It has not been too long since I remember reaching out to other Building Healthy Communities sites to speak about the issues that our young women of color are facing. I remember being surrounded by a little over 100 young men of color, at the 2013 Boys and Men of color Advocacy days. I remember feeling empowered, not only to advocate for the injustice that men of color are facing, but also to incorporate myself into it. I remember feeling outside of the circle only because I was a woman.
The network and conversation that City Heights young ladies created with South Merced, Coachella, Long Beach and South Sacramento was the beginning of a powerful approach to allow the young girls and women across California to know that they are important, that they are worth much more than what society says and that they have power and the capacity to create change. Two years later, I had the opportunity to experience the hard work we all had put in.
I departed from the city urban life to attend the five-day retreat at the beautiful outdoors of Sierra Nevada where I was reminded once more that I had value and that regardless of my socio-economic class, gender, religion, ethnicity, or residency status, I had the ability to impact what and who surrounds me. Not only was I reminded the power I have on a physical level by completing the team ropes course and lifting my sisters up a wall with our arm strength, but I was also reminded that I had a spiritual, mental and emotional power to control how my surroundings will impact my life, by listening to other girls and women personal stories I had the ability to take in and apply it to my life in order to improve the conditions we all live in. The camp varied in topics, from violence and poverty to the LGBTQIA community and their needs in society. The LGBTQIA session and conversations were definitely a learning experience. I was not familiar with the terms they used and the issues they face on a daily basis. I also became aware of the history in which the community lives off today.
Apart from the informational and motivational sessions and activities, there was an activity, in particular, that had the power to break the worries and doubts I had about myself. The appreciation circle led to tears, laughs and smiles. During this activity, I was able to feel how many people in the room appreciated something about me. There came a moment when the MC said, “Tap someone who has inspired you.” The amount of taps and hugs I received confirmed that the work I have done impacted others and that I do not have to be in the legal system in order to improve my living conditions. That even if I am an undocumented woman of color, I have the power and capacity to transform my surroundings.
It was then that I felt inside of the circle not only because I am a woman, but because I am also a human being.