Meet Camila - our youth field organizer in Raleigh, North Carolina, who is turning 17 this August and going into her senior year of high school. Her family is from Guerrero, Mexico y Collantes Mexico and she is proud to be the first generation of her gente here. She has become an expert in using social media to find Latinxs across NC and engaging young leaders in creative ways.
When did you first become aware of social/political issues in the US?
In seventh grade I was assigned a project on women’s inequality in the workplace. I learned that women were being paid less and asked my mom about her experiences. And I was shocked that she had. My stepdad was paid more than her even though they had the same job and she had worked there years before him. He was given many more opportunities compared to my mom and eventually she ended up quitting. Over the years, I started noticing the sexism that is so deeply ingrained in our community through machismo. As I learned more and had similar experiences myself, I’ve realized that the same people who want to keep me down push me to speak louder. Yes I’m a mujer, I deserve to be heard.
What motivates you to do organizing work?
I want NC to be a place where Latinxs can find community — where we can belong, rely on each other, and be united. Through organizing that’s how it’s done. You get experience listening to what’s going on with our gente and offer community care. You hear relief in their voice when they realize that their experiences are important to you. So often they’ve been put down for not speaking English or working a low wage job, but through organizing we get to say “Hey, I’m here. I’m listening. I know what’s going on and I want to help.” In the future I want there to be more unity in North Carolina where we support each other to fight important issues, like ICE, machismo, and racism. We’re here, we’re proud and we’re going to create change for our gente.
What encouragement do you have for Latinxs who want to get involved but have never done this work?
If you want to become more active but feel overwhelmed know that you’re not alone. There are so many of us coming together to make change. The work that you do with us will not only benefit our gente in the future but it will build you up too. It takes courage for things to change. I have been able to build my own confidence by educating on the issues and getting out of my comfort zone. But in the end, it’s better to say that you did something, rather than watch the movement pass you by.
Why do you want to register our gente to vote in NC?
I want to show everyone that Latinxs can make a difference and that our vote counts. When doing voter registration with another group, I heard an organizer say, “I keep getting a lot of Spanish speakers but I don’t speak Spanish so there’s nothing I can do.” The response they got was “Ok, just separate them out and don’t worry about it.” In this case I was able to step in, but I keep thinking about other spaces where there aren’t Latinxs and how our gente are getting passed over. That’s why I’m working really hard with Mijente to make sure that Latinxs can and will be registered to vote this year.
With the work and time we’re putting into this, we’re saying “Fine, we got our gente and we don’t need you.”
What are you most hopeful to achieve through organizing in NC?
I’m looking forward to a future where Mijente endorses and supports a Latina Mijente member to run for a local or state race in North Carolina. The current leaders don’t really represent me or who I am — and we need more of our gente as leaders so that they can block corrupt politicians from making decisions that damage our communities. What AOC is doing in Congress I want to happen here. She’s helped many of us realize how corrupt the system can be and she’s not backing down from taking it on. That’s why I’m so happy about organizing and educating our gente. We’re coming together and building power so that we’re ready when our time comes.