By Jesus G. Smith
Growing up in El Paso, TX (EPT) and embodying three marginalized identities—gay, Black and Mexican—made me acutely aware of the sinister ways that structures of inequality impact the lives of vulnerable populations. I am the son of a Black U.S. Army Veteran and a Mexican immigrant from the town bordering EPT, Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. It was in my hometown, that Patrick Crusius, the deranged 21-year-old White man drove all the way from a Dallas suburb, to shoot and kill 22 Mexican people and injured 26 others at a local Walmart (Romo, 2019). It is also the location where parts of Donald Trump’s border wall are being built, as he desires to keep out Mexicans whom he has constructed as “murderers” and “rapists” (Lambie, 2018). Most importantly, EPT is also the place where I first began organizing against inequality. Back in 2009 when I was 22, two gay men were harassed by security at the popular restaurant Chico’s Tacos for kissing, causing me and several LGBT activists to stand outside of the popular restaurant protesting the homophobia and demanding justice (Jones, 2019). This experience would continue to influence me several years later….
Together the five of us split up the duties of organizing the march. One person dealt with the logistics of when and where we would protest, arranging the route and making sure we had street medics, water, and masks available. Another person researched extensively on the victims of police violence and worked with the local newspaper and news stations on promotion of the protest. Much like SpeakOUT which demanded reaching out to different departments and groups on campus, we reached out to other organizations in Appleton to collaborate with such as African Heritage Inc. the predominate African American organization in town, The Wisconsin Bail Out The People Movement, a national network founded to oppose the 2008 trillion dollar bank bailout, and Diverse and Resilient, the local LGBT of color organization. Recalling my time protesting Chico’s Tacos, I knew protests needed to be followed up with demands and plans for action. As a result, my partner and I crafted eight posters with eight research backed solutions for police accountability, including a call for redirecting funds towards better paying jobs and access to health care, issues pertinent to Black, Latinx, and Indigenous people as well as queer people of color (Woodward & Mark, 2020)…
About the author:
Jesus G. Smith is an Assistant Professor of Ethnic Studies at Lawrence University.
Image: Photo provided by author.