California Dreaming: Lydia Avila, East Los Angeles Organizer

This interview is part of California Dreaming, a series by Capital & Main and The NationRead the series introduction.

Lydia Avila is a young Boyle Heights-based community organizer with California Calls, an alliance of 31 social justice organizations across the state that conducts voter-engagement campaigns.

How did you become an organizer?

I grew up in Boyle Heights, which is now 97 percent Latino. In my time it was probably more segregated that that. My high school was 99.7 percent Latino when I attended.

I still live in the community—born and raised, never left. I really value that. It’s part of the core of my organizing. I’ve seen so much injustice, suffering, exploitation. But we’re going to put our families first, leave our children with something better than what we had. That’s still the case for me. I want something better for my kids. This is why I fight. This is why my mom left everything behind in her country to come here.

Does this period in history scare you?

At first [after the election] I was very afraid. After the election, I took my kids to a march, in downtown Los Angeles. It was near the end of the march. There was a big white truck and the people in it yelled, “Build the wall!” at me and my kids. My son, he’s only 10, he yelled a cuss word back.

What does your work involve?

I am an organizer – and have done housing rights organizing, affordable housing advocacy, educational justice organizing. It’s all been based in my community. That’s how I got involved in California Calls, to understand how we needed to have a statewide strategy to really create the change to address systemic problems in our community. I’ve been around a lot of organizers, like Anthony Thigpenn, Dolores Huerta, who understand we need to not just fight defensive battles, but we…

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