Our Community has GANAS for Change

By: Alejandra Gutierrez, Youth Organizing Coordinator, Fathers and Families of San Joaquin (FFSJ)

FFSJ group

I come from a hardworking, Mexican family that taught me the value of ganas, which does not have a direct English translation, but for me, it means that if you have passion for something, you must work hard to attain it no matter what it takes. While attending the University of California Irvine, I was inspired by my community organizing classes and justice became what I had ganas for. The love that I have for social justice work was first developed through my studies, but it truly solidified through the teachings of my mentors, the ones that showed me how to organize. Grassroots organizing brings solutions.

I am honored to be working as the Youth Organizing Coordinator at Fathers and Families of San Joaquin (FFSJ). I grew up in a small town in the Eastern Coachella Valley – a poor, marginalized, and agricultural community.  Although Stockton is not where I was raised, I now proudly call it home.  On paper and via statistics, Stockton is not where you come to realize your dreams. In fact, Stockton has been named one of the most miserable cities by Forbes magazine and became the largest American city to declare bankruptcy. Stockton has very high unemployment rates and one of the highest homicide and incarceration rates in the State. But we, at Fathers and Families continue to work with the most powerful tool to bring about change- our people. And we are seeing real results. Last year, we joined forces with our community and rallied to prevent the development of a new prison in our county. This was a tremendous victory that deeply motivated our community to continue efforts to bring alternatives to incarceration and support for the formerly incarcerated, which will inevitably strengthen families and our greater community.

What makes us so successful is the fact that we don’t “serve” people, we engage the community and create a positive and empowered extended family. The people we engage through our programs feel like they are part of something bigger in their community, something that they help shape and lead.  We are a community-based organization and our organizing is led by a diverse Latino, African-American, and Asian community. There is no division between me, the organizer, and the person who walks into our doors. We treat individuals and all families with love and respect. Not one single person walks in and out of our center without acknowledgement, without a handshake, and very rarely, without a hug. Nor do they leave without hearing words of encouragement and hope that follow them throughout the rest of their day, and will hopefully follow them for the rest of their lives.

We are intentional about working with the most vulnerable populations. In our Youth Program, we reach out to the youth who others have failed to engage and would consider the most difficult to work with. Their stories become our story and they become part of our family. We follow the teachings of our maestros and maestras (mentors) that have guided us in bringing healing into our community. When we learn about our roots and cultura, we remove our blindfolds and gain the mental freedom to understand that in fact, we can change our destiny. We resist, insist and persist that we, the people, will shape a healthier, safer, and more prosperous future for Stockton.

I pass down the importance of having ganas as I organize our youth and partner with our elders. I know that if we can come together, we can achieve the impossible. I invite you to join our movement in Stockton or to find ganas for making change in your own community.

alejandra

My personal commitment to the Latino Community

by: Hector Mujica, Social Responsibility Strategist, Google

hector

As a Latino born in Venezuela and raised in Miami, and now as a proud American citizen working for Google, I can closely relate to the needs of the Latino community. This deep understanding has led me to become an advocate for digital inclusion. Knowing the transformative and disruptive power of the Internet in the world – and as an agent of knowledge, communication, and reform – it is evident that digital access is key in today’s society. Unfortunately, the Latino community in the United States, is still not connected.  According to Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC), only 52 % of Latino households are connected to the internet at home, making them much less likely to use broadband than Blacks (71%), Asians (75%), and Whites (81%). These figures are not only shocking, but they are a reflection of the depth of the inequalities that exist in our communities, and a call to action.

Google has been hard at work in understanding and addressing the complexities brought on by the digital divide. We are a stakeholder in helping communities to bridge the digital divide, and we need strong local partners who are closest to the people impacted to deliver smart and sustainable solutions.

Google’s mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful. A key component of realizing that mission involved bridging the digital divide in our own communities. That’s why we’ve teamed up with the Latino Community Foundation to provide funds, Chromebooks and trainings to teach the Latinos how to leverage the web for success.

Googlers (Hispanic Resource Employee Group) also marked Hispanic Heritage Month by hosting LCF Family Health+Tech Day for the past two years where we invited members of the local Latino community to spend an afternoon at Google learning how to eat healthy, stay active, and leverage technology for health and learning. But our commitment to the Hispanic community in bridging the digital divide does not end in the Bay Area, we have also been piloting trainings and device donations at other locations around the state, and around the country.

Access to the web has had a profound impact in my own life. It has helped shape my knowledge, ideas, and my passions. It has also opened doors to new opportunities I otherwise would not have had access to. It is my hope that with efforts of companies like Google and organizations like the Latino Community Foundation we will fully connect everyone, everywhere to the power of the web. Join us today.