There were not enough seats in the University Student Union’s Sol Center last Wednesday for CSUN students, professors and alumni who came to see the premiere of “Unrest: The Development of the CSUN Chicana/o studies Department,” a documentary about how black and Chicana/o students in the late 1960s fought for equal representation on campus and curriculums about their histories.
The event, which was a commemoration of the Chicana/o studies department’s history at CSUN, began with the Herrera family band Conjunto Hueyapan singing “No Nos Moveran,” or “They Will Not Move Us,” while those in attendance helped themselves to chicken tacos, fruit plates and horchata drinks.
Biology major Xochitl Rivas said she wanted to watch “Unrest” because her mother, who attended CSUN in the late 1960s, had demonstrated on campus alongside members of the Black Student Union and United Mexican-American Students, an organization now known as Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano/a de Aztl’aacute;n.
Rivas said she heard about “Unrest” from Miguel Duran, who initially volunteered to help with the project, but eventually became one of the film’s producers, along with three other students and two faculty members.
“Miguel told me a lot about it without really saying too much about it because he wanted it to be (a) surprise,” Rivas said. “He was really enthusiastic about the film.”
Oscar Alvarez, a business major, said he wanted to see the film because his high school history teacher once told him how he was beaten by police when students in 1968 took over the administration building.
“He would also talk about how people would be speaking in the open forum and police would just yank the mike from their hands and arrest them,” Alvarez said.
The beginning of the film shows images of bombs being continually dropped into the jungles of Southeast Asia and President Richard Nixon’s 1969 speech in which he states that “the great silent majority” of hardworking Americans who supported the Vietnam War were being silenced by protestors.
Interviews of 16 professors and alumni throughout the film brought to light the circumstances leading to the demonstrations, which resulted in 450 more black and Chicano students being admitted to CSUN – it was then known as San Fernando Valley State College – and the creation of the Chicana/o studies department.
Biology professor Warren Furumoto said he remembered that during this time he was a junior on a campus that was surrounded by several orange groves in what was a predominantly white neighborhood that began on Balboa Boulevard.
It was a small college of 8,000 students, only 69 of whom were Chicano. The Educational Opportunities Program offered to pay for the cost of tuition, room and board so that black and Chicana/o students could have access to the campus.
Raul Aragon, who attended courses alongside mostly white students, said “we wanted inclusion of more Chicana/o students in the university, and weren’t even thinking of developing a Chicano Studies program when we started EOP.”
Students such as Aragon taught “experimental college” courses. All they had to do was find an empty classroom, fill out forms explaining what the class was and its objectives, and later teach about anything that interested them.
Having a cultural identity was discouraged. Delmar T. Oviatt, after who the CSUN library is named, made it clear that he wanted these students to come to the campus as every other student, not as blacks and Chicanos, Aragon said.
It was a time when a black football player was kicked in the rear end by his coach, demonstrations by the BSU ensued, and the Chicano House was burned to the ground, the documentary shows.