Dear students,

My name is Karina Garcia. I am a high
school teacher, activist, and fellow stage stormer!

I saw the video of you brave students
storming the stage at your local school board meeting to protest the
unjust budget cuts in your city and I was overcome with excitement,
pride and inspiration. I watched it again and again, and later showed
the video to some of my students, who are also young Black and Latino
activists. We were on our way to a rally for immigrant rights, and
you exhilarated us all. Some of my students immediately responded,
“We should do that!”

I know we weren’t the only people who
felt that way. You may have been taking action in Tuscon, Arizona
for a school system that covers 53,000 students but what you did can
empower and inspire millions. That’s not an exaggeration. There are
13 million undocumented immigrants who want justice and to be treated
with dignity. Millions have marched in the past five years for a
reform that has never come. There are tens of millions of Latinos,
with and without papers, who understand the anti-immigrant policies
of your state as an attack on our communities and our heritage as a
whole. There are public school students in every single state whose
education is being diminished through budget cuts and teacher
layoffs.

Politicians, from the President to the
smallest town officials, tell us everyday that this is the way it has
to be, that these cuts are inevitable, and that we must wait until
it’s politically convenient for immigrants to win the rights they
deserve. But millions of people in this country want change, real
change, but don’t see a way forward. What you’ve done is show us
all that there is another way and that we don’t
have to wait!

The students, the workers, the vast
majority have the power but we might not know it until we see actions
like yours, when a group of students shuts down a board meeting by
rushing the stage and chaining themselves to the podium. We don’t
have the power in government, we don’t have the power in the media,
but we do have the power when we step outside of their carefully
controlled procedures and take action. Instead of being stage
managed, we, the people who they never expect will challenge their
rules, can manage the stage.

I speak from experience. On October 4,
2006, a group of us led a similar action at Columbia University
against the anti-immigrant racists, The Minuteman Project. When
Minuteman leader Jim Gilchrist walked on stage to deliver his
anti-immigrant message to students and members of the press, so did
we. Only we came from the audience, with anti-racist banners, and a
fight-back message. When we ran up on stage to protest, some
Minutemen thugs attacked us. But it didn’t matter. Students we
didn’t even know had followed us onto the stage chanting, “Si se
puede! Si se puede!” The Minutemen fled and the event was
cancelled.

The protest gained national attention
as footage of our protest was circulated on Fox News, Univision, CNN
and YouTube. Right-wing commentators like Bill O’Reilly and Sean
Hannity bashed our protest and called for the university to expel us.
But we stood by our actions. We recognized the Minutemen as a violent
hate group that terrorizes and attacks immigrants at the border and
in our communities. They had come to Columbia to legitimize their
operation, to show a civilized and sophisticated face to potential
donors, supporters, and recruits. But a few days later, on a
televised debate between myself and Gilchrist, he walked out rather
than answer tough questions about the group’s links to white
supremacists. They’re big and bad when they have shotguns in their
hands and they’re intimidating defenseless immigrant families, but
when challenged by young Latino students, unafraid and unintimidated,
they run away.

At the time, our student group was
under attack, not only by the right-wing media, and hate groups like
the Minutemen, but our University was also threatening us with
disciplinary action. Even some groups who claimed to support our
politics said we had “gone too far.” It was difficult at the
moment to overcome these pressures, but we knew that our actions were
right. We had a responsibility as the daughters and sons of
immigrants to stand up for our families and community, whatever the
cost.  

The immigrant rights movement needs to
march, but we also need people like you, who are willing to meet
escalated attacks with escalated tactics. You had supporters
protesting outside of the auditorium and could have just stopped
there to have your voices be heard. But sometimes that isn’t
enough. You weren’t content to have just another school board
meeting, where the people most affected get to vent their
frustration, but are then downright ignored. You weren’t content to
have your voice be heard by just the people in the room—your heroic
action spoke to people far beyond your city.

By taking over the school board
meeting, you affirmed your right to control your future. As the
people most affected by budget cuts, you have the right to shut it
down and say “No!”

We need more actions like yours, from
students like you. I congratulate and thank you for the example
you’ve given us.