Josefina’s Letter April 2017 – Seven Days Down

Seven Days Down

Dear Friends,

There was a lot of noise this week and administrative actions with human repercussions that are reverberating around the world. People of color, immigrants, women, refugees, Muslims, and the environment all affected by the ink so loosely used to impact all of our lives. On Friday, we were training our staff at Safe Passages. My role is usually to open our trainings with an overview of current affairs. Friday’s presentation was focused on what we still know for certain after the first seven days of the new administration. Little did I know, it was to become even more relevant after Friday Executive Immigration and Refugee Order. We are sharing excerpts from the presentation in hopes that it furthers our collective efforts to do what is right in the context of so many challenges.

There was a lot of noise this week the but there are still things we know for certain.

We must push through the noise and maintain our focus on the children and families we serve.

This nation, our nation is stronger because of us.

We will do everything in our power to protect the most vulnerable among us.

We are stronger together. We will fortify each other.

Although it is often painful, we shall overcome.

We will commit all of our brilliance, tenacity, courage, skill, and resources to breathe life into our democracy.

We are the Stone Catchers but We Must Sustain Ourselves

We represent the Stone Catchers. We put ourselves between the people throwing the stones and our children, families, and communities. This was exhausting in the past and will become exceedingly exhausting as we navigate our current contest. We, therefore, need to ensure we take care of ourselves. We talk a lot about this- we need to be better at doing this. We need to focus on trauma-informed education, approaches, and self-care. We must sustain ourselves to sustain our work.

We Must be the Best Practitioners We Can Be

We need to be the best practitioners we can be. To do this we must:

Be disciplined in our practice.
Acknowledge and validate or history and experience.
Represent those who came before us, and the communities we serve.
Study and prepare to de our best work.
Vote and participate in the democratic process. We are the ones that breathe life into our democracy.

So, what does all this mean? In practical terms, it means we need to be on time, we need to be prepared to do our best work, and we need to deliver to the best of our ability because that is what our communities deserve. It also means we REPRESENT – for ourselves, each other, and the families we serve. This matters to our children and our peers. This matters in our work and this is our responsibility as youth development professionals, organizers, and social justice advocates.

My Grandmother was a DREAMER

Finally, I believe to be a great practitioner we must acknowledge and validate where we come from. My grandmother was a DREAMER. My grandmother’s uncle brought her to the United States- as a baby, she crossed the Rio Grande on his shoulders. She would be a person under attack now. She would be referred to as a criminal. Yet, after growing up in San Francisco, she aided the war efforts as a Rosie the Riveter during WWII. My grandmother Josephine later married George, a Mexican-American man who served our country in WWII but was denied service in Texas restaurants where signs prohibited Mexicans and dogs. I acknowledge and validate the tremendous contributions made by grandmother and grandfather. I am proud to stand on their shoulders and to come from an immigrant family. Safe Passages is proud to serve immigrants and refugees. We must continue to validate where we come from- we must engage by telling our own stories.

Why High School Civics and Government Were so Important

High school civics and government classes might have been boring because of how they were delivered but these were the MOST important class we took in high school. These classes are supposed to teach students the fundamentals of democracy- government by the people for the people, the three branches of government, checks and balances, The Constitution and Declaration of Independence. These fundamentals have never been more important. So for this training, I recommend the following reading list: The Constitution (particularly the Establishment and Emolument Clauses) and the Declaration of Independence. It is important to read these right now because these foundational documents are pivotal to the national public discourse on how to respond to our current challenges. To be the best advocates, we must be the most prepared advocates. We must teach our children about our civil and human rights. This should be infused in all that we do- should be integrated into our youth development work. We must engage in this democracy as informed participants- this is our obligation.

We are in a Moment

We are in a particular moment right now, a movement building movement. This moment is challenging but at this moment our children and families and our voices are critical. The Women’s Marches across the country and the world provide us with an awesome and concrete example of what is possible. These marches now represent the largest protest in U.S. History and the cumulative marches held across the globe represent perhaps the largest single day of protest in world history. As a result of the executive orders this week related to women’s rights, the Dakota Access Pipeline, immigration, refugees, undocumented Mexicans, people all over the world are expressing their experience and voices, in a united way. American has never seen so many cities and states declare at the same time that we are fighting for our undocumented populations: Oakland, San Francisco, San Jose, Los Angeles, Boston, NY, NJ, Philadelphia, Seattle, Chicago, California, and more. This is an unexpected result of the last seven days of administrative actions and this unprecedented coalition building is the advocacy platform our communities need right this moment.


In Service,
Josefina Alvarado Mena, Esq.
Safe Passages

Josefina’s Letter April 2017- Women Make History Every Day

Women Make History Every Day

Dear Friends,

Before we close out the month of March, the official National Women’s History Month, I wanted to send out one more message about the intergenerational power of women and girls.

On March 8th, the world celebrated International Women’s Day, uplifting the undisputable way women and girls have undergirded our world. On that day, I wore red for my grandmother who was the first DREAMER in our family. She had a strength that rivaled that of any man’s. I wore my mother’s earrings for her because she was as fabulous as she was fierce in her advocacy for social justice. And, I wore the tremendous pride in my daughter, Mika, for the intelligent, thoughtful, uncompromising, and beautiful young woman she has become.

Women’s work is the backbone of the world. We make history every day of every month all over the world. We stand taller on the shoulders of all the women who have forged the way forward before us; our descendants will stand even taller on our shoulders as they build new pathways and disciplines of feminism that speak to the totality of who we have been, who we are, and who we will become.

There will be a day when we do not face violence, harassment, hate, exploitation, and misogyny but that is not today. There will be a day when we earn equal pay for equal work but that is not today. There will be a day when we are equally and effectively represented in all branches of government, education, and in the economy but that is also not today.

Today is the day we recommit our selves to eradicating external and internalized oppression. Today is the day that those of us who can speak more freely elevate the voices of women and girls who are not so free to do so. Today is the day that we celebrate the vast contributions and courage of all the women who came before us and the brilliance of the young women and girls whose power we dedicate ourselves to nurture for the future.

Today and every day, I am thankful for the incredible women in my family, the talented women I work with every day, and the inspiring women and girls we serve each year. In solidarity with women all over the world, we cannot wait for social justice, we must push forward with all our collective power until all our dreams are realized.


In Service,
Josefina Alvarado Mena, Esq.
Safe Passages

Josefina’s Letter April 21, 2017 – Celebrating Black History Every Day of the Year

Celebrating Black History Every Day of the Year

Dear Friends,

Black History is American History. We should celebrate the contributions of African Americans every day of the year. We should celebrate the well-known heroes as well as the everyday heroes who have made our lives better and contributed greatly to the history of our nation.

At Safe Passages, we keep the words of a great American leader, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., close to our hearts. We struggle everyday to bring social justice to our communities and we “Refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt.”

We remember Dr. King’s historic speech and work towards the dream:

“In a sense we’ve come to our nation’s capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the “unalienable Rights” of “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note, insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked “insufficient funds.”

But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. And so, we’ve come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.”

Martin Luther King, Jr.
I Have a Dream
Delivered 28 August 1963, at the Lincoln Memorial, Washington D.C.



In Service,
Josefina Alvarado Mena, Esq.
Safe Passages

Josefina’s Letter April 2017 – A Day Without Immigrants

A Day Without Immigrants

Dear Friends,

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men and women are created equal, including immigrants.

Protests across the nation are uplifting the contributions immigrants make on a daily basis to this country. Many symbols of America speak directly to our historic commitment to immigrants and refugees, including but certainly not limited to, our Statue of Liberty. Immigrants, regardless of legal status, contribute to our history, culture, economy, diversity, and richness as Americans. America has offered opportunity and immigrants have helped fuel innovation and prosperity for the nation. To put it plainly, it has been a reciprocal relationship of historic proportion.

Today, and every day, we must remember that immigrant rights are human rights. As a proud granddaughter of immigrants and indigenous people to this nation, I urge us all to treat immigrant families with the dignity that must be afforded to all human beings. Our children should expect nothing less.

Social justice and self-determination dictate that we must continue to break down the walls, within ourselves and those that exist externally, that prevent us from acknowledging the humanity that truly has the power to unite us. We are certain that we must protect the most vulnerable among us. We are also certain that our approach must be inclusionary and expansive to create a better future for our children and communities.


In Service,
Josefina Alvarado Mena, Esq.
Safe Passages