Friday, July 31, 2020

Ethnic Studies Web Series Teaching African American and Mexican American Studies in Texas Schools, August 3-7 2020

Happy to be a part of this event happening next week. I understand that this  event is already full, but that there is a waiting list and that they'll also be recording the sessions.

I look forward to attending as much of this as possible. Things get going at 8:30AM next Monday.

-Angela Valenzuela
From Orlando Lara:

I'm very happy to share this information. Thank you to
Eliza Bentley
Cecilia Sanchez Hill
Richard Thomas
, Shalon Bond, Delandrea Hall, Erick Alonso,
Angeles De Santos
, Xavier Pantoja,
Marissa Aki'Nene Muñoz
Chase Moore
, Julieta Rico, and
Según Dee
for putting this together, and also to
Adriana M J Garcia
Sandra D Garza
for allowing us to use this powerful artwork.
We have a top-notch list of presenters and panelists, including
Angela Valenzuela
Lilliana Patricia Saldaña
, Marvin Dulaney,
David Colón
Mariela Nunez
, Carmen Kynard, Frederick Gooding,
Marissa Aki'Nene Muñoz
Jamila Thomas
Cinto Ramos Jr.
, and Cinthia Salinas, along with several wonderful break-out session leaders and facilitators.
Please share this information with your networks and consider joining us as well!
Come together with scholars, educators, students, and activists to share content knowledge, discuss pedagogy, learn about the fields of study, and build community around the state-approved Mexican American Studies and African American Studies high school courses. Homeschool parents, movement-builders, and students are also welcome.
This event is a project of the Ethnic Studies Network of Texas in collaboration with educators and community leaders throughout Texas.
Monday 8:30am - 1:00pm (Ethnic Studies/MAS)
Tuesday 12:30pm- 4:15pm (MAS)
Wednesday 8:30am - 1:00pm (ES/MAS/AAS)
Thursday 12:30pm- 4:15pm (AAS)
Friday 8:30am- 1:00pm (Ethnic Studies/AAS)

Editorial: Leave politics out of reopening Texas schools. Listen to the science.

From the editors of the Houston Chronicle. -Angela

Editorial: Leave politics out of reopening Texas schools. Listen to the science.

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Latinx residents fear the toll coronavirus is taking on their lives and community, by Daniella Diaz, CNN 7.13.2020

This is so deeply concerning. So much of our family is in South Texas and they're recounting daily the horrors of this experience just in their own network and communities. The hospitals are beyond capacity. 

A dear friend just shared with me that his cousin passed away and his uncle is brain dead, kept alive by a respirator. It's horrible. Lives forever changed.


Latinx residents fear the toll coronavirus is taking on their lives and community

"It Cost Me Everything": In Texas, COVID-19 Takes a Devastating Toll on Hispanic Residents by Perla Trevizo

The stories are terribly sad. Our family has been impacted; no one has died, thankfully, but it seems to get closer every day.  According to this piece by Perla Trevizo with ProPublica, many factors are responsible including "Nearly a third of adults under 65 in Texas lack health insurance, the worst uninsured rate in the country, and more than 60% of those without health insurance in the state are Hispanic."  

Moreover, "Hispanic Texans make up about 40% of the state’s population but 48% of the state’s 6,190 confirmed COVID-19 deaths, according to Department of State Health Services data." In addition to all of this, and as we're seeing here in Austin, Texas, we neither have much of a public health infrastructure. I hope that when all of this is said and done, that we will have one that additionally consists of all residents being insured. 

We should be learning from this virus that even if it is disproportionately impacting one community, it doesn't limit itself to one particular population but that it exploits the weakest link and there are many weak links as a consequence of poor leadership and misguided policies like opening up our state too early. 

To aspire for "herd immunity," as U.S. Representative Chip Roy has done, equates to neo-Darwinist, "survival of the fittest" thinking, a convenient, self-serving ideology that's willing to sacrifice others, particularly people of color, to keep what's left of capitalism going, however hurtful or anti-democratic.

-Angela Valenzuela

Not only are Hispanics catching coronavirus at higher rates in Texas’ largest county, they also suffer some of the worst outcomes.

(Brandon Thibodeaux for The Texas Tribune/ProPublica/NBC News)

ProPublica is a nonprofit newsroom that investigates abuses of power. Sign up to receive our biggest stories as soon as they’re published.

This article is co-published with The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan local newsroom that informs and engages with Texans. Sign up for The Brief weekly to get up to speed on their essential coverage of Texas issues. It was also produced in partnership with NBC News.


Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Chernobyl, Covid-19 and Trump’s debt to the truth by Jay Elwes

I like to think that even in an ostensibly"post-truth" world, Trump's decline in the polls is precisely because of his "debt to the truth." The parallels to Chernobyl and the crisis of legitimacy that it spawned, offer a striking comparison to the COVID pandemic we're all experiencing right now. 

The Chernobyl catastrophe occurred when Mikhail Gorbachev was in power, and as mentioned below, is largely regarded as pivotal to the ultimate collapse of the Soviet Union. The comparison reaches its limit, however, when considering that there are things our leadership can do, including issuing mask mandates in public, reissuing new stay-at-home orders, delay re-opening schools, and taking serious measures to not contaminate prisoners as described in my earlier post by David Bacon who covered a recent demonstration at San Quentin which is experiencing unconscionably high infection rates.

I nevertheless hope that we are all witnessing the beginning of the end of the Trump presidency, as this article leads one to hope. We definitely have a fighting chance.

-Angela Valenzuela

#Vote2020 #vote

Chernobyl, Covid-19 and Trump’s debt to the truth

by JAY ELWESJuly 20, 2020|

In the HBO series “Chernobyl”, the scientist responsible for cleaning up the destroyed Soviet nuclear reactor broods in his drab Moscow apartment. As he thinks back over the disaster, of the lives lost and the Soviet government’s attempt to cover it up, he gets to the heart of the Chernobyl accident. “Every lie we tell incurs a debt to the truth,” he says. “Sooner or later, that debt is paid.”
The story of the Chernobyl catastrophe and its aftermath is the story of our own time. A devastating plume of sickness and death makes its way across the globe. It cannot be seen, touched or tasted — but it is there. Its invisibility poses two problems. First, its makes it a more effective killer, and second, it makes the disaster easier for politicians to ignore and to deny — even to suppress. As it was for Chernobyl then, so it goes for Covid-19 now.
The problem for the Soviet government was that a disaster like Chernobyl wasn’t meant to be possible. Soviet engineering and nuclear expertise were supposedly the best in the world and the RBMK-style reactor, of which Chernobyl reactor No 4 was an example, was meant to have been built to the highest standards. To admit to design flaws — and there were many — was not only to undermine national technological expertise, it was to undermine the standing of the nation itself. 
And so the Chernobyl disaster became a litmus test for the credibility, and the viability, of the Soviet state. At the outset, the Kremlin assured regional leaders that a small accident had occurred, that “a fire” had broken out and been rapidly extinguished. To ensure that the official message was not confused or contradicted, Western radio stations, which were broadcasting news of the disaster and which could be picked up in the Soviet Union, were being jammed.
But what the Kremlin couldn’t hide from its own people was the huge amount of Strontium-90 and Caesium-137 that had been spread across Belarus by the shattered reactor, along with lead, zirconium, cadmium, beryllium, boron and possibly also plutonium. The Soviet government had no explanation for the horrific and unusual burns suffered by the firemen who had been the first on the scene, just as it had no explanation for the rise in birth defects, the sudden drop in life expectancy and the thirty-fold increase in cancers among Belarusian children. These things, ultimately, could not be denied. The facts were too visceral, too brutal. The radiation could not be contained, and as it spread, it took the truth with it.
Britain and the United States are heading for a similar reckoning with the truth. At the start of the Covid-19 outbreak, both Trump and Johnson refused to acknowledge its seriousness. Despite signs that the disease was highly contagious, Johnson visited a hospital where people were suffering from the virus. He admitted afterwards that he had freely shaken hands with people he’d met.
Johnson’s near-fatal brush with the disease brought sympathy and a greater seriousness to Britain’s confrontation with the disease. But it was too late. The Prime Minister’s instinct was always to approach Covid-19 as fundamentally a political challenge. The lockdown came too late, even though other countries in Europe were shutting down. Why? Because Johnson knew it would be unpopular. It was the most consequential decision of the entire pandemic. That delay was responsible for Britain having the highest death toll in Europe — the third highest in the world. It stemmed directly from Johnson’s inability to confront a politically awkward truth.
Trump was blunter — and much worse. From the start he painted the Covid outbreak as a political set-up job, intended to hurt his electoral chances in November. “Now the Democrats are politicising the Coronavirus — you know that,” he told a rally back in February. “This is their new hoax.”
The number of US deaths swelled horrifically. And yet Trump’s response was to complain about the amount of Covid-19 tests performed by medical staff. “When you do testing to that extent, you’re gonna find more people. You’re gonna find more cases,” he recently told a rally in Oklahoma. “So I said to my people, ‘slow the testing down’.”
In her book Chernobyl Prayer, the Nobel Prize winner Svetlana Alexievich quotes the former head of the Belarus Institute of Atomic Energy, Vasily Nesterenko. He told a local party boss that the Chernobyl reactor had contaminated land and cities, and that the population had to be evacuated. “What are you doing, letting your radiation monitoring technicians run all over the city spreading panic?” the boss replied. “We must not lose sight of the fact that there is a Cold War being waged. We are surrounded by enemies…” Nesterenko then recalled how, “All the institute’s equipment for monitoring radiation was removed. Confiscated. Without explanation.” His politically inconvenient testing was slowed to a standstill by the authorities — a remarkable echo of how Trump wanted to constrain testing for Covid.
Which is ironic, as at the beginning of Trump’s tenure, a body was in place that would have been perfect for overseeing the necessary Covid-19 testing programme. The Global Health Security and Biodefense unit, which was responsible for monitoring the threat of pandemics, was set up in 2015 by Barack Obama. But in 2018, Trump got rid of it.
That kind of chronic shortsightedness was also a factor in the Chernobyl disaster. As Nesterenko told Alexievich, “there are radionuclides on the land, in the ground, the water… we need radioecologists but there are none in Belarus… At one time we had a Professor Cherkasova working in our academy of sciences. Her research was into the effects of small doses, internal radiation. Five years before Chernobyl, her laboratory was closed.” The Soviet authorities shut Professor Cherkasova’s laboratory and pushed her into retirement. She went on to get a job as a cloakroom attendant.
The Chernobyl reactor released the same amount of radionuclides as 350 Hiroshima bombs. After the reactor exploded, incidences of cancer among the Belarus population rose 74-fold. Twenty-three per cent of Belarus’s land was contaminated to the point of being useless. Shortly after the explosion, high levels of background radiation were reported in Poland, Germany, Austria, Romania, Switzerland, Italy, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Great Britain, Greece, Israel, Kuwait and Turkey. A report by the Sakharov Higher College of Radioecology concluded, “In less than a week, Chernobyl became a global problem.”
The Chernobyl disaster, along with the weak, paranoid response of the Soviet authorities, was so catastrophic for the Soviet Union’s reputation that it sped the country’s collapse. It was destroyed by an inability to confront a politically subversive truth — that a state-run facility had poisoned the earth, and the state and its leadership were to blame.
Trump is now caught in the same trap. More Americans have died of Covid-19 than died fighting in the First World War — but even now he is unable to face this fact. Instead, his view is that if tests are finding more cases, then you get rid of the tests. Nesterenko lamented that, “We are still a Stalinist country… Stalin’s kind of person is still alive.” One wonders what the old dictator would have made of the man in the White House.
The world knows what happened at Chernobyl, how the design flaws of the plant reflected design flaws inherent in the Soviet system itself. In the end, the causes — the facts— emerged. It will be the same with Trump. The history books will record Covid as his crowning catastrophe, just as they will excoriate Johnson for his politically self-interested actions. Chernobyl shows us that glaring truths can only be ignored for so long. As the old scientist said, lies incur a debt to the truth. That debt will eventually be paid. It always is.


Cries for justice for the prisoners in San Quentin who are experiencing massively high rates of COVID infections. Key quote:

According to the CDCR, the concentration of confirmed cases at San Quentin is 621.9 per 1000. By comparison, for California (a hot spot state) as a whole, the confirmed case rate is 11.1 per 1000. (source:  
As I read this, I think of all the people, children, too, in detention. All so distressing. But for poor leadership on the coronavirus pandemic, this would have never happened.

Thanks, David Bacon, for your many years of social justice journalism.

-Angela Valenzuela


Photo Essay by David Bacon
San Quentin State Prison, San Rafael, CA
Capital & Main, 7/27/20

Vigil participants hold cardboard tombstones bearing the names of San Quentin prisoners 
who have died.

On Sunday, July 19, about a hundred people gathered at the gate of San Quentin State 
Prison in San Rafael, to call for the release of prisoners because of the terrifying spread of 
COVID-19 inside the facility. On May 30th the state Department of Corrections and 
Rehabilitation transferred 121 prisoners from the California Institution for Men prison in 
Chino into San Quentin. At the time there were no known cases of the virus in San Quentin, 
while Chino was a recognized hot spot.

The coronavirus infection spread rapidly through San Quentin. According to the California 
Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation [CDCR], as of the date of the vigil there were 
928 active cases and eleven prisoners had died.

Less than half of the prison's current 3,524 population had been tested in the two weeks 
prior to the vigil. According to the CDCR, the concentration of confirmed cases at San Quentin
is 621.9 per 1000. By comparison, for California (a hot spot state) as a whole, the confirmed
case rate is 11.1 per 1000. (source:

The vigil organizers include the Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity and the Stop 
San Quentin Outbreak Coalition, which describes itself as "a collective of formerly 
incarcerated folks, loved ones with direct connections to San Quentin State Prison, 
community organizers, and currently incarcerated folks at San Quentin State Prison." 
Other participants came from the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, Re:Store Justice 
and the Asian Prisoner Support Committee. The speeches and placards they carried 
demanded that Governor Newsom come to the prison, that the state grant large-scale 
releases without categorical exclusions (a 50% reduction in the prison population), and 
an immediate stop to all transfers between prisons and from prisons to ICE detention centers.

The day following the vigil a twelfth prisoner, Troy Ashmus, died of the coronavirus 
according to prison authorities. Five more prisoners have died in the past week, 
bringing the total number of deaths at San Quentin to 17. In just 25 days, the number 
of incarcerated people at San Quentin with COVID-19 went from zero to over a thousand 
active cases. As the numbers rise, demonstrations by desperate families have become 
increasingly frequent. 

According to the CDCR, the state prison system now has 7,672 confirmed cases, of which 
1,025 were reported in the last two weeks. Governor Newsom has announced that he 
will release 8,000 prisoners by the end of August, but over the next six weeks the 
infected will likely number in the tens of thousands. With a prison population of 
104,725 (123% of its designed capacity) there isn't adequate space for isolation.

Laura Mondragon, wife of a prisoner, told the vigil participants that Newsom had to act 
more quickly to prevent more deaths. "Getting sent to San Quentin shouldn't be an 
automatic death sentence," she said. "But with the virus there is a terrible risk that
it will be for people like my husband."

Armando Nuñez Salgado, a former prisoner, holds a sign he made 
remembering someone he knew inside.

 While the names of some of the San Quentin prisoners who have died are public, others are not.  
Participants held tombstones in their memory nevertheless.

 The vigil called on Governor Gavin Newsom to release prisoners from San Quentin, and some 
held a banner saying "Release Them All!"  Many speakers denounced what they called a 
"virtual death sentence" imposed on prisoners because of the COVID contagion.

 Austin Tam. an activist from Buenavista United Methodist Church in Alameda.

 Pastor Allison Tanner leads participants in a prayer ritual outside the San Quentin gates. 
Rev. Deborah Lee, behind her, told the vigil that over 7,000 people in the state prison system 
have now tested positive for COVID-19.

 A line of participants stretches out alongside a banner on Sir Francis Drake Blvd.

 A vigil participant

 A vigil participant

 Danny Thongsy, a former prisoner, faced deportation to Laos by Immigration and Customs 
Enforcement after he was released from San Quentin, but community pressure won his release.

 Participants pray for the prisoners who have died.

 Dr. Art Chen, a doctor at Asian Health Services in Oakland, tells vigil participants, "There is no 
"safe" way to social distance in overcrowded prisons, operating well above 100% capacity. 
There is no safe way to transfer incarcerated folks from one prison to another without risking 
a new hot spot."  He asked Governor Newsom, "How many more incarcerated folks will face 
death during this pandemic before you begin mass releases?" 

Laura Mondragon is the wife of a prisoner, and talked about the trauma of not knowing what 
was happening to him.  Phone calls between prisoners and family members were cut off 
five days before the vigil.

Lillian Galedo, director (ret) of Filipino Advocates for Justice, holds a sign and the banner.

Saabir Lockett, special projects coordinator at East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy, 
read a passage from the Koran at the vigil.

Dr. Sue Chan, a founder of Asian Health Services, came to support her son, a San Quentin prisoner.

To see a full set of images of the protest, click here: