SBCC Day of the Dead event ‘puts inequity to rest’

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MICHAELA WAHLSTROEM

Richard Cabral talks about his life experience during City College’s Student Equity Committee first event, “Putting inequity to rest,” on Nov. 2, on the Winslow Maxwell Overlook on East Campus. Cabral is one of the members of Homeboy Industries, where former gang members help each other to a better life.

ALYSSA DURANT, Channels Staff

Rainbow prayer flags, an abundance of flowers and sparkly painted skulls welcome the month of November in Mexican culture to respect the loss of loved ones in celebration of Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead.

Luis Giraldo, director of equity, diversity and cultural competency, hosted the Dia de los Muertos themed event, “Putting Inequity To Rest,”  from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Nov. 2 at the Winslow Maxwell Overlook on East Campus. The event was aimed at celebrating student diversity.

“The date of the event falling on Dia de los Muertos is symbolic of putting the concept of inequity to rest; just like we have with the deceased that we honor on this holiday,” Giraldo said.

Throughout the afternoon there were readings from the college’s “Still I Rise” poetry group, a presentation by the Black Student Union, spoken word performances, live hip-hop music and a panel discussion. City College programs including the Wellness Connections, Ethnic Studies Now, iPath and Extended Opportunity Programs Services tabled to support the cause and spread awareness of their own missions.

A group prayer opened and closed the event out of respect toward the religious traditions of the holiday. The audience enjoyed free tacos provided by a taco truck, while the speakers picked their brains on the topic of cultural justice.

There were seven latino men speaking on the panel at the event. They were all formerly incarcerated for different reasons and used to be affiliated with different gangs in East Los Angeles.

All of the panelists had relatively similar backgrounds, but a specific shared experience brought them together for this event. After their prison sentences they were all saved by the same Los Angeles gang rehabilitation group, Homeboy Industries.

The goal of the organization is to provide hope, training and support to previously incarcerated gang members.

Giraldo used to work for Homeboy Industries and was happy to be reunited with his ‘homeboys’ on the panel as it reminded him of how much progress they all individually made.

The panel’s main focus was on how inequities have been difficult for these men to overcome in society both before and after their prison sentences. Social inequity influenced the defiant behaviors that put them behind bars, so it’s vital to the men to put it to rest.

The panelists came forward and took turns sharing their stories, regrets and struggles with the audience.

Panelist Joey Abril shared the moving story of why he swayed away from his former bad habits including meth addiction and gang affiliation. Oct. 28 was the two year anniversary of the date Abril was stabbed in an act of gang violence. He survived his injury and used it as motivation to get his life together.

“The birth of something [his daughter] and the almost death of something [himself] were the turning points in my life,” said Abril.

Homeboy Industries helped him give up substance use completely, including drinking. He learned how to find a safe place in healthier outlets, such as hiking. After pulling himself together, his mother told him that she was proud of him for the first time in his life.

“I am living proof that change is possible,” he said. “I support all the dreamers in the world.”

Their panel discussion touched student Shekinah Bryant, who attended the event to hear what other people in the community had to say about equity.

“It was a real eye opener for the inequity present in society,” she said, “and goes to show that if we make a collective effort to end discrimination, then the world around us will be a better place.”

When Giraldo worked with Homeboy Industries the founder of the organization, Father Greg, vowed in a speech that instead of shaming people for the troubles of their past, he would give them double honor. That vow is what would inspire Giraldo for the rest of his life.

“We want to make SBCC a place of double honor,” Giraldo said. “Putting Inequity to Rest is more than just an event. Today is a ceremony, one that will not end.”