Garcia pledges to continue the fight for civil rights
The Arizona Republic
Jan. 21, 2005 12:00 AM

Yvonne Wingett

An activist who resigned from the state's largest Hispanic-based civil rights group earlier this month has vowed to continue the fight for fair education for Arizona's students.

Silverio Garcia, former state education chairman of Arizona's League of United Latin American Citizens, said his resignation from the organization will not affect threats to pull students from Maxine O. Bush Elementary School in south Phoenix or several pending civil rights complaints against several Valley schools.

The Avondale resident has taken an official position with the Arizona Hispanic Community Forum, a local advocacy organization that seeks to educate, fight for and empower Latinos.

"I'm trying to get my feet back on the ground," said Garcia, 48, who works at a nuclear utility site. "I've had more people call me and I've had more support from the Latino community than I've had before - ever."

That outpouring comes in the wake of the suspension of state LULAC Director Samuel Esquivel. National executives accuse Esquivel of holding secret meetings and allowing Garcia to use LULAC's name without permission of the state board.

At a bilingual news conference Tuesday, Valley leaders rallied around Garcia and Esquivel, with some saying the fight for civil rights for Hispanics could be threatened if the pair don't carry on the fight.

They are a "tremendous force" who have "carried on the grand tradition of LULAC," said Maricopa County Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox, who hosted the event at a Mexican restaurant south of downtown.

LULAC, based in Washington, was founded in Texas in 1929 and has fought for the civil rights of Hispanics in courtrooms and classrooms. LULAC in Arizona has thousands of members.

Garcia has threatened to make good on a boycott of south Phoenix's Bush Elementary School if the district does not remove Principal Walsdorf Jenneford. Garcia has accused the principal of failing to provide a safe campus for Hispanic students after an April incident in which a group of Black girls beat up an eighth-grade Hispanic student, according to police reports.

"He seems to be a fairly reckless individual of using our name without permission," LULAC National Executive Director Brent Wilkes said last week. "Sam doesn't seem to be curbing his actions. Sam seems to be giving him free rein. This is the end of the long line of these kinds of actions."

Maybe under LULAC, but not under the Arizona Hispanic Community Forum, whose membership ranges from 70 to 100.

"We admire his willingness and his desire to put his own work and name on the line for children and education," said David Rubi, president of the group. "I've always known him to be very, very thorough, not someone who shoots from the hip. He won't have to deal with the politics you have to deal with in LULAC. We're very dedicated to moving the civil rights agenda, the human rights agenda. We don't let politics get in the way."

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