Things That Matter

Here Are 11 Reasons Why People Took To The Streets For The May Day Protests In Downtown L.A.

May Day, or International Workers’ Day, has a long history of being the day that workers worldwide joined together in protests for worker’s rights. This year, thousands of people across the country gathered in cities in 41 different states to demand rights for immigrants in the American workforce. From Seattle to Los Angeles to Miami, people marched for family, friends, and their own rights as immigrant workers in the U.S. Here are some of the people who marched in downtown Los Angeles for May Day and the reason why they took the day to take to the streets.

Diana Medel, 21

Kathryn Boyd-Batstone
CREDIT: Kathryn Boyd-Batstone

“I’m here because I’m a deferred action student. I came here when I was 8. I’m an immigrant worker. I am a field representative for Assemblymember Mike Gibson of the 64th district,” Medel told mitú. “I think it’s very important to be here because we want to show everyone that we are resisting. We’re resisting against the new administration and we’re supporting a new immigration reform.”

Nicholas Maldonado, 23

Kathryn Boyd-Batstone
CREDIT: Kathryn Boyd-Batstone

“I’m just here marching for the gay community and giving everybody a voice and giving my family a voice. They’re just in fear of being deported and so I am just here for them,” Maldonado told mitú. “I think it’s important [to march] because even though we might have taken a few steps backwards, we need to continue to show our voice because change won’t come about if we don’t get up and share a voice and make our voices heard.”

Teisha Rivera (left), 16

Kathryn Boyd-Batstone
CREDIT: Kathryn Boyd-Batstone

“I came here to support my mom. I’m a first-generation Mexican-American and my mom (pictured center), my dad and my auntie too (pictured left), they crossed the border. I came here to support them,” Rivera told mitú. “For me, it’s important for people to come and support their beliefs. The U.S. has a freedom of speech and that’s what we love. Not like in other countries where they don’t. Right here, we have the opportunity that in other countries they might not have. That’s why I think it’s important.”

Cesar Gonzalez, 40

Kathryn Boyd-Batstone
CREDIT: Kathryn Boyd-Batstone

“I’m here to unite with everyone else and to stand up for the history of May Day and the fights and struggles that many in the working class have had to go through. I stand with everyone now who feels like they are getting treated unfairly in the workplace and the administration that we have now has been a failure so that has urged me to get out with everyone,” Gonzalez told mitú. “[I march for] some of the legendary figures like Cesar Chavez. I think about what he did for people in history and many of the people that have come to this country, immigrants that have come to work here and perhaps do not get acknowledged as hardworking.”

Lea Gonzalez, 26

Kathryn Boyd-Batstone
CREDIT: Kathryn Boyd-Batstone

“I am participating as a daughter of immigrants that migrated here during the civil war of El Salvador. I feel like I have a need and a responsibility to be out here for the immigrant community,” Gonzalez told mitú. “I definitely march or my family that recently arrived from El Salvador do to the current violence that they are suffering. It is important to be here because if you don’t do it, who is going to march for us. I feel like I need to do it for them because they have that fear to be out in the streets and so I have the right to do it and express myself so I have to do it for them.”

Jairo Loaeza (center), 14

Kathryn Boyd-Batstone
CREDIT: Kathryn Boyd-Batstone

“We come representing Clinica Romero because we support and believe that everybody should have justice because we have human rights,” Loaeza told mitú. “I think about my parents because both of them are immigrants and every morning I wake up fearing that they may not return home and it’s scary to think that and I think we should all have justice. It’s important because this will give us a chance to say what we think and give them a chance to hear us.”

Maii Ware, 29

Kathryn Boyd-Batstone
CREDIT: Kathryn Boyd-Batstone

“I think about the undocumented families that are being separated,” Ware told mitú about why she marched. “I am not of Hispanic descent but my daughter is undocumented so that’s an issues that hits close to home to me. People are losing momentum and it’s important to have rest periods to rebuild strength again but I think that May Day is a international holiday for us to show up and do that.”

Edwin Peraza, 31

Kathryn Boyd-Batstone
CREDIT: Kathryn Boyd-Batstone

“I’m here to fight because my parents came here as immigrants,” Peraza told mitú. “I feel like this country is very anti-immigrant, especially with this current administration, so I think we just got to voice that we are here. I march because there are people who feel more passionate and they organize these types of events and they ask for support and I am here giving support. Especially since I have been part of the immigrant community for such a long time.”

Jorge Cortez, 36

Kathryn Boyd-Batstone
CREDIT: Kathryn Boyd-Batstone

“I was an undocumented immigrant to this country. I came from El Salvador back in the early 80s. My family really fought hard to give me an opportunity that we didn’t have back in El Salvador,” Cortez told mitú. “I became the first person in my family to graduate from college and the first person to get my masters as well. I am here to represent all these individuals that represent that through hard work we are citizens of this country and we definitely contribute in ways that people like Donald Trump are really not talking about.”

Martha Friedman, 25

Kathryn Boyd-Batstone
CREDIT: Kathryn Boyd-Batstone

“I’m marching here today because I feel like we are regressing instead of progressing and [I’m here] to represent my family who immigrated here,” Friedman told mitú. “I am an immigrant myself. I went to school, worked hard and I have two children who are in school right now. I didn’t allow them to miss school because education is important. We have a goal to reach and I’m here to support my community and my parents who left everything behind.”

Nizgui Gomez, 15

Kathryn Boyd-Batstone
CREDIT: Kathryn Boyd-Batstone

“I think what Trump is doing is not right. We’re all a part of this and all the immigrants contribute to this country. It’s not fair that he is supporting and saying bad stuff about us,” Gomez told mitú. “I am here to march for the immigrants and my family members who are immigrants. A lot of families could be separated. My parents are immigrants and one of these days I could be separated from them and I don’t think it’s fair that I, a 15-year-old, should be scared of that. It’s important to take a stand because what else can we do besides take a stand and fight for what’s right for us.”


Donate $11 today to help the undocumented immigrants in our community: #11FOR11MILLION

READ: 11 People Told Us Why They Went To The Day Without A Woman Rally In Los Angeles

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With Immigration Fees Set To Increase, Advocacy Groups Are Hosting “Citizenship Weeks” To Help People Get Their Documents In On Time

Things That Matter

With Immigration Fees Set To Increase, Advocacy Groups Are Hosting “Citizenship Weeks” To Help People Get Their Documents In On Time

Damen Wood / Getty Images

Becoming a U.S. resident or citizen has never been an easy process. The country’s immigration system is a convoluted mess that sharply leans in favor of high-wealth individuals and under the Trump administration that is becoming more apparent than ever.

But 2020 has been an especially challenging year for immigrants seeking to complete their citizenship process.

Although it’s common for interest in naturalization to spike in the months leading up to presidential elections, the Coronavirus pandemic forced the citizenship process to a grinding halt in March. The outbreak shut offices of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) all across the country. And although many of these offices reopened in July, there is a widening backlog of applications.

Meanwhile, on October 2, looming fee increases could leave applications and citizenship out of reach for tens of thousands of immigrants, as the process becomes significantly more costly.

Many migrant advocacy groups are hosting events meant to help immigrants complete their applications before prices are set to rise.

In South Florida, the Office of New Americans (ONA) — a public-private partnership between Miami-Dade County and non-profit legal service providers — launched its second Miami Citizenship Week on Sept. 11. This 10-day event is designed to help immigrants with free legal support so participants can beat the October 2 deadline.

In addition, the event will host a mix of celebrations meant to highlight the social and economic contributions of South Florida’s large immigrant communities.

“I think in Miami we talk about how we are diverse and how we are adjacent to Latin America, but we never take a moment to celebrate immigrants and the amazing work that they do whether it’s the nurses in our hospitals, the drivers that drive our buses, small business owners,” said Krystina François, ONA’s executive director. “We need to reclaim the narrative around immigrants and around our communities because it’s what makes us great.”

However, thanks to Covid-19 restrictions, the events will all be hosted online.

Much like any other event, Covid-19 has greatly impacted this year’s “Citizenship Week.” Therefore, the event will be hosted virtually. That includes the Mega Citizenship Clinic, which will be held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sept. 16-20. At the event, pro-bono lawyers from the American Immigration Lawyers Association, Americans for Immigrant Justice and other groups will connect with attendees one-on-one on Zoom and walk them through the process of filling out the 20-page citizenship application form. 

The clinic is open to immigrants eligible to become naturalized citizens, meaning permanent residents who have had a green card for at least five years.

Cities like Dallas are also getting in on similar events, meant to welcome new residents and citizens into the city.

Dallas’ Office of Welcoming Communities and Immigrant Affairs is hosting a series of virtual events from Sept. 12 to Sept. 20 in honor of Welcoming Week. The virtual events aim to promote Dallas’ diverse communities and to unite all residents, including immigrants and refugees.

According to the City of Dallas, this year’s theme is Creating Home Together, and it emphasizes the importance of coming together as a community to build a more inclusive city for everyone.

Participants will be able to learn about the voting process and what will be on the next ballot during the “Vontando Por Mi Familia: Enterate para que vas a votar” event. The event, hosted in partnership with Mi Familia, will be presented in Spanish.

A Council Member, Jaime Resendez, will host a virtual program on Tuesday at 11 a.m. that celebrates Latinx art and culture. The event will celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month. Mayor Eric Johnson will read the Welcoming Week Proclamation, and the event will feature art exhibitions and performances showcasing the talents of performers and artists across Dallas.

Attendees will also have a chance to learn more about the availability of DACA and a citizenship workshop will take place where articipants will learn how to complete their N-400 application for citizenship. Volunteer immigration attorneys and accredited representatives from the Department of Justice will be there for assistance.

The events come as fees for several immigration proceedings are set to rise by dramatic amounts come October 1.

Starting on October 2, the financial barrier will grow even taller for many immigrants as fees are set to increase. The fee to apply for U.S. citizenship will increase from $640 to $1,160 if filed online, or $ 1,170 in paper filing, a more than 80% increase in cost. 

“In the middle of an economic downturn, an increase of $520 is a really big amount,” François told the Miami-Herald.

Aside from the fee increase, many non-citizen immigrants never truly felt the need to become citizens. That was until the Coronavirus pandemic hit and had many questioning their status in the country.

“There are people who up until this COVID crisis, their status as a permanent resident didn’t impact their day-to-day life … but then the pandemic has given them another reason of why it’s important to take that extra step and become a citizen, because of the additional rights and protections that are afforded to you, but also to just have a sense of security and stability in a crisis.”

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How ‘Latinx With Plants’ Bloomed From Instagram To An L.A. Shop Reconnecting The Gente To Plant Healing Properties

Fierce

How ‘Latinx With Plants’ Bloomed From Instagram To An L.A. Shop Reconnecting The Gente To Plant Healing Properties

Growing up, Andi Xoch’s aunt encouraged her to speak to plants. Her relatives usually laughed at the sight of a woman talking to her in-house flowers, but Xoch was intrigued. As a little girl, she acknowledged that there was life inside the pots, so conversing with them seemed standard. More than two decades later, that seed of curiosity about flora bloomed into Latinx with Plants, a digital community and IRL Los Angeles-based shop that teaches Latinxs of their ancestral relationship with herbage.

Sprouted in the spring of 2019, Latinx with Plants started as an account on Instagram. Through the page, Xoch wanted to provide representation of Latinx plant parents that she felt was lacking despite the community’s deep and vast connection with herbs and gardening.

“We’ve had a long connection with plants even before the trend started,” Xoch, a Mexico City-born, L.A.-raised organizer and artist, tells FIERCE.

“I wanted to represent that, to show that we’ve been part of this world even if it’s not presented in an Instagrammable form.”

For the past few years, so-called plant porn has dominated Instagram content. With hashtags like #plantgang and #urbanjungles, the growing trend has helped produce a new generation of young people with green fingers that are boosting sales of houseplants and inspiring even the basement recluse to be a plant parent. In fact, a National Gardening report found that 83 percent of the people in the U.S. who took up gardening in 2016 were between the ages of 18 and 34. Even more, it reported that 37 percent of millennials grow herbs and plants indoors, more than the 28 percent of baby boomers who do the same.

However, with the exception of a few accounts, including Xoch’s friend D’Real who created @blackwithplants and inspired her to make a similar account, many of these digital spaces are overwhelmingly white. This, Xoch says, ignores the history Latinxs have with plants and the sustainable practices they developed while gardening for decades.

“You walk onto our people’s front yards and you see their food: plantains, avocados [and] chayotes. And it’s all sustainable; they use pots made out of buckets and cans. It’s beautiful,” the 32-year-old says. “This is who we are. This is our culture.”

As Latinxs, Xoch says that our Indigenous roots have been forgotten or intentionally kept from us but that we can reconnect to our origins through inherited practices. Among them is ancestral medicines. At her shop, several elders come in and casually inform Xoch about the healing properties of her different plants. While the whitewashed mainstream plant blogosphere has co-opted much of the everyday traditions practiced within low-income communities of color, she finds comfort in knowing that these remedies are being passed down across generations through word of mouth and are not being commodified. 

These informal educational encounters is one of the reasons why Xoch established her brick and mortar in August. Aside from selling an array of plants at the Boyle Heights-located shop, she wanted to create a space where new plant parents and señora gardeners can enter and feel welcomed, experience the joyous power of verdure and learn from one another. 

She says that her mission is to build community and help people who feel depressed, anxious and alone, particularly amid the Covid-19 pandemic, experience the healing power of plants.

“Plants can be an asset to you because, whether you think it’s just for the plant’s sake to be alive, you are actually participating in a self-care act by nurturing your plant,” Xoch says. “They force you to get up every day and help you realize a lot of beautiful things about yourself that you forget to acknowledge: the caregiving, the attention, the love, the dancing, the singing — all the things that make it bloom are also exercises in self-love, self-care and self-preservation.” 

A newbie business owner, Xoch says she now has another objective, though: to offer a non-traditional example of success and to be honest about the struggles of entrepreneurship. 

On paper, Xoch’s road to becoming a boss seems swift and simple: She learned the location of a potential property on a Sunday, visited it on Monday, signed her lease on Wednesday and opened up shop the following weekend. However, the reality is much more complicated. A high school dropout, her lifelong dream to open a business was halted because she lacked the confidence, capital and connections to get started. Even when she did launch the store, the experience was far from easy. Xoch opened her small business from the ground up on a tight budget amid a pandemic and while her father sat ill at a hospital where doctors thought he would die.

“I want people to know this is real shit that people go through. We have the load of the world on us, we are caring for our relatives and we are trying to make sure our business is doing well,” she says. “I walk in [my store] and that alone is defying the odds.”


Follow Latinx with Plants on Instagram. For those in Los Angeles, visit the shop, which is complying with Covid-19 regulations and operating by appointment only, at 2117 E Cesar Chavez Ave.

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