Behind the headlines and statistics, there’s a person with a face, a mother, and a community activist…Valeria is Corazón Arizona’s Lead Community Organizer and she doesn’t just cite statistics or facts, she lives them. We got to talk to Valeria at a La Red action in Washington D.C. to demand a fight for citizenship for millions of immigrants in the U.S. She talks about what keeps her in the fight, how this work is personal to her, and her advice for future or current organizers.
What is your name and where are you from?
My name is Valeria and I am with Corazón Arizona, which is the Arizona Federation of Faith in Action.
Tell me about yourself a little bit.
About myself? I am a sister. I am a daughter. I love to be artistic and do anything that I can with my hands. I also just love being engaged with diverse communities.
Was there any specific moment in your life where you felt, “I have to organize, I have to help my community?”
The specific moment when I realized that I felt the need to organize was in one of the instances where my dad was in a detention center. It was around the peak of a lot of these cases being brought forth of the mistreatment of individuals in detention centers. My dad got put on a bus because they injected him with insulin and he had never taken insulin in his life. So to avoid liability, like, they put him on a bus and they deported him. So I think that was one of the pivotal moments when I realized this wasn’t right. This isn’t fair for people to have to be going through this on top of already detention being such a horrific process.
What issues or areas do you work on and why?
I’m very passionate about immigration issues, but just social justice in general. I think it’s important for all of our communities to recognize that oftentimes we focus on the things that separate us. But as BIPOC communities specifically, there’s so many things that unite us and understand that we, each other, while we are constantly being divided, to realize that if we come together, we can collectively fight against the systems that are oppressing all of us.
What inspires you to continue to work in an organizing space?
What inspires me to continue working in an organizing space is the community. There are times when I feel defeated. There are times when I’m just going to throw in the towel. But seeing undocumented parents, seeing other folks still in la lucha and not wanting to give up, that fuels me to also not want to give up and show up even stronger for all of our communities.
Would you describe yourself as someone of faith? If so, how does your faith drive your organization?
I do consider myself an individual of faith, and faith definitely drives my organizing. Again, going back to those moments when I feel like nothing’s going right. We’re not winning anything. There is loss of hope within our communities. It’s that faith, it’s that hope, and that vision of living in a world that resembles what I believe is the world that the Creator has created for us to live in. And so that’s what keeps me going. Just that little seed of what we do now can make that future for us and for generations to come.
What are some challenges you face as an organizer, both personally and professionally?
As an organizer, some of the challenges that I have are definitely fueling myself and guaranteeing that my cup is full so that I can function out of hope instead of functioning out of scarcity. Which can happen spiritually, emotionally and mentally. But then also providing that for all of our leaders, for all of our community, making sure that we’re not just pulling them to actions, that we’re not just pulling them to things that need to get done, but also making sure that their cups are also being full in the process.
If you could look into the future, what are some things you would want to see in yours?
If I could look into the future, some of the things that I would love to see is prophetic unity. I think there are times when we talk about unity, but it’s in a very transactional manner. And so to think of a world and a future where unity is seen in the way that we speak to one another, regardless of our ethnicities, regardless of where we come from in our path of life. Being able to see humanity within each other and knowing that that’s enough and being able to have abundance and dignity in that.
What advice would you give to an organizer that is just starting?
Advice that I would give to an organizer that’s just starting is never let your light dim. There are times when I don’t know what I’m doing. But just recognizing that things take time and you’re not going to have groups in a week, you’re not going to have these massive people that you might have access to. But recognizing that relationships are important, intentional relationships are important. And those take time. And so just be patient, be gracious with yourself, and know that everything, every little step, even though it might seem that there isn’t progress being made, the work is being done.