#DefendDACA youth leader: Why I'm coming to the People's Congress of Resistance

Education for All! #DefendDACA! 


Bryan Peña and Peta Lindsay protesting Trump's cancellation of DACA. They will be at the People's Congress of Resistance this weekend at the Blackburn Center at Howard University, in Washington DC.

By Peta Lindsay,

High school teacher in Los Angeles

Anyone who’s set foot in a public school recently has already seen our social/economic/political system failing our young people in a million different ways. In the past I’ve joked that we who work in public schools, work where “the promise of the free market” dies. I teach U.S. history and I am meant to teach that this is a land of opportunity and equality - but how do you say that with a straight face to a young person who has not eaten a meal in the last 12 hours and now has to take a high-stakes test?

To the students who survived traumatic border crossings, who’ve seen people killed in civil war and whose families can’t afford or access mental health services, so they just show up and get disciplined if (god forbid!) they act out.

How great is this “meritocracy” for the young people who work weekends and evenings to help their mom pay rent, when they’re competing for college spots with students who have private tutors, college-educated parents and have never known eviction, homelessness and fear? What does “the land of liberty” mean to a student who gets put in cuffs by the cops and laid out face-down on the sidewalk, for having the wrong skin color in the wrong neighborhood?

My students are trying their damnedest to succeed in a system that does not want working-class children, particularly the Black and Brown ones, to survive. And the powers that be, who never give a second thought to the well-being of these children, only to maximum profit and exploitation, have the nerve to wonder why more and more young people are turning against capitalism these days.

In my school community in Lincoln Heights, Trump’s election landed like a bomb in an already precarious place. Young people who were already fighting through a thousand different obstacles, suddenly saw their nightmares realized and one fear come to dominate all others: the fear of deportation.

Here are some questions and comments that students in my U.S. history classes wrote the day after Trump’s election:

  • “Are my parents getting deported?” (Written in many different ways).
  • “What if he takes our education away? What then? I want to graduate and have a good life.”
  • “Would he really want to separate families? Why do you want to hurt us?”
  • “Could he take away my citizenship if my parents are immigrants?”
  • “I don’t know what is going to happen to my parents, if he is actually going to deport immigrants, but I am sure that our community is going to fight for what we have and love.”

The fear is real - but so is their strength. As you can see in that last comment -and I read many others like it, while many described despair in their families (“my mother cried” and “my mother said we have to move” were also frequent comments), many also described their determination to fight back. Trump did not only inspire fear in these young people, he also inspired fierce and determined resistance.

East Los Angeles high school students converge with students from around the city who walked out to protest Donald Trump.

Student leader coming to the People's Congress of Resistance

Less than a week after Trump's election, these same students helped organize a city-wide walkout. On Nov. 14, these students, along with hundreds of high school students from East Los Angeles, poured out of their classrooms and took to the streets in organized, powerful resistance. They chanted slogans like “Where do we stand? Our native land!” as they marched to City Hall with incredible dignity, unity and pride.

At City Hall they were joined by thousands of students from all over the city, students of many colors and backgrounds who had all worked together to make this powerful resistance possible.

I was lucky enough to witness this action. I’ve been a grassroots organizer/activist for over a decade and I’ve never seen anything like what those young people accomplished that day, it was historic.

Bryan Peña is one of those student leaders who has been organizing since Day One. He was a senior in high school when Trump was elected and he helped found the student organization La Resistencia - to fight back. In the course of organizing against racism, raids and deportations, Bryan made the decision to “come out” in our community and let everyone know that he is an undocumented youth and he has DACA status.

Now Bryan is 18, working and attending college full-time. With his DACA status in jeopardy, Bryan’s future is uncertain but his commitment to building the resistance is clear. Bryan and other student organizers from La Resistencia will be at the People’s Congress of Resistance in Washington, D.C. 

Here is his message:

It is essential to unite. We're in a time in history in which folk of poverty, the LGBT community, Muslim people, Black people, Brown people, and immigrants are being (re)marginalized in every way in which we have (and others before us) have fought. For every step forward we have taken through centuries, Donald John Trump has ruined 231 days.

It is essential to unite because the people should be given power. Not politicians that flip faster than a coin to fit whatever is more suitable for their own interests. And not greedy politicians that allow for slavery in private prisons and specifically aim for Black and Brown folk. Or judges who admit to creating a "concentration camp" for Latinos and get pardoned by the Donald Trump.

It is essential to come together to let every corrupt, every racist, every willingly ignorant person to know the pain and suffering they cause. To let them know that we are people. Because, at the end of the day, we are all humans.

It is important that we hear these young people and heed their call for united struggle. I’m proud to join them at the People’s Congress and to take the next steps in building this powerful movement, together. Join us!

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today for the Sept. 16-17 People's Congress of Resistance.

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