Marilla Argüelles

Marilla Argüelles

Marilla Argüelles

Former President of home care workers’ chapter, SEIU, Local 616, editor of “Extracts from Pelican Bay,” former KPFA Labor Collective member.

I, Marilla Argüelles, have developed, provided, and advocated 30 years for services to those facing trauma, deprivation, and stigma. I welcome the idea of serving KPFA because it’s given me my best teachers and allies. Everyday its programming helps me as an artist and teacher to battle bureaucratic obtuseness and lack of funds with creativity and Socratic obstinacy.

•  I am well aware of the frustration, waste and expense that accompany litigious solutions. In 1983 Barbara Lubin and I co-founded Project PLAE, Play and Learning in Adapted Environment, the East Bay’s first physically integrated, children’s recreation program.  It became a model for programs ranging from Palestine to Siberia.  During the three years that Berkeley Unified School District sued our family for insisting on a language-based, local education for our son, every Berkeley Special Education student under 12 was referred to its summer sessions. (Our son became the first wheelchair user to attend Berkeley High School.)

Photo by Kiren Koehl, from Tages Zietung

Photo by Kiren Koehl, from Tages Zietung

• In 1984 I founded Consensus, California’s first nonprofit head injury program to receive Adult Ed funding.  As Community Colleges became more inclusive, our focus morphed into media education projects at underachieving high schools.  These differed radically from other digital storytelling programs because it taught students to look for the root causes of social problems, rather than to focus on personal histories of injustice as isolated instances of cruel fate or bad luck.

Students-created Powerpoint presentations on child slavery (BitterSweets: The Dark Side of the Chocolate Trade), criminal injustice, agribusiness, and With or Against Us: The U.S. Patriot Act). They presented these for community service credits to Union meetings, church groups, adult education classes and public library community forums.

• In 1993 a Flashpoints’ interview led me to the California Prison Focus, where Bato Talamantez graciously allowed me to edit letters from the SHU at Pelican Bay into an unauthorized (underground) anthology lauded by Adrienne Rich, Carlos Muñoz, June Jordan, and the BBC.

Since then I’ve spent equal time and heartache serving on Union Contract Negotiations and Executive Boards. As a current member of ULTCW, United For Long Term Care Workers and former president of SEIU 616’s chapter for In-Home Support Service providers, I’m keenly aware of the need for fiscal vigilance, transparency, and resilience. And for the need of unions to work cooperatively with local grassroots efforts on campaigns such as the Fight For $15, MediCare For All, and CoalFreeOakland. KPFA and other Pacifica stations have long supported teachers’ unions, it’s time to empower PTA parents at the local level by hosting events focused on examining the impact of deregulation and international corporate interests on local budgets and cuts.

I pledge to work to replace corporate obsessions of profit, growth, and technology with local democratic economies geared towards Justice and Survival. I’m endorsed by the UnitedforCommunityRadio slate and by Barbara Lubin, Michael Parenti, and Judith Ehrlich.


Official Q. & A.

1.  In what ways are the station moving in a positive direction, that you would want to continue or perhaps improve?
KPFA (particularly Dennis Bernstein) does an excellent job fulfilling Sections (d) of the Mission Statement: “obtain[ing] access to sources of news not commonly brought together in the same medium,” by Guns & Butterexposing the craven manipulation of news by main stream media. I’ve learned far more from Letters and Politics, Project Censored, Guns and Butter, Uprising, HardKnockRadio, and Against The Grain about history, politics, and economics than I did at The University of Chicago despite majoring in history.  They’re certainly better at explaining “the causes of religious, philosophical and racial antagonisms” (growing up in Tennessee, always considered immutable and inevitable).  I’m indebted to KPFA for Joy De Gruy-Leary, Tim Wise, and others analysts of white privilege, and pleased that a more racially, age-diverse audience now attends the speaker series. Pacifica Archives’/KPFA’s Adopt a School Library day is a brilliant collaboration.


2.  In what ways are the station moving in a negative direction, that you would want to stop or change? What changes would you work for?

Except for speaker series, KPFA apparently lacks a coordinated plan to involve Berkeley’s 30,000+ college students – most have never heard of KPFA.  Several UC professors have created “Course Threads” and “Big Ideas Courses” that synthesize knowledge from different disciplines to promote nuanced understanding of an important topic.  Could apprentice staff broadcast these regularly?  We need to support Social Action Committees of local Faith Based Congregations.  They’d probably welcome guest speakers with information about the Archives, especially if Archives were cataloged by topic. (Robert Reich recently joined with MoveOn to promote 300+ small house party Teach-Ins featuring 12 different 3-minute videos on ways to Save the Economy. Many filled within days.)
Richmond public housing residents at a crowded discussion called by Richmond Alliance's then Mayor Gayle McLaughlin.

Richmond public housing residents at a crowded discussion called by Richmond Alliance’s then Mayor Gayle McLaughlin.

We need a daily half hour early morning labor show with Andres Soto and/or Steve Zeltzer covering issues and actions like The Richmond Alliance. Volunteers could staff KPFA information booths at Farmers’ Markets.


3.  What key experience, connections, skills or traits would you bring to the Local Station Board to advance the station’s mission?


Our son’s stays in ICUs staffed by physicians and technicians dangerously ignorant about nutrition, health alternatives, and environmental dangers force us to tread carefully when challenging privilege and authority.  It’s vital to distinguish between genuinely held beliefs, arbitrary decisions, and assumptions.  Layna Berman taught us to challenge “impossible” odds, health systems, and environmental dangers (saving our son’s life twice without meeting him).
Serving as unpaid founder/director of a nonprofit for brain injured, learning disabled individuals honed my skills for grant writing, collaborating, and creating programs that stress inclusion. Providing homecare for 37 years has taught me how low wage workers must organize.   Steve Zeltzer and the Labor Collective generously coached me in producing shows on pesticides and farm workers, Sami Al-Arian, unorganized labor and unions, so I know something about production and editing.  I listen carefully, have a rather photographic memory, and can be a stickler for detail (mixed blessing/curse).


4. What ideas do you have for helping the station and the Pacifica Foundation meet the financial challenges currently being faced?


Pacifica’s Mission Statement Section (c) urges us “to establish awards and scholarships for creative writing, and to promote and aid other creative activities that serve the cultural welfare of the community.” My husband is a widely published poet. I’m an artist and writer. We’ve never heard this goal mentioned on air. Many of KPFA’s more affluent members/listeners would support such efforts, particularly if encouraged to fund them at their former schools, clubs, and houses of worship, and acknowledged as co-sponsors. (more fun and influential than your name on a plaque.) Pacifica’s Archives could be the source of reference materials for topics of competitions.
Winners of awards and scholarships could be invited to submit and/or perform productions at workshops (“Mini-Oscar” events), producing further revenue from the general public. If KPFA (especially HardKnockRadio) publicized BUSKERS ON BART (transient performers from youth programs) it could win hearts, minds, and donations.