poverty Archives - The Jose Vilson


Cesar Chavez Day Google Doodle

I’m Feeling Lucky

Dear critics of Google’s choice for their Google Doodle of the Day:

What part of “serving the poor” is not aligned with today, a celebration of Jesus’ renewal and purpose in life?

In no way am I saying Cesar Chavez is Jesus, but are Chavez’s (and Dolores Huerta, by the way) works not aligned with the auspices of serving the poor and helping the needy? While Jesus worked with the Peters and Josephs in his congregation, Cesar worked with the Jesuses, Joses, and Pedros in the fields of California’s wine gardens in his day, but that’s besides the point.

Because I’m a Catholic of Jesuit upbringing, let me pull out my handy-dandy Bible and give you a few quotes from the New Testament to jog your memory:

Luke 4:16-21. And He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up; and as was His custom, He entered the synagogue on the Sabbath, and stood up to read… “The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me, because He appointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are downtrodden, to proclaim the favorable year of the LORD… Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

Luke 6:20-21. Blessed are you who are poor, for yours in the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who hunger now, for you shall be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh.

James 2:5. Did not God choose the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him?

Shall I continue?

Luke 14:12-14. “When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return, and repayment come to you. But when you give a reception, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, since they do not have the means to repay you; for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”

Luke 12:44. “Sell your possessions and give alms; make yourselves purses which do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near, nor moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”

I love Luke. Not the rapper, but the writer of the Gospel. OK, OK, one more.

In those days, when there was a very great multitude, and they had nothing to eat, Jesus called his disciples to himself, and said to them, “I have compassion on the multitude, because they have stayed with me now three days, and have nothing to eat. If I send them away fasting to their home, they will faint on the way, for some of them have come a long way.”

His disciples answered him, “From where could one satisfy these people with bread here in a deserted place?” He asked them, “How many loaves do you have?” They said, “Seven.”

He commanded the multitude to sit down on the ground, and he took the seven loaves. Having given thanks, he broke them, and gave them to his disciples to serve, and they served the multitude. They had a few small fish. Having blessed them, he said to serve these also. They ate, and were filled. They took up seven baskets of broken pieces that were left over. Those who had eaten were about four thousand. Then he sent them away.

Immediately he entered into the boat with his disciples, and came into the region of Dalmanutha. The Pharisees came out and began to question him, seeking from him a sign from heaven, and testing him. He sighed deeply in his spirit, and said, “Why does this generation seek a sign? Most certainly I tell you, no sign will be given to this generation.” He left them, and again entering into the boat, departed to the other side.

Mark 8:1-13

You’re here trying to make the case that Easter isn’t Cesar Chavez’s day when Chavez’s general body of work suggests that he had a similar understanding Jesus did almost two thousand years ago.

Pope Francis washed the feet of twelve detainees, including two women, at the collective gasp of laymen and the nods of millions of us who get it. But it comforts you to know that Jesus lives 2000 years ago, and that no one can replicate his work or ever will unless He comes back. Thus, Pope Francis didn’t get the direct approval from Jesus, so we can’t tell whether Jesus actually approves of what Pope Francis did.

Except that, on a day like Easter, it behooved him to dedicate himself to the people he’s been charged with helping from their squalor. Similar to what Chavez did.

May God find renewal for you today. In Jesus’ name. This I believe.

Jose, for today …

*** thank you to these sites for their help ***




Wherever The DREAM May Lead Us [An Education For All]

by Jose Vilson on October 25, 2012

in Jose

DREAM girl

Recently, the conversation around the use of the word “illegal immigrant” came to a precipice when the New York Times’ public editor said there was nothing wrong with using the phrase. Writers like Jose Antonio Vargas and institutions like Univision chimed in, and rightly so. “Illegal immigrant” suggests that the immigrant themselves is illegal. The very term suggests that these men, women, and children who migrate live an existence of illegality, whereas “undocumented worker,” the better alternative, suggests that the person crossing the border actually works here but has not (yet) filled out all the forms to become a full American citizen. The former puts the burden of proof on the individual, whereas the latter highlights a systemic issue.

We still have discussions about students in this situations in black and white terms. Either they all leave or they can all stay … with a caveat. Or a few. For instance, they can’t be gang bangers and drug dealers. And they can stay if they spend thousands of dollars trying to get through college. Or enlist in an army to protect a country that won’t necessarily protect them. Many of them (or their parents) still pay taxes under different social security numbers and work in some of the spaces many others won’t, but with little nuance in our discussions, we don’t get to hear about their actual lives.

More importantly, we as teachers can’t actually tell how our students got onto our rosters … until it’s too late. By too late, I mean, we end up liking them.

Educators who work in high-English Language Learner (ELL), high-poverty environments get that we as educators have to develop a relationship with them before getting to the academics. You should do so for all classrooms, but the expectation for us to build a comfort level with our kids makes a big difference. We get to know their quirks, their pains, their scents, and their styes. We find the timbre in their voices, their sauntering and hopping through the hallways, the funny way they write their q’s, the first topic they discuss when they don’t get the task, and how loud they pop their pieces of gum.

Soon after, we get to know their deficiencies in acquiring the language, the ways they use their prior knowledge to construct the new, the funny way they mix English and words in their native language. And we laugh because it might actually make more sense if every word we wrote in one language actually meant exactly the same thing in English. If we know their native tongue, we switch up our voices to a “I know I’m not supposed to do this” whisper, but when prompted again to speak in that tongue, you decline in a “I already told you I wasn’t supposed to” sorta way. Then, we insist on speaking to their parents in whichever language they prefer in a “I told your child I wouldn’t do this anymore, but you’re cool” sorta way.

We hope the best for them. We want them to think of positive aspirations and fulfill them. We tend to them. We know their names for a year. Two or three if we’re lucky. We see them grow. We clap for them a little harder in ceremonies, because they’re ours.

We can’t tell by any of this whether the students have that allow for their “right” to be here. We can only hope that this country gives them the opportunity to let them follow their dreams, wherever they may lead.

Jose, who thinks today is the last day for voting for the #LATISM Awards voting. Thank you to those who continue to support.


The American Dream, Awoken Abruptly

by Jose Vilson on October 24, 2011

in Jose

Pardon the disruption of the heady talk, but I’d rather preface my optimism for our children’s future for a realism I’ve understood since first born. We ought to look more clearly at what students in disadvantaged areas believe about our silly nationalistic fascinations. There’s a set of people in an older generation that believes in instilling names like “American Dream” and “work ethic” in the minds of youth whose country rarely works in their favor (relatively speaking). Imagine me asking one of my students being asked about the American Dream. They’d probably respond with some packaged quotes like doing well in school and staying out of trouble. Rarely will their passions and quandaries about the world stretch farther than the square plots we prepare their minds for.

By the time they reach me, many become adept at straddling the lines of what will get them past the 8th grade, when they will either mature into some sense of academic awareness or slowly digress into complacency. But don’t mistake any of these two divergent paths for believing in a pseudo-meritocracy. If anything, there’s a subconscious understanding that every person has to find a way to hustle. Poor children already see via books, magazines, and TV the inequalities they’re up against. Thus, they don’t always feel like pledging allegiance, respecting troops, or remembering tragedies that preceded their memory span because they know how America regards them. They’re not interested in stock markets and elevator speeches about the economy because they know where they stand on that pay scale.

They’re not too interested in spending 12 years of their lives getting told they don’t know anything when outside of the brick and mortar is lots more fun and lots less pressurized.

I’m not advocating for people to completely disown what this country stands for, or at least the visage of what we believe it might stand for. Many consider themselves lucky compared to the conditions they witnessed before. I’m simply advocating for understanding, and why, for anyone who’s keenly observing, the nationalism instilled in us gets broken rather quickly these days much the way homes, wallets, and hearts do. And it hurts because in my position, I don’t intuitively tell my students that much of what they know is complete bullshit and they ought to revisit it, at least directly. I do believe hard work speaks volumes, and there are plenty of us (including myself) who went through the education process and have done fairly well for ourselves.

I just can’t sit back anymore and ask my fellow teacher, “Um … poverty matters, doesn’t it?”

Mr. Vilson, who reflects like no other …


Bernie Sanders and The Idea That Everyone Matters (And I Mean Everyone)

December 12, 2010 Jose
Senator Bernie Sanders

On Friday, I came back from another CoCoLoco meeting in which someone suggested I become an administrator (for the umpteenth time) because I was asked to be a table leader even though I had no idea I was leading the table until my name was put at the top of a name chart at an […]

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Savage Inequalities, A Redux

October 14, 2010 Jose
Jonathan Kozol

I‘d love for people to actually talk about the sorts of things people like Arthur Goldstein and Nancy Flanagan did on Huffington Post and the Washington Post, respectively, when it comes to education. I hate to break it to people across the nation, but poverty hasn’t gone away. At all. In the conversation throughout and […]

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Poverty: The Difference Between A Reason and An Excuse

August 31, 2010 Jose
Fresh Produce

The vegetables in the local grocery stores still rot, years after studies have shown that poor neighborhoods always get the stale and less desirable groceries. As if the residents here deserve any less than equitably fresh tomatoes, yellow ready-ripe bananas, and lettuce that doesn’t need multiple rinsing. People in this citadel get exposed to Whole […]

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