INTERVIEWED AND TRANSCRIBED BY CELINE DIPP
first, can you please introduce yourself?
I’m a student at college right now, at Barnard College, studying in New York City. Originally, I was born in El Paso, Texas. I was born and raised here. I went to El Paso High. Currently, I’m studying history. I’m really interested in border history, so that’s kind of what my focus has been and what my activism has entailed - really just focusing on immigration, policies on the US/Mexico-Border. But, yeah, currently I’m in El Paso, Texas.
What activist circles are you a part of? How do you incite change?
I think it’s really changed throughout my life. I think when I was in high school, I was really involved in reproductive justice organizations in El Paso. I was actively protesting, going to events, doing speaking events, but, now that I’m in college, it’s harder for me to be active in my community because I’m so far away - it’s literally across the country. I guess I’ve been able to be active through my writing and doing my own research. Recently, being able to publish my own op-ed was very exciting for me because I was able to write about the history of El Paso and connect it to what is currently happening in my city and what is happening along the border in general. I guess in that way I’ve been able to engage activism and engage my community. I think it fluctuates depending on where you are at in your life and what you’re doing.
How do you define Activism?
Activism can really mean anything. It just means supporting a community, I feel like, engaging with the community, and advocating for them. I think it can show itself in many different ways - it can be going to protests, it can be writing, I feel like it’s not one thing in specific, it can be so many things. I feel like it can be vague because it can be really anything. As long as you’re passionate about supporting the community, activism can show itself in many different ways.
How has your understanding of justice changed over time?
With education and educating myself, I’ve learned so much about justice, the best ways to support people, and the best ways to get justice for people. I think it’s evolved in ways that now I believe it should be more mutual-aid and more direct contribution and direct activism for communities. So, in the past, I was really into non-profits and these organizations that are doing big things. I think as I got older and I learned about these organizations, I realized that the best support for people is direct action. That’s how my view of justice has changed. I feel like - not to be super anti-government - but it’s so hard to get justice nowadays through doing things the proper way and going through a system. I feel like justice today is really putting yourself out there and demanding it because people will dismiss you.
What brought you to social justice?
I think it’s just surrounded my whole life. I feel like, being in El Paso, you’re constantly surrounded with issues. Since I was younger, my mom would take me to Asarco for environmental issues because she was an Environmental Science student at UTEP. There are so many different aspects to it that impacted me as a child - immigration, having people in Juarez, undocumented family members. I feel like there are so many ways that it kind of blossomed into what it is today. I guess in high school, I just got really into it as well - just different organizations and becoming less involved in the school and more involved in my own community.
What do you think are some of the greatest struggles you've experienced in your time engaging activism?
I think, for me, something that I’ve struggled with recently is recognizing my own privilege and realizing that I can’t speak for all issues and I can’t write an op-ed about undocumented people and expect it ot be “the story”. I feel like stories should come from the people themselves, and activism should also be led by the people that are fighting for their own rights. I feel like recognizing your privilege and your place in an organization is really important. I’ve recently come to terms more with it, but I’ve struggled in the past to realize my only place in a community and realizing what my role is and realizing that maybe being frontline or giving speeches at a protest isn’t my way of activism but that there are other ways of being active is something that I’ve come to learn more about today.
What's most fulfilling about it?
I think it’s just creating a community; I feel like that’s been the best part of these circles. It’s just like having people you can talk to about the issue at hand and having more friends, and family really. I really enjoyed being able to do that and learn so much from other people. I think that’s been one of my favorite things about being active.
what can others do to engage?
I think, today with social media, the best way to engage social activism is to follow these organizations that are doing the work. I feel like a lot of people tend to think that people aren’t doing the work already. When, in reality, there are a lot of people that already have these organizations, already have these mutual-aid funds. I think the first step, really, is knowing they exist and following them. From there, supporting the work and getting involved and I think, eventually, supporting the community is the best way to get involved.
what would you say is the most important part of being an activist?
Let me think on this one… there are so many things you should be aware of and conscious of with your work. I think the most important thing with activism, like I said before, is realizing your role in the community, making sure to not take up too much space and support others who are already doing the work. I think activism is most successful when it is done with a community and when it’s done with people you trust and support. I feel like, when you’re starting off, it is important to join the communities you want to join. If you don’t feel comfortable in a group, don’t feel like you have to stay there. Finding your own community is, I think, the first step in fully engaging and staying community to whatever you’re a part of.