By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
Yesterday, Andrea and her cohorts organized an anti-war protest at John ä Marshall High School as part of National School Walk-off Day. Approximately 500 students gathered on the football field to form a human peace sign, listen to speeches and then march around the block, mostly to the sounds of supportive cheers and honking horns.
"If you unite together, you can make a difference," says Andrea softly, her streaked hair pulled back behind her left ear. She wears a "War is not the answer" button on her bomber jacket.
While Thursday marked SOPA's first political outing, Andrea, whose mom is a maid and whose dad works two jobs in restaurant management, has been an activist in her Elysian Valley community, a.k.a. "Frogtown," since middle school.
"I've been doing this since I was 14," says Andrea, who has an internship with L.A. City Councilman Eric Garcetti, tutors fellow students, and is one of the youngest females ever to be elected to a neighborhood council in Los Angeles.
For Andrea, the chance to apply her skills to help like-minded students was an exciting one. "Daniel showed me the flier for the national walkout and we said, 'This can be our kickoff.'"
They approached Ms. Eldridge, Daniel's journalism teacher, for support.
"She backed us up all the way," explains Andrea, fingering a manila envelope that holds a scholarship application. "We met with the administration. We started meeting every day during lunch. We met after school. We started in Ms. Eldridge's room and moved to the library, and then we moved to the room where Amnesty International was meeting. We teamed up with them and started spreading the word."
The "staff writer" for the school paper credits Eldridge for turning his academic life around. "I was a really bad student before Ms. Eldridge," says Daniel.
"She helped me out a lot. I had straight fails for the whole semester. After I got in her class she had a talk with me, like a serious talk. Who was I really harming? I was harming myself. I was like, 'That's true.'"
"My girlfriend, she helped me too," he adds. "That's my girlfriend." Daniel points across the table to Jessica Jaimenez, a petite 17-year-old with shiny dark hair that falls into her eyes like Veronica Lake.
"I started seeing that people really cared. I thought, 'Maybe I should focus my energy elsewhere.' I started reading a lot. Just trying to make myself a better person." Daniel now has "five A's and a B."
Andrea says her inspiration came from her grandfather. After coming to Los Angeles 30 years ago, Andrea's grandfather was a bracero picking oranges. "He missed the whole farm workers movement but he tells stories about Cesar Chavez."
Later, he got a job baking bread and eventually started buying property in her neighborhood, on land that once housed orange fields. Andrea says he only charges tenants $530 in rent, although the market rate is $800.
"My grandfather told me, 'When I was your age I just walked out of my parents' home in Mexico and said, I have to pursue a better life.' He only had $10 in his pocket," Andrea explains. "He didn't even go to third grade. Currently, he doesn't even know how to read and write. He told me, 'Never give up. Be anything you want to be, as long as you're the best. Even if you're a maid. Even though I worked the fields, I always tried my best to be the best.'"
"That's like my father," adds Daniel. "My dad got here in '72. They immigrated here through the hills and everything. That whole story. They are not even real citizens so they don't vote. Yesterday, when I got home, they gave me a big hug for what I did."
LOOKING BACK AT 25 YEARS OF L.A.WEEKLY
In recent Senate hearings, Ernest W. Lefever, President Reagan's choice for "State Department human rights watchdog" (as the L.A. Timesdescribes the office), told us how we can distinguish our friends — the Forces of Good — from our enemies — the Forces of Evil. According to Lefever, it's very simple, really: the Forces of Evil are totalitarians, while on the other hand, the Forces of Good are only authoritarians.