Erick Heurta: My Story

by Guest Blogger | September 18, 2014 1:00 pm

By: Erick Huerta

When you grow up in neighborhoods like East Los Angeles and South Central, you find yourself at a disadvantage, so you cultivate other things to make up for it. You go out into a world that is institutionally stacked against you in all aspects of your life and you make the best of it. It’s those kinds of experiences that lead me to becoming not only more conscious of the world I live in, but to take up arms and fight back against injustices.

Like everyone else, I’ve experienced tragedies that will linger with me for the rest of my life. In that moment, it’s hard to understand why things happened the way they did and you try to process it the best you can. It’s only with age and maturity that I can look back to those same tragedies and realize that it wasn’t some random event, but a culmination of the institutional system that is unfairly balanced on purpose.

I knew what was wrong and what was right growing up, but as I came into my own and expanded my worlds, I realized that it wasn’t as simple as that. And while I would like to say that my passion for social justice came from being grounded in my community or because I wanted to fight back against the injustices, it grew from a sense of self-preservation.

Growing up as an undocumented immigrant here in the United States never felt like an alienating experience for me. In the working class communities I’ve lived in, everyone was trying to make a dollar out of 15 cents. Everyone had a family member that was in the same situation or knew someone, so it was commonplace to be from another country.

Early on, I latched on to comic books as a means to not only supplement my reading in English, but as identifiers for my personal experiences growing up undocumented. How can I not be enthralled by characters like Superman, who is the literal embodiment of an immigrant. He was a child refugee sent by his parents to earth because his home planet was about to be destroyed. Or characters like the X-men, who are persecuted for simply being born different than everyone else, yet they still defend them against those that would cause them harm. While most of my peers look up to leaders like Martin Luther King jr. or Cesar Chavez, I’m over here talking about Spider-man.

For me, college was the catalyst I needed to get me to stand up and do something and that catalyst was journalism. I’m a loud mouth know it all that likes to tell everyone everything, so it was a perfect fit. I became a staff writer and then an editor. I had a magnificent advisor who saw my passion and helped me grow as a journalist and as an individual. Like the super heroes I admire, I too realized that with great power comes great responsibility.

I took to journalism like Superman takes to flying, and through my writing I met others like me. It wasn’t until later on that I became hip to the idea of self identifying as a DREAMER, an individual that qualifies for a federal legislation that would give individuals like myself, who came to the US as children, the opportunity to become legal permanent residents and eventual citizens. All of a sudden I found myself being part of a movement that I didn’t know existed. I put my journalism skills to use in campaigns to stop deportations, turn out media to rallies, and to fight back against those that would rather criminalize immigrant communities.

I was fortunate enough to be part of numerous campaigns that have literally changed the lives of undocumented immigrants for the better. My years of work in the immigrants’ rights movement helped me become as digital renaissance man of sorts. We were grass roots, so we had to work with what he had and that helped me develop the kind of skills that is needed in labor unions and non-profit organizations. Not everyone can take a cat meme and make it relevant for use in strategic campaigns.

The opportunity I currently have to work with an amazing organization like SCOPE Los Angeles, allows me to fully utilize my years of experience. My job as a digital organizer is to compliment and uplift the work already going on. To put the voices of community leaders who might not other wise be seen or heard in digital organizing spaces front and center. It’s a privilege to be able to say, “that’s my job.”

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