Soy Poderosa because I am engaged

Soy Poderosa because I am engaged

Friday, August 10, 2012

by April Flores

Yo soy poderosa por que yo hablo contra las injusticias para que la generación de mi hija tenga un mejor futuro.

Yo soy poderosa por que yo quiero lo major para mi comunidad. Yo quiero ver un cambio por el bien, y por la gente.

My name is April Flores and I am mother, a college student, and activist. Currently, I am intern for the Texas Freedom Network and a Cultural Advocacy Mobilization Initiative participant for Advocates for Youth (AFY).

If it were not for TFN and AFY, never before would I have participated or created events focused on activism. I live in a predominantly Latino community and statistics show that many people are not politically involved. At the time, I felt that TFN would be a great opportunity for me to become politically involved. They provided me with the opportunities, tools, knowledge, and constant support to become an empowered Latina activist.

TFN has become the only political organization on my campus that engages others in advocacy work. TFN brought awareness to political involvement and took civic engagement to an entirely different level on my campus. Also, it brought awareness to issues that are truly important to an area located on the U.S.-Mexico border, which is mostly populated by Latinos.

The TFN Student Chapter has participated and created several events focused on bringing awareness to comprehensive sex education, teenage pregnancy, and sexually transmitted diseases. Not only did people sign petitions, we talked to people about safe sex and why it is important to have comprehensive sex education. Also, we gave away free condoms! The Great American Condom Campaign assisted us by awarding us with 500 condoms. For these events, there were over 300 petitions signed for comprehensive sex education in Texas. Lastly, we provided medically-accurate information regarding statistics, contraceptives, and STI/STD prevention. In one event, we had local bands playing! My second accomplishment is that I have started that conversation about the importance of sex education. We initiated a movement when we talk about it and inform others. Because of TFN and AFY, I started that dialogue. And it is also about changing the dialogue and the stigma that comes with teenage pregnancy.

I became pregnant at 18 and had my daughter at 19. I did not know this then, but my pregnancy was considered a teen pregnancy. When I found out that TFN’s beliefs included comprehensive sex education, I immediately thought of my own life and the hardships that come from being a young single parent. I knew I had to give teenagers the facts because no one else would, especially in Texas! Before, I do not remember any advocacy work on teenage pregnancy and comprehensive sex education. Some of the issues that I advocate for greatly affect my community because there is a lack of information and education.

The most crucial project I am working on at the moment is voter registration in Brownsville. Not only are we registering people, but we are getting out the vote! People tend to only register and not vote. It is a two-step process. We are focusing on the youth vote because statistics show that they are less likely to vote. We are informing and empowering youth to exercise their right to vote. This project is also focused on the State Board of Education (SBOE) elections in Texas. We want to elect competent individuals in the SBOE who will work toward providing quality education to children and adolescents in Texas schools. We do not want censorship. Among other things, we want comprehensive sex education in schools! What I love the most about this project is that is not just based in Brownsville. Other TFN Student Chapters are working on the same project but in their regions; among these include the University of Texas at Austin, University of Houston, and University of Texas at El Paso.  For this civic engagement project, we are hitting every place we can to register people. We will be block walking, phone banking, and tabling. I hope to hold a huge voter registration music event at my campus! I am also talking to other organizations in Brownsville, including the Center for Civic Engagement at UTB.

It is important to understand and recognize oppressive systems. We must not stay quiet and we must question and speak out against something that is not right. We must exercise our power through voting and civic engagement and not just in election years.

Lastly, I am working on is UB Academy. This is a collaborative effort between United Brownsville, a non-profit organization based in Brownsville, Texas, and a few youth leaders like myself. UB Academy’s mission is to improve community awareness within the cohort of students participating in this leadership training by engaging and organizing in positive and meaningful activities, meeting local elected officials, college professors, and community leaders, and attending various workshops to further develop as a leader. I am assisting United Brownsville by crafting this groundbreaking academy for youth leaders. In addition, I will be a mentor to participants of UB Academy.

Growing up in poor neighborhoods all my life has inspired me to run for public office and represent those areas that are being ignored, such as Cameron Park, the poorest in the nation. I saw the injustices in my poor neighborhoods and in my friends. I cannot sit and wait any longer.  I want something better for my community. I want to see my community progress. What I love about Brownsville is that there is tremendous potential for everything. Now, I feel that there are more opportunities available to make a difference.

I admit that my greatest weakness is that I want to do so much. Even if I cannot make a complete change, I can lay the groundwork or advocacy and organizing for others. In turn, this will allow them to achieve greater results.

April Flores is an intern and Chapter President of the Texas Freedom Network who is a partner of Advocates for Youth in the Cultural Advocacy and Mobilization Initiative.