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?

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.