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This invaluable companion to the award-winning We Were There, Too! gives young readers the tools to bring about change. After the tragic and transforming events of the past year, young people are seeking out ways to become constructively engaged in their world. This book couldn't be more timely.
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Phillip Hoose is the author of We Were There, Too!: Young People in U.S. History, which was a National Book Award Finalist and was selected an ALA Best Book for Young Adults and an ALA Notable Book. He lives in Portland, Maine.
It's our World, Too!
PART ONE YOUNG PEOPLE WHO ARE MAKING A DIFFERENCE TAKING A STAND I FOR ONE AM GRATEFUL FOR THE COURAGE OF YOUTH. -- ELEANOR ROOSEVELT NETO VILLAREAL AND ANDY PERCIFIELD IN HIS SMALL IDAHO SCHOOL, FOOTBALL MEANT EVERYTHING TO ERNEST ("NETO") VILLAREAL, SIXTEEN, THE TEAM'S STAR RUNNING BACK. AND YET WHEN HE HEARD FANS SCREAMING RACIAL INSULTS AT HIM AND HIS HISPANIC-AMERICAN TEAMMATES, HE WONDERED HOW HE COULD KEEP PLAYING FOR FANS WHO FELT THAT WAY. THE INSULTS ALSO BOTHERED ANDY PERCIFIELD, A WHITE STUDENT LEADER. WHEN NETO AND ANDY TEAMED UP, EACH USING HIS OWN SPECIAL POWER, FANS BEGAN TO FEEL HEAT THEY HAD NEVER FELT BEFORE.
When-the whistle blew, ending football practice, Jesse Paz and Ernesto ("Neto") Villareal unsnapped their helmets and jogged off the field together in silence. Neto could sense that something was bothering Jesse. Maybe he was worried about losing his position as first string quarterback. Just before they reached the locker room, Jesse stopped. "Aren't you getting tired of white fans yelling at us Hispanic players?" he asked Neto. "They yell we're no good whenever we mess up. Haven't you heard that at the games?" "ANYONE WHO THINKS WHITES AND HISPANICS ARE DIFFERENT IS WRONG. I'M NOT DIFFERENT." -- NETO VILLAREAL "I never really paid attention to it," Neto replied. Something about this made him uncomfortable. Jesse kept on, his voice rising in anger. "We shouldn't stand for it. We should quit the team. We have twenty-one players on the team, and ten of us are Hispanic. Most of the best players are Hispanic. Without us, there wouldn't even be a team. If we quit, we could wake up this whole community." This was the last thing in the world Neto wanted to hear. For him, football wasn't the problem. Football was the one thing that had made life possible with whites. Before football, there had been fights with white students almost every day at recess. The whites had kicked them with boots as sharp as spurs. Neto and his Hispanic friends had wrapped little chains around their fists and punched the white kids back. Until football, there hadn't even been a chance to get to know whites around Marsing, Idaho. Most of the Hispanic families had come to Idaho from Texas or Mexico to pick beets. They lived together in one part of town. White families lived in another. Many Hispanics spoke only Spanish, and most whites spoke only English. They went to different churches. Every summer since he was seven, Neto had worked from dawn till dusk with his family in the beet fields, chopping up clusters of beets with a metal hoe. Every now and then a white worker would join the Hispanics in the beet fields, but they would usually give up after two or three days. Neto grew up thinking that if more whites knew what it was like to work that hard, they couldn't possibly think they were better than he was. Now, as a 220-pound tenth-grader, Neto was the starting fullback and middle linebacker on the Marsing High School football team. He loved to lower his shoulder and blast through a thicket of arms and bodies. He was a star player on an exciting team. On Friday nights, hundreds of people from all around the valley piled into trucks, cars, and vans and headed to Marsing Field to watch the Huskies. Now Jesse Paz was proposing to take away the thing Neto loved most, to turn him into just another big kid at school and maybe even ruin his chance for a college scholarship, all because a few jerks had said things that turned Jesse off. Neto didn't answer for a while. Finally he said, "I've never heard anyone say those things, Jesse," and walked away. But Jesse's words stayed with Neto. What if it weretrue? Could he really perform before people who felt that way about him? Could he represent a school that would let it happen? "The next game, I decided to see if I could hear what Jesse was hearing," Neto recalls. "In one play, we were running a pass pattern that ended up very near the Marsing cheering section. Our receiver, who was Hispanic, dove for the ball and missed it. Suddenly I could hear voices in our crowd saying, 'Get that stupid Mexican off of there! Put in a white player! G-D those f -- -- Mexicans!' I looked up. Most of the voices belonged to parents. One was a guy on the school board. "All game long I kept listening. When a white player would drop a pass, they'd go, 'Nice try.' But they were always negative toward us. Our whole race. I guess I had been blocking it out. Jesse was right. We couldn't just ignore it anymore." "IF YOU GUYS QUIT, WE'LL LOSE." After the game, Neto found Jesse at his locker and said he was ready to act. They called a team meeting. All the players -- white and Hispanic -- were invited, but not coaches. The players sat down together on the benches in the locker room. Jesse and Neto repeated the words they had heard and said it hurt too badly for them to play in the next game. "Yeah, I've heard those things, too," said one player. "Sure it's terrible, but you can't quit! If you guys leave, it will destroy our team." "Look," Neto said, "if we don't take a stand now, those fans will say those things forever. Even after we graduate, they'll keep putting Hispanic players down. We have a chance to stop it now." Finally there was no more to say. The question came: "Who votes not to play the next game?" Every player raised his hand. That night, Neto, Jesse, and another teammate walked into the coach's office and handed him their uniforms andpads. They explained why they were leaving and expected him to understand, but they were disappointed. "The coach said, 'Quitting will just make it worse,'" Neto remembers. "He said the fans would call us losers and quitters instead of respecting us. Nothing could convince him. After a while we just walked out." Now there was no turning back. "IS THERE ANY WAY YOU CAN HELP?" There was no one to talk to when Neto went home that night. His father was no longer living at home, and his mother was away on a trip. Neto made a sandwich, sat down, and looked through the kitchen window at the autumn sky. It wasn't enough just to quit the team, he decided. They had to tell the community why they were quitting, so the fans would at least have a chance to change. But how? Neto decided to ask Andy Percifield for help. Percifield was the student council president, a tall, red-haired senior who always read the morning announcements over the P.A. system. Neto didn't know him, but people who did said Percifield was smart and fair. Maybe he would know what to do. Neto was waiting by Andy's locker the next morning. "He had tears in his eyes," Andy remembers. "He said that adult fans were swearing at the Mexican players and that it wasn't fair. He was really hurting. He said, 'Is there any way you can help?' I told him I'd try." When Neto left, Andy walked into the principal's office and repeated Neto's story. He asked for the school's support in dealing with the crowd. "The principal told me he hadn't heard adults say those things," Andy recalls. "He said some of the parents would have to call him and complain before the school administration could get involved. He said Neto had probably heard it out of context anyway." Andy stormed out angrily. Soon there was even worse news for Neto and Jesse. Most of the players who had voted not to play had suddenly changed their minds. Even the Hispanic players. They could barely look at Neto and Jesse as they explained that they loved football too much to give it up. In the end, only four players -- Jesse, Neto, Rigo Delgudillo, and Johnny Garcia -- were committed to staying off the field. SOMETIMES TO BE SILENT IS TO LIE. -- SPANISH PHILOSOPHER MIGUEL UNAMUNO The more Neto thought about it, the more determined he became. "I knew we were right," he recalls. "I didn't care what anybody else thought. And I also knew the team couldn't afford to lose me. If the school really wanted me, the fans had to stop saying those things. Only then would I play. Not until." "I COULDN'T BELIEVE I WAS REALLY DOING THIS." That afternoon, an Hispanic teacher named Baldimar Elizondo, whom everyone called Baldy, suggested that Neto tell the school board about the racist remarks. It was important to say in public why they were quitting, Baldy said, so that the school couldn't ignore it or pretend the protest was about something else. The board was meeting that night. Baldy offered to pick Neto up and take him. Neto hesitated. He knew he had the courage to blast through tacklers and the toughness to work all day in the beet fields, but this seemed harder. When Jesse Paz said he'd go, Neto finally agreed. Baldy picked up Neto first, but when they got to Jesse's, Jesse was nowhere to be found. Now Neto had to choose: did he testify alone or forget it? "All right," Neto finally said, letting out a long breath. "We've gone this far. Let's finish it." When they entered the board's meeting room, Neto was terrified. They were alone with the ten white men who were the members of the Marsing school board. "I couldn't believe I was really doing this," Neto recalls. "Then I heard Baldy say, 'Neto wants to talk with you about the football team.' "So I just started. I told them I was quitting and why. I told them word-for-word what I had heard. Only one of them looked like he was really listening. When I was finished, they thanked me for coming, but they didn't say they would do anything about it. I went home thinking, Well, at least I tried. Now they can't say nobody told them." THE LETTER Andy Percifield had been busy, too. There were only two days before the next game. He was determined that his school would do the right thing, no matter what the principal said. He had an idea: maybe the students themselves could write a letter against racism that could be read over the microphone in the press box to everyone at the game. It would have to be powerful enough to satisfy the protesting players and shame the racist fans. Andy was inspired by Neto. Neto was willing to risk his football career, his main source of power and popularity at Marsing High, for something that was right. Andy considered his own power: as council president, he could get out of class more easily than any other student. He could use the office photocopy machine whenever he wanted, and nobody ever asked him what he was reproducing. He read the morning announcements every day, so he could speak to the whole student body. If Neto was willing to risk it all, so was he. The next morning during study hall, Andy drafted a letter from the students, ran off a hundred copies, and then went to the office microphone to read the morning announcements. "There will be a student council meeting in the chemistry lab at ten," he said. "Attendance is required. Then there will be a meeting of all students in the same room at 10:30. Attendance is encouraged." At 10:30, students from all grades packed themselves into the lab. Andy stood up and reported what was happening, then read his letter aloud and asked for suggestions to improve it. There were a few. Then he asked for, and got, the students' unanimous approval to have it read at halftime. Next, Andy took the letter to the striking players and asked if it was good enough for them. They studied it carefully. It read: We, the student body of Marsing High School are appalled by the racist behavior of certain people in the audience. Not only does this set a bad example for some younger students, it also reflects very badly on our entire school and community. Although we appreciate the support of our fans for our team, which is composed of students from many ethnic backgrounds, we do not need bigots here. We are asking the authorities to eject from the premises anyone making such rude and racist remarks. -- Marsing High School Student Body The four players looked up and grinned. You get this letter read to the crowd, they said, and we'll play. Since the letter wouldn't get read till halftime, Andy said they would have to start the game and trust him. They looked at each other. "You got it," said Neto. A HOMECOMING LECTURE Andy had the students and the strikers behind him, but he still needed permission to read the letter. He took it to the principal, hoping for a change of heart. The principal read it, handed it back, and refused permission. They looked ateach other. "I kept asking him, 'Well, how are we going to solve this problem?'" Andy recalls. "He didn't have an answer." Andy was down to his last card: the school superintendent, the most powerful official in the Marsing school district. If he said no, the students would have to act outside school channels. That would be tougher, but not impossible. Baldy went with Andy to see the superintendent. The superintendent listened carefully to Andy's story and read the letter. "Then he looked up and said he was proud of us," Andy recalls. "He said he would be willing to read the letter himself if we wanted him to. I said no, we wanted to do it ourselves." On the morning of the homecoming game, while other students were constructing floats and preparing for a parade, Andy Percifield was in the office photocopying one thousand copies of the students' letter. After school, he passed them out to the students who would be working as parking lot attendants at the game and told them to make sure two copies of the students' letter were handed into every car that entered the lot. At halftime, as homecoming floats circled the field, Allison Gibbons, a member of the student council, entered the press box, stood before the microphone, and asked for everyone's attention. The crowd grew silent as she began to read the letter. "I was watching the crowd while Allison read it," Andy said. "When she finished, there was silence, and then almost everyone stood up and cheered. All the students stood up. And the football players were all clapping. It was a wonderful feeling to know that we had people behind us." Since that letter was read, there have been no more racial slurs from the Marsing Husky fans, at least none loud enough for the players to hear. Neto and Andy know that they and Jesse and Rigo and Johnny didn't do away with racial prejudice in their town. Many white parents still won't let their sons and daughters date Hispanics, and the two groups still don't mix much outside school. But they alsoknow that they did what no one before them had done. "At least," says Neto, "we made it known that we wouldn't accept racism in our school or from our fans. We made a difference in the part of our lives that we really could control." SARAH ROSEN ONE DAY SARAH ROSEN'S SIXTH-GRADE TEACHER ANNOUNCED THAT THEIR SCHOOL WOULD BE REENACTING THE CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION OF 1787. BUT, HE SAID, ONLY BOYS COULD TAKE PART SINCE ONLY MEN HAD PARTICIPATED IN THE CONVENTION. SARAH WAS FURIOUS, BUT SHE SEEMED TO BETHE ONLY ONE WHO CARED ENOUGH TO DO ANYTHING ABOUT IT. HOW COULD ONE GIRL CHANGE THE WHOLE SCHOOL?
At first it sounded like a great idea to Sarah Rosen and her classmates in Mr. Starczewski's sixth grade class. Students at the Muessel School in South Bend, Indiana, would reenact the Constitutional Convention of 1787, where delegates from twelve of the thirteen new states drew up and signed the U.S. Constitution. Mr. Star -- that's what everyone called their teacher -- explained...
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Book Description San Val, 2002. School & Library Binding. Condition: Used: Good. Seller Inventory # SONG0613573080