CSU Channel Islands history professor Frank Barajas is the recipient of a 2014 Latino Leadership Award.
The annual award from El Concilio Family Services salutes individuals who have made outstanding contributions to improving the quality of life for the underserved Latino community.
Barajas was recognized for enriching the Latino community through his teaching, writings and activism at the 25th Annual El Concilio Latino Leadership Awards. The event honored eight community leaders before a standing-room-only crowd of over 350 people at the Oxnard Performing Arts Center on Saturday, May 31.
“It is affirming to know that people appreciate my work to highlight the experience of the Latino community of the past and present in Ventura County,” Barajas said. “As a professor, I strive to show students how people working together have brought about positive change throughout history. Through my writings and op-eds in newspapers, I attempt to dispel historical myths and stereotypes to create a fuller understanding of the Latino community today.”
Born and raised in Oxnard, Barajas earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in history from CSU-Fresno and his Ph.D. from Claremont Graduate University. After teaching at Cypress College in Orange County for nine years, he became one of CI’s first 13 tenure-track faculty members and a founding member of the CI History and Chicana/o Studies programs.
Barajas teaches courses on U.S., California and Chicana/o history, making students active participants in their own education through reading, writing, speaking, research and collaborative assignments that develop critical thinking and professional communication skills. In his Survey of U.S. History to 1877 class, for example, students respond in writing to historical documents, such as Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address and the Seneca Falls Declaration of Sentiments and Resolutions, and write a reviews of historically based films in the format of business letters. In the cross-disciplinary course Tradition & Transformation: The Sixties, Barajas invites leaders from the Chicana/o movement to speak to the class. He also mentors students outside the classroom, helping them pursue internship, research, conference and graduate school opportunities that give them a professional advantage.
“I utilize the teaching of history not only as a means of appreciating the exercise of power and collective action through time but also as a vehicle to develop the valuable skills of critical thought, collaboration, and effective communication,” Barajas said. “Students who cultivate these talents are better able to become agents of social change and improve the quality of their own lives and those around them.”
Barajas researches and writes extensively on issues of Chicana/o and Southern California history. His 2012 book, Curious Unions: Mexican American Workers and Resistance in Oxnard, California, 1898-1961, explores how the Oxnard Mexican community forged partnerships with other ethnic groups that broadly influenced economic exchanges, cultural practices, and labor and community activism.
Barajas is currently conducting research for his next book about the Chicana/o movement in Ventura County. His peer-reviewed published essays have addressed agricultural labor in Ventura County, the Sleepy Lagoon trial, the Oxnard schools, and the 2004 implementation of a civil gang injunction in the City of Oxnard.
Barajas is also an active and outspoken advocate for the underserved communities of Ventura County through his participation in demonstrations, speaking engagements and writings. He is a regular contributor of columns and opinion pieces for Amigos805, The History News Service, The Bakersfield Californian and the Ventura County Star, and maintains a blog at frankpbarajas.blogspot.com.
Ventura County photographer, writer, publisher and community activist Jess Gutierrez, who nominated Barajas for the award, said, “University professors are members of a learned profession, officers of an educational institution, and also citizens. When they speak or write as citizens, they should be free from institutional censorship. ... Frank Barajas, as a professional and a member of his community, has done that: Expressed his feelings, beliefs, position and opinions about issues that greatly impact the Latino community — past, present and future.”
El Concilio is a nonprofit that provides programs and services to the underserved Latino community. The Latino Leadership Awards are its largest annual fundraiser. For more information, click here.
— Nancy Gill is the director of communication and marketing for CSU Channel Islands.