Creating Change 2013 · Uncategorized

“Speaking for Ourselves” My Experience at Creating Change

alex picBy Alex Aldana
Blogging Scholarship Recipient
Closing Thoughts on Creating Change
 
 
 
 

What a week it has been since I ventured on a trip to Atlanta for the very first time in my life. Creating Change definitely left me richer in knowledge and friendships; met amazing individuals, and network with fantastic opportunities around the country. Here are some of my feelings I encounter during my stay.

Undocumented Immigrant rights Activist representing different states and organizations

Successful Inspiration

I could start with the tremendous success of the first latino institute at the conference and the impact it made  all weekend long. A full room with over 130 participants of diverse latino communities across the country and the borders, filled the chairs with powerful ideas and voices.Our energy didn’t need translation since language was not a barrier but a beautiful melody played throughout the rooms; always understood & never neglected. Our traditions and medicine were not a coincidence that Thursday.

I was empowered to connected with undocumented youth from the south and learn on how they would like to see our LGBTQ Latino community more engaged and supportive. All of the  workshops that I attended, the topics of Immigration, Family, Spirituality, LGBTQ Youth Services, Health Disparities and Activism in rural areas definitely made an impact on my ways of thinking.
it was powerful enough to see familiar faces that recognized me and pushed me to attend different workshops, including grant writing and “fun-raising” strategies.

Challenges

Keeping it real, one of my barriers to attend the conference was the lack of money. I felt that it wasn’t as “Community Inviting” as I thought it would be. Meaning that Low-Income Queer people of Color should be aware of these tools and have some representation at this Conference. If it wasn’t for my noisy and curious self, and the part that I helped organize the Latino Institute and blogging here right now, the thought of paying hundreds of dollars to come here, wouldn’t have made me that interested to come at all.

Closing the conference

The Closing Plenary was something I was most enthralled to witness. One of the things we always fight in youth services, advocacy, or even within the Immigrant Youth Movement, is the so called “Linear Representation” that many LGBT organizations have fantasized, particular with DREAMers (political term for Undocumented Youth).

The good moral character, the big non-profit organization with a name and a budget versus the grass-roots organizers, the ones fighting deportations, or even struggling to come to this spaces to represent themselves due to the lack of funding.

Listening to Jose Antonio Vargas, Sousa-Rodriguez, Paulina Helm-Hernandez and Viridiana Martinez represent various organizations and types of work was something much need to decolonize within the concept of a “DREAMers”.

When Jose called out Fredy’s name, and to see him rise in front of the hundreds of people present at the plenary, was indeed the most rewarding feelings. Weeks before the conference I outreached to Fredy because I believe in community engagement. He needed the help to get an attorney, and I was excited to see him being approached by some folks and hopefully to get good representation. He needs that ankle-bracelet monitor out of the way.

Most importantly, it was much need to have a gender-balanced conversation: the Women at the plenary sure did know how to step it up! From listening to Paulina contradicting Vargas on the terms of defining our identities (Americans) to actually acknowledging the fact that we don’t need to sell our indigenous roots nor cultures of origin to be part of society, to my favorite moment when Viridiana and Sousa debated  ceremoniously on a battle of words with the Term “Illegal vs. Undocumented”

Although I’m always “educating” with the “undocumented shield” ,to Correct a woman from their personal perspective and opinion, is something I grew up with in my culture. Something we still see everyday, and as queer privileged males, we need to step back and honor those spaces and check ourselves.

“Living in the south people don’t know what Undocumented means, we need to take it back on own it, and stand up to what they’re familiar with, stand up, organize and show that we are no longer afraid. Yes I’m an “Illegal”, and I breath, and I bleed, and I’m as much human being as you are”. Martinez finished the interruption, challenging the other panelists and the audience by an outstanding ovation.

Many of the advocates forget about this principle. We called ourselves the leaders right… But are we really making leaders? It is our obligation to invite those who are not as involved or visible. Those who haven’t had the experience. We don’t need to take up space  if we lack the ability to inspire new minds in the struggle.

I see brave bloggers and queer advocates, but I also see courageous women stopping deportations, challenging our culture and creating safe spaces all across the country, making art, making chants, organizing campaigns nationwide.

Borrowing shamelessly what Angela Davis resonates every time I hear her speak from poet June Jordan :

“We are the ones we have been waiting for”.

So let’s not wait for our big organizations to speak for us and decide our messaging on what’s to come for this Immigration Reform circus. Take a stand, challenge your own consciousness, the time is now. Dehumanizing deportations and separation of families continue to happen every day. Are they less worthy than us?

Uncategorized

Transcending Borders in Youth Services

alex picBy Alex Aldana
Blogging Scholarship Recipient
Thoughts on Youth Services and Empowerment
 
 

 
After experiencing some of the community in Atlanta and devouring a tremendous plate of Chilaquiles Mexicanos at El solecito Grill in Mabletown, GA  some of the youth organizers from the national immigrant youth alliance and other folks that work directly with youth crashed a Youth Planning committee. 69668_10100282814624035_499884850_n

As we embarked into our crusing/networking parade, identifying what topics in youth services are more important, such as bullying, violence, family acceptance, and others, I couldn’t help to look around and see who was part of these conversations.

It was great to see many service providers, but the lack of representation of youth wanting to question their needs was imminent.

Most of our chatering went around us being undocumented of corse, and most of the youth that were there didn’t have great context in regards of what it meant. Violence, bullying and acceptance is something we live everyday in this country.

Violence that comes in cycles in policy change and discrimination, Violence from “american vigilantes” that target those who leave so much behind in their countries for a better future. Violence with mass incarceration to millions of people, breaking dreams and families, neglecting the concept of liberty and wellness on a human being.

It was difficult to assimilate because most of the priviledges and concerns these people talked about crossed many of our struggles, and the fact that us, most impacted by these issues were present created a different type of conversation to start asking ourselves: “How can we help each other right now”

As many LGBTQ and Immigrant groups price and celebrate the upcoming atmosphere of President Barack Obama’s new take on immigration and “The Gays” many (undocumented) youth suffer everyday from these “loopholes” in services.

Some undocumented youth in states like Georgia can’t access HIV testing in most traditional places such as hospitals and clinics as they are turned away because of not having a valid ID.

The same story goes for LGBTQ youth services that are culturally competent to offer other services including culture, spirituality, mental health and substance use campaigns, imposing a the lack representation for young leaders on the rise that are contributing to empower our queer community.

the lesson learn from this quick gathering with fancy cheese and crackers was, indeed, we need more youth to demand and question to those big corporate organizations that instead of saying they work for our immigrant communities, to actually let the youth that are impacted the most to speak for themselves and offer potential opportunities and solutions to work in their organization. Not because your grant says you serve a target population, means that you are actually helping that community the right way.

Creating Change 2013 · Uncategorized

“Home-Queer-Home” Rural Organizing

alex picBy Alex Aldana
Blogging Scholarship Recipient
Recap on Saturday’s SONG Rural Organizing workshop
 
 
 

A wrong turn down the second floor, in the hopes I could find the nearest wash room, and listening to the  echoes of vivid voices  on this particular room,, made me forget about my personal deeds in the toilet to what I thought would be one of the most relevant  and charming workshops on Saturday afternoon at the conference.

It took me a minute to sit down near the exit (in case I had to go really bad) to blend it with the topic under discussion. I had actually bookmarked the workshop and perhaps had forgotten about it. No coincidence again I was meant to be here.

SONG’S Rural Organizing Workshop brought me back to my community, to the desert.  In the Coachella Valley, being distant from all other cities and services from California, definitely brings to light good ideas not only to “queerify” spaces, but also to invite by immigrant community, including the farm workers, students, artist and allies to create something like the work SONG does in the South:

“We Decide Who We Are. We Decide Who We Love. We Decide How We Survive and Thrive”

5 of 6 SONG Founders celebrating 20 years of SONG

 

“We believe that Community Organizing is the best way for us to build collective power and transform the South. Out of this belief we are committed to building freedom movements rooted in southern traditions like community organizing, political education, storytelling, music, breaking bread, resistance, humor, performance, critical thinking, and celebration” -said along the lines of one of the presenters representing Southerns On New Ground.

It’s amazing to have organizations like these in the south, facing all the “anti-immigrant” sentiment that impacts the well-being of many.

What really touched my heart is to remember my origins, the land in which me and my mother migrated. yet my work comes with me to every city or state I find work and opportunity, i find the moral obligation to come back home, whenever I can, and remain active, engaging, helping the inter-generational activist to create spaces that don’t exist, but also bridge those who do exist and yet don’t work with one another. The power of collaboration.

I’d love to see Catholic Charities work with our Queer groups in the Desert! (Sarcasm).

I think It is time for me to come home after a long year of learning. I’m hopeful to bring back home this tool to refine our communities understanding of what the queer immigrant life has looked like, and could look like, outside the urban context, and understand how queer life and rural life came to be positioned in many people’s minds as categories that often feel like they’re mutually exclusive.

Problems like crystal meth use among young man having sex with man (YMSM), hostile border patrol offices, bullying and new HIV infections continue to affect this land that I grew up. A Land divided by the expensive golf club and fancy hotels. With a Music Festival that brings Thousands, but is nowhere in our youth’s budget to attend or makes a positive impact to address our struggles in the community.

The Legacy and Dream of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, and Queer communities as committed to liberation, dignity, and safety for all people must be remembered, amplified, and carried forward….

I never forget where Home is in my heart. Year after year, I’m grateful to bridge services and empowerment to my younger generations that probably think moving to West Hollywood and Los Angeles is the best option that they have to succeed as queer youth.

The best remedies practiced for many generations are found in the house, with our elders. In our community. Never forget to give back to yours.

Uncategorized

Real talk on The Well Being & Mental Health of our undocumented immigrant community

alex picBy Alex Aldana
Blogging Scholarship Recipient
DREAM ACT 101 on Mental Health issues
 
 

As I came across the DREAM ACT 101 presentation, I ventured in to a full room jam-packed with an assorted variety of participant of all color, including among the mist, some undocumented queer youth.

The title of the workshop “Undocumented and Unafraid, Queer and Unashamed”  , explained with full detail the tactics and mobilizing that (by no coincidence) queer undocumented youth took part on the immigrant youth movement after the DREAM ACT failed to pass in 2009/2010.

Two years from now, the parallels that exist within the LGBTQ/Immigrant struggles continue to be for some  a little hard to understand.  This particular workshop caught my attention since it was mostly driven by woman, something you don’t see every day and is very powerful for me to witness.

Imelda Placencia and Seleny Rodriguez, both undocumented queer woman organizing   The CIRCLE Project, then showed the audience another perspective that is tabooed even amongst communities of color in the whole. That is why projects and spaces for self-care are really important in our communities.

Javier Hernandez, Imelda PLacencia

“Doing activism, even when rough policies take effect into our every-day lives as human beings have tremendous impacts in our mental health or access to services as queer immigrants in this country” fiercely stated Palencia. Not being able to find a job, accessing higher education, feeling rejected by our parents or friends for being queer or being undocumented sometimes lead to depression, substance use or isolation.

Marco Quiroga, born in Peru and brought here at age 2, explains a little bit oh how immigration policy has affected his life as a young undocumented gay male living in FLorida.

Javier Hernandez, a fierce undocuqueer from the Inland Empire Immigrant Youth Coalition continued to speak truth to the audience, as some tears rolled down in anxiety of the reality to recant these particular cases in which the lack of papers, or not being able to succeed fully in this country has taken the lives of many innocent people that don’t discriminate necessarily your potential as an immigrant.

“That is the Case of  Joaquin Luna, A DREAM ACT Eligible youth that after the DREAM ACT failed to pass, and suffering from depression, decided to take his life away and committed suicide in 2010”.

Victoria Arellano, and undocumented trans woman detained in San Pedro Detention Center, CA was denied HIV medication after months of incarceration and bad treatment , causing her death and the closure of said private funded immigrant detention center later in 2007.

In Georgia, the harsh anti-immigrant and dehumanizing law HB87  has Impacted  Irving Xochitla, a young undocumented DREAMer that was denied medication and forced to be kicked out of a hospital with peritoneal dialysis. The project “UndocuHealth” currently serves and mobilizes these struggle within our own immigrant communities.

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The intersectionalities that the broken immigration system  affects to millions of immigrant families that have no legal status in this country is definitely not just of legal status matters, the detrimental damages in which the government has impacted anti-immigrant programs and massive incarceration for profit in detention centers , should definitely be a priority for both LGBTQ and immigrant communities.

Our Latino queer community needs to have more access to mental health and social services in order to truly bring equality to our communities. Immigration raids, separation of families, massive deportations and dehumanization need to stop Now!

I’m excited to see what other workshops bring up to the light mental health equity to those in our LGBTQ communities that have no access to these types of services or spaces.

Creating Change 2013

How being an Undocumented Queer Immigrant Brought me to Creating Change

alex pic
By Alex Aldana
Blogging Scholarship Recipient
Recap on the Latino Institute 
 

 

For the first time in 24 years, the National Conference on LGBT Equality Creating Change will be having its first Latino  Institute on Thursday, January 24th, 2013. The day-long institute’s most demanded topic by national organizers will be to discuss the next steps within the Latino LGBTQ community and Immigration and how we can best strategize efforts to bring justice and dignity to both of our communities.

I cannot help but to feel enthralled to meet amazing familia that is dedicated to serve the latino LGBTQ community at a national level and that have made it possible for me to be part of these conversations.

The real excitement however, comes from the community, from the land in the south.Two years ago I had the fear of traveling even within my own community. After Liberating that fear by coming out of the shadows about my legal status, I decided to deport such fear and make it into self-empowerment to mobilize power to the people.

The chills I get on realizing the community in which the conference will be taking place is Georgia, one of the worst  anti-immigrant states in the country ,in which many families had been separated, young undocumented students don’t have rights to go to school, and looking brown on the streets, adds another burden to your identity as a queer person.

That is why, our opening ceremony will be joined by some of the bravest radical DREAMers in Georgia that have made a difference to many families.

Dulce Guerrero, among 2 other queer undocumented youth will be representing the community of Georgia and the National Immigrant Youth AllianceDream Activist GA which has helped prevent many deportations and has fiercely empowered those who continue to resist HB 87 locally ,and the current separation of families that has reached millions of deportations with programs such as Secure Communities and 287g nation-wide”.

queer undocumented youth from Los Angeles

Georgia Dreamers will encourage anyone attending the Institute to helps us build a “Community Altar” with offerings, blessings, pictures, banners and other items that represent your State, Country or Territory. In short, The work that drives you to be part of creating change, the community you serve, present in a visual way.

Participants will be welcomed to simply join the opening ceremony to be part of the circle, which will be blessed with good intentions to follow up with an intense agenda full of energies. The Institute welcomes all types of religious backgrounds and beliefs.

I’m so humbled to be part of this dialogue with the Institute, because equality to me goes beyond false borders and hate in our communities, because It is important for us to speak for our selves and not allow political figures to decide for our future existence in this country.
The complexity of struggle in our queer communities of color goes beyond Marriage Equality, it is about dignity and respect as human beings.

The Altar will be present throughout the day to remind us that even though we might come from different places or have different opinion, migrations continues to open those borders for us to work together as freely as they did hundreds of years ago, continuing to preserve proudly our culture and our roots, so we can build together a better future.

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