AMP: Grassroots²

New York

Jeronimo Saldana with Mijente

What do you do? In my day job, I work on criminal justice reform, galvanizing LatinX and helping to connecting dots to change bad criminal justice laws. As a Mijente member, I work on building power to build Black and Brown power so we can dismantle structures of oppression and to create a system of governance that’s based on our people.

What is your why? I started from a place of anger but eventually moved to a place of love and knowledge. I grew up with self hate and not being proud of being Mexican–that’s where the anger came from. When I worked in restaurants, I had the firsthand experience of what it feels like to be undocumented because people assumed I was undocumented. But I had the privilege of citizenship so I could walk out while many didn’t have a choice. I think that was a turning point in my consciousness. I now embrace being LatinX and it’s not about hate but anymore but rather coming from a place of knowing that we are all connected, our freedoms are connected. Over the last year, I’ve doubled down on my work with Mijente because we are about creating loving communities that are pro-Black, pro-Muslim, pro-queer….pro everyone. Moving all of us from a place of hate for our selves and others to a place where we are connected and can show up for one another is my why.

What are you most proud of? A couple of jobs ago, I was working with moms whose children had died of overdose trying to pass overdose legislation in Pennsylvania. These women taught me so much by how they were able to turn their grief into power. They also turned everything I was taught about organizing on it’s head. All the jargon we use as organizers meant nothing to them. They were not activists by any means when they started out; most didn’t know the names of their elected officials. Government and politics was something that happened elsewhere. It was as straightforward as “my kid died and I ‘m gonna tell someone about it.” And here I was talking about methods of escalation or whatever and they’re like hell no. It was a lesson in meeting people where they are. These moms were so badass without ever realizing that they are organizing. Also, they were white Republican moms and they had never heard of a Chicano so they didn’t know what to make of me. I made it my personal responsibility to not just focus on this one piece of legislation but to  push them to embrace a broader more inclusive version of justice. It wasn’t easy but I knew that the greater purpose of this opportunity for me was to learn how to go beyond a safe piece of legislation or campaign to something bigger that was about our shared struggles and freedom.