Genny Castillo is COO of BLUE Institute .You can find her on Instagram at HappyGennySmiles.
What is your first political memory that made you say, “I love politics.”
When I started working in politics, I was so lost and had so many questions. After a couple of months, and getting my questions answered, I realized that my personality was a good match for the constant chaos that is politics. When the opportunity came to develop programming, I was excited to launch an internship program that would help students grow professionally.
When I conducted my first interview with a new intern, I was able to answer all the questions that the young student had before me and I saw the light flicker in their eyes. I got them excited about politics! I was able to bring someone who didn’t think that politics could affect them into the conversation on how change can be made from the inside. Helping the next generation become involved and interested in this work was the moment that everything changed for me. I have enjoyed helping students grow and activate their own movements!
What was your first job in politics and how did you land it?
In 2010, I was volunteering for a local organization and put on a voting symposium for Latinx voters to hear from candidates running for office. After the event, I was asked to submit my resume for consideration to work with House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams. I was selected as a Legislative Aide and it was my first push into politics and I was so nervous! I stayed focused and organized and they wanted me to stay as Director of Constituent Services in the district and then Caucus Services for the Georgia House Democratic Caucus before working on Abrams’ Gubernatorial campaign first as Senior Political Advisor then as the Latinx Constituency Director.
What is one of the biggest challenges you have faced in your career and how did you overcome it?
One of the biggest challenges I have faced in this work is Latino machismo. There is a sense of “wait your turn” in the Latinx political arena. My reputation is that of “Genny Gets It Done”. I am responsible, organized and dedicated. What I am not is a man.
Although I do good work, am very inclusive of others in strategic planning and supportive of other voices, I have found that there are still those that do not believe that I should do this work because of my age and my sex. I think this is an issue that is seen in many industries and I do not let it limit my work but it is very distracting. I will continue to support women in this field and applaud collaboration between all groups but do believe that the toxic masculinity is failing all of us as we are trying to make lasting change to this movement.
What has been your proudest moment in your political career (thus far)?
During the 2018 Gubernatorial Campaign for Stacey Abrams, I served as the Latinx Constituency Director and I wanted to bring new ideas to the table. I wanted to get Latinx support to do a bus tour across the state to support our candidates from the coordinated campaign. After multiple leadership conference calls, meetings and edits to the largest memo of my life detailing the tour cost and itinerary, the program raised funds, secured locations in highly Latinx populated parts of the state, confirmed candidates, received celebrity support and got an awesome name, ¡Vamos Georgia! (Let’s Go, Georgia!). I also developed marketing for the tour and created content after each voter engagement event prior to the tour and worked with the communications team that made a commercial for the launch of the tour. I was so proud of making an idea come to reality. It was a moment to do something different and had been able to do it with my organization and forethought!
I am still proud of traveling the areas with the highest Latinx populations, getting in-language literature and working with national partners to make this a reality. This project truly changed my whole professional experience. Through collaboration, partnership, and teamwork, ¡Vamos Georgia! got everyone involved and the Latinx community felt seen.
Why is it so critical, now more than ever, for Hispanic, Latina, and Afro-Latina women to get involved in politics?
This political climate is hurtful, unforgiving and dangerous. We are living in a country that is angry and that anger is manifesting in racist terror toward the Latinx community. There are too many stories of domestic terrorism toward our Latinx workers and targeted efforts to attack undocumented homes leaving children without guardians. We are living in a nation where counties are making money off of detained individuals for minor traffic violations and where children are dying in cages because they cannot defend themselves.
Now more than ever, we need all folks who identify as Latinx to get involved in politics. It is important to have different voices advocating for change and we need all of our Latinas to be that voz!
What should politicians be doing better when it comes to engaging the Latinx community?
Politicians need to invest early and often in the Latinx community by hiring people from our community. We need to see the active employment of Latinx leaders in all parts of the decision-making team and have investment in language services and outreach. There is not one Latinx Vote that is up for grabs, we need to be treated with economic respect and trust. There is loyalty in the Latinx community and our politicians need to make long term investments. There is a growing Latinx population of who is about to turn 18 and there is so much that politicians can do today to help them get involved and support their efforts.
The Latinx community is diverse in itself and we need politicians who are making the effort to understand that and not treat the community as a single-issue voting bloc.
What advice do you have for those trying to enter into politics?
Find something that you’re passionate about-- people, animals, the environment, casinos, medicine, cooking, plumbing, texting, etc. Then I would say, google whatever you are interested in and add “POLICY” to the search. That is politics.
EVERYTHING is tied to policy and policy is fueled by politics. Find a politician or group that is advocating on your side of the issue and give them a call or send them an email. Boom, you’ve just entered politics-- so hang on tight and let’s change the world! Pa’lante-- forward!
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