| Frente Foundation Back to Chicanos at Berkeley
Los Padrinos - Summer Urban Camp
Casa Joaquin Murrieta - Misa Del Pueblo
Educational Guidence Center
La Voz Del Pueblo
|Frente was both a creation and a figment of my imagination. It was my alter ego. It was born of frustration with politics and illlusions of power. Having admitted this, I can still say that Frente was a good idea, a radical idea that attracted the most talented and hardworking Chicanos on the Berkeley campus. I started Frente with the idea that it would be a community based organization with ties to the university.
Angelina Rodarte, Gil Contreras, Veronica Gonzalez, Berta Thayer, Sandy Salazar, Ricardo Vasquez and John Gamboa were the first to join Frente. It was during this time that Frente began to implement its vision of community-student political activism. With a $500 grant from the Spanish Speaking Unity Council we established a Summer Urban Camp for neighborhood kids on the grounds of Mary Help of Christians Church in East Oakland’s Jingo Town. Meanwhile, Angie and others worked on the recruitment project sponsored by the university which brought in over 150 Chicano freshmen for fall 1969.
The Summer Urban Camp at Saint Mary’s quickly ran out of funds. In our efforts to raise more money we learned that incorporation as a non-profit organization was essential to receive donations.
| I contacted Richard Buxbaum, a professor at Boalt Hall School of Law. Professor Buxbaum was my lawyer during the TWLF strike and taught corporate law. He put me in contact with a law office in Washington D.C..
By the end of the year Frente received an exemption as a non-profit charitable organization.
Meanwhile John Gamboa, an old friend from San Bernardino, had gotten himself appointed to the Community Services Program Committee of the Associated Students of the University of California, Berkeley.
|The few who stayed voted to change MASC, now Frente, to MEChA. Frente moved out of the Chicano Center and into Stiles Hall University YMCA. So now Frente was without official status on the Berkeley campus but it had established itself in the East Bay Mexican American community as a viable off-campus organization.|
| In this capacity he was able to get Frente a small grant to finish out the summer activities at Mary Help of Christian’s. So successful were our efforts that summer that Angie and I began to talk about Frente in a broader context. We convinced ourselves, as radicals often did in those days, that we were better prepared ideologically to lead the next phase of student activism.
At the first meeting of MASC, in fall 1969, Angie was elected president. She then proposed that MASC change its name to Frente. Most of the students were the new recruits who were brought in by people they knew as members of Frente so they voted to change MASC to Frente. By the next meeting, MEChA had mobilized state wide opposition to Frente. A number of students, not present at the first meeting, denounced Frente and accused us of manipulating the new students. Most of the students walked out in disgust and never returned.
|When Angie returned from her recruiting activities in September 1969, she told us about a community based recruitment project in San Jose called the Educational Guidance Center. She proposed we start our own. We approached Bill Davis, Executive Director of Stiles Hall for help. Bill was able to get us a Grant from the San Francisco Foundation. By January 1970 the Frente Educational Guidance Center had student counselors in every High School in the Oakland School District with a sizable Chicano population. A year ater the EGC was picked up by the Department of Education's Talent Search Program.|
|The problem of finding housing for 150 Chicano freshmen admitted just a week before classes were to begin presented us with our first challenge. John Gamboa was put in charge of finding emergency housing for the new students. One of the locations that offered help was the UC Berkeley Student Housing Cooperative. That’s when the idea of a Chicano Co-op came up. I told John to look for a building we could rent for our own housing cooperative. In late December he found a building on Durant Ave that had formerly been a fraternity house. We negotiated a lease, pooled our money and began moving in during the Christmas break of 1969. We named the co-op “Casa Joaquin Murrieta” after the legendary Alta Californio bandit-insurgent. Most of the residents were among those recruited in the fall.|