Ground Zero: Could Tucson change the direction of the Chicano Movement?

Ernesto Mireles, the lead organizer, is an adjunct professor from Michigan State University. He believes Tucson is ground zero for the Chicano movement.

Ground Zero: Could Tucson change the direction of the Chicano Movement?

CREATED Jul. 7, 2012

Reporter: Valerie Cavazos

TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - Teachers and activists will be knocking on thousands of doors throughout Tucson this month. But many of them are not from the Old Pueblo. They are part of a month long initiative called "Tucson Freedom Summer."

About 100 activists, teachers and artists are scheduled to visit Tucson in support of TUSD's Mexican American Studies program. Some will be here a week -- some a month. One of the organizers even lost his job to be part of this cultural movement. Some say what's happening in Tucson  could change the direction of the Chicano movement.

A handful of organizers, teachers and students gather for a brief meeting as they gear up to go out and canvass some South Tucson neighborhoods. By the end of the weekend, they plan to knock on 850 doors, hand out  flyers, and encourage folks to come to an upcoming community forum.

Carlos Hagedorn is a professor of Chicano Studies at Napa Valley College in California. He explained why he traveled to Tucson with a contingent of his students. "This is an educational experience and so in ethnic studies one of the values we teach is our community service component."

Ernesto Mireles is the lead organizer -- an adjunct professor from Michigan State University. "We're doing the same thing that Cesar (Chavez) and Dolores (Huerta) did. Going out talking to people finding out what's going on in their community. What do they think?" said Mireles.

And these discussions will be included in a report that he plans to write and distribute to activists and teachers in Tucson and nationwide. "I think what you have here in Tucson with the Mexican American Studies program is a fundamentally evolutionary leap in the way we think about Chicano Studies or Ethnic studies," he said.

Mirelez believes that Tucson (and the Mexican American Studies program) is ground zero for the future of the Chicano movement. "The response you see from people coming from across the country is people saying "Whoa, wait a minute. We can't let this get wiped out. It's too important."

And the lessons in social justice -- democracy at work as he describes it -- is at the core of the Freedom Summer program. The group is also holding cultural workshops and community forums throughout the month. More information about the program and the schedule can be found on their website --

Organizers say they hope that their efforts become an example of how Hispanics nationwide can mobilize in their communities.