spirals n scribbles
10 years in, and a whole lotta anxious. That was the scenario when I contemplated my future out loud with a longtime compañera, in a bar, of course. There came a point in the conversation where she leaned in as I spun myself in circles of questions, and looking real serious posed the question: So. What do you want to be in the movement, an architect or a carpenter?
My tendency at a crossroads such as this is to see where I came from. And when I look back on my path, I suppose it’s been a combination of circumstance, chance and choice. It’s woven into my story. Two weeks after September 11, 2001 I left my home in Guadalupe, AZ to be trained in community organizing. After years of what I would call ‘buffet activism’ as a student and general revoltosa I traveled to the San Francisco Bay Area hungry for more.
Six weeks turned into six years in the Bay Area. I learned about neoliberalism in food lines and homeless shelters, witnessed the cost of trade agreements like NAFTA from domestic workers who were separated from their children to be able to provide for them. And, I was introduced to a network, formal and informal of people trying to build a movement to change things up.
I had the privilege to work with people directly affected by the local and global, to study classic and modern theory and talk shop with like-minded folks about how the pieces connected, across racial lines, sector and place.
In the end, it was my choice to leave home, to organize. It was chance that brought me to the kind of organization where I developed this craft and perspective, and its been circumstance that’s continued to form and shape how I understand the world around me and what is to be done. I place myself in a social movement that is characterized by community organizing that’s gone global, labor organizing that’s grown outside of factories and a politic that pushes beyond political parties. It is a social movement, in sum total that seeks a redefinition of democracy, and the realization of labor and human rights based in justice. Sounds easy enough, right?
In the summer of 2010, almost 10 years after my departure, I found myself back home in Phoenix, doing something I would have never predicted – organizing. My home state had become ground zero for hate legislation against immigrant workers and families. Over the years I’ve witnessed the antics of Sheriff Arpaio, the mounting laws aimed directly at my family and community. I’d been waiting for this. The irony for me was that, the place I left to organize is precisely the place where I have found myself in this work again. To do this work, over the long haul, you’ve got to find yourself in it. And that, as I suppose is true for all of us, it’s easy to lose ourselves in the various things we dive into. This experience made me think that perhaps our lives don’t fall on a linear, chronological path. Instead, we move in spirals and that some things come around again. Its like life gives a nudge.
Back at the bar, in deep deliberation of life’s nudge, I leaned back, surprised and immediately responded: Why can’t I be both? The truth is I want to dream it and build it. I am part architect, part carpenter. I don’t really want it any other way. Following that conversation, I joined the effort to push back on the PoliMigra in Arizona and beyond. Its important for me to be plugged into and supporting local, community based campaigns. I also feel like I’ve got something to contribute at the ‘national’ or movement level. But the other thing that came back around, was this need to write. After much more bar conversations and deliberation, for me, I think that writing is the meeting point between the concepts and design of the organizer who is an architect, and the builder and implementor who is the carpenter. So along with working to stop the PoliMigra, I’m creating this space for bringing together my reflections, experiences, hopefully producing new ideas and commentary on what’s next.
I’m ready for the next rounds. This time, I find myself in this work. The reason I organize is once again personal. My purpose, it’s woven into my story. Its time to share it.