García received the Business/Economic Development award;
• Ninfa Cancel received the Advocate of the Year award;
• Elias López received the Educator of the Year award;
• Maricela “Marcy” García received the Lifetime Achievement award as a retired community volunteer from Flint;
• Steffanie Rosalez received the Arts award;
• Noé Ramiro Baíz received the Hispanic Entrepreneur of the Year award; &
• Margarita Noyola was recognized for her efforts, receiving posthumously, the Volunteer of the Year award.
On the Internet: http://www.laprensa1.com/Stories/2014/092614/gala.htm