HOW I FELL INTO ORGANIZING

By Marlene Sanchez,
Center for Young Women’s Development

My name is Marlene Sanchez. I am a 20-year-old Latina from the Mission district in San Francisco. I currently serve as the Center for Young Women’s Development’s Program Director for the Girls in Charge Project (GIC) that provides political education to young women in juvenile hall and on the streets of the Mission, Tenderloin, and Western Addition neighborhoods in San Francisco.

Picture of empowered young womanI got involved with the Center for Young Women's Development when I was 15 years old as an outreach worker. In that job, I was able to go back into my community to provide education to other young women like myself. I started to take a closer look at the issues that were affecting my community and me and learning about the root causes of the problems. As I learned more, I started to get angry and began to realize that I had the power to fight for change in my community and the only way I was going to do that was through organizing.

During that time, I had been constantly harassed by the police and had experienced a lot of police brutality because of the neighborhood I was from and because I was poor. I had begun to normalize all that was happening to me and thought that I deserved to be treated this way and that there was no way to stop the cycle of violence that I was experiencing.

One day I was walking down the street in the Mission district and I was stopped by the police. They told me put my hands up against the wall so that they could search me. I started to get smart with them and told them that I knew my rights and they could not do this to me for no reason. I was taken in to custody and put in a holding cell at Valencia Street police station. Soon I heard the key coming toward the door. "Good. I am leaving,” I thought; but the officer automatically accused me of writing on the wall with my makeup. This was not true because of the fact that I was still in handcuffs. I was told to clean the wall with my shirt, and when I refused, I was beat up, and then released.

I was so mad, and I knew something had to be done, so my co-workers and I organized a protest at Mission Station. We did outreach in the Mission so that the community there would come and support us on this issue. We educated folks about what was happening with the police and emphasized the fact that police brutality and abuse was happening every day and that it could happen to your loved ones next if we did not come together united to stop it.

There is a great need for us as young people of color and as poor people to come together and organize our selves and our communities. So that we can build a strong youth movement.


© 2000 by Individual Authors
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