Dear Stegeman: An Open Letter from Freedom Summer and UNIDOS

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On Monday, UNIDOS and Freedom Summer organizers sent out an open letter to Tucson Unified School District board member Mark Stegeman requesting his participation in a community forum in the next eight days and that, besides his recent resolution to unban the banned Mexican-American studies classroom books, he consider: "1. Recant your testimony to the ADE State Board concerning MAS, 2. Apologize for calling MAS teachers and students a “cult”, 3. Vote to reinstate MAS, Sean Arce and Rene Martinez."

A few other questions community activists are wondering, in particular, why now? TUSD is in the middle of four civil rights investigations. Is this part of an action that needs to take place as a correction, just like finally offering interpreters during meetings and posting that information on the TUSD website? Is this to make way for the multicultural curriculum the district is supposedly developing under the leadership of Auggie Romero?

Perhaps, Stegeman last night's TUSD special meeting will provide some answers. I suspect the letter will be read aloud during call to audience:

Open Letter to Dr. Mark Stegeman

On January 18th 2012, Dr. Mark Stegeman one of the Tucson Unified School District (TUSD) board members who voted to end Mexican American Studies (MAS) wrote in a press release, “It’s time to end the special treatment of the Mexican American Studies books.“

This statement was made after UNIDOS and Freedom Summer representatives announced their intention to hold a press conference challenging the intention and timing of Stegeman’s actions. The question before Stegeman is simple.

Why alienate the Chicano community in Tucson? Many speculate that he can win re-election without us but the real question is can Cuevas, Sugiyama or Stegeman win in the face of a united opposition? Stegeman’s choice is clear. Will you emerge from this struggle as a defender of free thought and education or will you continue play the dupe for Huppenthal and Horne allowing yourself to be hoisted on their petards like some sort of political sacrifice? Huppenthal and Horne don’t vote for you — we do.

This moment is crucial. As the Chicano Community in Tucson and its allies congregate in ever increasing numbers to walk and talk door to door with their neighbors they gather momentum — the community survey we are taking is providing an ever clearer view of what the average Tucsonian is thinking and feeling about their political, educational and social situation and it doesn’t look good.

We invite and challenge you Dr. Stegeman to join us at a community forum to speak on your reasoning, at a forum to be held at a time and place of your choosing within the next 8 days. If it is truly “time to move forward,” as you stated, then that must be done as a community. Any attempt to move forward without input from the Chicano community is disingenuous and blatant posturing. Stegeman has the opportunity right now to set the record straight: 1. Recant your testimony to the ADE State Board concerning MAS, 2. Apologize for calling MAS teachers and students a “cult”, 3. Vote to reinstate MAS, Sean Arce and Rene Martinez.

As a community we embrace those that embrace us. Make no mistake — it is with the same determination and ferocity with which we have fought to this point that we walk the streets and knock the doors of Tucson. The one thing that Freedom Summer has shown us is that we are not alone, our allies are with us — planning, mobilizing and walking. Can you say the same? Who are your friends Dr. Stegeman?

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