By Jim Miller, Guest Contributor
Editor’s Note: San Diego City College Professor Jim Miller is on the march — the March for California’s Future. During the seven-week trek from Bakersfield to Sacramento, through the heart of California, Miller and fellow marchers will talk to people and organizations along the way to explain their purpose and encourage them to join them in the march and, more important, in their quest. From the march’s Web site: “Our purpose: to transform a crumbling California to the prospering State it once was by investing in public services vital to maintaining our quality of life: our schools, parks, libraries, safety net services, infrastructure and more. … Our broad coalition, which includes the California Federation of Teachers and other unions, leaders in labor, faith, education and business, believe we cannot afford to balance the budget by shortchanging our future and allowing tax cuts for large corporations and millionaires. We deserve a fair tax system that allows us to invest in California’s vital resources .”
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Jim Miller’s blog, Week 1:
It’s Saturday evening and I’m sitting in the blogmobile looking out at the twilight through the trees on the street outside Shafter High School trying to write but people keep knocking on the door. First it’s the Chief of Police who has come to greet the marchers and who tells us he’s given up on Sacramento’s dysfunction and learned how to survive despite them. He tells us that lobbying up there is like dealing with a bunch of squabbling children. Then it’s Adrian, JC, and Ken from the local high school who have stopped by to say hi and tell us that they’ve laid off large numbers of teachers in the county schools and this has made their classes too big and is threatening their drama club budget, arts, and sports funding. They shake my hand and invite me to their play based on Don Quixote, later that evening.
And, as I sit back down to write, I think of the trucks full of farm workers who honked and waved at us as we marched the eleven miles from Bakersfield. I remember the train that passed with a long line of flat beds carrying tanks along the tracks between a prison and an oil field. I remember the woman who drove out to bring us water after seeing the March on TV. She took our picture and said, “Thanks for marching for us. Somebody’s got to do something.”
I think of the families in the little houses along the March through Bakersfield waving out windows or coming outside to join us. And I remember the sweet young children in Compassion Christian Center who sang to us after the teacher in their after-school program told us that funding cuts are turning more and more of them into latch key kids because their parents can’t afford to pay without aid from the state. And before that at Mount Moriah Baptist Church in South Los Angeles where the pews were packed and rocking with prayers and pleas for justice—for the old, the sick, the disabled, and the young being robbed of their dreams. “It’s not about saving my piece of the pie at the expense of somebody else’s,” I said in a speech to the crowd. “It’s about a just future for all Californians.” This is where we are. We spend more on prisons than on schools. We won’t tax oil companies but will throw the poor and the needy under the bus.
Just after dawn the morning before the buses left from San Diego, a pastor, a rabbi, and a Buddhist monk blessed the journey—laid hands and prayed and rang a bell hoping that I kissed the earth with each step of the journey. I am not particularly religious, but I wept with a heart full of desperate hope despite the cruel times we face. That’s why I’m marching on this road to justice.