Ashley Velazquez interviews Ricardo Almodovar
Si se puede translates to “Yes, we can” or “Yes, it is possible.” The slogan was created by Dolores Huerta, co-founder of the United Farm Workers of America and has been used by countless worker and civil rights groups.
Make the Road PA is an organization that builds power for justice in Latinx* and working class communities. Originally founded in New York State, Make the road has branches in New Jersey, Connecticut, and Nevada. MRPA was first established in Reading, PA and the organization has recently opened locations in Allentown and Philadelphia. It has been 2 years since Make the Road arrived in the Lehigh Valley. In that time, MRPA has organized meetings, rallies, protests, and community events focused on immigrant and worker rights, gender equality, and LGBTQ+ advocacy. Make the Road PA endorsed the progressive congressional candidate Greg Edwards, during the 2018 preliminary elections and organizers canvassed 200,000 households and registered thousands of new voters. Below I interview Ricardo Almodovar, a community organizer and ask about his work and experiences in the organization.
What is your role in Make the Road PA and describe the work you do.
Ricardo Almodovar: I am a Community Organizer with Make the Road PA. I organize people in our community to create change through community involvement, meetings, workshops, trainings, phone banks and door-knocking/canvassing operations. It typically starts off with a one on one meeting with folks to have a deep conversation about their life and their passion. We start to build a relationship and trust and create a plan together accordingly. Think of it as extending a hand for folks to join the movement for liberation. The following Lilla Watson quote reflects this sentiment pretty well: “if you have come to help me you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound with mine, then let us work together.”
Why is MRPA necessary in the Lehigh Valley?
Almodovar: MRPA is necessary in the Lehigh Valley due to the lack of resources provided to the significant Latinx population in Allentown and beyond as well as the rampant discrimination many of us have faced and continue to encounter. We also know representation is important in politics and we are able to endorse candidates through our political arm, Make the Road Action in PA (501c4) as well as hold elected officials accountable when they make promises to the community.
How has MRPA been successful? What challenges has the organization faced?
Almodovar: MRPA has been successful in organizing hundreds of people to take action. We use tactics such as surveys, petition drives, rallies, marches, and direct action in an escalated process. In other words, we’ll survey our people long before a protest is organized. Contrary to popular belief, spontaneous actions don’t happen as often as you’d think while most actions are planned well in advance with an experienced team of organizers. Challenges we face are language and cultural barriers, but we overcome them by building relationships with folks while creating our own family of active and positive people in the movement.
Politics has always felt very complicated, especially in 2019. How do we convince those who are confused, scared, or unmotivated by politics to organize?
Almodovar: Building relationships is crucial in sustaining a movement and organizing people in our communities. At Make the Road PA, we use a method called Anger, Hope and a Plan. Anger: We must first know what makes people angry if we’re going to motivate them to take action. An open-ended question will suffice. For example, What would you like to see change in our community? We must also explain victories we’ve had in the past to give people hope. Examples can include local or national victories depending on how they answer the open-ended question. MRPA has registered thousands of voters in PA and had the largest canvassing operation in the state with over 200,000 doors knocked before the midterm general elections. Lastly, we make a plan and finish with making a firm commitment for involvement. Urgency is key to making the person commit their time and energy. If we want to create change, the time in now to get involved.
What is the future of Make the Road PA? What does the organization need to continue to be successful?
Almodovar: Make the Road PA continues to be a voice for marginalized communities and we will continue to organize and build our base. We’ll register voters, knock on more doors, make phone calls, host meetings, start campaigns, meet new people and make friends all while having a good time!
Is there anything else you would like to share with the readers?
Almodovar: Make the Road PA in Allentown is located at 347 N. 8th Street Allentown, PA 18102. We have weekly meetings that are free and open to the community. Action Committee Meetings are every Wednesday at 6pm and is the foot in the door to the movement through MRPA. Comité de Mujeres (Women’s Committee) is every Thursday at 6pm. Amor y Rabia (Love and Rage) is our LGBT+ committee and we meet every Saturday at 4pm. They all have the same location, a meal is provided at every meeting, and meetings can be bilingual depending on participants’ needs. Join us! “You have nothing to lose but your chains.”
Ashley Velazquez is a co-editor of Left Turn. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
* Almodovar uses Latinx as a gender-neutral term referencing the Latin American population. Typically Latino is used, which is grammatically masculine. Latinx decenters masculinity as the default identity and includes woman and gender nonconforming people.