The 2nd Annual Jess Nieto Memorial Conference remembers the loss of Raymond Gonzales

Bryana Lozoya, Digital Editor

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A group of panelists remember Raymond Gonzales in the Levan Center on April 23 as a part of the 2nd Annual Jess Nieto Memorial Conference for Chicano Studies at Bakersfield College.

Raymond Gonzalez was a jack of all trades: he was a veteran, college educator, U.S. diplomat, BCSD Trustee, among many other positions.

He also taught and mentored Jess Nieto at BC and Cal State Long Beach, collaborated on various projects including a civil suit concerning underrepresentation of minorities in the news, and was Kern County’s first Chicano state assemblyman.

“Ray was smart, he was prepared, and he never lost the love he had for life, academics, and teaching,” Mark Martinez, a panelist and a CSUB political science professor said.

Martinez credited Gonzales as being instrumental for the grant received from the California Endowment.

“He was the key cause in us getting a grant from the California Endowment…he was instrumental to us in bringing over half a million dollars…,” Martinez said.

Martinez spoke about how a granter for the California Endowment was impressed with Gonzales’ ability to pull a story together about CSUB.

“Ray lived life, he always talked about being prepared, always talked about always doing the right thing, and was a great guy,” Martinez said.

The next panelist, Steve Barber told stories about how he first met Gonzales and the years he spent working with him.

Barber mentioned he knew of Gonzales because they were both presidents of an ACLU chapter at one point, Gonzales in Kern County and Barber in San Diego, and he would read ACLU newsletters that mentioned Gonzales.

But it wasn’t until 1972 when he first met Gonzales where he worked as his campaign manager for his bid at State Assembly.

Barber talked about the libraries he and Gonzales built in farm labor camps during a time where they were responsible for making sure they were running equitably.

Years after the libraries were built, Barber said he met a woman at a school district in east Los Angeles who had lived at one of the labor camps, who learned to read and discovered her love for education and pursued a career in the field because of the libraries.

Emily Gonzales was the last panelist to speak.

She is the daughter of Ray Gonzales and she talked about his capacity for developing deep connections and relationships with the Bakersfield community.

She spoke about all the firsts her father accomplished in his family.

“He was first in his family to travel out of the state like that other than my grandpa…, he was the first to go to a four-year university, the first to join the service…, the first Latino elected from the central valley to the State Assembly,” she said.

“He wasn’t afraid to take the road less traveled.”

Bryana Lozoya
CSUB poli-sci professor Mark Martinez (far left); founder of Barber and Gonzales Consulting Group Steve Barber (middle); and Emily Gonzales, the daughter of Raymond Gonzalez (far right) discuss memories they have with Raymond.

Bryana Lozoya
Emily Gonzales, daughter of Raymond Gonzalez, who was Kern County’s first Chicano state assemblyman and mentor of Jesus Nieto, spoke with emotion when recalling memories of him.

Bryana Lozoya
Portrait of Jesus Nieto, who pioneered the development of Chicano Studies to almost two dozen courses, taught BC’s first Chicano History course, and institutionalized the Chicano Cultural Center. The conference held April 23 – 25 is done to reflect his legacy.

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