Latina Activists Featured in New Spoken-Word Exhibit

The oral histories of nine Latina community activists, including Santa Ana Mayor Pro Tem Michele Martinez, a CSUF graduate, are featured in “Voces de Liberación: Latinas and Politics in Southern California,” a graduate-student-curated exhibit in Cal State Fullerton’s Pollak Library April 27 through June 21.

From left, Antonia Hernandez, Santa Ana Mayor Pro Tem Michele Martinez and Helen Torres are among nine women featured in “Voces de Liberación: Latinas and Politics in Southern California,” an oral history exhibit at CSUF's Pollak Library through June.

From left, Antonia Hernandez, Santa Ana Mayor Pro Tem Michele Martinez and Helen Torres are among nine women featured in “Voces de Liberación: Latinas and Politics in Southern California,” an oral history exhibit at CSUF's Pollak Library through June.

An opening reception in the campus Quad at 5:30 p.mWednesday, April 26, will include an oral history performance followed by a special viewing of the exhibit in the Salz-Pollak Atrium Gallery at 6:30 p.m.

Eight of the nine women profiled in the exhibit are scheduled to attend. The exhibition features: Theresa Smith of the Law Enforcement Accountability Network (LEAN); America Bracho of Latino Health Access; Rose Espinoza of Rosie’s Garage; Antonia Hernández, executive director of the California Community Foundation; Nury Martinez, a Los Angeles city councilwoman; Helen Torres, director of Hispanas Organized for Political Equality; Ada Briceño, labor union leader and founder of Orange County Communities Organized for Responsible Development (OCCORD); Martinez (B.A. criminal justice ‘09) of the Santa Ana City Council; and Angelica Salas, executive director of Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA).

History major Jael Müller, a grad student curated the collection from the Lawrence de Graaf Center for Oral and Public History’s “Women, Politics and Activism Project,” led by Natalie Fousekis, professor of history and center director. Graduate students studying history installed the exhibition and developed its programming while supervised by Margie Brown-Coronel, assistant professor of history.

Visitors to the exhibit, sponsored by the center and the CSUF Department of History, can hear the oral histories on iPods or on their own mobile devices, using the SoundCloud application. The exhibition’s audio tour is available here.  

Among the voices is that of Smith of Placentia. She shares her thoughts on her role as an activist — a role she took on after her son, Caesar Cruz, was shot 15 times in the back while he sat in his car unarmed and still buckled into the seat belt. Her son had been racially profiled as a gang member because of his race, his bald head, his tattoos, she said. Her activism resulted in the proposal and passage of Assembly Bill 953, known as the Racial and Identity Profiling Act of 2015. The act requires California law enforcement agencies to report detailed information about each stop, including the perceived race, ethnicity and gender and a reason for the stop.

“The work of a community activist is not easy. It’s not easy at all,” says Smith. “An activist doesn’t get paid for this. They do it all on their own time, but, in the end, and especially when you see some results finally come to fruition, that, in itself, is the greatest reward or award you could get … to see that you’ve been a part of a change for the better. I do this, like I said, for my son. I do it for his sons, for my grandsons, for the future of all of our sons and daughters and because, in activism, there is no gender, race, religion. We’re all one human race.”

Funding for the exhibit was provided by the CSUF College of Humanities and Social Sciences, Associated Students Inc. and the university. Funding for the oral histories was provided by the John Randolph Haynes and Dora Haynes Foundation.

Additional information is available online from the Lawrence de Graaf Center for Oral and Public History.

The exhibit is open Monday-Sunday during library hours, which are posted online.