As a kid, I remember seeing my mother, father and other family members struggle with the English language. They felt shy to ask questions. I’ll never forgot the struggles of being a recent immigrant.
Currently, Tania holds a full-time job at UnLocal, a non-for-profit immigration legal clinic as the Education and Outreach Coordinator. Learn more about how Tania got into organizing and why speaking up and speaking out has become her life mantra.
How did you get into organizing? What were your first memories of social justice?
Growing up, my father was involved in social justice movements in Bolivia, so my brother and I would always hear about the importance of being involved. Most of my family are union members. I interned at various government offices, but I truly started to organize in 2010 around the federal DREAM Act in NYC. The bill would have directly affected me and it was the first time I ever saw anyone that I related to declare that they were undocumented in public. I felt inspired, empowered and believed we could change the world.
How do you balance your time between Queens Neighborhoods United (QNU) and UnLocal?
Having a full-time job and organizing on the side is challenging. I work during the week days and go to events or meetings related to QNU during week nights and weekends. QNU focuses on displacement and police abuse within Jackson Heights and Corona and UnLocal provides legal representation and education for immigrants. There is overlap in the work I do because most of the residents of JH and Corona are either undocumented immigrants or permanent resident.
You spoke at Queens Documented: The Fight for Social Justice in Flushing, Queens. How was that experience for you?
Queens Documented was a fun and inspiring experience for me. Some of us have kept in touch and inform one another about what’s going on in our hoods. It was really an honor to be part of that group.
You are an outspoken, strong woman and a power house. You weren’t always that way, can you speak to why you do what you do?
I was always shy, but living in Queens taught me to stand up for myself when I had to. As a kid, I remember seeing my mother, father and other family members struggle with the English language. They felt shy to ask questions. I’ll never forgot the struggles of being a recent immigrant.
But as I grew older there were different events that led me to the 30-something year-old woman that I am today. One of those instances was an article by Jorge Ramos titled “Silencio Que Mata” (Silence That Kills). It was about how no one at that time was standing up for immigrants. No one was “giving” them a voice. That was in 2007.
Today, the case is different. My views on speaking up and speaking out has evolved to being a mantra. It’s an important factor in fighting fear, empowering others and teaching youth.