South Philly High: A tribute to some cool warriors

The South Philly High School story added a more positive chapter a few days ago when the group of young men that stood up against racial violence and the School District of Philadelphia’s historical ineptitude received a Freedom from Fear award.

This is a recognition that honors 15 “Ordinary People” for extraordinary acts of courage on behalf of immigrants and refugees, according to the award’s web site.

The recipients were announced at Net Roots Nation 2011 that took place in Minnesota.

In December 2009, 32 Asian students were the target of attacks from a mob of primarily black students. The students organized and boycotted the school in an attempt to bring authorities to dialogue table to find a solution to the history of racial violence against Asian students at Philadelphia schools.

It took the hard work of organizer Xu Lin and students Wei Chen, Bach Tong, Duong Nghe Ly, among others, to set the path to correct what has been wrong in that school for decades.

I’m glad to see these vatos get recognition after coming out an exposing themselves telling stories of violence and humiliation hoping they would help change things for the better.

To listen to some of these brave dudes, check out the videos and stories The Philadelphia Public School Notebook posted about a year ago.

The Freedom From Fear Award takes its name from Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s famous “four freedoms” speech 70 years ago in which he outlined four fundamental freedoms that people “everywhere in the world” ought to enjoy:

Freedom of speech and expression;
Freedom of religion;
Freedom from want; and
Freedom from fear.


About Gustavo Martínez Contreras

was born in Texas, brewed in Mexico City, seasoned in the Mexico-United States border, aged walking the streets of Philadelphia. He had a short-lived stint eating grits, fried chicken, and peaches in Atlanta. He later became a béisbol writer for El Diario de Nueva York. He has written about immigrant communities in English, Spanish, and some Spanglish. Although he does not have a shelf full of awards, Gustavo has received thank you notes and hugs from people who have trusted him with their stories. His work has appeared in Voices of New York, El Diario/La Prensa, Dallas’ Al Día, The Philadelphia Public School Notebook, Philadelphia Weekly, Radio Bilingüe, Latina Lista,, among others. He is currently pursuing a master's degree at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism.
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