This week’s organizer spotlight features Valeria Cerda, Civic Engagement Director at Wisconsin Voices:
1) What have you learned from organizing “fails?”
I remember when I was a fairly new organizer and having trouble setting boundaries between work and my personal life. The result was not “producing enough” at work. Now looking back, I realize how I was not able to offer myself any grace and how I was conditioned to think that my value is tied to how much I can produce—which is not true. I had really low self-esteem as a person and organizer, and didn’t have the wisdom or a mentor to help me make that connection. I wish I had reached out to someone or at least had the wisdom to realize what others and I were putting myself through. I learned a lot about “organizing culture” and how we need to fight capitalistic narratives that reinforce our production being tied to self-worth. I also very recently learned how to offer myself and others grace—I think I am the manager I needed back in the day.
2) What sustains you? Where do you get the energy to keep going with the work?
This year, I am learning to center myself and my needs first. I am learning to self-sustain by practicing setting boundaries, finding moments of peace and quiet during my day, and taking more time to reflect on what my mind and body need at that time. I also get a lot of energy listening to and learning from other amazing organizers—I get energy by hearing other people’s “whys.” And of course, reflecting on my own “whys” and reminding myself “who are my people?”
3) What’s motivating you with this upcoming election?
My responsibility to my people is what’s motivating me. I know this moment is like no other and I can’t just sit and keep all my gifts to myself. While at times I feel like I have no choice, I have to ask myself, “What do my people deserve?” and when I ground myself in that question, I do feel a fire deep within to keep going.