Back to school program honors Rudy Lozano

CHICAGO — Students and teachers here, during “back to school week” at the Rudy Lozano Leadership Academy, an alternative high school in the Mexican American Pilsen neighborhood, honored the life of Rudy Lozano, Sept. 5.

Lozano, a Mexican American union organizer and community activist, fought for African American, Latino and white unity that culminated in the 1983 mayoral election of Harold Washington, Chicago’s first African American mayor.

On June 8, 1983, Lozano, 31, was gunned down in his home.

Today, Lozano’s legacy and his commitment to social justice and working-class unity are still remembered. Throughout Chicago, several schools are named after him, as is a public library in Pilsen. Many murals in the city honor his life.

At the Lozano Academy school assembly, students learned about Lozano’s life as an immigrant rights leader and how he is remembered as one of Chicago’s first Latino candidates to run for City Council in the 1980s.

Lupe Lozano, Rudy’s high school sweetheart and widow, and mother of their three sons, fought side by side with her husband in every battle. Lupe Lozano was a featured guest speaker and answered students’ questions.

“He did something that nobody could do, even today,” she said about her husband’s ability to forge multiracial unity for political change. “Rudy was killed because of his labor activism and his progressive politics. He was sweet, funny and always joking. People loved him and believed in him.”

She continued, “We didn’t realize what a threat Rudy was. He fought for Harold Washington and that meant a victory for all. I hope someday the truth about Rudy’s murder and all those involved comes to light.”

Education is extremely important, she said. “You need to go to school, graduate and go to college and come back to your community to work and be involved, to be active and to vote for change,” she said, adding that her late husband would agree.

Lozano added, “There are politicians who don’t care about us, but we have to hold them accountable and the only way we can do that is by voting.”

The students came up with goals or benchmarks of achievement for themselves, including joining school groups, doing well in school, graduating, becoming active in the community, learning about elections and voting, participating in needed protests, and informing others about the life of Rudy Lozano.

The school, which has 100 students, 17-21 years old, eight teachers and three school counselors, offers an academic curriculum that highlights social justice and community awareness.

Christine Diaz, principal at Lozano Academy for the last five years, said the first day of school was marked by high attendance.

“It’s fun being a principal, and I love working with youth,” said Diaz. She said the academy’s biggest goal is to orient students toward a “sense of family and community environment.” Its biggest challenge, she said, is to break down the walls that students put up when it comes to trust and comfort issues.

Zoraima Gonzalez, 18, new to the school, wants to work with children one day. “All the teachers are allowing us to become comfortable with each other, rather than jumping into curriculum,” said Gonzalez. “And when you get that environment you’re more ready to learn.”

Anton Miglietta teaches at Lozano Academy and said the first week of school is extremely important. He hopes to learn what the students are interested in and what they are passionate about.

Miglietta said he looks forward to the middle of the year when the students become more active leading discussions in the classroom, participating in school assemblies and studying more independently.

Pepe Lozano is an editorial board member of the People’s Weekly World and is one of Rudy Lozano’s sons. He can be reached at plozano