Posted on June 18, 2012
I'm told that before I was born, my dad didn't consult anyone about his choice to name his kid -- not even my mother.
It was that moment in the hospital when he found out he had a boy, he just cried out "VIVA!!" From then on, I started becoming who I am today -- Viva Samuel Ramirez.
My dad, Samuel Ramirez, was an educator and an advocate for his community. He created youth sports leagues in neighborhoods where other leagues wouldn't dare set foot in, so that all kids could know the joy of sports. In the 1960's, he lead Latino students in a "walk out" of the Phoenix Union High School, demanding a curriculum that was relevant to their experience.
As one of the original members of the Southwest Council (later to become the National Council of La Raza), my dad believed in participation, action, and in the power of the vote -- he utilized every vehicle he could to share that message with his community.
For us, his children, making the trip down to the polling place on election days was like a family field trip. He would take me and my brother into the booth with him behind the curtain and we'd watch him punch the holes in his ballot and we each walked out of there with the sticker that said "I voted today". Participation was normal for all of us -- because he made it that way.
On this Fathers day, I'll be thinking of him...because now, as a parent, I know that we fight so that our children won't have to. Today, Arizona would disappoint him greatly. It is the place where he lived, worked, and died; the place that his family called home for generations.
And today, Arizona is the place where Mexican American Studies has been banned from schools. It is the place where a law (SB1070) has criminalized and intimidated an entire community of people. He would be heartbroken because so many of the victories that defined the work of his generation have now been reclaimed by hatred and racism.
When I was a teenager, I was convinced that there were no two people on the planet more opposite than me and my Dad. Today as I walk down my own path, I often see the footprints he left long before me, once upon a time-- on the same road I now walk. I have rediscovered myself through these lessons. These are gifts that he left me without my knowledge, and against my will, and they have become my tools-- my strength. Community. Responsibility. Participation. These are all values I convey to the people I reach through my work with VotoLatino. My Dad, Samuel Ramirez, wasn’t alive the first time I brought the Voto Latino logo home. It says “Voto Latino. It’s your country, represent!” He may have never seen it, but he certainly lived it. I’m reminded of him every time I see it.