Oscar Mireles

My First Taste Of The Importance Of A College Education - Poem by Oscar Mireles

I remember going
to my first Chicano Higher Education Conference
in January of 1969
in a barren place of
University of Whitewater, Wisconsin

my brother Juan drove a white university station wagon
to his hometown Racine
that Friday night
to pick me and my other brother up

I had never been to a college campus before
but from stories I had heard
college was a cross between
Disneyland and
a crowded New York subway on Times Square on New Years Eve

all I can recall from the two hour ride
was a flashing red light
at the intersection of Highways 20 & 83
there were no cars in sight
just a warning…

we arrived on campus at 11 pm
and went to the student union
where we listened to an acid rock band
playing to a crowd of Chicanos and Blacks
no dancing occurred
just meditating

A college friend offered up his room
and slept at his girlfriend's
at 3: 30 am
seven of us shared
the beds, floor and mushroom chair
but I didn’t get much sleep

we snuck into the cafeteria
in the morning
when a football playing black friend named “Big C”
stood in the way of the cashier

the first workshop
was on bilingual education
and the speaker was so excited
he used a lot of big words
I had never heard before
so I figured bilingual education
must be important
or he wouldn’t have been so serious

the only bilingual education
I had ever heard of
was mentioned once in
our Mexican-American history class
taught by the only Mexican-American teacher
in our high school

the last workshop
was on getting more students enrolled in higher education
the speaker Corky Gonzales
was also a poet
and he told us
“we were the future of our people”

I stared at the blackboard
in that college classroom
and felt strange
about all the times
I had raised my hand in grade school
and my teacher
did not call on me
or want to hear my answer

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Poem Submitted: Saturday, January 7, 2006

Poem Edited: Sunday, January 8, 2006

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