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, a trans woman in an embroidered flowing dress, dances in an empty water canal

Valentina (she/they) displays her beautiful flowing dress during a photo shoot in the dry Santa Cruz River.

"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.

(left) Valentina smiles during photo shoot

(right) Valentina closes her eyes in a moment of stillness during photo shoot

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

Valentina playfully poses in a white chair during photo shoot.

Transcripciones Español

Bienvenides a Amplificando Voces: Personas Impulsando Cambio. Hoy nos acompaña Valentina Lucero, una migrante queer que vive en los Estados Unidos desde 2003. Fue forzada a organizarse progresivamente después de haber pasado por una situación de violencia estatal y por la separación familiar. Valentina se unió al Southside Worker Center en 2018 y actualmente es la coordinadora de la organización). Ha estado involucrada en Scholarships A-Z desde 2017. Valentina, ¿en qué estás trabajando, qué te emociona más en este momento?

 

Valentina: 

Mi proyecto más emocionante en este momento es la ayuda personalizada que puedo ofrecer a todes les que he conocido a través del Centro de Trabajadores. Escucho cien por ciento a elles. Son elles les que me guían hacia dónde debo dedicar mi tiempo, porque estoy trabajando para elles.

 

Raye: 

Sé que también estás muy involucrada en Scholarships A-Z, incluso el trabajo para cambiar la cultura de la organización. ¿Puedes compartir cómo ha sido ese trabajo?

 

Valentina: 

Sí. Me uní a Scholarships A-Z cuando tenía 18 años, yo era bastante joven. Entonces, al entrar, me quedé en un segundo plano, no porque quisiera, sino porque algunas personas en el liderazgo todavía me veían como alguien que llegaba desde afuera. 

 

Eso ha cambiado totalmente ahora. Estamos tratando de crear un proceso para que las personas indocumentadas ingresen al Equipo Ejecutivo y tengan un camino muy claro hacia la Junta Ejecutiva. Queremos crear el empoderamiento en nuestra comunidad para que nuestres miembres más jóvenes, jóvenes de 16 años, se unan al equipo para proteger a la comunidad. Luego, cuando dejen el Equipo Ejecutivo, les miembres podrán convertirse en Miembres de la Mesa Directiva. Y ahora están equipades con conocimientos sobre administración sin fines de lucro. Están equipades con redacción de becas con todas las habilidades diferentes que necesitan para poder participar en una la Mesa Directiva de manera efectiva.

 

Raye: 

¿Cómo te involucraste en la organización comunitaria?

 

Valentina: 

Cuando estaba en la escuela secundaria en 2017, mi papá fue detenido por el TPD [Departamento de Policía de Tucson]. TPD lo liberó en 24 horas, pero la migra lo recogió de inmediato. Mi familia no supo cómo responder. Me acerqué a mi consejera de la escuela secundaria y le conté lo que sucedió. Me preguntó si podía ponerme en contacto con alguien llamada Zobella que trabajaba en mi escuela secundaria a través de AmeriCorps y con Scholarships A-Z. Me llevó a su oficina y muy honestamente me habló sobre lo que estaba pasando. Y ella me dijo los pasos que podía tomar para averiguar dónde estaba mi papá y averiguar qué estaba pasando. Entonces ella simplemente se mantuvo en contacto conmigo. Yo, me volví muy difícil de contactar. Estaba pasando por un momento muy difícil en mi vida y yo no respondía, pero ella seguía demostrando que estaba ahí para ayudarme. Siguió tratando de encontrar formas de apoyarme, incluso cuando yo aparentaba no querer que lo hiciera. Ella me apoyó mucho a mí y a mi familia. Y me mantuve conectada con Scholarships A-Z desde entonces.

 

Raye: 

¿Qué consejo tienes para otres activistas?

 

Valentina: 

Mi consejo favorito para dar a todes es simplemente escuchar. Escuchar con el corazón. La gente te dirá exactamente lo que necesita. No trates de averiguarlo. No trates de decir: “oh bueno, me están diciendo esto, luego debe ser esta otra cosa”. Si alguien te dice que necesita una cama, consíguele una cama. Ese apoyo personalizado que estás haciendo con las personas va a ser lo más importante. Es posible que esas personas no tengan la capacidad de unirse a su red en este momento, pero lo harán algún día y siempre que los apoye, los ame y los haga saber que son parte de su comunidad, pase lo que pase, son parte de su comunidad. Y usted es parte de su comunidad. Ese tipo de apoyo mutuo y respeto incondicional es lo que se necesita en este movimiento.

 

Raye: 

¿Tiene algún otro mensaje que le gustaría compartir con la gente en Tucson?

 

Valentina: 

Sí. Mucha gente de otros estados se está mudando a Tucson. Piensa en las personas que se mudan a Tucson con cautela. Pregunta siempre por qué vienes aquí, qué traes y qué ofreces a la ciudad. Si alguien está contratando para un puesto que está bien pagado, contrate localmente, contrate dentro de la ciudad y gaste localmente. Mantenga el dinero dentro de la ciudad.

 

Raquel Castillo:

Gracias por escuchar Amplificando Voces. Para ver la entrevista completa, fotos y más, visite peoplesparkingchange.org. Esta entrevista se grabó originalmente en inglés. Traducción de Raye Winch y Linus Arruda.

Música de Jaime J Soto.

Valentina 9

Valentina serious, playful, and in movement.

Image Left: Behind the scenes image of Raye and Valentina setting up to record interview in Valentina's home.

Image Center: Valentina sharing during interview.

Image Right: Behind the scenes image of Rachel, project photographer, and Valentina setting up a shot.