Week-long events to promote importance of ethnic studies

Chunky Sanchez was one musician who played during Ethnic Studies Week last year. (Photo courtesy of Professor Paul Espinosa)

October marks the third annual Ethnic Studies Week, which started in 2010 as a reaction to Arizona’s controversial immigration law that was put in place with the passage of Senate Bill 1070.

Founding organizer Wendy Cheng said the event organizers, a group of faculty members that call themselves the “ethnic studies working group,” are seeking to highlight the importance of ethnic studies.

Cheng, a School of Social Transformation professor, said the week of events began after numerous college campuses began to promote ethnic studies.

“I noticed nothing was happening in Phoenix, which seemed weird to me because it was the capital of the state where (SB 1070) was born,” she said.

This year will feature two film screenings, a lecture and panel discussion, Cheng said.

“There is a lot of interest in ethnic studies, although students sometimes have a hard time finding events about these issues,” she said. “That is what Ethnic Studies Week is all about.”

The 2012 events will be Latino- and Chicano-focused.

The events will help students understand the relationship among different racial groups in the country, Cheng said.

“There is the false idea that either no one was here, or that only one group has the right to be here,” she said. “What ethnic studies do is help people open healthy, informed and respectful conversations.”

Chicano literature professor Lee Bebout, who organized two of the events, said Ethnic Studies Week will give students a broader sense of what is happening around them.

“The idea is to have one week to create a campus-wide conversation,” he said.

Bebout’s panel will include Sal Castro, one of the organizers of the walkout that led to an education reform for Chicanos in 1960s in Los Angeles, and Sean Arce, who has fought for the reinstatement of Mexican-American studies in Tucson.

“These issues of race, class, gender (and) sexuality are not only on textbooks, they are everywhere,” Bebout said. “These issues are present and they are very important.”

Filmmaker and School of Transformation professor Paul Espinosa produced one of the films to be screened during Ethnic Studies Week.

“Chunky: The Making of a Social Activist” depicts a musician and activist for Latino rights in San Diego and is a work-in-progress.

The activist depicted in the film is the face of many immigrant rights protesters in California, Espinosa said.

“Students will find it very interesting because these issues are about people just like them,” he said.

Reach the reporter at dpbaltaz@asu.edu