Over the next few decades, a steady demographic shift will occur in the United States, the Latinx population is set to double.
Alongside these shifts are predictions and assumptions that the power and influence of our community will grow as well. We do not believe that demographic change will automatically forge transformative change.
Because alongside these numbers of growth is the proliferating criminalization of our people, the lack of opportunity for a quality education, an erosion of government and democracy, the stealing of the commons, destruction of our planet and sinking of the economy. Organizing teaches us that no one is coming to save us, we transform ourselves in order to save ourselves, and each other. We believe a project of this sort is necessary now because real change requires more from us, not simply more of us.
“Organizing teaches us that no one is coming to save us, we transform ourselves in order to save ourselves, and each other.”
The question is, how can this be done?
Our strategy is that it is through more connected and conscious leadership, it is through culture change and it is through relevant and concrete advocacy campaigns. Despite all the challenges we face, there is abundance in our community. There are Latinx people engaged in all facets of the progressive social movement in this country. We are strategists, media makers, cultural workers, action-takers, writers, base-builders, theorists. But in many different aspects we are scattered. This is a significant gap we see.
When we say political home, what we mean by that is a space for connection, for respite, where we can sharpen our strategy and co-conspire in our own community and in community with others.
“This is not a moment to stay on the sidelines.”
This is not a moment to stay on the sidelines. The challenges of our time demand action, and playing it safe down the middle is simply not enough. We took a closer look at advocacy and organizing infrastructure in the Latinx and Chicanx community, and we realized that there were significant gaps and shifts that should be addressed.
One, is that for too long, our community has been conveniently portrayed as a single-issue voting bloc concerned only about immigration. To add insult to injury, we have seen a regression of immigration policy. Instead of progress, our futures are peddled and passed around as if they are pieces in a political game.
The impact has been that it locks out issues of US born Latinxs and Chicanxs. This contributes to the disengagement of Latinx and Chicanx people in political organizing, particularly voter mobilization. If we don’t see ourselves in a political agenda, or, if we don’t believe in the content or viability of said agenda, we aren’t going to move, much less mobilize. On the other side of this is the fact that this problem boxes-in undocumented leaders to only have room to speak on immigration status or, at times, employment.
The reality is people are being excluded and targeted because of immigration status in all aspects of civil society. It is false logic and it is wrong to silence undocumented people and their interests under the guise of incremental reforms and promises of ‘we’ll get to you next time.’ We have the right to go for next time, now. We are more than our immigration status, we are more than a vote.
We hope to see and contribute to a redefinition of progressive and radical leadership in the Latinx and Chicanx community. We see a lot of climbing, and not enough lifting. By focusing on Latinx and Chicanx people, we do not mean to imply that representation is the primary solution.
It cannot be enough to stand before us armed only with a Spanish surname. We need leaders of our shared culture whose politic and commitment are ground for them to also be willing to take the risks. We need Latinx leaders who are not simply pro-Latino, but also pro-woman, pro-queer, pro-poor, pro-Black, pro-indigenous, pro-climate because OUR community is all of those things and WE care about all of them. We need to learn how to lead better with each other across these lines.
“We need Latinx leaders who are not simply pro-Latino, but also pro-woman, pro-queer, pro-poor, pro-Black, pro-indigenous, pro-climate because OUR community is all of those things and WE care about all of them.”
Finally, we see a need for organizations that move as quickly as life moves today, organizations that are built to be nimble and flexible, that adapt and experiment more than they predict and forecast. Because of that we are calling Mijente a hybrid form, a hub, a bee hive, part digital and part bread and butter ground game organizing. We seek to engage people at different levels, from online, in the streets, in partnership and through collaboration.
Our focus is going to be developing and sparking social change and social change agents themselves. Mijente will grow to become a political home for multi-racial Latinx and Chicanx people, the warriors, the movers and shakers, the early adopters who then influence, engage and mobilize many more. Mijente will contribute and incubate new ideas, strategies and support to existing and emerging leaders. Birthed by community organizers, we don’t separate the work of campaigns, advocacy and organizing from any of this. Practice is what keeps us sharp.
“A political home promises the idea of a warm place to come in from the cold, a place where we can sit easy and leave anew, ready to keep striving for something better, for all of us.”
The how of all of this looms large. There are programs and plans, goals and benchmarks but fundamentally it’s about people, it’s about us. What are we willing to do? Are we willing to learn more, be more in order to do more for our families, our partners, our communities? As many of us know, it’s often times easier to step out, to give up when it is hard. We also know that there are ways where some of us and parts of all of us are overlooked, excluded and pushed out. A political home promises the idea of a warm place to come in from the cold, a place where we can sit easy and leave anew, ready to keep striving for something better, for all of us. We can sense possibility, the isolation we feel shows our desire for it. The time has come to build it.
– Marisa Franco is the co-founder of Mijente.