Article in today's West County Times:
Marchers stop to demonstrate at prison
By Ana Facio Contreras
CONTRA COSTA TIMES
VACAVILLE - A group of mostly West Contra Costa students, teachers and
activists, who began a 70-mile trek for education to the Capitol on Friday,
held a rally Monday outside the California State Prison, Solano, to draw
attention to inequities between prison and education funding, as well as to
their beleaguered school district.
Standing side by side, holding hands in front of the prison, the group of
about 50, chanted, "Education, not incarceration," and "Maestros, no
guardias," or "Teachers, not guards" in Spanish.
The group of marchers, some carrying the American and Mexican flags, was
made up of mostly students, like 10-year-old Celia Flores, who goes to
Downer Elementary School.
"I'm walking because I want to support my school," Celia said in Spanish.
Celia joined the march Sunday and was planning to walk until the group
reached the Capitol.
"I'm going to keep marching until I can't anymore or until I lose my
voice," said Celia, who had been chanting, "Si se puede," or "It can be done."
The group's march will end Friday at the Capitol, where they hope to meet
with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and other legislators. They are demanding
more state money for the West Contra Costa school district and for
forgiveness of a 1991 state loan.
On Friday, about 100 people began the march from San Pablo. By Monday, the
group was down to about 50, including a core of people such as community
activist Cesar Cruz, Hanna Ranch Elementary School teacher Sarah Creeley,
and Downer Elementary School teachers Michael McDonald and Thomas Prather.
Although some looked tired, most seemed in good spirits and vowed to
continue until they reached Sacramento.
"We're doing something extraordinary, but these are extraordinary times,"
said Creeley about the trek, which the group is calling a pilgrimage in the
name of education.
Creeley said the idea of the march was born of a grass-roots movement
before the West County school board last month approved $16.5 million in
cuts, eliminating athletics, libraries, elementary music and 201 positions.
The marchers, who have been walking an average of 12 miles per day, have
been sleeping in churches along the route. By Monday they had visited
Vallejo, Fairfield and Vacaville. By Thursday, they expect to attend a
rally in Davis.
Cruz said most of the people they have met on their journey have been
welcoming and hospitable. Other East Bay school advocates plan to descend
on Sacramento over spring break.
McDonald said the march marks the 50th anniversary of the landmark Brown v.
Board of Education ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court that ended school
Downer student Victoria Diaz, 12, said she and her fellow walking students
want to ask the governor several questions.
"I want to know what are we going to do when there are no libraries and no
teachers in the schools ... Are they going to keep building prisons?" said
Victoria, who has been walking since Friday. "I'm marching so there won't
be any more prisons built ... I'm marching so they'll build more schools."
Reach Ana Facio Contreras at 510-262-2798 or acontreras@...