SMU SCHOLARSHIP TO HONOR MEMORY OF SLAIN DALLAS CIVIL RIGHTS ICON SANTOS RODRIGUEZ New Latino Center for Leadership Development leads campaign to support students studying human rights
DALLAS (SMU) — The Latino Center for Leadership Development is leading a funding challenge for an SMU human rights scholarship to honor the memory of Santos Rodriguez, a 12-year-old boy whose 1973 shooting death by a Dallas police officer remains one of the city’s most troubling chapters.
The formal announcement of the Santos Rodriguez Memorial Scholarship is being paired with an event to launch the Latino CLD at 7 p.m. Saturday, March 14, at the Latino Cultural Center, 2600 Live Oak St., in Dallas.
“Latino CLD is proud to provide the initial scholarship grant challenge for the Santos Rodriguez Memorial Scholarship at SMU,” said Jorge Baldor ’93, founder of the Latino CLD. “Santos’ short life became the symbol for how the Mexican community was seen by the Dallas establishment. His tragic death became the mobilizing force that unified the community to demand respect and equality. This scholarship will provide others with an opportunity for a college education that he never had.”
Latino CLD has pledged $100,000 to the campaign to be used for a 2:1 challenge grant, increasing by 50 percent each gift to the campaign over $500. The goal is to raise at least $300,000 to establish a new scholarship endowment in SMU’s Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences, home to the Embrey Human Rights Program. Once funded, the endowment will provide $10,000 in annual scholarship support to a student majoring in human rights.
The first scholarship will be available for the 2015–2016 academic year. The campaign goal also includes operating funds to support the scholarship until the endowment begins generating sufficient income.
“We are humbled by the opportunity to honor Santos’ memory in this way,” said Rick Halperin, director of SMU’s Embrey Human Rights Program. “Helping an emerging student leader pursue an education in human rights is an investment in justice for all of us, and we’re delighted that the Latino CLD is choosing to empower our students to make a real difference in the world.”
Latino CLD is the result of collaboration between entrepreneur Baldor and DISD trustee Miguel Solis, aimed at creating a leadership training academy, a policy institute to partner with universities, as well as strategic initiatives.
In the early hours of July 24, 1973, 12-year-old Santos Rodriguez and his 13-year-old brother, David, were illegally taken from their Dallas home, handcuffed, and put in a police car for questioning by police officers. Placing a revolver against the younger boy’s head, one of the officers attempted to elicit information on a recent burglary of less than $10 from a soft-drink machine by pulling the trigger (it did not fire) in a forced game of Russian roulette. A second pull of the trigger fired a bullet that killed the boy instantly. Rodriguez had maintained his innocence, a claim that was later corroborated by physical evidence at the robbery scene.
The incident sparked widespread public outcry and led to the only race riot in Dallas history. The officer was sentenced to five years in prison, though he was released after only half of that time. In 2013 — 40 years after the incident — Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings issued an official apology on behalf of the city of Dallas to the Rodriguez family after grassroots efforts, supported by SMU’s Embrey Human Rights Program, brought the event back into the public spotlight. The Santos Rodriguez Memorial Scholarship Campaign seeks to follow this symbolic first step toward progress with a more tangible second step.
The Santos Rodriguez Memorial Scholarship Campaign is proceeding in partnership with the Latino CLD and with the approval of the Rodriguez family. Bessie Rodriguez, the mother of Santos and David, is advising the campaign in accordance with the family’s wishes. Gifts to the Santos Rodriguez Memorial Scholarship Campaign can be made online at http://www.smu.edu/dedman/giving/santosrodriguezscholarship.
The Embrey Human Rights Program at SMU is an interdisciplinary endeavor dedicated to providing opportunities for promoting, defending and extending human rights in the DFW area and throughout the world. SMU is one of only seven U.S. institutions to offer a bachelor’s degree in this field, and its programs incorporate three basic commitments:
Special attention to the perspectives of oppressed communities
Emphasis across the curriculum of practical applications of knowledge
Promotion of creative projects as valid forms of cultural criticism and social activism
The program hosts human rights trips throughout the world each year, allowing participants to bear witness to human rights violations in the places they occur, and leads a variety of outreach and action efforts every semester.