[BakitWhy] Beauty in the Students’ March for Justice (JFAV)

Note: Because JFAV is this Monday and I want to bring it back to my first BakitWhy article–from last year’s JFAV march–and why I feel this march is so powerful and beautiful at the same time. (Original article: http://www.bakitwhy.com/articles/beauty-students-march-justice)

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Activists and students from UC Irvine’s Alyansa ng mga Kababayan came out to Sunday’s JFAV march for veterans.

Dozens of students huddled up, eagerly holding signs slabbed with slogans saying, “No Justice No Peace,” “Don’t Say No-No To My Lolo” and “Bring Us Equity Now”. Pedestrians and bystanders walked vicariously around the streets of Hollywood & Vine, curiously observing the ten-foot-wide signs promoting Justice for Filipino-American Veterans (JFAV).

From all around Los Angeles county, flocks of students and impassioned activists came together in solidarity on Veterans Day this past Sunday to fight for their Lolos andLolas, helping to bring awareness to the injustice the Filipino-American World War II veterans dealt with through their involvement in World War II. As a community, JFAV activists have actively united all veteran, youth and community organizations to advocate for the veterans’ full equity under the law, aiming to raise awareness on this lesser-known issue to the community.

I personally had the pleasure of marching with the University of California, Irvine‘s Alyansa ng mga Kababayan student organization, staying witness to the hundred-plus students that came to support this cause, whether it be the friends these students wanted to support, the vicinity of Hollywood Boulevard they wanted to inhabit, or the true discovery of finding something that resonated within them in this march.

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Photo courtesy of Kababayan at UCI.

Headed by JFAV National Coordinator Arturo Garcia, WWII veterans, widows and all active supporters from Los Angeles to Orange County came to show their support.

UC Irvine Kababayan member Robert Andrade feels that “JFAV is our way as young modern Filipino-Americans to continue the fight that our Lolos and Lolas started.” He goes on, “Our people have faced injustices and discrimination throughout history, [which is what makes] JFAV so strong and yet so beautiful. We fix the injustices of the past in order to bring honor to those who came before us.”

Throughout the entire day, I was able to observe how these Veteranos and Veteranas interacted with each other. Distinguished by their fine lines, tired eyes and frail movements, the years of struggle can be seen through their camaraderie with each other. There was, perhaps, a sense of family and belonging that they found in each other to get them through this injustice.

As the veterans joined together in front of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre at the end of the march, they were surrounded by hundreds of young, impassioned activists all holding up their fists in their fight for justice. Shouting out chants such as, “One, we are the people! Two, a little bit louder! Three, we want justice for our veterans,” the light within the veterans was felt that mid-Sunday-afternoon. As they glanced up into the sky and into the sea of people surrounding them, the veterans were beginning to realize just where they were standing and how far their struggle has taken them. Lights flashed from every direction and cameras recorded fists being thrown up, faces shouting with anger, and speeches being given to promote the importance of this day.

Through the JFAV organization’s twelve-years of participating in this Veterans Day march (in light of the sixty-six-years since the start of this injustice), the sense of support and gratitude was felt within the Veteranos and Veteranas. With the youth’s voice and passion for this cause, the young students and activists were able to speak where the elderly would have otherwise not been able to.

This year’s Alyansa ng mga Kababayan Chairwoman at UC Irvine Amanda Baltazar felt particularly compelled to speak up for these veterans, saying, “JFAV is an event where our students can bridge the generation gap as well as be the voice for our grandparents whose hard work is being passed over.” She reflects, “Spending time with veteranos and widows really takes me back [and] makes me understand why we continue to have JFAV. Hearing their struggle and seeing their strength makes me want to fight harder for them.”

As this year’s march was based in Hollywood Boulevard–home to tourists, media and the so-called “entertainment capital of the world–” JFAV hopefuls rose up their fists and voices to help bring equity to their veterans. Perhaps the fight doesn’t end here, but only continues until the day we see these injustices granted their peace.

As Andrade says himself, it is our mission “to bring honor to those who came before us and to build a better future for our community and our people as empowered and unified Filipino-Americans.”

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