Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Sad News

Spring is beginning beautifully. The fact that it is still light out when I leave the office makes me delirious with happiness. But the arrival of this new light is bittersweet, because with its arrival came the news that an acquaintance, classmate, and community member died on Monday.

Jose Roberto Barrera. I learned the news from a classmate at LA Trade Tech as I was walking into class on Tuesday. I was stunned-- I had just seen him last week working at the U.N.I.D.A.D. event. The evening before that, he presented the campaign to our class. He and I were assigned to the same group for our final project, and we had just exchanged phone numbers and email addresses. I didn't know him well, but I saw that he had the kind, somewhat haggard, determined look that is so familiar in people who are committed to organizing work. 

My mind computes that he is gone, yet resists it. The announcement on the front page of the S.A.J.E. website provides some explanation of this feeling:

Dear Friends, 
It is with great sadness that I write to inform you that today we have lost a member of our SAJE and UNIDAD family and that we have all lost a loved and cherished member of our community. 
Jose Barrera, SAJE's UNIDAD organizer, and a long time member of the Los Angeles immigrant and worker rights community, passed away on Monday, March 19, after a tragic accident. 
From the moment that Jose walked through SAJE's doors he inspired us all. His unconditional love for our communities was evident in his relentless dedication to the struggle for justice for immigrants, los carwasheros, day laborers, South Los Angeles residents, and so many other communities to which he dedicated his life. This was most evident through his desire to bring together the different communities and struggles he loved.  
Earlier today, I was reminded of a beautiful tradition I learned in the United Farm Workers in which we remembered and celebrated the lives of our brothers and sisters in the struggle who had passed away. In an acknowledgment of the indelible mark they left in our hearts and in the struggle, and as a reminder that their spirit lives on in our daily work and in the struggle for justice that they dedicated their life to, we would call their name, and all would respond "√≠Presente!" 
In acknowledgement that through his love and dedication to our community Jose has left SAJE, and all of us, better than he found us, today we say:  
Jose Barrera! √≠Presente! 
Jose has been taken from us far too soon, our hearts break, but our struggle and solidarity continues in his honor. 
When we know more about where condolences can be sent, about the service arrangements, and ways in which we can support his family, we will make an annoucement both here and on our Facebook page. 
With great sadness,Paulina GonzalezExecutive Director
As a classmate said on Tuesday, he is still here with us because we have been touched by him and we remember him. No matter that I did not know him well; his presence affected me. The loss of someone dedicated to the struggle always, always leaves a hollowness.

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