We share so much with our neighbor to the west. In fact Tucson is so like us in many ways it is considered something of a sister city. Yet here we are...our very real differences as people revealed by the actions of the Governor of Arizona, the Sheriff of Maricopa County, and now the Tucson School Board. What happened? Let's review.
Last year, Arizona passed the controversial H.B. 2281, a bill banning school curriculum “designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group.” Along with the bill, a number of ethnic studies books have been removed from school district shelves. Some of those book are Bless Me Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya, six books by DCF poet Jimmy Santiago Baca, Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States 1492 to Present, Yo Soy Joaquin/I am Joaquin by Rudolfo Gonzales, and The Tempest by William Shakespeare. More information is available on the Librotraficante website.
Merimee Moffitt lives in Nob Hill. She is a co-editor of The Rag, a monthly poetry broadside.
Love Letter to the Teachers of Arizona
in Tuscon Unified School District March 18, 2012
AZ we worry about you, married like we are along our border
snuggied tight from Lordsburg to four corners
we cross into each other like an old married couple
comfortable and crazy—what are you doing
sassing your heritage?
your children torn to select a favorite parent, you
know better. We share
wild west marauders, indigenous
peoples robbed of homeland
Spanish and Mexicans here before armies
desecrated confiscated and slaughtered—ethnic cleansing
aqui? again in the Southwest?—my God, we share
the Great Spirit of forever ago, Mother Earth
Father Sun Sister moon and precious little water
Arizona, arid land with red rock valleys, mining
towns and conquistador crime scenes, ethnic studies
forbidden? Will you tolerate
new concentration camps? (privatized prisons)
Boxing up books does not silence truth
Anzaldua, Cisneros, Cofer, Alvarez, Urrea, Rios
Baca into little boxes together
just imagine the fires sparking on those dark shelves
blending history and language, stolen kisses
as the Rio Grande waters roots, la migra hunts families
once cordially invited, disappears them now
like pages, fields, trees, books
closes borders rudely like bad parents
shunning kids they birthed, teachers ordered to
forget lessons—who are you kidding, Arizona
What we don’t teach becomes alluring
—why is this book forbidden, students? Let’s
think critically about oppression
of cultures, how combustion is spontaneous, how
repression is dangerous history repeating itself.
The books can’t be abolished, a banned book is
a paradox, the best advertising ever for its
message within. Read and consider, Arizona.
You are not alone.
Poetry submissions are welcome. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.