Guest Blog: Miguel Acosta, Associate with the Center for Relational Learning and co-leader of the Poder Familiar CWG | November 9, 2017
Si Se Puede! Si Se Puede! The chant, that she created, rang out and grew louder as Dolores concluded her words and prepared to enter the CCA theatre for the premiere of the film based on her life, Dolores!
Dolores Huerta, co-founder of the United Farm Workers Union along with Cesar Chavez, is an icon of the Chican@ Movement, a Native New Mexican whose family was impacted by the continuing colonization of our state, a critical part of the struggle for worker rights in this country, and a mom. This last point is the focus of my contribution to this month’s newsletter.
If you have heard me present or facilitate you will have no doubt heard about my mom and my grandmother. In fact, tomorrow, November 10, is the 36th anniversary of her crossing over. They were and are key to my commitment to social justice and equity and to transforming children’s lives. In fact, a driving force in most social movements are parents and families committed to creating a different world for their children. We usually enter social mobilizations through other roles and social memberships, like unions, faith communities, oppressed ethnic or racial groupings, or community-based organizations. But the motivation to change the world is driven to a large degree by the children in our lives. This has never been more important than it is now. The barriers to engagement by parents and parenting adults have never been greater, however, and it will take a concerted effort to change that.
We have all heard the refrains about the demise of the family and how that explains lower and negative outcomes for children. Well, for immigrant families the data tells us that they are almost as likely as white families to have both parents present, despite the efforts of the Obama and Trump administrations to tear them apart. There are also the myths that say poor families do not value education, usually measured by participation in PTA or other school-based activities. Again, the data say otherwise. Even in the middle of this fascist regime, minority parents report the highest belief in the power and value of education for their children, even higher than the most affluent who place their trust on their accumulated wealth and social capital to provide more than adequately for their progeny.
So our families value education and the family structures that support success are present, what is needed for this foundation to manifest in a thriving community? A recent report speaks to one challenge. It states that the benefits of early childhood education for communities of color are being canceled out by the increasing economic and social challenges they face. Our families are increasingly searching out early learning opportunities, although cost and availability are a challenge, but the benefits to their children are reduced as their families face anti-worker “right to work” laws, wage theft, housing discrimination and segregation, anti-immigrant rhetoric and legislation, tax giveaways and transfers of wealth to corporations and “creative class” fads, gentrification and land theft, disinvestment in community infrastructure including public transportation, and sprawl. These are all major issues in Santa Fe and organizations like Somos Un Pueblo Unido and Chainbreakers Collective are leading the community response. But they need more resources.
So that is some of the context of our families lives. The other issue is process. Specifically, for low income communities, family and parent roles in their children’s lives have been transformed over the last 40+ years into supportive roles rather than lead actors. As Institutions assumed a greater role in “saving” those poor kids, they also supplanted parents in decision making and framing what that salvation looked like. As the resources went away from capacity building and organizing, and towards providing services and “managing” the poor, we lost much of our leadership capacity for civic engagement. Organizations like Earth Care have focused on providing leadership development opportunities for youth, and now we are also focusing on adults through our Poder Familiar-Abriendo Puertas initiative.
Poder Familiar uses the Abriendo Puertas curriculum to engage parents and parenting adults in developing leadership skills for family, school and community transformation. It is the only evidence-based, bilingual curriculum that targets Latino families and has been recognized by national and international experts and organizations. See the link for more information:http://www.ap-od.org/
We have worked with the Partnership for Community Action, based in Albuquerque, to bring this training to Santa Fe and 18 individuals participated in the first class last summer. 10 of them successfully completed an intense “Training of Trainers” with the support of Opportunity Santa Fe and other organizations and 5 of them are now co-facilitating the second Abriendo Puertas class. The class meets on Wednesdays at Cesar Chavez ES from 6-8pm. It is in Spanish and new participants are welcome with the deadline being Wednesday, November 15th. To register just have your families and clients show up on the 15th. Free childcare and snacks are provided and further information is attached in this newsletter.
Our goal is to offer several sections starting in January through your organizations and schools. As parents gain leadership skills and experience, they will enrich your work, impact the context of our lives in Santa Fe, and transform the processes that have prevented meaningful change. The Annenberg Institute published a report last year that speaks to the power and importance of parent leadership. See it here: http://www.annenberginstitute.org/publications/RippleEffect
Our collaborative work in Santa Fe will help write the next chapter. Thank you. Si Se Puede!