Third World Strike Demands

Ethnic Studies Beyond the Academy

First published by Asian Pacific Americans for Progress.

Forty years ago, the students of SF State joined in solidarity with the Third World in demanding inclusion in institutions of knowledge.  For too long, the histories of people of color have been deliberately omitted from official narratives.  Stories transmitted through oral tradition within families but never recorded in the texts that lined the libraries of learning.  Languages were a private code, spoken, within the walls of your home, but forgotten when interacting outside in the world.  People of color were the invisible labor, unseen and unheard, which fueled the engines of global capitalism to expand.

The struggle at SF State successfully opened up spaces for the Third World, domestically and globally, in the academy, to represent and record our histories and stories.  This opened the way for applied research and policy organizations to elevate the importance of race and its centrality in socioeconomic issues when advocating for equitable policies and practices.  Groups like the Applied Research Center, inspired by the success of SF State, sought to “race” policies and programs, so that the impact of communities of color were laid explicit.  Narrative frames that concealed race behind a color-blind curtain were thrown open to reveal how they served to reproduce the subordinate status of communities of color.

The Applied Research Center will survey the successes of ethnic studies, both in theory and practice, in a panel Ethnic Studies Beyond the Academy: Theory and Action at the Grassroots this Friday, October 9, 2009 from 11:00am to 1:00pm, in Rosa Parks C, at “Ethnic Studies 40 Years Later: Race, Resistance, and Relevance”, a conference to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Third World students’ strike and the both the birth of ethnic studies as a field and a college at SF State.   This will be an interactive panel, not just two hours of talking heads, where presenters will explore their effect of ethnic studies on their ideas and strategies, as well as the impact applied research has had on the academy.

Presenters will also address alternative frames for research to both move organizing campaigns and influence policymaking in the age of Obama.  They include:

  • Gary Delgado, a Visiting Scholar at the Institute for the Study of Social Change at the University of California, Berkeley and the founder and former Executive Director of the Applied Research Center;
  • NTanya Lee, Executive Director of the Coleman Advocates, who began her lifelong commitment to social justice as a Black 13-year old, free lunch kid fighting against Ronald Reagan’s “ketchup is a vegetable” policy, and since then has been a student activist, youth worker, community historian, policy advocate and organizer in the Midwest, East Coast and for the last eight years in San Francisco;
  • Yvonne Liu, Senior Research Associate at the Applied Research Center, who is working on a Green Equity Toolkitcurrently to ensure that race and gender equity are part of the green economy; and
  • Jorge Rivas, Multimedia Associate at the Applied Research Center and alumni of SF State where he majored in Raza Studies and studied the interrelationship of culture, community, and the Internet.

Today, we face both a historic opportunity and challenge.  The global crisis of capitalism places many of our communities, domestically and abroad, in a precarious position.  People of color bear the disproportionate burden of the Great Recession, in all measures of socioeconomic wellbeing.  This nation, built on slave labor and the greatest project of economic imperialism and expansion in the twentieth century, has a Black man for the first time at its helm.  We have a historic opportunity to bring racial inequities to light through research and analysis. Join us for this important discussion.