Women for a Change: A Grassroots Guide to Activism and Politics

By Thalia Zepatos; Elizabeth Kaufman | Go to book overview

schools. Where parents are not connected or organized, the schools are not good.

My job with HOPING youth is to try to change the power structure so that parents have more power. As the Associate Director for School Parent Organizing, I supervise the teams of organizers who go out to work with youth and parents. I train them in how to run better meetings, how to identify leadership, how to do a power analysis and strategic analysis. We've hired 65 people already, a very diverse group of Hispanic, White, African-American, women and men, from their early 20s to their early 60s. I got involved with UNO through my church, when the pastor invited me to attend a couple of meetings. At one meeting we broke into committees because UNO was preparing for a forum with the candidates for governor. I sat in the committee talking about Tom Bradley, because he was the only candidate I had heard of. A few days later, a fellow called to ask me to meet with Tom Bradley's campaign manager, to invite Bradley to the candidate's forum.

When I got there, I thought there would be a lot of people, but it was just the other fellow and I. I told him I would go in, but that I wasn't willing to speak about anything. He said he'd do all the talking. We met with Bradley's campaign manager, and this was a moment that really changed me. We invited Bradley to the candidate's forum and explained that this was an important event, because the people from East LA should have a say in who was the next governor of California.

"Wait a minute, why should Mr. Bradley go to an event in East LA You people don't vote and you can't give money. So why should he go?" When he said that, something happened in me and I felt this anger. I thought about my parish -- Lourdes -- my community...and I spoke up and I said, "Why should he come? He should come because we're important and we're taxpayers." I got angry.

I got more involved and was still feeling that anger, the kind that drives you. In October we had the forum and none of the candidates showed up. I spoke about Tom Bradley, and people who knew me could not believe I'd spoken up. I did it because he made me so angry.

All this time, I knew that I was poor, that was a given. But it was always in the back of my mind that if you get a good education you can move out of East LA, then things would get better. What that man said made me realize that in the eyes of powerful people, people like me and my family, and the people in my church who were very important to me, didn't count. That meeting changed my life.

I became chair of the education committee. These events made me into a political person. Working with UNO gave me something I never received in school. It gave me an opportunity to become a public person, the skills I needed to be an activist, and the vehicle by which I could change things in LA and in the state. I learned the difference between public and private.

-148-

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