Seven Days Down
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.
Josefina Alvarado Mena, Esq.