A Celebration for Social Equality

“Latino Americans, The 500 Year Legacy That Shaped a Nation,” an event celebrating Latino American culture and recognizing the obstacles Latinos endured in the pursuit of social equality, will take place Feb. 20 at 5 p.m.

“[I’ve] witnessed how some individuals are treated kind of in an invisible way,” Ken Gaines, a counselor on campus who helped orchestrate the event, said. “Not acknowledged and appreciated in society for all their critical roles that they play and what they provide.”

The event, which focuses upon social equality and the civil rights movement, will feature keynote speakers such as Bobby Verdugo, one of several high school leaders that helped organize student walkouts, and David Botello, a mural artist that calls for the celebration for Latino culture through his art.

The walkouts started in the mid-60s in response to the lack of educational opportunities for Latino Americans and the rarity of Latino teachers and advisors.

“Los Angeles… [had] the largest Latino population in the United States,” Gaines said, “[but] Latinos were still kind of viewed as the underclass. Mexican Americans were one of the largest groups that had the lowest graduation rate in the United States.”

The walkouts helped create “drastic change in education and societal changes. The kind of [ethnic study] classes and programs that we see today are a direct result of this kind of continuous progression of awareness that happened,” he added.

Artists such as Botello, on the other hand, were instrumental in advertising the movement’s cause.

He helped spread “the message to people and enlightening people” through art, said Gaines.

At the time, Botello also worked a myriad of other jobs, at a department store and an advertising agency, in order to provide for his family. It was sometimes taxing to balance both his family’s need for fiscal security and his love for art, he said,

“Art is good for everybody,” Botello said. “It can help you in all kinds of different professions [and although] you got to get some work, you got to [also] pursue your love, your interest.”

“[Botello] created murals through Los Angeles celebrating Latino civilization, culture, [and] history which was very influential at this critical time in our history,” Gaines said.

Both the First Year Experience as well as the counseling programs will be sponsoring the event, and admission will be free. There will be a short segment of the documentary, followed by a question and answer session with the keynote speakers.