Things That Matter

Her Juvenile Parole Officer Gave Her The Second Chance She Needed, And She Went On To Become The First Latina Legislator For Nevada

Lucy Flores likes to call herself an accidental politician. Why? Flores says that, statistically speaking, her troubled past and run-ins with the law mean that she was never supposed to become a politician. Yet despite that, she used her time as a troubled youth to drive her life through law school and, eventually, into the political spotlight. Since her first election, she has worked tirelessly to keep helping her community and other disenfranchised communities around the country. Lucy Flores currently works at mitú as the vice president of public affairs.

“It really was a series of fortune and good luck and a lot of hard work,” Lucy Flores told mitú about her path to becoming a politician.

Courtesy of Lucy Flores
CREDIT: Courtesy of Lucy Flores

Flores opened up to mitú about the experiences that led her to career in politics and it all started with the tragic, gang and drug-related murders of two of her brothers in east Los Angeles.

“That’s what led my dad to try and start over in Las Vegas. Heading to Vegas, we did struggle but we made do like so many low-income immigrants and families struggling in this country,” Flores told mitú. “That was primarily what inspired my run for public office. And what still inspires my work every day is that the challenges that I experienced growing up are still very much what people are experiencing, even more so now under the economic conditions that we live in.”

But it wasn’t all good fortune for Flores. She said that her family struggled a lot when she was younger. When her mother left, that’s when things started to spiral downward.

Courtesy of Lucy Flores
CREDIT: Courtesy of Lucy Flores

“When I was 9 that was a really hard experience for me,” Flores said about her mother leaving. “I was doing really well in school. I was in gifted and talented education and I loved learning and I loved everything about school.”

But the family dynamic was so grueling that her father was working at all hours and when she started to suffer academically, no one noticed.

Courtesy of Lucy Flores
CREDIT: Courtesy of Lucy Flores

“I didn’t have any support. I didn’t understand what was happening. I started doing poorly in school and not a single person intervened,” Flores recalled to mitú. “I went from this gifted and talented education student to really failing every single one of my placement exams and doing poorly in school – almost overnight, and not a single person noticed. So, I didn’t have that support structure there and I fell through the cracks like so many people do and I didn’t have a whole lot of positive role models and people to aspire to, but I did have a lot of negative ones.”

Things went from bad to worse when Flores was a teenager. Starting at 12, Flores had run-ins with the law and found herself in juvenile centers starting with statutory infractions like ditching and running away, up to grand theft auto.

Courtesy of Lucy Flores
CREDIT: Courtesy of Lucy Flores

“Just going through that system, it was really traumatic and partially explains why, statistically speaking, I should have ended up in that system,” Flores told mitú when recalling being strip-searched at just 12 years old. “But, eventually I ended up on juvenile parole at 15 because all of that seriousness quickly escalated and was sent away for grand theft auto and a couple of other major, more serious, crimes. When I got out I was expected to do better given the same circumstances, the same resources, the same everything because there also isn’t enough of a support structure when you are released out of the correctional facility.”

Thanks to the second chance given to her by her parole officer, Flores began to see that a positive life for herself was possible.

Courtesy of Lucy Flores
CREDIT: Courtesy of Lucy Flores

“I successfully got off of parole, I still ended up dropping out of high school at 17 because, again, that’s just kind of what people in my community do. Everybody in my family except for one of my brothers had dropped out of high school and then I just started working” Flores told mitú. “It was through a series of mentors and role models that came into my life over the years that I finally started to believe that I could do something different. I started to see that people were successful and going to school and doing all these things. People would tell me that I was smart and that I should study and that I could go to college. So finally at 21 I got my GED and enrolled in community college and did everything that I possibly could to make into a regular four-year college.”

Eventually, Flores made her way to law school and began to work to help her community, a common theme in Flores’ public service career.

Courtesy of Lucy Flores
CREDIT: Courtesy of Lucy Flores

It was during her second year in law school, after completing an externship in the Nevada capitol of Carson City and passing some wrongful conviction reform legislation, that Flores decided she would run to be the first ever Latina legislator elected in the state of Nevada, and she won.?

“In my third year of law school, I went to school full-time, I campaigned full-time, ultimately graduated, was elected, and then sat for my bar during my first legislative session. That has kind of brought me to here,” Flores told mitú. “For me, it is very critical to be very open and transparent about my story and the various challenges I have gone through and the decisions that I’ve had to make. To me, that’s always been the impatience that I’ve had around my approach to public policy. And when people call me courageous, I just call myself on a mission.”

Since serving as the first ever Latina state legislator for Nevada, Flores has also run for lieutenant governor and, most recently, to represent Nevada’s 4th Congressional District in the House of Representatives.

Courtesy of Lucy Flores
CREDIT: Courtesy of Lucy Flores

Flores, who was supported by Bernie Sanders, didn’t win her race but she’s not backing down from her public advocacy.

“I haven’t closed the door to elected office. I think that everything happens for a reason and I did my very best in my last election. I lost, but I’m incredibly proud of the campaign that I ran and the efforts that I made and the things that I achieved on behalf of others, like my policy accomplishments and everything that I’ve managed to do to help others,” Flores said about her political future. “While, I am temporarily doing other political work, I am on the board of [Sanders’] Our Revolution, after his primary loss. So, I’m still deeply involved with the trajectory of this new progressive country that we are trying to build and still doing strategic work around politics for major organizations, including mitú. I think that I am still able to have a voice in trying to improve the outcome of our communities.”

She might have lost, but she does have some advice for the incoming Congressional class.

Courtesy of Lucy Flores
CREDIT: Courtesy of Lucy Flores

“We start making progress by empathizing and understanding other people’s experiences and that’s partially the reason why our government oftentimes experiences as many problems as it does in making good public policy because we have so many of the same kind of people running our government, old white people,” Flores shared with mitú. “Even though you might be black or white or Asian or anything else, you aren’t ever going to entirely know what the experience is to be somebody else but it’s your job to try to understand.”

And Flores really wants young Latinos to get involved in politics because it’s through involvement, sustained involvement, that real change can occur.

Courtesy of Lucy Flores
CREDIT: Courtesy of Lucy Flores

“Their voices matters every single day in their communities,” Flores told mitú about young Latino political involvement. “When you look at laws that have been passed or policy that affects them, it’s not just being done by the president. It’s being done by state legislators, it’s being done by city councils. People need to stop thinking that just because they voted in a presidential election and the outcome didn’t turn out in their favor that that somehow means that their voice isn’t valuable or that their time spent doing that doesn’t make a difference.”

“People can get involved in the smallest of ways and it truly does make an impact.”

Courtesy of Lucy Flores
CREDIT: Courtesy of Lucy Flores

“It can be as simple as just informing yourself,” Flores recommends to Latinos looking to get involved. “By spending one extra hour a week instead of reading TMZ, by reading your local paper and figuring out what’s happening at your school board this week, what’s happening at your city council, what’s happening at your state legislature this week and just keep yourself informed. As you inform yourself about what’s happening in your community you start to find all of these opportunities to get involved in those issues.”

READ: We Didn’t Elect The First Woman President, But We Elected The First Latina Senator

Share this story with all of your friends by tapping that little share button below!

Here’s A Quick Recap From The Last Democratic Debate Hosted By The New York Times And CNN

Things That Matter

Here’s A Quick Recap From The Last Democratic Debate Hosted By The New York Times And CNN

elizabethwarren / juliancastrotx / Instagram

Democrats have officially wrapped their third round of Democratic debates. Last night, 12 candidates for the Democratic nomination went head to head on the debate stage in Ohio. The biggest topics of the night were President Trump’s sudden withdrawal of troops in Syria leaving the Kurds vulnerable to Turkey’s attacks and what to do with billionaires. There were some clear winners and losers from the debate. Here is your quick breakdown from the candidates trying to be the Democratic nominee for president.

Elizabeth Warren delivered a powerful message on the inequalities of the abortion debate.

“I think there are a number of options. I think as Mayor Buttigieg said, there are many different ways that people are talking about different options and I think we may have to talk about them,” Sen. Warren said when asked if she’d add justices to the Supreme Court to protect reproductive rights. “But, on Roe v. Wade, can we just pause for a minute here. I lived in an America where abortion was illegal and rich women still got abortions because they could travel. They could go to places where it was legal. What we’re talking about now, is that the people who are denied access to abortion are the poor, are the young, are 14-year-olds who were molested by a family member. We now have support across this country. Three out of 4 Americans believe in the rule of Roe v. Wade. When you’ve got three out of four Americans supporting it, we should be able to get that passed through Congress. We should not leave this up to the Supreme Court. We should do it through democracy because we can.”

The U.S. has seen a series of laws passed on the state level aiming to limit access to abortion. The laws have attempted to shutter Planned Parenthood clinics, which offer many more services than abortions, and Alabama’s law sought to put physicians in prison for 99 years for performing abortions. Louisiana has a law that is being heard by the Supreme Court this session that could force all but one doctor in the state to stop performing abortions.

Julián Castro spoke out about increasing police brutality and deaths at the hands of law enforcement.

“I grew up in neighborhoods where it wasn’t uncommon to hear gunshots at night,” former HUD Secretary Castro said when asked about preventing handgun homicides. “I can remember ducking into the backseat of a car when I was a freshman in high school across the street from my school, my public school because folks were shooting at each other.”

Castro continued by speaking about a topic that has been frequently discussed among the candidates, government buybacks of guns. Castro pointed out that he doesn’t like the idea of a mandatory buyback program since some people have not been able to define it. Furthermore, Castro states that if authorities are not going door-to-door then it isn’t going to be effective.

According to a Pew Research Center study conducted using data from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 39,773 people died from gun-related incidents in the U.S. in 2017. The deaths came from suicides, murder, law enforcement, accidents, and undetermined circumstances.

Castro also made a point to name the latest victim of deadly police violence.

Atatiana Jefferson was home in Fort Worth, Texas with her nephew playing video games when neighbors called the police to check up on Jefferson. The officer who killed Jefferson, Aaron Y. Dean, resigned before he could be fired, according to The New York Times and has been charged with murder in the death. It is also reported that there have been six police-involved killings in the Fort Worth area this year.

Beto O’Rourke doubled down on his plan to create a mandatory buyback program of assault rifles.

If someone does not turn in an AR-15 or an AK-47, one of these weapons of war, or brings it out in public and brandishes it in an attempt to intimidate, which we saw when we were at Kent State [University] recently, then that weapon will be taken from them,” former Congressman O’Rourke told the audience when asked about finding the weapons and taking them away. “If they persist, there will be other consequences from law enforcement. But the expectation is that Americans will follow the law.”

Bernie Sanders, fresh from a health scare, let the billionaires have it.

“When you have a half-million Americans sleeping out on the streets today; when you have 87 million people uninsured or under-insured; when you have hundreds of thousands of kids who cannot afford to go to college and millions struggling with the oppressive burden of student debt,” Sanders said. “Then you also have three people owning more wealth than the bottom half of American society, that is a moral and economic outrage and that truth is we cannot afford to continue this level of income and wealth inequality and we cannot afford a billionaire class whose greed and corruption has been at war for 45 years.”

The night was filled with other candidates bringing up issues of the opiate crisis, Russian meddling in American democracy, the need to bring dignity back to jobs, and Biden was confronted about the Ukrainian scandal his son is involved in.

READ: From Gun Reform To Immigration, Here Are The Highlights Of Last Night’s #DemDebate

Ecuador Was In Chaos After Massive Protests But The Government Has Reached A Deal With These Indigenous Activists

Things That Matter

Ecuador Was In Chaos After Massive Protests But The Government Has Reached A Deal With These Indigenous Activists

@democracynow / Twitter

Ecuador’s government announced a round of talks with leaders of the Indigenous groups who have been mobilizing against the government in a move to end the violence and chaos that has racked the nation for more than a week.

President Moreno announced he would withdraw the country from a deal reached with the IMF that many said would cause the greatest harms to the country’s most vulnerable populations.

In a major address, President Lenin Moreno announced he had struck a deal with indigenous leaders to cancel a disputed austerity package.

The news comes after nearly two weeks of protests that have paralyzed the economy and left seven dead.

Under the new agreement, President Moreno will withdraw the International Monetary Fund-backed package, known as Decree 883, that included a sharp rise in fuel costs. Indigenous leaders, in turn, will call on their followers to end protests and street blockades.

“Comrades, this deal is a compromise on both sides,” Moreno said. “The indigenous mobilization will end and Decree 883 will be lifted.”

The two sides will work together to develop a package of measures to cut government spending, increase revenue and reduce Ecuador’s growing budget deficits and public debt.

Ecuador’s Indigenous groups celebrated the announcement as a major victory.

“I’m so happy I don’t know what to say. I don’t have words, I’m so emotional. At least God touched the president’s heart,” said protester Rosa Matango in an interview with The Guardian. “I am happy as a mother, happy for our future. We indigenous people fought and lost so many brothers, but we’ll keep going forward.”

Caravans of cars roamed the streets early on Monday honking in celebration, passengers shouting, banging pots and waving Ecuadorian flags.

“The moment of peace, of agreement, has come for Ecuador,” said Arnaud Peral, the United Nations’ resident coordinator in Ecuador and one of the mediators of the nationally televised talks. “This deal is an extraordinary step.”

Wearing the feathered headdress and face paint of the Achuar people of the Amazon rainforest, the president of the Confederation of Indigenous Nations, Jaime Vargas, thanked President Moreno and demanded improved long-term conditions for Indigenous Ecuadorians.

“We want peace for our brothers and sisters in this country,” Vargas said. “We don’t want more repression.”

The protests started when the President affirmed his support for an IMF-backed agreement, known as Decree 883.

The move sparked nationwide protests as prices rose overnight by about a 25% for gas and double for diesel. A state of emergency was imposed on Thursday. Truck and taxi drivers forced a partial shutdown of Quito’s airport and roadblocks have paralyzed major roads across the country.

Images from Quito showed protesters hurling gas bombs and stones, ransacking and vandalizing public buildings as well as clashing with the police in running battles late into the night.

Some protests became so violent that the government was actually forced to flee the capital of Quito for the coastal city of Guayaquil.

All of this was in response to Decree 883 which would have ended fuel subsidies that many of the country’s poorest citizens have come to rely on.

Other indigenous demands included higher taxes on the wealthy and the firing of the interior and defence ministers over their handling of the protests.

In a shift from the heated language of the last 10 days of protests, each side at the negotiations praised the other’s willingness to talk as they outlined their positions in the first hour before a short break.

“From our heart, we declare that we, the peoples and nations, have risen up in search of liberty,” Vargas told The Guardian. “We recognize the bravery of the men and women who rose up.”