Wednesday, April 9, 2014

L@s Autonomous Brown Berets of Sonoma County

We are the continuing legacy of the original organization founded in 67 our of East LA that have adapted to changing times to best fit the struggle for our people's due self determination. Inspired by the work of the Black Panther Party for Self Defence, the Brown Berets where originally designed to be a copwatch program to combat the police abuse of the Raza community in East LA. But as we came to realize that many social issues are interconnected, we quickly evolved our political philosophy to include other sectors of the struggle for social justice such as disproportionate war recruitment, cultural relevance, free health services, proper educational opportunities, voting and labor issues.

In the of the radical times of social activity of the 60s and 70s, the popularity of grassroots militancy quickly fomented the growth of the organization throughout the entire Western half of the country. Under the name of the Brown Beret National Organization, many programs continued to be carried out like the ones I recently mentioned, with the perspective of the two founding principles of self-determination and nationalism. Sonoma County had its original Beret group in the 70s that had approximately 400 members and continued the work of copwatch program, food distribution to the hungry and free health clinics among other programs. In November of 72' the national organization was officially disbanded by the co-founder and then Prime Minister David Sanchez ultimately due to infiltration of Law Enforcement Agencies from all levels of government.

Local and Regional Brown Beret organizations continued to organize. The Berets of the San Diego County eventually decided to form as an independent official organization, taking up the name Brown Berets de Aztlan and continue to organize social movement to this day. In the region of New Mexico, Arizona and Texas, the Carnalismo Brown Berets formed, also as its own independent organization that also continue to organize today. I dont have much more organizational information about these two factions. In the 90s the BBNO was re-established by several original members and began to form chapters throughout the southwest of the country as popularity increased. As these factions developed independently, they also grew into their specific niches that best fit their local movements. Hence slight differences of ideology among them. Originally organized as an independent chapter, Sonoma County experienced the growth of its second generation of Brown Berets during this time. We eventually disbanded from the coercion of David Sanchez' demand to affiliate with the then intended resurgence of his affiliated network of chapters.
The establishment of our faction was accredited to the development of the Watsonville Brown Berets, as they disbanded from the BBNO in 1998 I believe and when they did so they published a position paper rejecting nationalism and declaring themselves autonomous. They continued organizing movement such as their Liberation School where they offered tutoring and counceling support, their annual Youth and Power informational event and their annual Peace and Unity March which they held since their establishment in 1994. They solidified relationships with many local community organizations and where active in their local political process. What separated them from the other Beret organizations it that they infused their organization with native ceremony which further reinforced their commitment to communal and healthy lifestyles as a means to establishing our revolutionary vision shared throughout all history of social justice. This was apparent in their organizing structure and approach. Under the guidance of elders, the Native perspective of a cyclical world view was eventually internalized by them familiarizing themselves with ceremonial practices like Sweat Lodge ceremony and Danza Azteca. It was routine for them to ritually begin and end their meetings in a circle, and a traditional collective smudging of sage smoke. Throughout this time, they gained wide spread recognition from the work they where doing (as most of us activists do inspired from by our hearts, without the intent of doing social justice work for fame), which helped the calling of other organizers to establish Brown Beret chapters of direct association. This is what provoked the creation of the Autonomous faction of Brown Berets, while during this time having chapters in LA, Fresno, Houston, Boise, Salt Lake City, El Paso, Sacramento and Sonoma County (among others). The Watsonville Brown Berets decided to temporarily disband in 2013.

Our current generation of Brown Berets of Sonoma County began in April of 2010 as a small group of young men of different backgrounds felt that our community needed this type of revolutionary political-cultural perspective which was not found in our area. We quickly got to establishing our organization suited to our local area, have continuously been developing and strive to always be open to learning while 'keeping our eyes on the prize' (and old movement saying). We are consensus-based in our decisions and have our Elders' Council as a general guide and support, who we are given very wise advice from. Ideologically, we respect the necessity of having a nationalist perspective because the ages old struggle for social justice is necessarily born out of the need for the oppressed to liberate themselves, and therefore existing the necessity to identify with traits that unifies these people(not limited to ethnicity or class). We also respect active internationalist solidarity, which we believe is just as important as nationalism in collectively manifesting the environment of a revolutionary/utopian society of social justice. In having a reasoned balance of these two principles, we agree that we do allow anybody for our recruitment process but will always continue to be a Raza oriented organization. Early on, we participated in the occupation of Sogorea-Te (the Glen Cove take back in Vallejo), presented several workshops at several events, held a live-broadcasted discussion panel (in collaboration with our historic KBBF), and a few fundraisers. We have usually preferred to collaborate with other organizations for the purposes of building relationships. Recently we have added Ramon to our group and are proud of his exemplary activity that embodies the example of a developing Brown Beret with his heart in the right place, an element required for the long-term revolutionary struggle. We have continued to stay true to the vision of a revolutionary perspective and have not lost our way by falling to the illusion of liberalism (the notion of seemingly progressive politics that is ultimately un-loyal to the people) or selling out in any other way.

The struggle is long from dead. The only reasonable way to deal with today's reality is by living the genuine existence that the revolutionary life-style advocates. Ignoring a problem is the easiest way of selling out. Our loved ones and our people of today, the past and the future depend on us to do our part to make all the difference for them and for ourselves. One of the most grounding fundamentals us revolutionaries live with is that we are honest with our own selves. This allows us to be genuine with others and paves the road for the establishing of the revolutionary world that, in one way or another, we all have always struggled for.

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