Meet Manny - our NC field organizer in Burlington, NC Manny’s parents immigrated from Mexico and he was born and raised in the heart of Alamance County, historically and currently a site of much struggle for Black and brown gente in the South. While working full time, and soon starting his second year of college in the fall, Manny has spent nights and weekends organizing with the NC Mijente team.
When did you become aware of social/political issues in NC?
I remember going through a checkpoint around the age of 12 . There was always fear around it and we would tell other people “Don’t come down this street”. I saw how this injustice was intentional - especially in Alamance County which is really known for targeting the Latinx community. Having people that we care for deported just because of a checkpoint -- that affected us. Just for not having papers, you can be separated from your family and loved ones. And that’s not right.
How did you first get into organizing?
Door knocking was the first step that I took into organizing. I was really nervous, because I’d never done it before but I volunteered to door knock for a local candidate and on my first day I was out in neighborhoods. And from there I fell in love with it - being able to help the community build power through knowledge of who they could vote for and why. You get used to it really fast, learning how to read cues and interact. You’re having real conversations with real people and helping them get the information they need. After my second or third door, I was really pumped. It was a great experience because you get to meet different people in the community.
What motivates you to do organizing on top of your other work?
Right now I have a full time job in construction and am organizing part-time. So I go in at 8am, get off work at 5pm, and by 6pm I’m building people power. I do it because I have a vision for our gente and know we deserve better. We don’t feel safe in Alamance County because the Sheriffs are going after Latinx families. And they’re aggressive to peaceful protestors who want to get rid of symbols of hate like the Confederate statue. I want all of that to change. With these two jobs I keep myself in check - I’m seeing what our gente are going through everyday because I’m right there with them, and then after that I do the work of organizing. Through organizing I’m one step closer to our people being able to get better jobs, better representation, and making sure that my family is safer and happier.
Why do you want young people to get involved with this work?
It’s really important for younger people to get involved in voting and volunteering in this work. We’re building knowledge of how the systems around us work and helping people get ready to vote. Especially here in Alamance County, we need people to get involved so that we can get the representation and support we deserve. I know that there's people who don’t want to vote, or think that they can’t take the time to vote, but taking that step might help make the difference for all of our gente. With volunteering one or two hours of your time, you can help our gente get resources or register to vote, and you can inspire others to become leaders in their community and make a difference.
What encouragement do you have for Latinxs who feel overwhelmed but want to get involved?
Mijente taught me that anyone can build power. I never imagined myself stepping up and taking lead in politics. I have developed skills that I never imagined I'd have. Young people are realizing that we need change in North Carolina, that the system is often against us. Many of our families and communities are living in fear just because of immigration status. But we can fight, we can change that. It starts with registering to vote, and then getting involved to help others, and then pushing our needs to the front with people power.
Stand up with me for voices that aren’t always heard. Vote if you can and get involved with us to register people to vote and build power.