Students, teachers and parents filed into "The C Quad" at Spurgeon Intermediate School in SanTana that played host for their "Noche de Justicia" (Justice Night). The program, organized by Spurgeon Social Justice Club celebrated the 60th anniversary of the landmark Brown v. Board of Education desegregation case. Presentations, a video on Mendez, et al v Westminster and a holiday choir performance rounded out the evening.
But the big moment for the club, comprised of 7th, 8th and 9th graders, was the cloth draped over a mural titled En Defensa de Santa Ana (In Defense of Santa Ana), their contribution to their home city's gentrification battles.
Before the first brushstroke, the political piece began when students took a special summer course from Spurgeon history teacher Mike Rodriguez and his Valley High School colleague, Benjamin Vazquez.
"We got together and started the History of Santa Ana class," Rodriguez tells the Weekly. "Out of that class came the mural. It's a beautiful piece."
The five-week summer course covered everything from the historical evolution of Fourth Street in SanTana from all-white enclave to Latino shopping district to hipster haven, Modesta Avila's imprisonment for fighting against the Santa Fe Railroad company in the late 19th century and how the Olivos family got hoodwinked out of the Yost Theater in the 1980s.
"We want to go organize a protest," students pleaded to Vazquez after learning their history and how it relates to them today. "Your artwork is a protest," he offered. Students got to painting in August and the finishing touches wrapped up the project a month later in September.
Before the unveiling, two Social Justice Club members explained what every image meant. The Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) building represented deportations. A train points to Avila's fight and how railroads divided Latino communities historically in the U.S. A sun holds the symbol of "In Lak Ech," within it, a Mayan "You are my other me" philosophy.
"The butterflies represent the migration of immigrants and being able to travel freely," Spurgeon Intermediate student Virginia Anguiano said right before the mural's unveiling. "The children in the mural are protesting for their rights."
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Everyone stood at long last for the big moment of the night. After a count of three, the cloth came down on En Defensa de Santa Ana. Parents snapped photos and applauded the effort of their children.
"To see it finished now makes me happy," Spurgeon Intermediate eighth grader Diego Martinez tells the Weekly. He's a member of the Social Justice Club and had Mr. Rodriguez as a teacher last year. "The mural represents us as a community."
Follow Gabriel San Román on Twitter @gsanroman2