Make it personal. I heard this throughout Voto Latino's First Annual Power Summit, which educated and trained young Latinos to create positive change in their communities. “Making it personal,” Maria Teresa Kumar announced to hundreds of youth leaders, activists, and organizers from across the country. Her statement, weaved throughout the Summit’s sessions, emphasized the narrative we need to share to promote participation in 2012 and beyond. Making it personal is about the stories we carry, the networks we create, and the coalitions we build; all of which influence the change we work towards within our communities.
First, it starts with our own stories. “¿Y tu quien eres?”, a session led by Chris Torres of the New Organizing Institute, prompted participants to look inward and understand the plots we carry. Within these plots there are characters, conflicts, climaxes, and resolutions. Our understanding of each in our lives position us to deepen our self-awareness. These are the stories we need to share, which are full of experiences shaped by the challenges we confront. Chris Torres described his story and expressed a vulnerability central in uncovering ourselves. Making it personal is knowing your story, and being vulnerable enough to share it with others to connect and create stronger networks.
Strong networks emerge from deepening relationships. In “Leadership: Networking 101" we learned the ins and outs of effective engagement with others. Emanuel Pleitez mentioned the value of listening before speaking, and how probing questions lead to understanding the stories others carry. He added, “people don’t remember what you say, they remember what they felt when they were talking to you.” What others feel extend from a genuine interest in what they are sharing, which creates a meaningful exchange of stories, ideas, and experiences. Making it personal is sharing with others and building networks. These networks, created through authentic exchanges, lead to building coalitions that move communities forward.
Communities working together create substantive change and progress. Building a coalition happens from gathering diverse perspectives to champion one cause. “Preparing for the Polls”, moderated by Christina Hollenback of the Generational Alliance, expanded on the greater impact organizations and initiatives create through collaboration. In sharing resources and expertise organizations enhance community involvement and voter mobilization, specifically at the polls. Making it personal is seeing how our individual stories enhance the coalitions we build. Making it personal means understanding the community narrative, and our responsibility in sharing it.
Wilmer Valderrama opened the Power Summit emphasizing that we need to encourage those closest to us with making their voices heard. Rosario Dawson and Dolores Huerta discussed how we can translate these relationships into civic engagement. In essence, make it personal. Leverage your relationships to inform, educate, and empower your community with making a difference. In 2012 we’re going to make it personal. It’s going to start with telling you a story, connecting with others, and building a coalition to galvanize Latinos in November and beyond.
I’m taking the pledge, will you?