Preview for The Jess Nieto Memorial Conference

Eduardo Martinez, Opinion Editor

The Jess Nieto Memorial Conference is an annual event honoring the memory of Professor Jesus “Jess” Gilberto Nieto who is a civil rights activist, and educational leader, responsible for establishing a Chicano Studies program and Chicano Cultural Center at Bakersfield College. The Conference will take place May 4 through May 6 on Bakersfield College main Panorama and Delano campuses and Robert F. Kennedy High School auditorium.

In an interview with Oliver A. Rosales, one of the organizers of the event and history professor at BC, on what he hopes people get out of the event, he said, “I hope that attendees gain a greater appreciation for the rich cultural diversity and history of the San Joaquin Valley’s diverse populations, especially those with strong connections to rural communities and migrant agricultural labor.  I hope attendees come to greater appreciation for art, education, and the history of activism within our region, especially the rich legacy of the farm worker movement.  I hope the event helps build fraternity and new connections between students, faculty, staff, and community stakeholder groups invested in the themes that the conference focuses on—all things that Jess Nieto cared deeply about.  Jess, as the founder of Chicano Studies in the 1970s at BC, was an amazing faculty and community activist.  We hope this conference is a testimony to his legacy at BC and beyond.”

All events of the conference will be open to the public and will consist of panels headed by Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán (MEChA), Latinos Unidos Por Educacion (L.U.P.E.), scholarship ceremonies, performances of Luis Valdez early works, documentaries concerning the history of Chicanos leaders and Punjabi immigration, and tours of historical and cultural sites.

Rosales stated that “We are super excited to host students and the community for the historic tours of Delano on Saturday, May 6.  The Filipino American National Historical Society (FANHS) is our partner for the tours.  They’ve been doing historic of Delano for years for Stanford, UCLA, UC Davis, and other colleges and universities across California.  This is our first time partnering with them for a BC student-centered focus tour.  We should have done this a long time ago and are super excited to offer this tour to our students.  Many of the landmark sites in Delano are on the federal registry of historic sites, including Larry Itliong gravesite (co-founder of the United Farm Workers), Filipino Hall, and Forty Acres (historic home of the UFW).  The FAHNS tour guides do an amazing job with cultural heritage interpretation.  There’s also some cutting edge documentaries dealing with ethnic history in the San Joaquin Valley that we will screen in the morning between tours.  Plus free Mexican food for registered guests.”

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