By Crystal Defatte
Saving the world is no easy feat, but that hasn’t stopped four amazing women from trying. CCI Action Fund’s 2017 Convention on July 15th in Des Moines will be hosting a lineup of activists that embody the progressive ideals of “People Power”, including Erika Andiola, Bree Carlson, Alicia Garza, and Judith LeBlanc.
Erika Andiola, Our Revolution
Erika Andiola is a Latina activist who was picked by the Sanders campaign as his national press secretary for Latino outreach in order to help offer an alternative to the harsh Trump immigration policies promised during his campaign. She herself was an undocumented U.S. resident. Her mother, fleeing a life of poverty and domestic abuse in Mexico, brought Erika and her four siblings to Arizona where Erika thrived. Despite earning seven university scholarships, her ability to achieve a college degree was jeopardized by an Arizona law that prohibited in state tuition for undocumented residents. “I met about 300 kids just like me at my university, and together we decided to come out of the shadows,” she explains.
Coming out of the shadows was not without consequences. “The same year that I lost my college scholarship, my house got raided by immigration officials,” she reveals. “They went to my mom’s job, and she’s stopped working since then… I ended up becoming the head of the house.” In another raid years later, her mother and brother were led away in handcuffs by Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials. Andiola captured the country’s attention by uploading an emotional video to Youtube in which she begged for her family’s return.
The experience lit a spark in her that led her to later co-found the Arizona Dream Act Coalition and to join the staff at Our Revolution, whose goal is to “reclaim democracy for the working people of our country”. She gained notoriety here in Iowa by going head to head with Rep. Steve King, unabashedly challenging him to rip up the employment authorization card she received through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Rep. King is known to subscribe to a tough immigration policy that would send “other people’s babies” out of the U.S., the country many grew up in and consider home.
Bree Carlson, People’s Action
Bree Carlson, the Deputy to the Directors at People’s Action, is not afraid to look at the big picture when it comes to the Progressive fight for the soul of this country. In her previous position with National People’s Action she worked with 500 other members to create the Long-Term Agenda to the New Economy. By dissecting the agenda of the corporate elites that produced the 1% economy, they realized that the economic and political reality of today is not accidental, but the design of the corporate CEOs, think tanks, and political operatives. This allowed them to identify the structural reforms necessary to change the balance of power to favor people and democracy over corporate interests, and the new progressive agenda was born.
Beyond her fight for economic justice, she has also worked in the racial justice field for over 15 years. She assisted in the creation and implementation of the “Dismantling Racism” curriculum and has trained hundreds of organizations to understand and proactively address race and racism.
Alicia Garza, National Domestic Workers Alliance
Alicia is the Special Projects Director for National Domestic Workers Alliance, which fights for labor protections for nannies, housekeepers, caregivers and other domestic workers. She is also the women who coined the phrase “Black Lives Matter” in a Facebook post after the acquittal of George Zimmerman, the man who killed Trayvon Martin. Along with friends, she would go on to create the online platform for BLM. “We want to make sure there is the broadest participation possible in this new iteration of a black freedom movement,” she said. “We can’t afford to just follow one voice. We have so many different experiences that are rich and complex. We need to bring all of those experiences to the table in order to achieve the solutions we desire.”
Wanting to bring a woman of color’s voice to what was derided as a “white woman’s march”, Garza also participated in the Women’s March on January 21st. In an article she wrote describing her experiences in the march, she said:
“Anger has an important place in transforming our political consciousness and should be valued as such. The white lady with the pink, knitted “pussy” hat that came to the march was angry as hell when her future president talked about grabbing women by the pussy. Though she may have been sitting on the sidelines up until now, she decided that she was going to do something about it. Anger at the way America depends on immigrant labor yet forces undocumented immigrants to live in the shadows may lead them to join the movement. Black Americans mad as hell about the ways that this country strips us of our humanity might join the movement, even though they didn’t before.”
She also believes that “building a movement requires reaching out beyond the people who agree with you.”
Judith LeBlanc, Native Organizers Alliance
Also in attendance at the Women’s March was Judith Leblanc. LeBlanc was a speaker at the march and in her speech, which can be seen here, she focused on the “real carnage” of land grabs and environmental destruction.
Leblanc is a member of the Caddo Tribe of Oklahoma and the Director of the Native Organizers Alliance. The Native Organizers Alliance, a project of the People’s Action Institute, is dedicated to building the organizing capacity of Native organizers and groups building grassroots power for change among native peoples across the continent.
LeBlanc spent time at Standing Rock, ND in defense of the land, water, burial grounds, and tribal sovereignty of the Standing Rock tribe in their fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline. She has also spoken out against Trump’s transition team’s statements in support of privatizing treaty held Indian land and against the repeal of the Affordable Care Act that many native people rely on for their health care needs. She spoke about her time in Standing Rock and her belief in the power of prayer, peace, and mobilizing people power as well as resisting colonization in an interview with Brett Walton, which can be heard here.
In this day and age when so many women of color’s voices go unheard, I would encourage everyone to join me in hearing these extraordinary women speak at the CCI Action Funds 2017 Convention. You can RSVP by going to http://cciaction.org/July15/ or by calling 515-255-0800. Oh, and Sen. Bernie Sanders will be there too.