Sunday, October 14, 2012

Remembering Your Grandparents, Mothers and Fathers, the Blood, Sweat and Tears that Brought Us to Today!

Sometimes I wish we had the technology of today back when my father was growing up. Then we could record, and put on youtube, all of the struggles that they encountered.
My Dad was born in 1914. He was only 15 years old at the start of the Great Depression. He was at the top of his class when his Father came to school and pulled him out. "Times are hard. You have to put away these childish things and go to work to help support our family through these hard times."
There were no video games back then, only hard, back-breaking work for a young 15 year old. He worked in the fields from dawn to dusk, alongside his father, uncles and younger brothers. They travelled across the country finding any available jobs, all to send home money so the family could survive. As the Great Depression became worse, my father found a job working as a trucker/recruiter for the State of Michigan. He found jobs for many working families, picking fruits, vegetables and travelling from harvest to harvest to help provide food for all Americans. My father served as one of the foreman. Yet, my father never held against the owners that he was not allowed to eat or go to the same restrooms as other non-Latino supervisors. This type of discrimination happened all across America. All minorities just had to live with it.
Later, my Dad found a job in the Auto Industry and helped others find jobs too.
My Dad LOVED the Unions. The Unions promoted fairness and safety for all and helped increase wages from pennies to dollars, with healthcare benefits, while providing safety in the workplace.
My Dad believed in Equality for every person, regardless of race, color or creed. He helped so many other families find jobs and even offered them a place to stay, in our own home, until they could stand on their own.
My Dad was a good Christian and petitioned our Catholic Church to have Masses in Spanish.
My Mom and Dad had 10 children - 5 girls and 5 boys. He instilled in each of us a need  to complete our Education. He insisted that Education was the Great Equalizer. We must do well in school and complete our Education. We must speak English impeccably -- because he knew of the discrimination provided to those with an accent, but he also insisted that we must ALSO remember Spanish and our heritage -- where we came from.
Growing up, my father -- who worked at the factory from 6am - 3pm, then worked as a painter from 4pm until 9 pm, then had a 3rd job on Saturdays - hauling sawdust for the Factory, and also found time to help the church (as a painter) and help the priests as a handyman. My Mom cooked for the Priests. ALL to serve as payment for our Tuition at Catholic School (a premiere education.)
As for me: My father insisted that every summer, we work in the fruit fields, picking Cherries and Strawberries. Even though he earned a good wage at all of his jobs, he insisted we work. Why? To instill in each of his children a good work ethic.
He said to each of us: "Work Hard! Never be Lazy! Never take a Hand-out. Stand on your own. Learn to be self reliant." We learned. Every summer, we worked from dawn to dusk, harvesting crops. My mom kept us on quotas. The more you picked, the bigger the allowance. I was so happy to receive my allowance for my hard work each week.
Yet, there was so much discrimination back in the fifties and sixties. We "Mexicans" were not allowed to swim in the same areas as the Locals. The church reserved Mass Times "Just for the Mexicans" at 11:00 every Sunday. The other Masses were not for us.
We were housed in garages and barns with outhouses and showers segregated from the staff. But that's how it was in those times. We just had to live with in.

However, in the early sixties, everything changed. President John Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta said TIMES WERE A CHANGING! They said we must Stand Up and Protest. We ARE ALL EQUAL!
I believed them.
In the late sixties, my girlfriends and I joined other protesters and fought for equality for all. We Protested. We Stood Strong. We carried signs. We demanded Equality for All!
I remember nights where the police, in full regalia, including night-sticks, were patrolling down the sidewalks in front of the apartments I lived in, all trying to silence the protesters from protesting for equal rights. However, WE WEREN'T AFRAID! We stood up. We protested. We held out for Equal Rights.

Today, I do see the Fruits of our Labor, Trials and Tribulations.
Especially for our Young People, I do see more equality. I do see less discrimination.
The abusers are much to smart to be blatant or obvious. There still is Discrimination and Racism, but not nearly as blatant nor to the level of Past Racism. It certainly isn't the racism my Father experienced where he was denied the use of Bathrooms and Eating Places.
It certainly isn't to the level that I experienced, only segregating us from swim places, movie theatres and Masses but still very much alive.

Today, it's much more subtle. You only see it in whispers, political t-shirts, websites and signs, only whispered under the abuser's breath.

Sometimes, I think the worst offense is in our children themselves. Our children FORGET the accomplishments of our ancestors (My Dad, their Aunts and Uncles) of the Past.
They forget that the sins, the racism of our past, is so easy to reproduce.
They forget ALL OF THE HARD WORK it took to get us to Today.
They forget to HONOR the sacrifices of my Dad & Mom and of their own Aunts and Uncles to get them to where they are today.

All I can say to our children is:
Please stop and think of ALL of the Sacrifices of your Ancestors before you.

Think of the sacrifices your Grandmother, your Grandfather, your Mother and Father, your Aunts and your Uncles were forced to undergo JUST TO GET YOU TO WHERE YOU ARE TODAY!

Remember, this country was formed on the premise that WE ALL are Created Equal, regardless of Race, Color or Creed. Our country was Founded on the Social Compact that we would NOT allow our Seniors to be thrown Out into the Cold and Forgotten.

Be thankful and rejoice in YOUR FAMILY and YOUR ANCESTORS.
Without their struggles and hard work, you would STILL BE IN CHAINS.


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