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Remembering Rudy Lozano and carrying on his vision of social justice, unity

Profile view of Lupe Lozano speaking into a microphone at a podium surrounded by her two sons and granddaughter in the Circle Reading Room.

Published on UIC Today
Aug. 7, 2023

“Rudy Lozano: The Struggle for Social Justice,” a celebration to honor the life and legacy of the late labor activist, community organizer and former UIC student, was held in the Circle Reading Room at the UIC Library July 16, on the eve of what would have been Lozano’s 72nd birthday.

Co-emceed by Ronelle Mustin, community activist and 22nd Ward aldermanic aide, and Cook County Commissioner Alma Anaya, the event featured emotional personal stories and remembrances about Lozano from those who were close to him and continue the work to advance his vision for social justice and unity. Throughout the program remarks, the call and response of “¡Que viva Rudy Lozano!” resonated with the crowd of almost 200 community leaders and members, family and friends in attendance.

The UIC University Library holds the papers of Lozano and is currently displaying these archives in the exhibit, “A Search for Unity: Rudy Lozano and Coalition Building in Chicago,” in Special Collections and University Archives. An online version is available in English and Spanish.

A lifelong resident of the Pilsen and Little Village neighborhoods in Chicago, Lozano was a passionate advocate for all working-class people and is remembered for uplifting immigrant voices and championing and uniting Latino, Black and other underrepresented groups, and white progressives. He was a founding member of the Independent Political Organization of the Near West Side (now the IPO of the 22nd Ward). Lozano ran for Alderman of the 22nd Ward and narrowly lost the race in 1983. He was instrumental in organizing multiracial and multiethnic unity in the election of Harold Washington, the first Black mayor of Chicago. Lozano was expected to take a position in Washington’s cabinet but was murdered shortly before at 31 years old.

As a high school student on the South Side and a college student at UIC, Lozano fought for courses on Latin American history and for more Latino faculty. His fight as an undergraduate at UIC led to his arrest with other protestors, but their efforts eventually resulted in the creation of the Latin American Recruitment and Educational Services program and the Rafael Cintrón Ortiz Latino Cultural Center.

UIC Provost Karen Colley opened the Lozano celebration on behalf of UIC Chancellor Marie Lynn Miranda by thanking the Lozano family for their generous donation of the Lozano Papers and for making the exhibit in Special Collections and University Archives and the event possible.

“As a Minority-Serving and Hispanic-Serving Institution with more than one-third of UIC students identifying as Hispanic,” Colley said, “…we have a duty to celebrate the UIC Library’s collections highlighting Latino history and make these accessible to as many people as possible, but also to enable our students to see themselves and their lives reflected in our history and collections.”

UIC Dean of Libraries Rhea Ballard-Thrower joined Provost Colley in recognizing the profound contributions of the Lozano family and highlighting the responsibility that UIC has in continuing Rudy Lozano’s legacy.

“Rudy’s life was cut tragically short,” Ballard-Thrower said. “Could you imagine what he could have done if we just had more time? … I truly believe in my heart that somewhere in [the almost 34,000] students we have on this campus, that we have a first-generation student who is working every day, commuting back and forth, taking care of their family and taking care of their obligations…going from concrete building to concrete building for their various classes, wondering how are they really going to make this work? How are they ever going to finish earning this degree? But we know that’s why we’re here. Because with us, when we have the ability to help those students, we know that what they can do can change the world.”

Attendees gave the widow of Rudy, Lupe Lozano, a standing ovation as she took the podium. Her voice cracked with emotion as she delivered her welcoming remarks with two of her sons, David and Pepe, and her granddaughter at her side.

“I want to thank you, because you keep Rudy’s legacy alive,” she said. “Rudy’s life and legacy can best be summarized by not only what he accomplished during his lifetime but what is happening today. Since 1980, significant strides in electoral representation have been made. We now have progressive Latinos and African American representation in the city council, the state legislator, the county board and Washington, D.C. While numbers alone can tell one story, it is the quality of the elected official that will have a lasting impact on our communities.”

Anyone at the event simply had to look around the packed Circle Reading Room to see the results of Rudy Lozano’s efforts. The many elected officials, stakeholders and allies in attendance reflected the achievements of grassroots movements started by Lozano. Some of the distinguished guests included Cook County Circuit Court Associate Judge Diana Lopez and Cook County Circuit Court Judge Perla Tirado, former University of Illinois Board of Trustees member Ada N. Lopez, Ald. Michael Rodriguez, Ald. Byron Sigcho-Lopez, Ald. Jeylu Gutierrez, State Sen. Celina Villanueva, State Rep. Theresa Mah and U.S. Rep. Danny Davis.

U.S. Rep. Jesús “Chuy” Garcia (BS ’98 and MUPP ’02) opened his remarks with an inspiring message of thanks and appreciation for the many people who, like Rudy Lozano, devoted their lives to the fight for equitable representation. He also acknowledged the achievements of civil rights leader Rev. Jessie Jackson and the change in leadership of the Rainbow Coalition that took place on the same afternoon as the Lozano celebration.

“My presence in Congress today and the growing number of Latinos, Black and Asian American elected officials in Chicagoland represent the enduring impact of [Lozano’s] legacy,” Garcia said. “As I look around this room, I can’t help but reflect on the countless public servants and community leaders that Rudy inspired. Many of us owe a gratitude of thanks to him. And that is what we celebrate today. Rudy’s legacy is very much alive today in Chicago, Illinois and across the country.”

Other speakers included former State Rep. Art Turner Sr.; Guillermo Gomez of the Rudy Lozano Library Expansion Committee; and Elianne Bahena 22nd Ward Director of Policy and Community Outreach.

The event concluded with poetry readings by Gregorio Gomez, Kim Chayeb and Billy Tuggle and musical performances by flutist Kat Belmares and the lively Latin Folk Fusion ensemble Son Monarcas.

“Rudy Lozano: The Struggle for Social Justice” was sponsored by the Lozano Family and The Rudy Lozano Library Expansion Committee, the UIC University Library and the Rafael Cintrón Ortiz Latino Cultural Center.

“A Search for Unity: Rudy Lozano and Coalition Building in Chicago,” in UIC Library Special Collections and University Archives is open through August. For questions, call (312) 996-2742.

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