Local Activism   |   Tucson, AZ

Interview with Valentina Lucero
Trust people who are directly impacted 

July 2021​ | Interview by: Raye Winch | Photos by: Rachel Castillo

Valentina 1

PennElys Droz (she/her) stands near her home garden in South Tucson. Arizona. She talks about food growing as a key to sustainable living.

"Listen, listen with your heart. People are going to tell you exactly what they need."

Valentina Lucero is a queer migrant living in the United States since 2003. They were forced into progressive organizing after having experienced state violence and family separation. Valentina joined the Southside Worker Center in 2018 and is currently the coordinator. They've engaged with Scholarships A-Z since 2017.

Southside Worker Center: link to website

Scholarships A-Z: link to website

Original music produced by Jaime J. Soto

valentina 2

Valentina holds her chest as she laughs out loud.

Pennelys stands inside her hand-made adobe room. She and her family built the 7ft x14ft structure from recycled and natural building materials such as wood pallets, hay, cliche (hard clay like dirt, native to the surrounding area).  

Transcripts English

Welcome to Amplifying Voices where we share the stories of people sparking change in our communities. We center the voices of people who are LGBTQ+, Black, Indigenous, and People of Color. 

 

Raye Winch: Today we're joined by Valentina Lucero, a queer migrant living in the United States since 2003. They were forced into progressive organizing after having experienced state violence and family separation. Valentina joined the Southside Worker Center in 2018 and is currently the coordinator. They've engaged with Scholarships A-Z since 2017. Valentina, what are you working on that excites you the most right now?

 

Valentina: My most exciting project right now is the one-on-one help that I get to do with everybody that I've met through the Worker Center with a hundred percent, 100% listening to them and letting them guide where my time should be spent because I'm working for them.

 

Raye: I know you're also really involved in Scholarships A-Z, including working on shifting the culture of the organization. I was wondering if you'd be willing to share some of what that work has looked like.

 

Valentina: Yeah. I joined Scholarships A-Z when I was 18 years old. I was pretty young. So coming in, I took a back seat, not because I wanted to, but because I was still seen as someone coming in from the outside by some of the people in the leadership. That has totally changed now. We're trying to create a process for undocumented people to come into the Executive Team and have a very clear pathway to the Executive Board. We want to create the empowerment in our community for our members, our youngest members, our 16 year olds to join the team as community advocates, then Executive Team members, then when they step off the Executive Team, they could become Board Members. And now they're equipped with knowledge about nonprofit administration. They're equipped with grant writing with so many different skills that you need to be able to participate in a board effectively.

 

Raye: How did you get involved in organizing work?

 

Valentina: When I was in high school back in 2017, my dad got detained by TPD [Tucson Police Department]. TPD released him within 24 hours, but he was immediately picked up by ICE. My family didn't know how to respond. I reached out to my high school counselor and I told her about what happened. She asked me if she could connect me with someone named Zobella who was working at my high school through AmeriCorps and with Scholarships A-Z. She brought me into her office and very honestly talked to me about what was happening. And she told me steps that I could take to figure out where my dad was and to figure out what was happening. Then she just stayed in contact with me. I, I became very hard to reach. I was going through a really hard time in my life and I, I wouldn't respond, but she kept letting me know that she was there for me. She kept trying to find ways to support me, even when I made it seem like I didn't want it. She supported me and my family through so much. And I stayed connected with Scholarships A-Z ever since.

 

Raye: What advice do you have for other activists?

 

Valentina: My favorite piece of advice to give everybody is to just listen, listen with your heart. People are going to tell you exactly what they need. Don't try to figure it out. Don't try to say, oh well, they're telling me this. It must be this other thing. If someone's telling you, they need a bed, get them a bed. That one-on-one support that you're doing with people is going to be the most important. Those people may not have the capacity to join your network right now, but they will one day and so long as you're supporting them and you're loving them and you're making the, making it known that they're part of your community, no matter what happens, they're part of your community. And you're a part of their community. That kind of mutual support and unconditional respect is what's needed in this movement.

 

Raye: Do you have any other messages that you'd like to share with people in Tucson?

 

Valentina: Yeah. A lot of people out of state are moving into Tucson. Take people moving to Tucson with a grain of salt. Always ask why you're coming here, what you're bringing and what you're offering to the city. If people are hiring for a position that's high paying, hire local, hire within the city, and spend local. Keep the money within the city.

 

Rachel Castillo:

Thanks for listening to Amplifying Voices. For the full interview, photos and more visit peoplesparkingchange.org. Music by Jaime J Soto.

Valentina 5

PennElys playfully sits on a small patch of grass near her home garden. She jokingly tells us this her daughters' favorite place to sit and talk. Shaded by trees and just off the homemade swimming pond. PennElys tells us her backyard was a dirt lot when her family moved in 10 years ago - now it is a lush garden oasis.

Transcripciones Español

Raye Winch: Bienvenides a Amplificando Voces: Personas Impulsando Cambios. Hoy nos acompaña la Dra. PennElys Droz, una mujer Anishnaabe, madre de cinco hijes, oficial de programas del colectivo NDN y miembro fundador de Sustainable Nations. PennElys, ¿qué temas de urgencia  llaman más tu atención ahora?

 

PennElys Droz: Creo que mi mayor propósito es ayudar a facilitar la conexión y la reconexión de las personas con la tierra. La gente tiene que estar desconectada de la tierra para poder extraer y explotar. Esa es la visión a la que el colectivo NDN también sirve, es que al convertir el capitalismo y descolonizar la riqueza en Land Back, en reparaciones para personas Afro-Americanas, en manos indígenas, todo eso servirá para la liberación de todos nosotres.

 

Raye: Hablaste de Land Back,  la cual sé que es una de las prioridades del Colectivo NDN. ¿Podrías hablar más sobre cómo se ve eso en práctica?

 

PennElys: Claro Sí, Land Back. Land Back significa muchas cosas. Land Back significa literalmente que se regrese la tierra . Si eres  propietario de tierras que tienen cientos de acres, nadie necesita cientos de acres. Averigua de quién son esas tierras, de quién son esas patrias sagradas, y devuélvelas. Otra parte de Land Back es extender  el cuidado indígena a la tierra. Creemos que la tierra está mejor cuidada por los pueblos originarios. Tuve la bendición de poder entrevistar y hablar con algunas personas de la tribu Wiyot. Durante la Fiebre del Oro en California, durante el tiempo de su Ceremonia de Renovación Mundial, llegó un grupo de milicia y, justo ahí, ocurrió una masacre y perdieron la mayor parte de su pequeña tribu. En ese incidente en una isla , en una isla sagrada. Cuando era niña, Cheryl Seidner y Leona Wilkinson, dos hermanas que eran descendientes de la gente Wiyot que sobrevivió, empezaron a soñar de nuevo. Comencé a organizar vigilias y oraciones y después de décadas y décadas de eso, de esa construcción de relaciones de oración y esa fuerza poderosa a tener en cuenta. Y volvieron a comprar como un acre y medio o algo así de la isla, y finalmente la ciudad de Eureka devolvió los 200 acres de esa isla. No tuvieron que comprarlos. Ellos los devolvieron. Primer caso, primer incidente de una ciudad devolviendo tierras. P para que el pueblo Wiyot vuelva a tener allí su Ceremonia de Renovación Mundial. Y eso es poder. Y creo que eso cura a todes. Creo que cura a los descendientes de quienes cometieron el genocidio.

 

Raye: Sé que hay muchas personas y organizaciones que están haciendo reconocimientos de tierra y quieren hacer más que solo reconocer la tierra. ¿Dónde crees que pueden comenzar?

 

PennElys: Creo que, el primer paso es saber de quién es el territorio en que se encuentra uno y por qué es  territorio  de elles. El segundo paso es aprender la historia, aprender cuál es el lugar que  uno tiene en los hilos de la historia. Pero además de eso, creo que también es muy importante aprender, aprender sobre la tierra en la que estás. Aprender las plantas. Aprender los usos de todas las plantas nativas. Comenzar  a observar la forma en que los patrones climáticos se mueven sobre la tierra y sintonizarse realmente con esas cosas. Porque de esa manera tendrás una base para poder tener conversaciones con los nativos porque te estarás desarrollando  en amor por la tierra que es la  tierra ancestral de elles y que aman. Y luego, y luego quizás ir a tener algunas conversaciones.

 

Raye: ¿De qué maneras puede la gente apoyar  tu trabajo?

 

PennElys: Sal todos los días al mismo lugar natural y usa todos tus sentidos para observar todos los días durante tantos meses  puedas. Visita NDNCollective.org. Visita SustainableNations.org. Ven y echa una mano como puedas.

 

Raye: Para obtener la entrevista completa, fotos, y enlaces a más información, visite www.peoplesparkingchange.org.

Esta entrevista se grabó originalmente en inglés. Traducción de Indira Arce.

Valentina 9

PennElys reminds us of the importance of slowing down. To spend our time on the essentials.

Image Left: Behind the scenes image of Marcel, project audio technician, during the interview with Ernesto.

Image Center: Behind the scenes image of Rachel, project photographer, taking portraits of Ernesto outside of Pueblo High School.

Image Right: Behind the scenes image of Raye, project interviewer, inside the computer tech classroom at Pueblo High school.