By: Luis Avila
One summer, I moved to the United States from Mexico to learn English. My mother was familiar to Arizona, she used to come up North to make money and support me and my siblings every few months, but I never thought we'd end up living here, my plan was to go back to Querétaro, and become an attorney. 16 years later, we are still in this country, I'm still learning English, but I'm doing something different from where I thought I'd be, and I'm loving it.
Community organizing has been my passion since friends and I started a youth publication at age 16. In a black and white magazine, we wrote about politics, culture, arts and other topics. We walked the streets of downtown and distributed them by hand, talking with other young people about their concerns and ideas, and getting in trouble with law enforcement for promoting youth voices and not asking for permission.
In these years, I realized the power of people coming together to accomplish something that they care about. We were teenagers in the age where digital communication wasn't a thing, most of our media platforms existed on paper form, TV and radio, and we lived in a country where things were changing. The economy was recovering from one of the worst financial crises in Mexican history, political parties were trying to break a one-party rule system, and an exciting social movement lead by indigenous people demanded respect and autonomy to make their own decisions, inspiring our generation to learn more about alternative economic and social structures, the role race, class and gender play in our societies, and the possibility of building a more equal and just world.
Moving to the United States was difficult. I had to learn a new language as an adult, experience a culture that I only knew from movies and television, and realizing new social dynamics: people who looked like me worked in service, people who looked like those I saw on TV signed our checks and owned the buildings. This always stuck with me.
In the first years in the US, I met many young people trying to get an education, frustrated by not having the means to accomplish that dream. I spoke to parents who endured the sacrifices of migration to offer their children a good education, only to learn that very few of them would actually make it. I saw other communities of color oppressed and discarded through institutional and overt racism. I also witnessed large segments of the population excluded from the civic process, not able to demand a better life for their communities. All of us, fighting our own fights as hard as we could, sometimes in silos, most times with limited resources and tools, every time with the desire and passion that fueled most of the social progress accomplished until now.
When I started Iconico, I wanted to help organizations build advocacy capacity, get an outside perspective on ways to grow, engage and mobilize communities, and better ways to support and manage campaigns and people. Partnering with national and local organizations has been a humbling experience. I've been able to learn from diverse leaders trying new approaches to social change, righting some of the most pervasive wrongs in our society, and identifying new tools to help organizations become more effective in their work.
While I'm proud of the experiences I've been privileged to gain in the last 14 years, I'm still figuring out how to improve efficiencies with Iconico. I'm excited to tackle challenges of knowledge management, and strengthening systems that help clients track the value we offer. There are easier things too: I'm still insecure about my English, especially my writing, that's why I'm looking for a partner to communicate in more accessible and efficient ways with organizations and people, producing documents that we feel proud of, that build true advocacy capacity in organizations in all corners of the US.
I'm taking a scary step and hiring Iconico's first full-time team member. I'm excited to be the best manager possible, learn from this person's perspective, and offer the best value we can to the organizations we partner with.
I decided that it was time to own my present, partner with community leaders, learn from people in working to determine our future. It's time to also be vulnerable, communicate our needs, and build the assets we need to continue the fight. It's our time, and I'm excited to partner with you!
Join the Iconico team, the application deadline is July 28th, 2017.