Abridged from Proyecto Campesino 60th Anniversary Story Telling Session
As told by Irma Medellin
Thank you, and it is a pleasure to compartir this table with these people, especially with Graciela. I also attended the university that Graciela attended.
In 1999 I met Graciela. In that time, I participated in a program with Lindsay District – black and white photography. My teacher only spoke English. Sometimes, she took my hands to learn the pieces. That was my first opportunity, but when I started that class we took pictures outside—fields, parties, quinceanieras.
I got to know that there are more people like me living in this country. It also made me realize we have a lot of needs. When we decided to cross the border, we expected to have a better quality of life. We have to work hard to have the life we want. It’s not living with a lot of money but living with dignity and respects. When we work together, we can get something. That is when I started with my Spanish classes. Many people from my country didn’t know how to read or write.
When I met Graciela, she was my mentor. My teacher, Sandra Strudivant, she introduced me to these people. When I started, I couldn’t say anything – maybe hello. When I met Graciela, she told me to look at people’s eyes and to not be afraid. They have to recognize you and pay attention.
The next meeting, I met with Lindsay. Graciela, was very important in my life because she teach me how to work with the community, how to have the tools to work with the community. She offered me a job as a admin assistant, I had always worked in a factory or restaurant, always with minimum wage. I couldn’t believe when I got the job, I get paid $18 and a little more cents. They paid me $18, and I just worked part time, but that was more than what I would get in a restaurant for 50 hours.
Graciela believed in me, she gave me an opportunity. I worked for 6 months with Proyecto Campesino. At the same time, I worked with my photography project. In 2002, my teacher moved the place, and we didn’t work for the Migrant Photography Project. However, I continued to work. It was a necessity to form an organization.
At that time, I am the founder of the Quinto Sol de America. Every day is learning. I don’t know how to be an administrator, but my main work is organizing. We use art and culture as fundamental tools to promote civic participation. We have more than 14 years working in the community and we focus on environmental and social justice. Some private persons gave us money for work. I am no longer the administrator but a community organizer. Thank you AFSC and Proyecto Campesino for giving me the tools I need to work in the community.