“For and with Others and Recent Events” – Yesenia Gutierrez ’21

Being a man or woman for and with others is not an easy motto to fulfill. It is an everyday challenge, more so with the uncertainty that the current pandemic has given us all. COVID-19 has limited the ways that we can serve our communities and be fully present at the community organizations that we participate in. Despite the ongoing challenges that this pandemic has brought, I had the unique opportunity to reside in Washington D.C this past semester and be part of the Washington Semester cohort. During my time in DC, I continued serving undocumented minors seeking asylum at Ascentria Care Alliance (Worcester, MA) through academic tutoring, while interning at the National Immigration Forum in Washington D.C. Having the opportunity to be in both of these spaces allowed me to experience and be part of a unique situation of overcoming the challenges of communicating and serving remotely the individuals that the organizations serve. 

One of the connections that both the Ascentria Care Alliance and the National Immigration Forum have, aside from serving immigrant communities, were the continuous challenges that both organizations had to overcome during the Trump Administration. Under the Trump Administration, Ascentria had limited options to fulfill its asylum cases because the Trump Administration put into place heavier limitations on Asylum seekers upon the rise of COVID-19. Similarly, the National Immigration Forum had limitations to further serve immigrant communities because of the policies that the Trump Administration pushed forward that challenged various work visas and citizenship routes. Given the challenges that I observed in both of the organizations, for me, President Joe Biden symbolized a new era and an opportunity for democracy to live another day. While I personally was not thrilled about Biden, I knew that having him in office would bring stability that American constituents desperately sought during a time of so much uncertainty with the ongoing pandemic. 

November 7, 2020: 

When President Biden won the election in November of 2020, I felt a sense of relief and joy. As I walked through the streets of Georgetown, everyone was out honking their cars and blasting “Party in the U.S.A” to celebrate the start of a new era. I remember the excitement that staff members in both organizers felt because of the work that they will continue to do with the new administration. One of the remaining elections that organizations anticipated was the senate race in Georgia. All eyes were on the state, as it was a deciding factor of whether the Democrats would take the majority of Senate, completely changing the game for the upcoming years. 

January 6, 2021: 

When the results of the Senate race were released, I was filled with joy that not only were we able to flip the Senate thanks to the work and community organizing that happened in Georgia but that Georgia also saw its first Black senator. Unfortunately, the celebration did not last long as headlines quickly turned their cameras to what seemed an impossible event in our lifetime, the invasion of the Capitol Building. I remember watching Univision, a Latinx news network, with my family in the living room in disbelief of what we were watching. While the actual invasion of the Capitol Building was not what triggered me, given that it was materialistic and it can all be replaced or fixed, what really hurt seeing was the symbol of democracy on thin ice that day. As a country that takes pride in its democratic government, it was a very challenging day that created a shockwave across the globe. The invasion of the Capitol Building illustrated a few things to me: 

  1. Racism is very much well and alive in today’s society. The images shown of the nooses around the Capitol Building continue to haunt me to this day. Phrases like “America is not like this” was painful to read because it further illustrated that individuals in positions of privilege never realized that the America that everyone saw across the globe are the realities of marginalized communities in the United States. While I was personally shocked by the events, I was not surprised. 
  2. BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) are not given equal treatment when it comes to our Criminal Justice System and Law Enforcement. When comparing the response of law enforcement during the Black Lives Matter movement and the invasion of the Capitol Building, one can clearly see how differently white individuals are treated in comparison to Black individuals. In a sense, it was surprising to see the response of law enforcement during the invasion of the Capitol Building because there were law enforcement officers harmed, even killed, as individuals around chanted in approval. 
  3. Community organizing must continue and not stop with the election of Joe Biden. His victory illustrates the power of community organizing, a movement that is driven by social justice and while it’s not a perfect start by any means, it is an opportunity for community organizations to breathe and continue their work to break unjust systems. While we are in a new era and the Democrats have taken the majority of the Senate, conversations must continue in order to dismantle and create an anti-racist society. 

January 20, 2021: 

Weeks after the invasion of the Capitol Building, President Biden’s inauguration brought back a sense of unity. I remember watching my family filled with joy as both President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris were being sworn into office. Barriers were broken that day as VP Harris became the first woman and of Black/ Southeast Asian descent to take office. Additionally, the artistic talents of powerful women such as Amanda  Gorman, Lady Gaga and Jennifer Lopez filled the stage with light and joy. It was crazy to think how just short weeks before the Inauguration, the Capitol Building looked completely different and gloomy. 

Being a man or a woman for and with others is not an easy task. As illustrated in the events that have occurred in our country in such a short amount of time, taking an active stance can be difficult especially when having different political opinions or when having near-by loved ones that have different political opinions. We must challenge ourselves and those around us to further understand the systemic, cultural, and political inequalities in our society that negatively impact BIPOC communities. Upon understanding, we need to actively participate in the change to dismantle the structures that create inequality whether it’s through our vote, community organizing, or informing those around us.