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Thursday, March 1, 2018

Audio: 50 years ago, thousands walked out of East LA schools. Now, they say ‘the fight isn't over.' | 89.3 KPCC

Audio: 50 years ago, thousands walked out of East LA schools. Now, they say ‘the fight isn't over.' | 89.3 KPCC:

50 years ago, thousands walked out of East LA schools. Now, they say ‘the fight isn't over.'
Nearly two full years before the walkouts, eighteen demonstrators picketed in front of Lincoln High School in 1966 to protest against the lack of counseling services and educational opportunities for Latino students.
Nearly two full years before the walkouts, eighteen demonstrators picketed in front of Lincoln High School in 1966 to protest against the lack of counseling services and educational opportunities for Latino students. COURTESY OF THE LOS ANGELES PUBLIC LIBRARY


On March 6, 2013 — just like she did almost every year on the 6th of March — Paula Crisostomo called her former teacher, Sal Castro, to wish him a "happy anniversary." That year, it was the last time they ever spoke.
Castro was dying of thyroid cancer. "He did not have a voice any longer," Crisostomo remembered; a phone call with "Sal" meant speaking to his wife, Charlotte Lerchenmuller, who would read her husband's written replies aloud.
But this phone call was important. She called Castro every year on the anniversary of the day in 1968 that students first walked out of Crisostomo’s alma mater, Lincoln High School. That year, Castro was central to organizing walkouts at Lincoln and four other East Los Angeles high schools to protest the unequal education Latino students received — and Crisostomo, a senior in 1968, had helped organize too.
"Tell Paula," Castro dictated to his wife, "it's been a great ride, but the fight isn't over." Castro died a month later.
"Those were his last words to me," Crisostomo said.
All this month, politicians, dignitaries, educators, students and community leaders will hold various ceremonies and gatherings to mark the 50th anniversary of the student walkouts — or "blowouts," as some students called them — at Lincoln, Wilson, Garfield, Roosevelt and Belmont high schools.
The blowouts were pivotal moments in the history of the L.A. Unified School District. Some historians even argue the walkouts, led by teenagers, were the beginning of an urban Chicano rights movement to parallel the political awakening already underway for rural farm workers.
In measuring how far the city, the schools and Latinos have come in the fifty years since, Crisostomo says Castro's last words still ring true — the fight isn't over.
"We still have to be vigilant," she said. "We still have to resist."
KPCC spoke with three walkout participants — Crisostomo, Mita Cuar√≥n and Lu√≠s Torres — who shared their reflections and experiences. Continue reading: Audio: 50 years ago, thousands walked out of East LA schools. Now, they say ‘the fight isn't over.' | 89.3 KPCC: