A Change of Shirts
Salvador “Sal” Alamilla is no stranger to the ugly face of racism. Born in Michoacan, Mexico, he grew up in the United States, where he said he has faced both explicit and implicit racial bias. As a business owner, he usually shies away from taking a stand on controversial issues, but the recent killing of George Floyd on May 25 and surge in the Black Lives Matter movement struck a chord with Alamilla, causing him to put away any reservations about speaking out.
“I think everything just piled up so high for us, seeing all the injustices and, I don’t know, something just switched,” Alamilla said, “but I don’t think it only switched with us: I think it switched with a lot of the American people out there.”
Sal and his wife Rebecca “Becca” Alamilla own Amano Restaurante in Caldwell. After protests against police brutality broke out around the country, they started selling Black Lives Matter T-shirts at their restaurant to raise funds for school teachers to buy books, such as The Color of Us by Karen Katz or Separate is Never Equal by Duncan Tonatiuh, which they can use to address racism and racial equality for their students.
“A lot of times kids in school… they’re not presented with these stories,” Sal said. “And so they don’t necessarily grow up thinking that that’s a possibility to be American, but also be from a different background.”
The funds will mainly go to Title One schools with smaller budgets. According to Becca, the idea is to stop the spread of racism by educating children about it. She hopes bringing books into classrooms that address uncomfortable topics will also help encourage more conversations about equality and inclusion in homes that may not discuss those concepts otherwise. Teachers can also use the fund to buy books like White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo so they can engage in book studies to examine their own biases.
“We need to keep talking about these subjects that can make us all uncomfortable at times,” Sal said. “And that’s the only way that things are gonna change.”
On one side of the T-shirt is written “Black Lives Matter,” and on the other “No Human Being Is Illegal”—a nod to issues surrounding immigration. The T-shirt also features two arms joining hands in a heart that reads “mano a mano” and “unidos podemos,” which translate to “hand-to-hand” and “united we can” in English. Adult sizes can be purchased for $28 and children’s sizes for $24.
According to Becca, the T-shirt is meant to bring attention to racism in general while also signaling that the Latino community stands with the Black community during a time of protest. Sal said it is not a matter of politics, but rather one of humanity and doing the right thing.
“It’s a moment in time where we just have to speak the truth as best we know it, coming at it from a compassionate point of view.” Sal said. “And I think we’re all going to come out of this better as Americans.”
— Sydney Kidd