Grainy, black and white video playing at a display inside the San Jose State University Student Center is a doorway in time to an inflection point that changed a campus, community, and country. What is the culmination of college for some, is the beginning of something much bigger for those who chose to walk out of the ceremony..
“We thought there was a problem that needed to be fixed. We were not being represented in schools. At this university, but we were overly represented, we took a lot of causalities in Vietnam so that needed to be fixed. So that was the call to action for us,” said Dr. Armando Valdez, organizer of the Chicano Commencement Walkout ’68.
Valdez holds a Ph.D. from UCLA but Friday he was back at his alma mater, leading a panel discussion about what happened 51 years ago. The discussion is part of “Revisiting Chicano 1968 Commencement.” He was one of San Jose State’s graduates who gathered at Spartan Stadium for the ceremony. But this would be no ordinary pomp and circumstance..
The social caldron of the 60s – Vietnam, Civil Rights, Women’s Rights — had a new flashpoint of contention by June of 1968. The fight for Chicano inclusion and equality.
“It changed the direction of my life. It was a very special part of my life and I wouldn’t change it for anything. It’s still in my heart,” said Connie Moralez, a walkout ’68 participant.
She was a freshman then, intent on hunkering down on her studies, while living the college experience. That changed over the course of the year, as she became immersed in Chicano studies, and the cause for greater inclusion.