Apolonio Morales is a community organizer who works on immigration issues at the national level. Apolonio Morales has worked in several communities around the country in order to organize labor workers. The reason he got into politics was due to the strong anti-immigrant mindset of many people in the 1990s. Morales explains that punk rock music was key to forming his outlook on life, especially bands like The Misfits, Bad Religion, Crass, and The Clash. According to Morales, punk rock music has a labor based narrative to it and there is a lot of laborer solidarity in this genre of music. Morales often reflects on the fact that he mostly listened to punk rock music for the political aspect of it, and that he wanted to write punk rock songs in order to change the world. Morales also discusses how much of a culture shock it was moving out of his hometown of El Monte and into the college town of Berkeley.
Key Words: Punk Rock, El Monte, South El Monte, United States, California, Community Organizer, Backyard Gig Scene, Immigration, Politics, Berkeley, UC Berkeley
September 30, 2019
Where Apolonio was born, he talks about how his family came to America-- specifically El Monte
Keywords: Mexican Immigration, Bracero Program
Apolonio describes his memory of his first home. It was an apartment with rats, very run down and beat up in El Monte. Slept in one bed with his sister and mom.
Keywords: Poverty, El Monte, Housing
Earliest memory of Apolonio’s that was very harsh. Going to the factory on the weekends with his mom and sister. Describes the factory he went to. Lots of women, some men were working sewing. He learned how to put tags in. Jokes about how he knows a lot about women’s clothing, whether it’s a good stitch bad stick.
Keywords: Factory, Sewing, Working
Apolonio talks about what is a good stitch vs. what is a bad stitch
Keywords: Clothing, manufacturing, stitching
Talks about how he was able to pursue college through a program and get into his study and how he could get grants. He didn’t think he’d be able to because he didn’t have a very positive outlook on life. Hung out with a lot of punks and cholos.
Why he was getting into a lot of fights. Skaters & punks would get picked on a lot when he was in middle school. He would stand up for his friend getting picked on, even if he got hurt too.
Keywords: New Wave, School Fights
When he got into Punk. He was in 8th grade and listened to heavy metal. Got into music because his friend was into it. In middle school, more kids also listened to punk rock. First band he listened to was Misfits. Also talks about the backyard gig scene.
Keywords: Punk rock music, heavy metal, backyard gigs
Talks about Neo-Nazis becoming a thing in El Monte in the mid 90’s. Skinheads would go to the city and be violent towards people. He was right behind a guy the neo-nazis were looking for. Environment at the time was violent.
Keywords: Neo-Nazis, Skinheads, 90s, Violence in the 90s
Police & Punks. His story about the cops showing up when people were putting off firecrackers. Talks about how he went into Pacifism. Read up on Socialism, peace is the way to go. Says he stopped fighting and started to stop fights to help people. He gave a flower to the cop and the cop thinks they’re all on LSD. Straight edge scene-- not drunk. What happens if the cop shoots someone? They get 2 weeks paid vacation. Lots of abuse from the cops.
Keywords: Police Violence, Pacifism, Straight edge scene
Punk Style: He didn’t have a mohawk, not a skinhead. Apolonio was more into it for the political side of things. People started listening more to “Orange County” Music. Popular bands when he was around: Bad Religion, The Offspring. Bands in El Monte: Non Tolerance, Death Mickies (Riverside), PFR, No Offense.
Keywords: Punk rock, Punk music, Punk Bands, El Monte, Riverside
There was an El Monte punk scene. Part of the reason was the El Monte Legion Stadium. A lot of dads in South El Monte were in dads back then. They had amplifiers and drums, so Apolonio’s friends had a lot of musical instruments and were trying to keep the tradition of making rock and roll. There was always a music scene in El Monte, a lot of aspiring musicians & their kids joined the punk rock bands and continued the music scene.
Keywords: History of Punk Music, El Monte, South El Monte, El Monte Legion Stadium, Punk Rock Scene
Difference between South and North El Monte? South El Monte was more Blink 182, more poppy music. Hard core scene in North El Monte. Most bands shift to SoCal Punk Rock poppy music. Eventually everyone sounds the same.
Keywords: History of Punk, SoCal Punk Rock, Pop Music, El Monte
The first song Apolonio wrote was his freshman year trying to start a band. He had several friends that already had instruments, no bass player. First song he learned was ‘I Wanna Be Sedated’ by the Ramones. Covered a lot of music, incorporated a lot of styles of bands. Apolonio says his friends wanted to have fun but he wants to change the world.
Keywords: Punk music, garage bands, 90s music, El Monte
He had to pull back his sophomore year because he was going to Upward Bound over his summers. Went to a lot of Saturday sessions, he even wanted to be a Marine Biologist. He was pulled out of the Punk Scene over his summers. His friends kept the bands alive, sometimes he would play bass for them.
Keywords: Upward Bound Program
Apolonio is still very much involved with politics. He is a community organizer that works on immigration issues at the national level. Talks about how he was first a labor organizer and his other jobs that he was a part of. Organizing not just California but Nevada and New Mexico too. Became political because the 1990’s were a very anti-Immigrant era.
Keywords: Immigration, Community Organizer, 1990s Immigration
Tells the story of how he didn’t stand up for the flag salute. His teacher asked why he wasn’t standing and he said he can’t pledge allegiance if there are people who don’t want him in the country.
Keywords: Pledge Allegiance
Explains how punk music does have a labor based narrative to it. The Clash has socialist, laborer solidarity in its music. Crass is counterintuitive to organizing a community.
Discusses the deportations, pushing legislation at the national level, organizing latino communities to get their representatives to do immigration reform. He’s been doing it for the past 8 years.
1994 protests. A walk out in El Monte that he didn’t participate in because someone from another school just said they were doing it.
He talks about his dad in Hawthorn (South LA). Rodney King riots. What happened there and in El Monte were parallels. The system was set up for people like them to fail. 20 guys he went to school with didn’t graduate. Apolonio was 1 of 60 that continued to college. He doesn’t see a big difference from then to now. Demographics have changed. Community lifts itself and others up, self investment.
Keywords: Graduation rates
His clothing style: He couldn’t afford Doc Martens, usually wore a flannel when it got cold and a black shirt. Converse and jeans. His mom didn’t understand the punk rock thing. He wasn’t the crazy hair punk guy. His dad tried to get him to cut his hair, Apolonio said he wasn’t cutting his hair for his dad.
Keywords: Punk Fashion
Talks about a party he threw at his house. 300 people were there and he never tells people he was the one that called 911 to get people to leave. His going to college party.
Apolonio is asked why he was in on the straight edge scene. He didn’t do drugs or alcohol. Wasn’t consistent but it was something he valued. Alcohol didn’t do good things to his family. It was hard because everyone drank back in the day.
A lot of Apolonio’s friends became meth heads, some got out of it but some just stayed there. He wasn’t the kind of guy to get into drugs because punk rock gave him a different outlook on life and an outlet for aggression and anger.
Keywords: Drugs, Punk Rock
He went to UC Berkeley. Green Day was from the area and he recalls how he saw so many white kids into punk rock. He stuck out in the different scene, no one would talk to him. Explains how it was a racially different environment, different from his hometown. It didn’t matter they listened to the same music because racially they were different. Came as a culture shock.
Keywords: Berkeley, UC Berkeley, The Punk Scene
How Berkeley itself was a culture shock. Talks about how he just walks down the street and the types of people he saw on the street. The Punk kids there weren’t at all like in El Monte. He didn’t understand why these kids were on the streets because their parents had money. They shouldn’t be slumming it. It was more anarchism for fun to them when it was real life for Apolonio.
Keywords: Berkeley, Punk Scene, Anarchism
Talks about the best shows he went to: Bad Religion. Tells the story about how he got pat down but he was so skinny it was just his rib bone. Keywords: Bad Religion
The backyard scene still continues in the present, it’s all been passed down between the generations.
Keywords: The backyard scene, Punk rock
What form of education does Apolonio find most valuable? Punk rock was more formative and important to his outlook on life. His mother’s struggles was the foundation for his beliefs and what he learned in college was a contrast to his beliefs. College was a fantasy, El Monte was reality with working people.