Find Research, Campaigns, and Issue Briefs
It is hard writing my feelings on this blog. It is hard to look back and write. But in order to write history, I have to look back. Every detail, every action, every smile and every tear counts in history. I am here to write history. There is a history of a family of nine young female and male students that started their journey on June the 30th of 2014 in San Diego, California, a city with a many struggles, muchas luchas, and a city with an open wound that has not yet recovered. There is a journey that needs to be told, it needs to be written, it needs to be present in our hearts, I am here to write a piece of this journey.
Week Seven. A week has passed. I didn’t know how much I have learned until I realized that I was not sitting in CPI’s conference room with my SEJ Family. I am pretty sure that my sisters and brothers feel the same way. We walked together for six weeks, we connected our hearts during that time, we were getting prepared to reach the point where we were going to start walking by ourselves. In order for us to take our knowledge and our leadership skills, we need to separate, not forever, but until our mission gets accomplished. During week seven, everything seemed to calm down, it was the end of the SEJ program, but it was the beginning of greater changes in our community; we were ready to walk by ourselves spreading the knowledge we got at SEJ and to stand in solidarity with different luchas.
Jesus and I, the two undocumented folks of the SEJ program became brothers. We were involved in the Chicana/o community, but we were with different organizations. After SEJ we knew that our destiny was to work together. He invited me to join the San Diego Immigration Youth Collective (SDIYC), I joined them. Our first activity together was to help organize the trial for humanity from MAAC project to the US/Mexican border. Since we both write poetry connecting our tongue, our heart, our lines and our word to the border, we decide to write a piece together. We named the poem “El Camino,” the Road. Through the vivid lines of our words, we connected the camino of the women who took the initiative to walk from San Francisco the US/ Mexican Border, to our lucha and to our consciousness with the struggle of our sisters and brothers in Palestine. We create a Camino from this corner of the US/Mexican Border to the border of Gaza because we didn’t cross the border, the border crossed us. This brotherhood of Jesus and I will last forever just like the light of grandpa sun and grandma moon.
I miss the rest of my family, though. In the left side of my heart there are 7 other individuals who keep my revolutionary system alive with the hope of a better world. I know they all are doing something for our communities. Bernadette is getting ready to begin another successful semester in Sonoma State, she is a fighter. She is fighting for education; she will make great changes in the education of our communities. Val and Eunice did an amazing job during this six week program. They both are amazing, super passionate in the work they do. I really liked they way they talked about issues with gender and human trafficking. I got another perspective on these issues because of them. They will do an amazing job at UCSD. Biviana and Jenny, man, I have no letters to create a line writing my feelings towards both of them. All I want to say is that I am impressed with the work they do. Biviana, chale, she grew a lot! She has this heart-breaking story that makes her who she is today. She decided to walk against the typical stereotype of this society and prove every single person that didn’t believe in her wrong! I know one day we will meet up to share our food. Jenny, she has this amazing view of machismo! There are many things that connect all cultures of the world, but there is one specifically that I saw during the SEJ internship; machismo. And Jenny brought it up. She, as well as the rest of my sisters and brothers, has an amazing story. Our culturas have a connection; we all have something in common. Jenny is amazing. She will also do an amazing job at SDSU along with Jesus and Biviana. I am looking forward to meeting with them on their campus. Joshua and Laura, man, I am speechless! Where do I start now? Bueno, Laura has this essential knowledge of unions, I remember when one of the panelists of Alliance San Diego said, “You always have to know your shit”, Laura knows her shit. Her knowledge and experience will make her go far with Unions. Joshua, my brother! He was always quiet, I will miss sitting at the same table with him. He would say things whenever he knew it was time to say them. Always analyzing, always humble, brother, if you read this I just want you to know that I admire you.
Now its time to walk in corporate America, its time for another change in our communities, it is time to organize the movimiento. Jesus and I will be writing poetry in the shadows of the border, look for us, our mission is to write poetry for the liberation of our pueblos.
I still remember my first day of my internship; I could not wait to be out there waving around my sign fighting for justice. However, by my second week I noticed that I had the wrong idea of what an organizer does. My main job was phone banking and following up with folks. I am not going to lie it was draining and a bit boring at times, but I love it because I was doing one of the most important tasks of organizing. Now I can call myself an Organizer. My mind and heart went way beyond phone banking. I never thought the Students for Economic Justice program would empower me. I never thought I had a voice until I spoke out. I never thought this program would change my life so much.
My work site was the perfect fit for me. I worked in the Raise Up San Diego Campaign. As a product of the injustices of getting paid poverty wages and no sick days, I had the internal motivation to fight for my family and my community. Therefore, the first week I was on a radio talk show where I spoke about raising the minimum wage. I also testified in front of the San Diego City Council. I told my story to the media. I even told my story in meetings with council member Marti Emerald and the Mayor. Their response to my struggle was clear on July 14 when the measure passed 6 to 3. I gave a public speech at a vigil advocating for the mayor to do the right thing and sign the ordinance to raise the minimum wage to $11.50 and provide 5 paid sick days. I also gave a presentation to students at UCSD about the minimum wage. I did blitzing for the fast food worker campaign. Blitzing consisted of talking to workers in the workplace with the purpose of getting workers to join a campaign.
The hands-on experience and the trainings have made me a leader. A leader who will go back to the community and lead by pushing, as Cesar Chavez said. I never had friends, and I had never opened up about my personal life, but I developed a close relationship with CPI staff and the rest of the SEJers because even though we have different stories we have a common ground that keeps us united. We share our passion for justice, a passion to make a difference. Our journey together has been full of laughter, tears, anger, and tiredness. SEJ also changed my personal life. I never liked social media, but I made myself a Facebook page so I can share our amazing work. I won San Diego Zoo tickets. I visited Balboa Park for the first time. This once in a lifetime experience will be with me forever and ever as I plan to continue fighting for social and economic justice. I will continue to make my voice heard. The end of our internship has come, but our relationship and our passion remains so I will continue to see my fellow intern friends. I feel honored to be nominated as the Spirit of SEJ intern, but in my eyes you guys made me the Star. I am proud that on the day of our graduation I will get speak out about our wonderful journey. Thank you CPI for granting me this opportunity. I love CPI and the rest of the SEJers, you folks have made me a true warrior!
Mayor denies hundreds of thousands of working people access to sick days and a raise
Working San Diegans and community backers say they are upset and disappointed by Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s decision to veto the earned sick days and minimum wage ordinance approved by the San Diego City Council late last month. The measure provides access to five earned sick days for everyone working in San Diego and sets a local minimum wage that increases to $11.50 over three years. At least 172,000 people would have received a raise and 279,000 individuals would have gained access to earned sick days.
Week 5 proved to be an exciting one for the SEJ interns as their hard work became as intense as it was inspirational. On Monday July 28th the interns learned online advocacy and how technology and social media, from Facebook to Instagram, can play a huge part in organizing. The group later learned the importance of Voter Engagement and Progressive taxation by the amazing Jim Miller and then were topped off by a visit from Marne Foster.
The next day, July 29th was a suspenseful one for Mid City CAN as there was a School Board Meeting at the Education Center to decide whether San Diego's schools would do away with zero tolerance and apply Restorative Justice or not. It turned out that one of our turnouts Muhammad Ibrahim gave a powerful testimony that completely turned heads and landed his story on the Union Tribune titled "SD schools look to reduce suspensions, expulsions". The School Board ultimately decided to do away with zero policy and implement Restorative Justice programs.
Never being a dull moment in week 5, July 31st took a little twist as the interns were blessed by the LeGerrette's, who hosted a lovely dinner at their home which included cactus! The interns delighted in light conversation and explained how they planned on taking their knowledge home with them to improve themselves and their school environments.
Friday August 1st back at the CPI conference room was no less inspiring. The interns had a heated discussion about Gender Issues and then topped off with a great talk by the one and only Christina Griffin from the ACLU about race and Civil Rights.
All in all, Week 5 proved to be a very fulfilling and engaging week for all those involved. Week 6, SEJ's final week is in progress and the interns are already anticipating graduation and carrying out their responsibilities to their communities.
This week was the craziest yet for me and my 8 fellow interns, and we are officially more than halfway through the internship now! We started out our week by learning about successful public speaking and gave practice speeches to each other, and then were lead in a prayer and a faith-based organizing workshop led by ICWJ. Our new familiarity with ICWJ was perfectly timed as we met with them and other community organizations on Tuesday morning for a vigil to urge Mayor Faulconer to sign the minimum wage ordinance passed by City Council last week. The vigil consisted of prayers, a symbolic altar, and testimonies from workers (Including our very own Biviana Lagunas!). It was great to see the amount of support that came out on relatively short notice, and to hear that the Mayor had agreed to meet with our delegation later in the week.
Tuesday afternoon most of us also attended a press conference held by UFCW and many other unions on behalf of Food 4 Less workers, whose contract negotiations with Kroger may lead to a strike. Despite working for the most profitable chain of grocery stores that Kroger owns in Southern California, Food 4 Less workers still have to struggle to make ends meet. Attending this press conference was an amazing opportunity to see people from all over the labor and social justice movements come together for the common purpose of showing workers support. The event also provided free lunch which was a great way to mingle with the folks there and hear their stories and what organizations they were a part of.
On Thursday, we headed over to United Domestic Workers (UDW) to help their organizers do house visits to folks who provide in home care. Most of us got sent to different neighborhoods in San Diego, while a few interns stayed back to work at their call center. I went to National City and got to speak to workers with great stories, including one woman who was caring for her 99 year old mother. Personally, I loved the chance to work alongside experienced union organizers and hear their stories in between home visits.
Friday wrapped up with another day at CPI, and the highlight of the day for almost all of us was a panel of older organizers who have done great work throughout their lives. It was very moving to hear their stories of organizing from the 60’s and 70’s through the present day in San Diego, and to hear their advice for a new generation of organizers. Their energy was exactly what I needed to finish a busy and tiring week with new optimism. I can’t wait to see what the last two weeks of this internship will bring!