Ah. Finally a moment to myself.
The last few weeks have been a whirlwind.
I went from being undecided about a candidate, to being full blown intoxicated with the idea of change. With the help, guidance and strength of people I had never worked with, some who I didn’t even knew, others who I knew very little, we organized and put together one of the most amazing grass roots presidential campaigns that has not been seen in the little town of East Los Angeles in a long, long time. I have to give it up to Alma Marquez, for having the vision and desire to impact change, starting up the office with her own funds, and who just is in all standards, one of the dopest Latinas I have ever met! Suhagey Sandoval for finding endless time to create Obama posters and coloring them in with markers! taking care of my dog, the Obama pooch and being just super cool to chill with! Estee Sepulveda who smiled every time she handed me lists of people to call even when I told her I was out of minutes, Kristie Hernandez, my awesone and amazing Garfilian friend, for creating change in her family and bringing her mom to the office to phone bank and bringing in ollas upon ollas of tamales from Tamales Lilliana’s in East LA (eat there! its good!), which allowed me to post multiple Free Tamales! bulletins on MySpace, which resulted in Tatiana Simonian, long time CSULA college friend to roll by, call her friend Yosi, who was responsible in getting the HOPE/PROGRESS posters made by renowned artists Shepard Fairey, go on a wild goose chase for free t-shirts at American Apparel with State Senator and Majority Leader Gloria Romero, State Senator Gill Cedillo, Max Kennedy, son of RFK and the grandkids of Cesar Chavez. What a day!
Most often, Outreach Directors have to research community leaders, stakeholders, business folks and organizations that would benefit from a mutual relationship. In this case, the Outreach Director had people coming to her and still, nothing was being done. ¡¿porqué?! People were feeling shafted, unwelcome and worse, unappreciated. The friendship formed at Harvard Law School between this person and Obama could be one of the reasons she was hired, to be honest I am not sure. And sure, maybe outside of this campaign, she is a wonderful person and a kick as attorney, but as of right now, I know one thing, and that is that Edith Ramirez is not liked by a lot of people in the Latino Organizing community that supported Barack Obama in California. In fact, I can safely say that most people I have talked too are simply Pist Off. How does one fail to utilize important individuals and elected officials like those that I mentioned above in order to seek out and reach Latino voters? How do you not use/turn away Senator Romero and Maria Elena Durazo, Executive Secretary and Treasurer of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor? How do you not reach out to Latino celebrities like George Lopez earlier in the campaign? Why does he have to put out apress release about not being approached by either candidate to make a statement about the lack of outreach towards Latinos? Why was there such a lack of Spanish language signage for Los Angeles? When I would ask, people would say “she doesn’t have enough experience”, “she has never run a campaign before”, “she doesn’t know what she is doing.”
In many ways I thought, these are the same arguments that are being made about Obama right now, which is simply a fallacy. Maybe in her case, experience can be replaced by a passion to create change, to inspire, to be motivated by the candidate she was suppose to represent. But alas, that was not the case either. I was never moved, or inspired by her. Most of the times, she seemed stressed out. Which is understandable, campaign work is exhausting. But as a leader, you find ways to inspire your volunteers, its part of the mandatory ¡Sí Se Puede! training. There was simply, a lack of the exact thing she was set out to do, outreach. Some would argue that this hiring is a reflection of what the Obama administration would be like. Inexperience individuals running the country. Then I remember that even if that were true, which it’s not, it’s not much different that having Bush elected in the first place, or having the other candidate chosen. There is no lesser of two evils here, all there is, is an inability to react as quickly as one should, and the inability to acknowledge, foresee, and in all essence of the word, take advantage of the willingness of supporters willing to go beyond the call of duty to get the job done. There was a disconnect between grass roots organizing and the political machine that is a presidential campaign.
For a presidential candidate that is running a campaign from “the bottom up”, in Los Angeles, the bottom cracked.
Like many others, there are countless of questions on my mind, why did certain things happen? how could we allow certain things to take place? not take place? etc., who the hell is this outreach director? and what the hell is her problem?
But one afternoon, I came across something which changed me. I read a poster that was being used by students to promote Barack to older people that could actually vote, the poster said “Students for Obama” and at the bottom, there was a quote from Obama that read, “This campaign is not about me, it’s about YOU”.
And it dawned on me. I love Obama because he represents something new and different than the old world of politics. Something exciting that I felt I was a part of. Why was I expecting that this campaign, that spoke to me about change and effectiveness and individual leadership, to work with the same guidelines that we were use too? The cliché came to manifest. If I wanted something done, I’d have to do it myself. That, or partner up with other people that felt like I did. I should not wait around for someone, be in a precinct captain, volunteer coordinator or worse yet, and Outreach Director to tell me what I should do. Only I knew what needed to get done. Only other people that felt what I felt knew what we needed to do. And so we did.
If Latinos can do anything, it’s organize and exhaust “¡Sí Se Puede!” till there is no end.
So that is exactly what we did.
The East LA office opened up and we had more people coming in every single day than we ever anticipated. One of my favorite moments was not having Senator Romero, Senator Cedillo, Councilmember Garcetti, Congressman Becerra or Max Kennedy, or Tom Brokaw there (twice), but welcoming two African American ladies to our office that came down from Baldwin Hills to give us buttons and lawnsigns (or as someone called them, lawnmover signs) and ask us for Spanish Latinos for Obama signs because Latinos in their neighborhood wanted to reflect their support for Obama. I swear I almost cried. They brought me a much needed refresher that there are indeed more things that unite our communities than divide us. How wonderful to share that with these amazing women, one of which was about 80something and her daughter of 50something. Just amazing.
Maybe it was strategic. Maybe it was coincidental. Maybe it was a test of strength, courage and determination. Maybe it was just a bad move on someone to hire an Outreach Director who wasn’t very prepared. Either way you see it, this election proved to me and to a lot of people, that if you truly believe, if you truly want it, you CAN make it happen. You can take a small real estate office in East Los Angeles/Monterey Park, and within a few days, turn it into a well oiled grassroots unionized campaign office that is SO good, it gets more local, national, and international media attention than the headquarters and therefore becomes the pseudo HOW YOU LIKE ME NOW smarter, faster, younger sibling you never wanted. HA!
This is a man who we all at some point, fear, will be assassinated because the change he speaks about are on the level of Martin Luther King and Malcolm X.
And as scary as that thought is, I’m on his team not because he is Black, not because he is a great orator, but because I believe in him like I believe in myself.