Reflections of a Young Activist
Leaving my hometown of Wilmington, California for the Bay Area was my priority while navigating my senior year in high school. My last two years of high school were filled with protest, rallies, demonstrations, and marches because I knew there needed to be changes in the world and that starts with educating and learning, but not in the traditional classroom. My high school teachers from Phineas Banning High not only inspired me but also encouraged and pushed me to the activist scene. They saw in me something that I had not seen in myself until the loss of my peace activist cousin Audrey in May of 2006. Her spirit is the driving force behind my activism today.
After two years at El Camino Community College in Torrance, in Southern California, I transferred to San Francisco State University where I graduated as part of the 2011 class while majoring in Political Science with a focus in Nonprofits and a minor in Women Gender Studies focusing on Social Movements.
Making the decision to leave my Latino niche for the San Francisco/ Bay Area was one of my toughest decision thus far. My main aim was to learn all I can from this vibrant and activist culture and take back with me the skill set and tools to empower the predominately Latino community that is losing its sense of community because of gang violence, teenage pregnancy, a dis-investment in healthy alternatives, and institutionalized racism that leads to cycles of poverty.
Like any other naive and young student, my first year at SF State and my third year in college, I had and still have big dreams. One day I wish to operate a community leadership center that empowers young people because I believe the youth are the most important part of a community. The only problem, I still did not know how to go about making that dream into reality.
Unable to continue paying rent in San Francisco and somewhat unsatisfied of the community organizing scene I packed up and moved across the Bay Bridge only to find myself just around the corner from the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights. I instantly fell in love with the organization and I will admit stalked their website and blog until I became a volunteer. I even turned this fascination of the Ella Baker Center into my final research project on the genealogy of a nonprofit organization in urban communities. I will also admit that I am a very quiet person, shy is what a lot of people say, but when it comes to community organizing and making a difference in the world, I will step up to the plate and get involved like no other.
Volunteering is a valuable resource for organizations and I encourage everyone who reads this to give some of your time to the issues you care about. Because it is really about communities of people coming together to make a better place for their family, friends, and society. If there is not somewhere that is close to you, then I encourage you to take it upon yourself and outreach to like minded individuals to create a network where like minded individuals-like yourself can come together and make positive change.
Since moving to North Oakland, I have worked with Peace Action West as one of their Staff Phone Organizers. Peace Action West is a peace and justice lobby organization that works directly with Congressional allies to reduce the stockpiles of nuclear weapons through safe and sane policies. They also focus on ending the occupation and wars in the Middle East-primarily Iran, Iraq, and Afghanistan. My phoning skills have developed tremendously and I have learned an incredible amount or organizing skills in running an organization in such a short amount of time.
The story I tell to the welcoming friendly faces in the Bay Area and the members of PAW that I talk to over the phone follows: I am a young Latina, whose father came into the borders of California when he was a small child, who hardly spoke to his first daughter in his native tongue because he wanted a bright future for his child. He pushed upon me the computer and technology because he knew the future in computers would grow and I would be able to live a financially comfortable life. I listened to him growing up but made a radical decision during high school that money was not my primary aim. I saw how money controlled people and divided communities. I did not want a part in that.
Living in Oakland has been a great experience and as the weeks turn into days, the countdown to my departure is becoming harder and harder. What I have seen of Oakland reminds me of my small community- both cities are predominantly populated with people of color. The two are comprised of working class citizens that live among pollution caused by a highly industrialized environment.
Whether I am in Wilmington, or Oakland, I now am a 23 year young Latina activist and University graduate who takes to the streets -- in protest of austerity measures that are currently underway in our state; in solidarity with our brothers that are locked behind bars in Pelican Bay State Prison Security Housing Unit and, for those that have lost their homes to predatory lending and are now sleeping in their cars or on the streets.
I have come to understand that change comes about when there is a committed group of individuals that have the same vision of a better future for their community. The ability to understand that each one of us plays a vital role in shaping a better future is the most critical tool one can own. As my days living in the Bay Area come to a close I know that I am prepared to organize my community with a fresh grassroots approach coupled with working within the neighborhood city council. From the activist street experience in the Bay Area to the nonprofit buildings where I spent my time, I am ready to start on a new path of grassroots organizing in Wilmington.
Feb 22, 2013
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