“If you don’t first understand the dynamics of love, real and radical love, then it doesn’t matter if you understand the dynamics of power or anything else. Radical love that demands justice and gives warmth, that gives affirmation and demands an end to oppression…that is the first understanding. The understanding that must come before everything else. If the movement can own love, then we can give people the one thing that the world-as-it-is can’t give them, which is the one thing they need most. Corporate America cannot love you, your boss cannot love you nor can you love them. But if the movement for social justice can truly put love at the center, then the people will come over in droves!” Perrin J. Lance (and organizer with Chattanooga Organized for Action, known as COA,and I have the honor and privileged to get to know him as a friend as well)
I have never felt so lonely in all these years like I have felt while living in Knoxville, TN . This city in itself is killing my sanity little by little. It is destroying my sense of community, if I ever had that before. I came to work here to take the position of East TN organizer. Is In this city where I experienced my first discrimination because of my queerness, and it is in this position where I experienced my second lack of support from the people around me. After asked to not organized a sector of the community because of who I am as a person, there were no voices who raised up, there were no rallies or marches to unmask the bigotry and racism of this religious institution, there was never a “my brother we will stand beside you against this injustice”. I became a wounded soldier without an army, forgotten in the field, and letting the time heal my self-worthiness and confidence. Fear dominated the justice work some people have promoted to give to immigrants in this part of the state. Silence reigned. It has been one year since that moment, and it seems like the wind has taken this incident away and people have forgotten about it. No one remembers it, they do not want to talk about it, and they do not even ask how I am doing. So the words of my friend became a reality, “If you don’t fist understand the dynamics of love, real and radical love, then it doesn’t matter if you understand the dynamics of power or anything else”.
In this context is when I first experienced the love and friendship of the people of COA. They welcomed me with my whole self, defended it and stood beside me with the moral support I needed. This is the group that after the first weekly meeting I went, they invited me to drink with them and without knowing me, they offered their friendship. This is the group of people that missed my presence in their celebration of their annual convention and texted me in the early hours of the morning letting me know they care about me. These are the people who went out to the streets to canvas to the Latino community even if they did not know any Spanish (except one, of course). Everywhere I go, if one member of COA recognizes me among the multitude, they will come and greet me, calling me, “my brother!” They are not only in the business of doing social justice, but they are creating community. This is when the word justice sounds stronger, because love and care has been added. They understand we are not perfect, and they practice “nakedness” (Nakedness is the ability to be open and vulnerable to others, showing your true self). Che Guevara used to say: “At the risk of seeming ridiculous, let me say that the true revolutionary is guided by a great feeling of love. It is impossible to think of a genuine revolutionary lacking this quality… We must strive every day so that this love of living humanity will be transformed into actual deeds, into acts that serve as examples, as a moving force”. So I cherish the work COA has done, and I am looking forward to keep sharing a meal, a drink or a good and deep conversation.
Therefore the work I do, it is not only because I get paid to do it. I work because I am convinced of the fights we are doing, because I believe in spending most of my time fighting for social justice, human dignity, equality, tolerance, understanding of each other, freedom of religion, respect to all genders. I work not just because I received a salary every other week (of course that helps me to keep living) but I do this because I believe in the many stories I have listened. I believed in Cristina who has left her very far away country not only to have a better life but to fight for others. I believe in Juana who swallowed her fear and stood up for the dignity of many women who are detained by anti-immigrant programs destroying families, I believe in Daoud who has defended his belief, as a Muslim American, to respect our right of freedom of religion. I believe in the two Alex I know—one from Honduras, the other one from Mexico—that even though their status in this country is uncertain, they are standing up for themselves and helping others to join their dream. I believe in the families who every week are meeting in their people’s committees waking up their conscience to fight for their own rights. I also believe in the students who are raising their voice against impunity and fraud, who are helping their friends, family, and others in their communities to wake up, to open their eyes, and to raise their hands for the first time; paying the price of being called crazy, or even pushed away from their own families.
So I hope that after looking into my commitment to stand beside you in your struggle or fight, you can also stand beside me in the fight for equality and tolerance. To speak out, and march beside me for who I am as a queer immigrant in this country, or even in my own as well. (Mexico). It would feel better to know that I am not alone in this, and there are people willing to not be silent, defeating fear, and creating better communities. This is when we go from fighting for justice into loving for justice.
“How glorious the splendor of a human heart that trusts that it is loved!”