With great identity crises, comes great responsibility, and of course, the perks delicious food. I grew up between the world of my abuelas with their telenovelas and arroz con pollo, and the little town in northwest Georgia where my friends and I made late night runs to the only place open to teenagers after midnight --the omnipresent Wal-Mart. I celebrated el Día de Los Reyes complete with a box full of grass from a yard where el Coquí will never sing. My youth served as a perfect training ground for persuasively working in politics, and today I fight for racial justice under Georgia’s Gold Dome with a small, yet fierce, army of brown girls and allies.
I spend my days code-switching, and these linguistic and cultural acrobatics used to make me feel like I did not truly belong anywhere. Over the years though, I decided I could serve as a bridge of sorts between my community, fighting for immigrant, reproductive, and racial justice, and those who actively work against us or remain ignorant of our triumphs and challenges. I know it’s not my job to teach anyone that our communities deserve respect and equality, but I decided long ago to take up space where others cannot safely do so. My family, my mentors, and my friends have taught me that I have a responsibility to use the privileges that life has afforded me to get my comrades to any of the proverbial tables that are open to me and continue to build power.
Communities of color in Georgia, and across the Deep South, worked for generations to ensure there is not just one brown girl in the most powerful room of our state: the Georgia General Assembly. My fellow advocates and I represent the distinguished culture of resistance in the Deep South –a culture that contributed to some of the biggest leaps towards equality in our nation’s history. With incredible pride, I walk through the halls of our State Capitol strategizing in perfect Spanglish with an impressive coalition. The true diversity of the state of Georgia, across all identities, is more noticeable than ever, yet there are days that remind us we need to continue to build our political ranks.
On March 7, 2019, Georgia’s legislature reached Crossover Day, which marks the deadline for any piece of stand-alone legislation to pass one chamber and be eligible to become a law by the end of the 2019 session or be tabled for another year. My colleagues and I worked hard for weeks to prevent catastrophe, gain some ground or water down bad bills on behalf of the communities we serve. Then, as evening turned to night, we watched as the State House narrowly voted to ban abortion after 6 weeks and deny womxn their right to bodily autonomy for the sake of politics. That night it became crystal clear that the majority party still underestimates our power and disregards the legacy of those who came before us to teach us how to be effective –how to win, and this miscalculation will be their ultimate downfall.
Standing in my grief that night, I listened to community leaders and advocates, who worked tirelessly against HB 481, remind their groups and coalition partners like me that we will overcome this chapter of injustice in Georgia politics. They are absolutely right. I looked around, and I recognized so many faces of friends and colleagues who ran for office in 2018. Our faces made for a stark contrast against those on the portraits and statutes along the hallways under the Gold Dome. I know many of them will run again in 2020, and I decided that I will proudly join their ranks with my own campaign for local office. For so many reasons of time and circumstance, Georgia is my home, and home is a sanctuary to be protected and nurtured. So, I really hope that the good ol’ boy political class braces itself. Porque yo soy Boricua, y'all, and my friends and I well… we’re not going anywhere.
P.S. If you’d like to support womxn in your area with their reproductive healthcare, please consider donating to this year’s National Abortion Access Bowl-A-Thon by visiting https://bowlathon.nnaf.org/.
Isabel Otero moved to Georgia at a young age from her beloved Puerto Rico. Today, she is a community advocate for a non-profit legal center in Atlanta where she combats the effects of destructive state and federal anti-immigrant legislation. Isabel moonlights as a reproductive justice advocate and loves to work on comms for her friends on the campaign trail. Isabel believes that everyone should live a life of dignity no matter their circumstances, nationality, or identities.