"Remember El Alma" First On-site Performance Challenging the Alamo, March 2010

"Remember El Alma," First on-site performance
challenging the Alamo
original poem written by Barbara Renaud Gonzalez

Adapted by Virginia Grise; Produced by Bihl Haus Arts, Kellen McIntyre, Ph.D; Performed at Luminaria!
San Antonio, Hemisfair Plaza, San Antonio, Texas, March 13, 2010; 5 Actresses, 1 Musician
A cast of beautiful women, all ages and colors, from
all over San Antonio
; Foto Credit: Joan Frederick @2010

Friday, November 30, 2007

Mary Alice, wife of Henry Cisneros, finds her voice in San Antonio as women battle for Free Speech in the Streets

She's a delicate bird of a woman, petite and beautifully apparelled. I know her husband, and she looks up to her supremely intelligent, charismatic, but scared of the status-quo husband. I suspect that she became a San Antonio councilwoman as a result of his lanky shadow. No matter. Yesterday, la Mary Alice stood up to the Man along with Councilwoman Lourdes Galvan and voted on the side of the Constitution and women's rights as one of two women on the San Antonio City Council who recognizes that anti-war or anti-immigrant protestors should be able to march on the streets without having to pay thousands of dollars for the privilege. While the city-wide Fiesta! bacchanal takes over the streets for weeks.

With a vote of 9-2, the San Antonio City Council overwhelmingly voted to pass a new "Parade" Ordinance yesterday despite the organized protest of free speech advocates - mostly women - who believe that the City Council is violating the First Amendment of its citizens by charging marchers who want to protest on the street instead of sidewalks.

Amy Kastely, a law professor and attorney for the Esperanza Center, walked alongside free speech proponents toward the Federal Courthouse after the vote to file a lawsuit on behalf of the International Women's Day March & Rally Committee and the Free Speech Coalition.

I know, I walked too. In my high heels, all dressed up for the occasion at City Hall.

According to Kastely, the just-passed ordinance allows for "big groups" listed below to march for free - while other groups have to pay:

1. At least two "Fiesta" parades
2. The MLK March
3. The Cesar Chavez March
4. Diez y Seis de Septiembre
5. Veteran's Day
6. Mardi Gras

"This ordinance threatens community marches by requiring groups to pay for the cost of traffic barriers, police officers and clean-up for their events, which can cost up to $15,000 or more," said Mia Kang, a young activist who spoke before City Council.

Today's ordinance "is a violation of the Constitution," says Kastely, as the City Council "is wiling to pick and choose among ideas, willing to balance the city budget off our backs."

The City of San Antonio is one of many cities around the country facing these restrictive ordinances and legal challenges to them. In response, some courts have said that it is not constitutionally permissible for the government to impose such high fees for the use of public streets - and that people
are in effect precluded from using the public streets for marches, parades and the like. Further, courts have clearly held that the First Amendment requires "viewpoint neutrality," which means that if governments waive the costs for some they must waive them for all, without regard to the content of the speech.

According to Kastely, the Council's vote implies that they believe citizens should have to pay to speak out, and that the "costs are so big they interfere with free speech."

You know Mary Alice had to stand up to Henry that night. You go hermana!

credits: March in San Antonio, Texas, www.salon.com


I've taken the liberty of editing the complete statement because of length, but I'm impressed with Dee's courage and coraje. May you too fight back, it's the only way.

This lawsuit represents more than the damages/injuries inflicted upon me. What I want people to remember is that there are 12 women and 2 men who were also displaced. The Chairman of the Board, Vice Chairman, and the rest of the Board failed to act responsibly; choosing instead to justify the illegal behavior of the President of the organization. The Board of Directors deliberately retaliated against me instead of protecting me and my civil rights. In fact my complaints were ignored because I am brown and I am a woman.

The tax payers and citizens who have provided support to the GCAC for over 25 years have also been robbed of classes, performances and events that enrich our community and preserve our Chicano/a culture. The loss during this period is immeasurable.
The greatest injury however has been to the countless civil rights advocates who battle to ensure that employees’ women in particular, would not have to endure sexual harassment and then suffer retaliation for reporting it.

I am saddened when I think about what has happened to the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center, once considered a model on the national level as a cultural institution. I am saddened when I think about the hopeful young children that have had their violins silenced because the President canceled the Mariachi classes. Gone is the Guadalupe Bookstore which helped promote local and regional authors and artists. Gone are all of the artistic directors that helped breathe life into the Guadalupe all gone except for one and how she survived is beyond me.

We expect a verdict that will send a clear message to those who still believe that females can continue to be treated like second class citizens. We expect to hold the Board of Directors accountable for affirming the actions of the President instead of defending my civil rights when I cried out and rather than protecting me; silenced, humiliated and escorted me out for my own protection.

Dolores Zapata Murff

November 27, 2007

credits:Women Resisting in Oaxaca http://images.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://www.genderracepower.com/wp-content/uploads/2006

Monday, November 26, 2007

Are we ashamed of La Lupe? The Guadalupe Cultural Center gets sued for Sexual Discrimination by a Brown Woman

Well, it's official. Tragic. And necessary.

The Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center, once a history-making cultural fuerza and fountain of all things Chican@, is getting sued by one brown woman - and is about to make history again. On Tuesday, November 27th, 2007, at 10 am, Amy Kastely, lawyer with de la Riva & Associates who is representing the plaintiff, Dee (Dolores) Zapata Murff, will file a lawsuit in Federal District Court in San Antonio, Texas, alleging sexual discrimination.

Specifically, the charges include: Sexual Harrassment; Harrassment based on race, color and national origin (the plaintiff called herself a Chicana); Retaliation; Constructive Discharge, and Negligent Supervision.

In the lawsuit, Dee Zapata Murff, the GCAC's former Public Relations and Marketing Manager, alleges that R. Bret Ruiz, who was hired by Juan F. Aguilera, the Center's Board Chairman in the summer of 2006, discriminated against her as the Guadalupe Cultural Center Board failed to take action when she brought it to their attention. The following is an excerpt from the formal complaint that will be filed on Tuesday morning: (The web-links are mine)

In July 2005, Defendant R. Bret Ruiz was hired as Executive Director of the Guadalupe Center. At some point in the next several months, Mr. Ruiz requested, and the Board of Directors of the Guadalupe approved, a change in his title to “President” of the Guadalupe Center.

1. Within a month of beginning work, Defendant Ruiz began to direct sexually offensive remarks towards Plaintiff Murff. These included:

a) Describing a young intern’s breasts as “voluptuous” and her clothing as “provocative” and then comparing the young woman’s appearance to Ms. Murff’s, remarking that Ms. Murff was also “voluptuous” and “provocative,” as he looked up and down her body;

b) Daily comments on Ms. Murff’s clothing made in front of other Guadalupe Center staff members, ranging from “very sexy today” to “here comes Dee in her fake Channel;”

c) Calling Ms. Murff while she was on her lunch break to comment on the co-worker with whom she was having lunch: “You’re not having an inappropriate relationship with him are you?”

d) Remarking that Ms. Murff must have “compromised herself” to get the editor of La Prensa newspaper to donate a half-page advertisement to the Guadalupe Center; and

e) Remarking that Ms. Murff “must have given a blow job” to another staff member who had complemented Ms. Murff’s work on a particular project.

2. Defendant Ruiz also repeatedly made racially offensive comments directed at Ms. Murff and other Mexican-Americans:

a) “You need to wear more sunscreen – you are getting too dark” [said to a dark-complexioned Mexican-American woman];

b) “You need to work on your accent because it sounds too Chicano” [said to a Mexican-American man]; and

c) Commenting that people living in the Westside of San Antonio (where the Guadalupe is located) are “very rasquache y feos.”

d) Telling Ms. Murff: “you look like la india Maria!!”

3. In September 2005, Ms. Murff told Mr. Ruiz that his sexual and racial remarks were “offensive” and “abusive.” Soon thereafter, Mr. Ruiz called Ms. Murff to his office and told her that he could not “mentor” her and that he had certain expectations of her as the Public Relations Director. Later, Ms. Murff discovered that Mr. Ruiz had put a letter in her personnel file discussing this “counseling” session. Although this letter is addressed to Ms. Murff, it was never delivered to her.

I've heard latinas complain about sexual harrassment
at the Guadalupe Cultural Center for a long time. Unfortunately, there are still too many men at non-profits who don't understand that justice and equality includes respect for las mujeres. I attended several boardmeetings at the Guadalupe Cultural Center last year, and personally witnessed the contempt the boardmembers showered on the latinas of the Guadalupe, me included. What I noticed was that the boardmembers showed a definite disdain for the working-class, ethnic-apparalled, un-corporate couture of the women who came before them.

A jury could be seated and ready for trial in 9-10 months, Fall 2008.

artistic credit: Guadalupe (Cultural Center) Dancer