Youth Activists Take Center Stage
Monday, 25 May 2009
by Jude Lizama
Marianas Variety News Staff
EDUCATE, express, empower. This was the central theme of the Reclaim Guåhan Rally [Chule’ Tatte Guåhan] staged on Saturday by young activists at the Skinner’s Plaza in Hagåtña.
One of the event coordinators, Victoria-Lola Leon Guerrero, expressed her sentiments about the ongoing military buildup, which many in the community see as a “done deal.”
“I’d like to challenge our community to begin to envision that it isn’t a done deal. We currently remain an unincorporated territory of the United States. We belong to but are not a part of the United States,” she said.
“If we, as a community, support the Chamorro people’s right to self- determination to choose our relationship with our without the United States, then we can change these things. We can stop things like the military buildup from happening.”
Leon Guerrero said the only way to stop the military buildup is to acknowledge that the local population is entitled to choose they want for their future and to be able to decide as a community.
Accompanying Leon Guerrero onstage was Krista Flores, from Mt. Carmel Catholic School, who read the “Collective Bill of Rights for Guåhan,” which was one of the class’ pre-graduation assignments.
The bill of rights drafted by MCS student states that “the people of Guam should always be free. The people can overrule the Department of Interior. The military should give back our land. We must keep the island clean and green. The elected governor should have to deliver on every promise made. The Guam flag will be raised above all other flags.”
Amid talks of self-determination and indigenous rights, the rally also served as an outlet for community networking, platform for free thinking, enjoyment of art and literature, and an appreciation for the island’s different cultures.
“I’m very excited. I’m glad to be a part of something very positive, something that’s by the people and for the people. Basically, if it’s a good thing, I’m down; I’m in,” said Jovan Tamayo, who spoke with the Variety while contributing to a collective poem that was on display at the plaza. “I’d definitely like to help in any way that I can. That’s why I’m here, and I’d like to think that’s why everyone else is here as well.”
“Some of the organizers are good friends of ours. A lot of them are poets too,” said Melvin Won Pat Borja, Sinangån-ta Outreach coordinator. “When they were organizing this event, we heard that they wanted some youth poets since it is a youth rally.”
“It was good timing for us because we just finished up our program so we had our core base of poets that could do something like this,” he added.
Won Pat Borja said the rally sought to encourage critical thinking about the things that are happening around Guam.
“It feels really amazing. I’m not indigenous to the island. I’m Filipino. I’ve come to call the island home. Being a part of this really means a lot to me,” said John Norman Sarmiento, a member of Sinangån-ta Outreach.
“I’ve always wanted to help change the island ever since I was a little boy and I think doing this is a vehicle of change for me because we can reach out to the youth in so many different ways,” he said. “We’re teaching the youth in ways that teachers thought they could only do in classrooms. Like Melvin said, we’re proving that wrong.”
Young poet and Yona resident J Rae Tedtaotao read a powerful piece titled “Territory” written last April. “It fit the whole theme so I read it today,” she said.
“I’m really glad that a lot of people have come out. I’m honored to be up on the stage and speaking,” said Tedtaotao. “I call on anyone else to put your minds together, your writing, and do anything to express yourself and see what you can do to help our island and keep our culture alive.”