Reflections of Activistas

In their fight for liberation, these women embody that famous quote from African American poet June Jordan: “We are the ones we have been waiting for.”

We Are the Ones We’ve Been Waiting FoReflectionsr
Activistas from the New Majority
By Christine Joy Ferrer

At the Empowering Women of Color conference in March this year, I was moved to hear Grace Lee Boggs, in an open dialogue with Angela Davis, say that we must re-imagine everything; change how we think, what we do, to re-invent our society and institutions in order for revolution to happen. And as I listened to female MC and rapper Rocky Rivera give short glimpses into the revolutionary lives of three iconic women activists—Gabriela Silang, Dolores Huerta, and Angela Davis—in the 16 bars of “Heart,” I wondered who would be our next movement builders.

According to a report from United for a Fair Economy—“State of the Dream 2012, the Emerging Majority”—by the year 2030, a majority of U.S. residents under 18 will be youth of color. By 2042, blacks, Latinos, Asians, Native Americans, Pacific Islanders, and other non-whites will collectively comprise a majority of the U.S. population. But numbers alone are not enough to shift the political and economic landscape if income and wealth remain overwhelmingly in the hands of a small group of whites. Although there have been many social and economic gains made for all races since the Civil Rights Movement, people of color continue to be left behind. The stark disparities that exist today in wealth, income, education, employment, poverty, incarceration, and health are the remnants of hundreds of years of racial oppression. To create a new world, we must sever the connection between race and poverty.

Excerpted here are the voices of young activistas who redefine what it means to be part of the new majority as women of color. They have chosen to confront the challenges plaguing their communities and build to eradicate institutionalized confines, while engaging in the struggle for social, economic and environmental justice. In their fight for liberation, they embody that famous quote from African American poet June Jordan: “We are the ones we have been waiting for.”

The Activistas

  • Viridiana Martinez (ncdreamteam.org) is undocumented, unafraid and unashamed. She is co-founder of the North Carolina Dream Team and a young community organizer and activist for immigrant rights.
  • Yeashan Banks (peopleorganized.org) is an organizer for the Bayview Hunters Point Organizing Project at People Organized to Win Employment Rights (POWER). For the last year or so, she’s also been advocating for free public transportation for youth.
  • Theresa Q. Tran (miroundtable.org) is a youth program specialist at the Michigan Roundtable for Diversity and Inclusion. She received her M.A. in Social Work at the University of Michigan where she studied community organizing with youth and families.
  • Favianna Rodriguez (favianna.com) is a celebrated printmaker and digital artist based in Oakland, California. Her composites, created using high-contrast colors and vivid figures reflect literal and imaginative migration, global community, and interdependence.
  • Smita Nadia Hussain (chaaweb.org) is a poet, blogger and photographer who serves in leadership capacities for local young Democrat and API organizations, including Community Health for Asian Americans (CHAA), the English Center and the National Asian Pacific American Women's Forum (NAPAWF). She recently traveled with Habitat for Humanity to build homes in Vietnam. 
  • Raquel Nunez (lvejo.org) is a youth organizer for Little Village Environmental Justice Organization. 
  • Shanelle Matthews (sugarforyoursoul.com) does online media communications for Asian Communities for Reproductive Justice, advocating for women of color and families on the margins who have strategically been left out of the socio-political debate on reproductive health and rights.
  • Rocky Rivera (rockyrivera.com) is a hip hop journalist by day and MC by night who found international acclaim by winning a Contributing Editor position on MTV's docu-series, "I'm From Rolling Stone" (2007).
  • Ya-Ting Liu (transalt.org) is a federal advocate for the Tri-State Transportation Campaign and also the campaign manager for Rider Rebellion at Transportation Alternatives.

To listen to the Reflections of Activistas podcast on Radio RP&E, download the link below or click here.

Christine Joy Ferrer is the design and publishing editor for RP&E and founder of eyesopenedblog.com. Special thanks to Irene Florez (ireneflorez.wordpress.com) who helped to engineer and produce this podcast. Florez is a radio producer at KPFA, Berkeley, California.

Ya-Ting Liu

Transportation Justice
Excerpt from an Interview with Ya-Ting Liu

Ya-Ting Liu (transalt.org) is a federal advocate for the Tri-State Transportation Campaign and also the campaign manager for Rider Rebellion at Transportation Alternatives.

My family moved here from Taiwan when I was seven years old. We couldn’t afford a car. The bus was our only way to get around and we used it for everything. Public transit is a vital service that connects people to opportunity and allows for social and economic mobility. It’s just as important as education, health care and jobs. Rural, suburban communities also depend on transit and when bus service is cut, folks are literally stranded without any other way to get to work. 

Related stories:

Rocky Rivera

Misogyny and Women Revolutionaries
Excerpt from an interview with Rocky Rivera

Rocky Rivera (rockyrivera.com) is a hip hop journalist by day and MC by night who found international acclaim by winning a Contributing Editor position on MTV's docu-series, "I'm From Rolling Stone" (2007).

As a pinay, female emcee and artist in the hip hop industry, I deal with misogyny so much. Every time I infiltrate this male circle, I must not fall into the “Here, let me show some skin and get your attention!” because that’s so easy to do. As a woman of color in the industry, you’re marginalized, hyper-sexualized, not allowed to “play” with the boys, and not treated as a peer. The young women who aren’t coming into it with a conscious mind, they’re just hoping to gain acceptance from the mostly male hip hop audience and most times, you’re treated as a novelty.

Related stories:

Shanelle Matthews

Reproductive Health
Excerpt from an Interview with Shanelle Matthews

Shanelle Matthews (sugarforyoursoul.com) does online media communications for Asian Communities for Reproductive Justice, advocating for women of color and families on the margins who have strategically been left out of the socio-political debate on reproductive health and rights.

The way women of color activate themselves in their communities is different from the way white women do it. All women of color are struggling in this country for access to resources, public assistance, equality. Black women are harmed by a lack of solidarity because we are often stigmatized as insatiable and hypersexual. The commodification of our bodies is something that is left out of the conversation.

Raquel Nuñez

Sustainability and the Environment
Excerpt from an Interview with Raquel Nuñez

Raquel Nunez (lvejo.org) is a youth organizer for Little Village Environmental Justice Organization.

My passion for environmental justice is ever growing. By the age of 19, I was working to organize around various social justice issues. Over the last eight years, I have created several bodies of artwork with a central focus on social change and youth rights. My goal as an adult ally of the youth at Little Village Environmental Justice Organization (LVEJO) is to continue to grow and sustain an environmental justice youth leadership program. We organize youth by creating a curriculum that we share with high schools and have an open-door policy for anyone who would like to become involved and learn more.

Nadia Hussain

Smita Nadia HussainSouth Asian Freedom Fighters and Refugees
Excerpt from an Interview with Nadia Hussain

Smita Nadia Hussain (chaaweb.org) is a poet, blogger and photographer who serves in leadership capacities for local young Democrat and API organizations, including Community Health for Asian Americans (CHAA), the English Center and the National Asian Pacific American Women's Forum (NAPAWF). She recently traveled with Habitat for Humanity to build homes in Vietnam.   

My parents are from Bangladesh, a country birthed from genocide. People were victimized; tongues were cut off. They wanted independence and were literally fighting for their voice. They demanded the right to speak their language and fought for democracy. When the civil war happened in 1971, a lot of the guerilla fighters were women. Many were executed. Half a million women were raped in nine months. Yet, they still stood up.

Related stories:

Favianna Rodriguez

Women of Color in the Movement
Excerpt from an interview with Favianna Rodriguez

Favianna Rodriguez (favianna.com) is a celebrated printmaker and digital artist based in Oakland, California. Her composites, created using high-contrast colors and vivid figures reflect literal and imaginative migration, global community, and interdependence.  

As a young Latina I felt invisible. I am the daughter of immigrants and grew up in communities of color most of my life. I felt that my immigrant family, our communities were invisible. Yet, we all carried the brunt of what was happening to the economy in the country and even throughout the world. We were experiencing the effects of injustices in our own community. The injustices I saw as a child, the racism that I experienced via the media or the school curriculum, the xenophobia directed at my parents... angered me in a way that I didn’t have words for. Art became a way for me to talk about those experiences, reframe them, and do something positive. Making art was a way to have a voice and an empowering way to fight back, instead of acting out on my internalized oppression.

Related stories:

Viridiana Martinez

North Carolina Dream Team
By Christine Joy Ferrer
Click to Listen to the Podcast

Viridiana Martinez, 25—undocumented, unafraid and unashamed. Martinez is co-founder of the North Carolina Dream Team and a young community organizer and activist for immigrant rights. She only discovered her illegal status after graduating from high school. Born in Mexico and raised in a little town in North Carolina called Sanford, she has lived in the United States since the age of seven, when her parents immigrated. The NC DREAM Team is an organization composed of undocumented immigrant youth and allies, dedicated to the creation of a sustainable, community-led immigrant rights movement in North Carolina and to helping undocumented youth recognize their individual and collective power to activate their communities. 

Christine Joy Ferrer: What was it like growing up as a young, undocumented Latina in the South and how has your identity influenced your work?

Theresa Tran

Youth, Diversity and Ethnic Studies
Excerpt from an Interview with Theresa Tran

Theresa Q. Tran is a youth program specialist at the Michigan Roundtable for Diversity and Inclusion. She received her M.A. in Social Work at the University of Michigan where she studied community organizing with youth and families. Tran also serves on the board of Asian & Pacific Islander American Vote—Michigan, working to increase civic engagement of APIAs.

Youth are much smarter than adults tend to give them credit for, which is ironic since we were all youth once and know what being marginalized feels like. Youth know right away when something is unfair—they recognize it immediately but don’t always know what to do when they witness this unfairness. Or else, they’ve been socialized by adults to be complicit with the way things are.

At the Michigan Roundtable for Diversity & Inclusion's Youth Program in Detroit, our issues change each year with each new group of youth that join our program. One of our program principles is that youth should organize on the issues that they’re passionate about; that they are directly affected by.  In our program, our youth decide on the issues they want to focus on as they are living those experiences. Last year, the group focused on disability justice, structural racism, strengthening alliance with LGBT communities, and immigration. This year’s group is focusing on Islamaphobia, educational justice, sexual assault against teen girls, and organizing youth to be better connected across the city.

Yeashan Banks

Young Organizer Advocates for Transit POWER
By Christine Joy Ferrer
Click to Listen to the Radio RP&E Podcast

Originally from Bayview-Hunters Point in San Francisco, Yeashan Banks, 22, is an organizer for the Bayview Hunters Point Organizing Project at People Organized to Win Employment Rights (POWER). For the last year or so, she’s also been advocating for free public transportation for youth. In 2010, Banks graduated from the Movement Activist Apprenticeship Program with the Center for Third World Organizing and has volunteered for Congresswoman Barbara Lee and the Black Organizing Project and served as a Youth Researcher for the California Endowment’s Building Healthy Communities Initiative. She has also worked with Oakland’s Youth Uprising.

Christine Joy Ferrer: What motivates you to do the work that you do?
Yeashan Banks: POWER’s environmental justice project in [my neighborhood] is what first attracted me to the organization. The Bayview-Hunters Point toxic shipyard has been making folks in the neighborhood—specifically folks in my own family—sick for years. My grandfather worked at the shipyard and has asbestos-related lung problems.

 

 


New Political Spaces | Vol. 19, No. 1 – 2012 | Credits

To order the print edition of "New Political Spaces" use the back issues page.

 

You can also subscribe to the Radio RP&E podcast feed or listen on iTunes

To read more of our stories please sign up for our RP&E quarterly newsletter and occasional updates.

Email:

 

Like what you are reading and seeing here? Want to keep up to date with frontline analysis of the social movments of our time?  Keep this movement making resource alive for you! Donate $2, $3, $5, $10, $25. . . Donations over $50 receive a full-color printed printed edition delivered to you at a postal address and more.