Diarios from the Hunger Fast
Last Thursday, May 20, the Bus Riders Union initiated a Hunger Fast for Justice, demanding that members of the MTA board stop their proposed 2010 racist fare hike and save the 380,000 hours of bus service in danger of being cut.
Live from Rosa Parks Tent City
The BRU Fasters set up camp in the Historic Placita Olvera, Zocalo across from MTA headquarters. In memory of one of the first bus rider activists, we transformed it into Rosa Parks Tent City. For seven days now with the support of our members, allies, friends and family, BRU members have been on a water-only fast, symbolizing how the proposed MTA fare hike--as well as nationwide attacks on working class communities of color--will quite literally take food off their tables.
Our tent city is wired! So the hunger fasters have been using their facebook page to blog, give live updates, and post pics and videos from each day's actions and happenings...
At 11am on May 20, BRU members begin fasting. L.A. Now picks up the story; the Bus Riders Union begins to break the silence of the media, demanding that their voices be heard.
After the first night at the Rosa Parks Tent City, Manuel Criollo, BRU member, testifies:
We greeted the morning with the help of a mexica indigenous saumadora with the sweet and earthy scent of copal. In an act of solidarity, Rosa Miranda, one of the BRU fasters for justice, goes to the LA City Council to support the Housing is a Human Right Coalition and their mass mobilization to win a rent increase moratorium. She was greeted by other members and allies from SAJE, Coalition LA, ACCE and LA CAN. Our struggles are the same - we must end the war on poor Black and Brown families in Los Angeles.
The Hunger Fast for Justice is not only about justice for bus riders, but justice for all people of color.
Allies continue to join the Bus Riders Union in solidarity and celebration. Nativo Lopez from the Mexican American Political Association, Isabel Garcia from Derechos Humanos, Salvador Reza from Tonatierra, and Pablo Alvarado from the National Day Laborer Organizing Network all protest SB1070, Arizona's racist immigration law. The LGBT immigrant rights movement hosts a rally.
Music becomes a form of subversion. Manuel Criollo writes:
BRU takes our movement to the road to make our message hit home. Destination: MTA Director and LA City Councilperson Jose Huizar. We added a twist to our rally with a 5 piece Mariachi band. Our Mariachi and about 3 dozen BRU members and supporters hit Boyle Hieghts and passed out over a 1,000 flyers on Chavez. We capped it off by going to Councilman Jose Huizar's street and singing outside his home, urging him to take a stand for civil rights.
At night, people gather at Rosa Parks Tent City to watch the BRU documentary under the stars. Manuel Criollo concludes:
What a night and what a sight to see close to a dozen tents pitched on the very same site where over 300 years ago, a multi-racial group that included afro-Mexicans and Mexican indigenous people settled the first pueblo of Los Angeles. Let us hope our settlement can be the seed for freedom and justice!
The Hunger Fast for Justice is not only an outward sign of protest, but an inward process of transformation. Esperanza V. Martinez writes:
The fasters are feeling energized and really moved by the collective experience of deliberately going without food and only water to convey a message of determination, compassion and relentlessness. . . . The level of gratitude and appreciation for the sun, the earth, the birds and breath was overwhelming. These are the people who help ground me and remind me why freedom fighting is not a job, it's a way of life!
Samuel Bell Pullen agrees:
After Day 3, tears come more easily. Tears are a blessing that become more abundant when one is subsisting on water. There is so much letting go during a fast, and the longer you go, the less resistance you have to letting your emotions flow freely. Fasting is truly a spiritual experience in which we are sustained by a power greater than ourselves. When the tears are flowing freely it is a sign that deep cleansing is underway.
Delores Huerta speaks in solidarity with the Bus Riders Union.
Bus Riders Union members take bags of groceries to the offices of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, all of whom sit on the MTA board, symbolizing the basic food that working class people of color will not be able to afford if the MTA passes its proposed racist fare hike. BRU member Judy Redmond, unemployed and looking for work, explains that the Hunger Fast for Justice is
my way to physically question the moral fiber of the board members of the MTA who want to raise bus fares and cut service hours. Raising fares at this time is morally irresponsible; cutting bus service is morally reprehensible. I am not just making a gesture of solidarity to those struggling to make ends meet or the homeless or those who have lost hope. I will become one of them. I pray that the MTA looks deep into its soul and stops the fare hike.
The Student Rider Movement (SRM) from Santa Monica College joins the Bus Riders Union, chanting, "Raise Consciousness, Not Fares!"
One SRM college student, Mark-Anthony Johnson, testifies:
I've been with the BRU for 8 years now and this campaign against the fare hikes is up there with some of the most exciting and mobilizing work we've done! Today we had a professor host their Women's Studies lecture right under our banner against the fare hikes to bring attention to the cause. The Student Riders are moving to get the administration to be on board and come out against publicly the fare increase. We delivered a letter to administration today.
Cesar E. Chavez, another Santa Monica College student, writes:
I woke up this morning feeling ready and excited about bringing the BRU's Hunger Fast to Santa Monica College. On my way to school I had a realization. I was walking to the bus stop and I began to think of the several conversations I've had with womyn on the bus. I remembered the many times times womyn said they had no more money to pay an extra $13 on top of everything they already have to pay. At that moment I decided to fast for one day in solidarity with the many people that will be forced to choose whether to pay a fare or buy food for their families.
Allies and activists continue to gather in Rosa Parks Tent City. BRU members continue to fast. Organizers continue to plan the protest on May 27 when MTA board member will vote on the fare hike.
Manuel Criollo reflects:
The Tent City is growing and staying strong. We have been blessed by beautiful rebel music--the afro/indigenous Son Jarocho and the Puerto Rican Plena--for the past two nights. . . . MTA press hacks are feeling the heat and now are compelled to put out press advisories that are trying to deflate the meaning of this Thursday board meeting, saying it's not a vote on fares. Clearly if they feel the need to put that out there, that means they are feeling the heat.
For more information and more front-line stories, please visit our Facebook group. Most importantly, please come out tomorrow morning at 8am to show solidarity and to storm the MTA board meeting!
About Evyn Espiritu
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