Friday, September 05, 2008

Filipino Teen Activist Running for CA District Assembly

LOS ANGELES — A television anchor quizzed Lucilla Esguerra, 19, who is running for California State Assembly’s District 48, under the banner of the Peace and Freedom Party: “Are you better off on the streets than aspiring for public office? ”The Filipino American anti-war activist and LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) rights advocate, responded: “I want to represent the people of the streets.” She is currently the youngest person running for public office in the state. Her ambitions are simple and realistic but right on target; her words don’t mince around rhetorical bombast and oratorical histrionics that rule traditional politics—she hits it straight, no qualms, no chasers in between. “The most important thing is to get the word out there, that we have problems in our society that need to be addressed. If I will serve as the voice for the voiceless to air out those problems in the duration of my campaign, then so it is,” said the middle child of immigrant Filipino and Polish parents, before a gathering of supporters, friends, and family members. The rally was held at Manila Terrace Social Hall in Temple street in the Historic Filipinotown district here last Monday, Sept 1. The event was organized by the Party for Socialism and Liberation (PSL) and Answer Coalition (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism), of which she is a member. “While Lucilla talks about issues that she’s campaigning for, she also talks about people as being part of the movement for justice and human rights, it’s not just voting,” says Ian Thompson, L.A. organizer for Answer and one of Esguerra’s advisers. Elder sister Corazon presided over the ceremonies, dad Jerry prepared the late lunch food (as he always does for PSL events), and younger brother Nathan assisted in the proceedings—while Answer’s staff of youthful socialist activists kept all plugs covered. “Whatever happens, my candidacy should serve as an inspiration to the youth of our community, particularly our "kababayans" [fellow-Filipinos]—the second largest immigrant group in California and yet the most underrepresented—to dare to struggle for what is good for our community and the people as a whole,” Esguerra told a cheerful gathering of more than 300, mostly from the Filipino and Hispanic communities. “People are really excited about the campaign, they offer to help. Yes, they say I am still very young, they almost don’t believe it, but I told them we need more of the younger generation to be part of the government,” Esguerra told Philippine News. Esguerra’s central campaign demand is “jobs, education, housing, healthcare—not racism and war!” She is for full employment—gainful jobs for all, including job training for youth and the unemployed; free, quality healthcare for everyone; free, high-quality education from pre-school through college; and the immediate end to all foreclosures and evictions in the 48th district and across the United States. She believes in full equality and “immediate legalization for all,” and seeks to make the state of California a sanctuary for undocumented immigrants. March 15 this year, Esguerra led an anti-war protest in L.A. of 10,000 people. She also has organized resistance to the anti-immigrant Minuteman Project and mobilized support for the May 1 mass protests demanding full rights for all immigrants over the past three years. As former president of the Gay Straight Alliance at the Sherman Oaks Center for Enriched Studies in San Fernando Valley, Esguerra has mobilized for LGBT rights and led student actions for same-sex marriage at the high school and college levels. “Despite her age and controversial stand on certain issues, it’s hard not to take Lucilla seriously,” says Roberto Manuel, a resident of Filipinotown. “It appears that she has more experience with talking and dealing with people than most politicians that I know.” “Most Filipinos are pragmatic in their approach as regards sensitive issues like abortion and same sex marriage (that Lucilla fights for), but they look at the big picture,” Lucilla’s dad, Jerry Esguerra, said. “They are looking for a candidate who will represent their interests. Like workers’ rights, because most Filipinos in the U.S. are workers. I was astounded by the amount of acceptance that people in Long Beach gave her that day, it’s like a "piyesta ng bayan" [ a town fair] , the festivities are very inspiring.” Esguerra is running in the predominantly Democratic 48th State Assembly District, one of 80 districts in the California State Assembly. The district is located entirely within Los Angeles County and includes Arlington Park, Athens, Chesterfield Square, King Estates, Koreatown, Lafayette Park, Magnolia Square, North University Park, University Park, Vermont Knolls, West Adams, West Park Terrace, and Wilshire Center. Her most potent opponent is Democrat Mike Davis, a native of Southern California. Davis hopes to focus on education, health care, transportation, and economic development. He, however, clashes with Esguerra as regards prominent issues. Davis did not vote in favor of legalizing gay marriage in California. In between campaigning and organizing, Esguerra attends classes at Los Angeles City College, trying to earn transferable units to a University and be a teacher. She is still pretty much "Lola’s favorite apo [ her grandma's favorite granddaughter]" . “When I feel down and out, I fill my mind with nice thoughts of my Lola’s adobo, rice, and mungo [chicken dish, rice and mung beans],” she said. She also stated in her campaign flyer: “If California is a separate country, its economy will be the 7th largest in the world and we all know how the state got to that point—through the labor and sacrifices of immigrants, documented or otherwise. It is about time that we recognize their contribution. I demand that we pass a law that will facilitate genuine legalization for all.”


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