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Jose Montoya – Poet/Professor/Artist/Activist – San Diego City College

Jose Montoya was one of the most recognized Chicano/Latino figures in California. The San Diego City College alum was best known as one of Sacramento’s poet laureates and the author of three collections of poetry, including the highly acclaimed ‘In Formation: 20 Years of Joda.’ He gave poetry readings at some of the most prestigious universities across the nation and abroad.

Montoya, who died in 2013, also was a noted painter, musician and graphic artist. His work was exhibited in Cuba, México and Paris as well as throughout the United States. He also co-founded the Royal Chicano Air Force, a group of artists and activists who used their artwork, words, music and images in the struggle for justice and equality for farmworkers and their families.

He was a professor of art, photography and education for 27 years at California State University, Sacramento’s Department of Art Education where he co-founded the nationally recognized CSUS Barrio Arts Program.

Montoya served in the U.S. Navy during the Korean War, and thanks to the G.I. Bill, promptly enrolled at San Diego City College. He worked three jobs while raising four children and attending San Diego City College.

"Dad loved his student days at San Diego City College and he often spoke of his time there with great appreciation for the teachers who encouraged him to attend art school and become a teacher instead of, as he originally wished, an illustrator for Disney," said Montoya’s daughter, Gina Montoya, a vice president with the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund. "While at San Diego City College he was awarded a scholarship to transfer to California College of Arts and Crafts (now California College of the Arts) and earn his bachelor’s degree."

His career began by teaching high school students at Leland High School in Wheatland and at Yuba Community College until he earned his master of arts degree in 1971 from California State University, Sacramento. Despite his many roles as an educator, painter, musician, poet, artist and family man, Montoya is perhaps best known for his role during the Chicano Civil Rights Movement and his involvement with the United Farm Workers in the late 1960s.

As a member of the Royal Chicano Air Force, he supplied the organization with posters, images and other pieces of art that became emblematic of the movement.

"My dad’s work encouraging young people to stay in school, earn a college diploma, and give back to the community inspired legions throughout the United States," Gina Montoya said. "His ability to use the richness of our “cultura” and the arts, whether through poetry, music, or visual arts to motivate young people is legendary and today many who had been discarded by school systems are prominent advocates, lawyers, educators, artists and even members of Congress. His legacy continues through all of his children and grandchildren; each inspired by his legacy to serve to improve the quality of life throughout the United States."

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