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Noted Chicano writer to speak at symposium on social justice

The first J. Paul Taylor Symposium on Social Justice has been scheduled for March 30 and 31 at New Mexico State University.

Noted Chicano writer and activist Luis Rodriguez will lead symposium on social justice. (Photo by Donna DeCesare)

me for what is slated to become an annual event at NMSU is "Justice for Youth." It brings to campus noted Chicano writer and speaker Luis J. Rodriguez.

Best known for his 1993 memoir of gang life "Always Running: La Vida Loca, Gang Days in L.A.," Rodriguez will meet with community members, do visualization/creative writing workshops with young people at risk, work with local high school youth and present a reading from his works.

A public lecture based on his book "Hearts and Hands: Creating Community in Violent Times" is scheduled for 7 p.m. March 31 in the NMSU Music Recital Hall.

Rodriguez is not new to the issue. A former gang member, he knows well the pitfalls that await today's young people. He has been meeting with community groups, youth groups, migrant and homeless groups as well as with business and university groups for nearly 20 years. He has become an activist for young people.

In this role, he will present a visualization and creative writing workshop at 9 a.m. March 30 at the J. Paul Taylor Center, a state juvenile rehabilitation facility in Las Cruces, and another at 3 p.m. March 31 on the NMSU campus for students in ¡Aquí se puede!

Rodriguez also will meet from 3:30 to 5 p.m. March 30 with the Gang Task Force Initiative members in the Corbett Center Senate Gallery. Approximately 50 community members are expected.

The symposium brings together a cross-section of participants from NMSU and the surrounding community. NMSU President Michael V. Martin has placed emphasis on issues of social justice and highlighted their importance as part of the university's character during his inaugural address. Martin also says that "every individual must define social justice for himself or herself" and that it is a journey, not a destination.

The symposium is a direct outgrowth of a conversation between Martin and Taylor, a former educator, state legislator and leader in the field of social justice. Its intent is to critically examine the university's role in society and to work toward social justice in partnership with the community.

Highlights of the symposium and surrounding events:
? 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 30, at the Court Youth Center: A one-hour reading from Rodriguez' work "The Republic of East L.A." followed by 15 minutes of audience questions. A book sale and signing follows.
? 7 p.m. Thursday, March 31: Public talk based on "Hearts and Hands" at the Music Recital hall. A book sale and signing follows.
? 11 a.m. Friday, April 1: Meet with Desert Pride students, parents and community members in Anthony, N.M.

From Monday, March 28, through April 8, poetry, photography and drawings of at-risk and incarcerated youth will be on exhibit at the Nason House on University Avenue across from Kinko's.

All events are free.