Blow Hards

The Minutemen toot their own horn.

Or, as Zanna might sing it:

No lawyers, no politicians, no more BS...

This time, dear Pancho Villa, we're gonna kick your ass.

United They Stand

Pam and Ricardo Martinez met on a United Farm Workers picket line in California.

Now, more than thirty years later, they share a life, a family, a burning passion for social justice, a commitment to Padres Unidos, the organization they co-founded in 1991 -- and $100,000 that will soon come their way along with a Ford Foundation 2005 Leadership for a Changing World Award. "When you have all of this in common, it's a very powerful thing," says Pam Martinez.

The Martinezes -- just one of close to 1,000 suggestions the foundation received for "individuals and teams tackling some of the country's most entrenched social, economic and environmental challenges" -- found out they'd been nominated because Ford sent a research team to check their work. "They called us after they'd done extensive interviewing," Pam explains. "They wanted to meet with all kinds of people we'd worked with over the years -- parents and students, friends and allies."

And the Martinezes have definitely worked with all kinds. "You don't just stand by and watch injustice happen," Pam says. "I think we can do better, and that's what this is all about."

While living in Texas in 1978, she and Ricardo helped organize an effort that successfully overturned a state law barring undocumented immigrant children from public schools. In 1981, when the Texas economy went bust, the oil company where Pam worked as a legal secretary transferred her to Denver -- only to have this branch go bust a year or two later. But by then, the Martinezes were hooked on making Denver a better place to live.

Their work with parents concerned about ethnic inequities at Valverde Elementary School led to the formation of Padres Unidos in 1991. The name came from a celebratory potluck after the Valverde fight, when one father said, "This is a great victory, and we can't stop. We are united parents."

For the first seven years, the group operated on a shoestring -- "no staff, no office," Pam remembers. After that, a two-year grant from La Raza helped Padres Unidos staff up, which in turn allowed it to develop a dual-language Montessori school that opened in 2001. Today the organization's student arm, Jovenes Unidos, is active in five schools, and the office gets calls every day from more schools.

The award, which they'll receive at a ceremony in New York City later this month, should help them answer those calls. "It's a reflection of everyone," Pam says. "It's honoring everyone who every day is striving for equality and justice for all. It's honoring everyone who's holding the line on democracy and pushing back. Immigrant, non-immigrant, white, Latino, African-Americans, etc. It honors all. To me, at a time when these things are not so valued and are so severely under attack, it's an affirmation of everyone's efforts to create a just world."

And those efforts are just beginning. Padres Unidos has been contacted by parents in Brighton and Aurora to start chapters in those towns. There are concerns that Colorado legislators like the ones now down on the border, or citizens, or both, will try to put a measure on the November 2006 state ballot that would cut off public services to illegals, as Arizona did last fall. "It's shameful," Pam says. "It's something we're going to have to deal with."

All of us.

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