The activism spark: ‘If we all unite, they cannot break us’

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Above, On Day 3 of our strike, parents, teachers, and community members organized by ROSLA visited LAUSD School Board President Monica Garcia’s home in the pouring rain to deliver a list of community demands.

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Feeling cheated by district, parent joins ROSLA

Commits to making a difference for her children

By Ruby Gordillo, Parent, Tenth Street Elementary

The first time I heard of Reclaim Our Schools Los Angeles was through Cesar Castrejon, an organizer at ACCE who led a meeting at my Parent Center at Tenth Street Elementary School. He shared a lot of information about what teachers were fighting for, and he told us that LAUSD has a $1.86 billion reserve and that all of our schools have needs that aren’t being met.

I felt a little mad when I heard this. We were being cheated.

At that time, my son had been placed back in a special education program that was not offered at Tenth Street so he had to be transferred. I have three children in LAUSD, and that time all three were attending different schools, which was a huge burden. I struggled to get all three of them to their respective schools on time. If there had been the SPED program for my son at Tenth Street, my life would not have been so challenging. And then it hit me. I needed to be more informed.

But I did not get involved in ROSLA that spring. Everyone in my family was emotionally stressed. We had therapy and so much to do. When Cesar reached out again in September, things were smoother and I told him I was ready to get involved. I felt ready to get the information I needed and figure out the action steps to solve my issues and those of my community.

My first meeting with ROSLA was in October, and it was overwhelming. Seeing how much parents and students knew and had to say was amazing! When Sumaiya, a student from Students Deserve, shared about their campaign to end random searches, I was really moved. I thought, If this young person is this informed, Ruby, you gotta check yourself, girl! 

And that began my involvement in ROSLA.

With all of this education, we then went into learning how to plan and lead direct actions to support the strike. We learned how to do outreach, scope out locations, and be tactical leads.

As a person, I am really quiet and anxious, so I had told Cesar that I needed to take baby steps. But from October to December I took a baby LEAP. At the December 2018 LAUSD School Board meeting, I gave public testimony and shared that my daughter had been diagnosed with autism, something that even my family did not know. Then ROSLA shut down the meeting. I realized that day, my first experience with direct action, that I was ALL IN to get the district to give our students what they need and deserve.

During the strike, I spent a few days on the picket lines but spent the majority of the strike with the Reclaim Our Schools LA team. Most parents and students came to the Leadership Action School (what we now call “La Escuelita”), where we reviewed some history — things I probably learned in high school but did not speak to me at the time. We had political education sessions that focused on the ultra-wealthy 1% of the population, and it helped me better understand the school-to-prison pipeline. I began to understand that the 1% has set us up for failure. If our communities are being intentionally deprived of a quality education, our communities can’t thrive.

With all of this education, we then went into learning how to plan and lead direct actions to support the strike. We learned how to do outreach, scope out locations, and be tactical leads.

The action that stands out the most to me was our visit to School Board President Monica Garcia’s house. This was my favorite direct action that parents and students planned and executed. And it wasn’t just our people there — there were teachers and community members from all across the district. Law enforcement arrived to greet us before we even got to her house, but we didn’t let that stop us. On this day my role was security. This meant that I was working with a team to ensure our people stayed together and were safe.

Everyone remembers that it was pouring rain for the majority of the strike and, boy, did it pour that night. But this made me feel more energized — if we had done this action on Day 1 or 2, it may not have been the same, but by Day 3 we were stronger and more committed. I felt like we were little plants and the water from the rain was just helping us grow! I will never forget how overwhelmingly satisfying it was to see the crowd of people on that night. It made me realize that if we all unite, they cannot break us and we will win, and win we did!