This article was written by a Latinx organizer on the frontlines in the South.
Why I work with a Grassroots Political Organization
My full-time job is as a K-12 educator, but I took a part-time position with a grassroots political organization. We are in a very high stakes time. I say this with full recognition that there are previous moments in history when things may have been really bad, but now it feels all too accurate. We are experiencing the failed system of capitalism and a society that is fraught with inequality in every way imaginable, especially for Black and Brown and all working people. Therefore, despite the demands of my teaching job, it felt imperative to do something.
The organization that I’m working for is backing candidates that would fight for me and people like me, other Latinx people, as well as for people who don’t look like me but share the interests of my communities, because this organization builds solidarity that honors our differences while affirming our similarities. Being a part of an organization that is building power, doing high turnout, and making sure people in our communities are heard makes this work—especially now—a calling to me.
Who We are Organizing
We start with organizing people who are most impacted by capitalism, especially Black, Brown, working, and young people. As a Latina, I’m excited to see other Latinx people on calls and getting them out to vote. In a previous year’s campaign, we canvassed in Latinx neighborhoods. That experience swelled my heart and fed my fire to fight and bring along my people, as well as others most impacted, in the power-building project of this grassroots political organization.
Young people in particular are at the heart of why I’ve taken to this kind of organizing. I want young people to get inspired and to pick up the mantle of freedom. Since 2013, I’ve been working in education with young people. I chose this career because I wanted to show my students that there is a different way to bring about changes than what they are taught (or not taught) in schools. When I was a kid, it felt like there was so much I didn’t learn and so many things the education either couldn’t or didn’t help me and my community with. My journey into education happened right after working with a youth organization and after I’d read The New Jim Crow. As a part of the youth organization, I got politicized around the school-to-prison pipeline (STPP). Our education system is inherently deficit-based, despite our kids having an abundance of energy, ingenuity, and potential to create deep, systemic change; and there’s a connection between providing young people with political education and getting them organized, and ending the STPP.
What Excites Me About the Work
My state has very low voter turnout. However, there’s a discrepancy between the low numbers of engagement in the political process and the large numbers of people in our communities who care a lot about the issues in their communities and society and have a stake in that ground. The key is to activate those people with organization and an inspiring, viable vision. Whether I’m activating people through outreach or some other way, I strive to have them feel empowered through experiencing collectivity in organization and seeing the ways we are able to bring about change by building power through the electoral system.
The protests to defund the police have shown the amount of power that exists at the local level. When I look at what has been happening across the country, I see a big difference in what has been accomplished where organizations have worked to have allies as elected officials versus those places that have not. Seeing what was possible in places like Minneapolis, where organizations have an electoral-centered strategy that builds the governing power of their communities, inspired me to think about what kinds of things we could win in my city and state if we built organizations that understood the need to build both community power and the community’s power to govern. That further motivated me to get involved with a grassroots political organization.
What’s Possible for My City
I’ve been thinking about a lot after the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. On my social media there was a lot of apathy and feelings of defeat after she passed, because of the huge impact of her death on the nation in general and progressives in particular. It feels imperative that in this darkest moment we continue to find ways to use organization to keep us uniting and keep us fighting. Because the world is so bleak, I have a lot of fire for this work.
When I think about what’s possible, I imagine a future when we have people running for office that care about the environment and environmental racism, about healthcare, immigration, and all the other issues that impact Black, Brown, and all working people. I imagine our communities working with people in government by either pushing them to pass more progressive legislation or by supporting their progressive initiatives that continue to empower the communities we care about.
Currently on our city council we have one person who shares the values of our organization. Once we are able to build a progressive majority, it will allow us to push for money and programs that meet the needs of our “majority minority” city. A key part of this is education. Education is huge, because our current system is selling short our kids, and thus the future of our planet and society. The more we can activate people in the community to build power and work with elected allies, the more we can shift away from private interests that don’t serve our folks—and instead shift to an investment in the public goods and services that sustain our lives and would allow us to thrive.