A Journey of Thoughts by Manuel Sosa

The following is a post on behalf of Manuel Sosa, currently incarcerated in NYS, if you would like to support him you can do so using JPay #18A0010.

A Journey of Thoughts

Prison a world of unpredictability

Navigating through an uncertain journey

Bestowed on us, against our will

Losing pieces of ourselves

In an effort to retain the sanity.

A dark world

Where light is only visible

When it seeps

Through the cracks

Of an unseeable sky.

Giving up…

Not an option

When the existence of the self

Hangs from a single thread

That threatens on breaking.

A purgatory

Of living souls

Whom silently long

For those they left behind

Soo close… yet… soo far.

Long restless nights

Where the thoughts

Turn into

Angry demons

That torment

The mind.

Life passes

In front of us

Like a gust of wind

Dancing slowly

As the youth dissipates

Into oblivion…

The weeks,

The months,

The years,

All come and go

Forgotten in a single word,



I’ve been thinking about power. What does my power look like? How do the people around me use their power? How can I help others build their power? Why do people sell out their power? What is the cost of limiting my power? How far will I take my power?

A lot of my life was spent living powerlessly, letting others make key choices about my life, and determining what my worth was. A lot of my life was spent being angry and feeling isolated, admittedly often self-isolating. We unlock our power when we start telling our stories. Telling our story gives us control over it, empowers others to tell theirs, and builds community. Community is people power. Pain to protest to power, as they say in organizing. 

I am not the person I used to be. I have done intentional investment into myself in the form of therapy and martial arts. I have to include martial arts because going into self-defense, I planned on getting strong and reducing how vulnerable I could feel. I wasn’t prepared for mental breakthroughs via Krav Maga. I cried after class on more than one occasion, impressed with the things I could do and frustrated with the things I couldn’t. Most importantly I had to get to a point in self-defense where my power wasn’t coming from rage. 

Talking about this point in my life, I often reference Zucko’s firebending arch in Avatar the Last Airbender. Zuko has trouble with firebending because he only ever learned to bend from rage. He goes through a spiritual battle that manifests as physical illness. I had to learn how to operate from a place of peace and not rage. I spent a long time surviving, and I am currently finding my peace. I want to thrive. 

I want peace in spite of things that have happened and the things to come. I will live in peace, but that doesn’t mean I will be comfortable. Growth has been extremely uncomfortable, growth is not meant to be comfortable, but I persist. You don’t make change when you are comfortable. You don’t dismantle systems of oppression and white supremacy being comfortable. You don’t create revolutionary thinking by being comfortable. I go on when I can for the people who can’t.

Tears of the Patriarchy

This post is not an educational piece, but some needed thought digestion:

I spend much of my time working in the community focused on empowering those around me. As a result, I tend to not take the time needed to do things I would benefit from. Today it felt like too much and I could feel cracks in myself forming. My puppy Appa chewed on the current book I was reading and I’d had enough so I cratted the pup and decided to do something for myself. 

First I put some cypress & eucalyptus oil in my oil diffuser. Cypress oil is what trees release when you’re outside which makes hikes so perfect. Eucalyptus oil always smells so fresh. I lit four candles because your girl loves an even number. Then I threw on some aquarium live feeds with light classical on in the background. I made a hot chocolate in a Tears of the Patriarchy (Patriarchy – a system of society or government in which men hold the power and women are largely excluded from it.) mug and snuggled up underneath some blankets with my older dog Harley Quinn on the couch. A bong rip or 2 and finally I came to you the reader.

I have always loved to read and write. Reading lets you escape this world into one that is guided by your writer. Writing lets you tell your story uninterrupted and lives on past you. Sometimes you just need to read and sometimes you just need to write. Today I need to write. 

I am a single cis woman in her late 20’s and I have been dating for a while at this point. I am open to dating anyone I get along with regardless of gender identity. Lately, I find a feeling that I’ve always had getting heavier. I find myself growing increasingly uncomfortable around men. For the purpose of this writing when referencing men I am primarily focusing on cis men, but I have had several interactions with trans men that also perpetuate patriarchy, so I will use men to reference both in this writing. 

As a girl growing up in the United States, I had to know how to stay safe. If there were courses they would be called things like:

Fashion Saftey 101: What outfits to wear to what places to keep from being a target

Girl Group Logistics 201: For the Girls on the Go, there’s safety in numbers

Don’t Get Roofied Gen Ed: Basics food & drink protection

Declining Gently Gen Ed: How to be harsh enough to be left alone while being gentle enough to stay alive

Some of my earliest experiences with men were being stared at by strange old men while I played on the playground or being told I was “too pretty to be walking” by a man driving a car when I wasn’t even a teen yet. Even when speaking about boys, I was slapped across the face by a boy my age in a church group because I didn’t want to play the game he did.

Over the years I have had men and boys make me feel unsafe, but this week it just feels heavier. I was out with some friends this week and I had an entire conversation with a security guard that boiled down to him as a light-skinned black man believing the black community is poor because they are lazy. A white man that looks like Ronaldo Fryman cosigned his sentiment and explained to me that Jordans are an expensive brand of shoes and just look at how many shoes poor people own. After explaining that there’s no data that backs up these claims and anecdotal evidence can prove anything you want it to, I cut off the conversation. They decided I was wrong because I didn’t want to talk anymore. Fryboy was also very surprised there were consequences to his actions when I told him he couldn’t hang out with the group of brown and black people I was with after his hot take. 

Then in the same week, I was at a friend’s party and a black man started to explain to me that while we all know about patriarchy we don’t talk enough about its opposite misandry (misandry – dislike of, contempt for, or ingrained prejudice against men). I explained that much like racism, while an oppressed group can dislike an oppressing group, we don’t have the systematic power for it to equate to systematic oppression. After that, a white man in the room started yelling “Equal Rights Equal Fights.” I said fighting anyone is assault, you aren’t supposed to hit anyone. The white guy explains that if a woman hits him he’s going to hit them back. That’s self-defense I said. Then at some point, the black man yelled out that I was triggered. 

I don’t mind talking ideas, but what is unsettling to me about this interaction is that men are so willing to tell us they want to assault women. What about me wanting to get equal pay makes you want to hit me? What about me wanting to rights to my own body makes you want to hit me? What about me speaking my mind makes you feel like you want to hit me? Why is the first thing you think of when we talk about gender equality violence? 

It makes me want to stay at home. I am tired. As a woman in America, I constantly feel like my body is on the line. I have to monitor what I wear, where I go, who knows where I am, how I approach men, etc just to make sure I don’t get sexually assaulted, kidnapped, or murdered. Then I go to bars and have to defend my ideas with the eloquence of the goddamn president because if I don’t I get laughed away by men who don’t know an ounce of what I do. I am pretty and men have shown me time and time again that their interest is my body and not my mind, safety, or feelings. 

I was only able to find the root of what I am feeling because of the man I was in love with. I loved a man for 2 years and what I miss the most was how I felt genuinely safe in his presence. Someone I knew would never harm me or allow anyone else to harm me physically. While the relationship didn’t work out I can now identify what I’m not feeling from many men around me. 

I don’t feel safe with the men who ‘Devil’s Advocate’ Debate me at bars. I don’t feel safe with men who want to be my friend with secret intentions. I don’t feel safe with racist ideations. I don’t feel safe with men who voice wanting to hit women. I don’t feel safe with men who want to take my rights away. Does abortion really equate to making women feel unsafe? Hell yes. Men who are comfortable taking abortion rights away from women are men comfortable with women dying because men can’t mind their business on women’s healthcare. 

I think about all the times men have made me uncomfortable. Sometimes it’s not taking a no as an answer. Sometimes it’s showing up places they know I will be unannounced, this one has happened at least 3 times. Sometimes it’s actual assault. 

I don’t want women and girls to have to continue to live like this. We have to keep moving forward even if it’s slow and exhausting. I know that my mug is meant to be cute and funny, I am drinking tears from men of the patriarch, but now it kind of mocks me from the table thinking about all the tears I cried at the very groupey hands of the patriarchy.

Anti-Blackness in the Latino Community

A Latino Village Submission

I was a freshman in high school the first time anti-blackness from the Latino community became clear to me. It was not something that existed within my own home, my parents were Puerto Ricans born and raised in New York City. Uncovering how segregation sliced up the City of Buffalo when they moved here in the early 90s was alarming. On my first trip to the island, I talked about the boy I liked, he was a mix of Black, Puerto Rican, and Mexican. I was met with strong negative use of the n-word by adults as a descriptor of my friend. This changed not only how I viewed my extended family but also contributed to the crisis surrounding my own Latina identity. Puerto Ricans are a mix of Taino Native, African, and Spanish. We are non-white but suffer from racist indoctrination that tries to get us to condemn Blackness. 

In October, we saw the intentionally hidden racism of Latino elected officials on the City Council in Los Angeles. It was reminiscent of when Goya, the long-time brand of the Latino Community, had a CEO that praised Donald Trump, the 45th President of the United States and known racist. Latinos who use their power to disenfranchise other marginalized people should not be tolerated in our ranks. We must eliminate narratives that perpetuate colorism, such as telling kids to stay out of the sun or they will get “too dark”. Afro-Latinos are our family, whom we need to stand in solidarity with. No one should have to feel like they can only be Black or Latino, but not both. Bomba, mofongo, bacalaitos, and pasteles are Puerto Rican traditions that were born from African influence. We cannot overcome racism by trying to side with the oppressor who will never see us as white and therefore never see us as good enough. Even if Puerto Ricans didn’t exist in the beautiful color spectrum they do, all people of color’s freedom from oppression is tied together. 

There are both generational and geographical divides that separate Latinos when it comes to anti-racism work and it’s been this way for awhile. Older generations, the generation of my grandparents, created The Young Lords Party in solidarity with the Black Panther Party. A time when young people were joining gangs for protection from various racist white groups. In the 60’s younger generations of Latinos began to resent their parents for their feeling of racial superiority to the Black community. Youth were witnessing in real time that the Black and Latino struggles were both structured the same. There was more safety in building together than apart. When organizers like Fred Hampton managed cross-racial unity, our pathway to freedom became a threat to US Capitalism. Institutions like the FBI had to infiltrate our movements and tear us apart. When folks like the City Council in LA made their racist remarks they were doing the job the FBI set in motion a long time ago.

This is a call to action for all my Latinx brothers and sisters. I need you to critique the work that you are doing. Ask yourself questions about how your work is not only impacting the Black community but how you can upgrade your work to uplift the Black community. Challenge problematic narratives in our communities. Racial solidarity has to be a priority if we want to see Buffalo grow and desegregate. Us versus them narratives make us all lose. Buffalo is still reeling from the hate crime at Tops, we have increasing numbers of refugees, and our low-income communities are being gerrymandered. The only way forward is together. 

Kelly Camacho


Aftermath of the Hate Crime at Jefferson Tops

I do not feel ok, so I’m going to do the one thing I have always done to feel better, I’m going to write. I have always been a tough girl. I grew up considered a tomboy and fought tooth and nail to get myself out of toxic circumstances. I usually tell people that I am a good organizer because no one is going to intimidate me after all I have overcome. At this moment, however, I do feel intimidated and scared. 

Over the weekend a hate-filled white 18-year-old boy traveled 3 hours to come into the Buffalo community and shoot 13 people at the Tops on Jefferson. Jefferson Tops is where I used to go for supplies when I worked at the Buffalo Museum of Science. This Walmart brand terrorist shot 11 black community members and 2 white community members. This hate flavored twinkie cost 10 people their futures:

Aaron Salter Retired BPD officer who fought back

Ruth Whitfield wife and mother picking up groceries

Roberta Drury who moved to Buffalo to help her brother with leukemia

Deacon Hayward Patterson who leaves behind a wife a daughter

Pearl Young Buffalo Public School teacher

Margus Morrison father of 3

Geraldine Talley mother, aunt, sister, & fiance

Celestine Chaney

Katherine Massey

Andre MackNeil

Zaire Goodman, Jennifer Warrington, and Christopher Braden were all injured during the hate crime. 

Say. Their. Names.

As pointed out by the PPG article A City Divided: A Brief History of Segregation in Buffalo, our city is plagued by racial & economic segregation. Segregation isn’t just us living in factions, it’s the erosion of health, education, job access, wealth, standards of living, and economic mobility. 

While some may find it difficult to see this crime as a race issue, I see it as a very intersectional modern-day lynching of the most influential people in our community, our caregivers. Our caregivers are the people in our community that allow the working class to sustain themselves and the next generation to be raised. This population is typically women, therefore this is not only a race issue but a women’s issue. This mayonnaise monster was targeting our black women. He was able to maximize the number of deaths because he targeted the only grocery store in the middle of a food desert defined as ‘an urban area in which it is difficult to buy affordable or good-quality fresh food.’ Food deserts are an environmental and health issue. He knew exactly where people would be because we lack the business investment to be able to go anywhere else. 

The fallout has left families reeling and organizers trying to determine the best course of action when we all want and need different things. His actions are rippling across Buffalo, highlighting all the divides we already had while creating new ones. Now I’m sitting on my couch after being given a few hours off of work to cope because racists are threatening stores all across Buffalo trying to insight fear into people of color. Where do WE go from here when I’m not even sure where I go from here? 

If we walk away from this with only thoughts and prayers, it’s only a matter of time before the next massacre. I think we need to start with what we know. For me, I know how to care, I will be offering love and support to anyone who needs it then I will offer trips to grocery stores for anyone who needs it in the area during my free time. Next, I have to take it to organizing, burnout or not organizing is what I do. I’m going to hit the streets for the issues. Everything is political, and those of us who “don’t get political” well that just means you have had the privilege of being kept comfortable by the system or you haven’t realized your own self-interest. How will you rise up in the fight for Black Lives?

How Do You Say ‘Hippie’ in Spanish?

For Eric, Angel, and the kids like us

I named my blog “Como Se Dice Hippie” which translates to “How do you say Hippie” in Spanish. Well, it’s actually the same word in both languages. I have spent a long time struggling with my cultural identity, feeling out of place in American spaces which tend to be white-dominated, and feeling even more isolated when with other Latinos.

Here are some of the facts: My Maternal Grandpa was born in Puerto Rico and came to the United States as a kid, settling in New York City. My Maternal Grandma was born in New York. My Grandparents spoke Spanish first and learned English young, leaving their English without a Spanish accent. My maternal grandparents met each other at Coney Island which is New York as hell. Both of my parents were born in New York City, learning English and Spanish simultaneously, becoming fluent as they came into adulthood. I was born in Buffalo, NY in the mid 90’s to my parents roughly at age 25. When it came to my brother and me, my parents spoke Spanish as a secret language to have some privacy. I never really saw my parents speak Spanish in public but that may have more to do with being a brown person in America post 9-11. 

In the past few years, tolerance has grown around speaking more than one language in America and now you can even monetize it. Both my brother and I have taken Spanish in school. My older brother studied Spanish more in college and moved back to the City. In addition to ordering a bacon, egg, & cheese in Spanish at the bodega everyday, he has become pretty comfortable with conversational Spanish. I am the opposite; Spanish makes me uncomfortable. I know it sounds silly, but Spanish makes me anxious. 

As a kid, many of my adult relatives would speak to each other in Spanish. I would always try to listen to bits and pieces desperate to know the latest family gossip. While I wasn’t taught to speak conversational Spanish, there are words and phrases I have always used. For example, when talking to my Grandparents a conversation was always started and ended with “Dios te bendiga” from them. The reply from us was always “Bendicion” from us. When I was a kid I didn’t know what the translation was but I felt the sentiment of it. Dios te bendiga means God bless you, and bendicion means blessing. It’s such an early memory that I used to always think of straws because of the ‘bendy’ sound in bendicion. If we ever watched Telemundo, I couldn’t follow the dialogue but Spanish TV is very exaggerated so I could still watch. A reality for me was that if I wanted to see people of color on TV with audio I could understand, I’d just watch BET. 

When I was in middle school I was a bit of a nerd, I always did well, I had more favorite books than friends. My middle school Spanish teacher was disappointed when she found out I was Puerto Rican but not fluent in Spanish. I still did well in her class, but because I would study with flashcards to remember word meanings and conjugations. One day I got back a test, and I was really proud of the sticker adorning it. Then one of the white boys in my class with blonde hair and blue eyes leaned over and said “You only did good because you’re Spanish.” In the grand scheme of things, it shouldn’t have mattered but it did. It was the first time anyone had discredited my work because of assumptions they had about me. It was at that moment I stopped trying to learn Spanish.

Around that time I went through a phase where anytime anyone asked me what I was, I would say “Puerto Rican American.” I wanted people to stop bothering me, and this seemed to answer the two questions they actually wanted to know: what kind of brown I was and if I was born here. When I got to high school I started to see that kids who speak 2 languages are only impressive if they are wealthy and usually white. Although I had given up on Spanish, Spanish had not given up on me. I only learned what would get me by in class, but people still looked at me and expected Spanish to come out. I felt a pressure building on me of what I was supposed to be and that’s a heavy burden to be placed on a kid. I don’t say Puerto Rican American anymore, even with its redundancy racists will always fail to understand in the current system Puerto Rico is currently a part of the US. 

I graduated from the University of Buffalo with a degree in Environmental Studies, which was pretty much all white men in camo. Brown women are so rare in the major that I befriended a majority of them with 2 friendships. We loved our major, it got us outside, identifying flowers and trees. Even though you might imagine white women with dreads when you think of hippies, we were still the girls that learned how to can food, make soap, preach sustainability and want to stop climate change. The hippie identity never looked like me and I’ve been told countless times that people of color don’t camp. Even if I’m not the poster child for all things outdoors, I still love all the things I learned for my degree. Pushing past who I was supposed to be and places I wasn’t supposed to go, a week after my college graduation I drove from NY to intern for the Forest Service in Bozeman, Montana. 

During my months in Montana, I ended up on a date with a guy, nothing abnormal. While we were holding hands walking down the street a white man came up to us and stopped. “¿De dónde eres?” he asked in Spanish, Where are you from?” In English, I replied “New York.” He switched to English and said, “No, where are you really from?” Yup, this is my ‘No Where Are You Really From’ story! Well, stubbornness is a trait I inherited from both my parents, I replied “Buffalo, NY.” He then realized his friends were still walking, he said “I gotta go… I love what you’re doing here” as he shook his finger back and forth between my date and me. My white date and I. It hurt again. It hurts always being seen as the other, as a progressive option. Even worse I knew my date didn’t see a problem with what just happened as he carried on business as usual. There wasn’t another date. If you can’t see the harm done to us, can you see us? Interracial relationships require a lot of learning and not everyone is willing to do that hard emotional labor. 

I’ve been told to go back to where I came from. I was told I only got into colleges because I am brown and a woman. I’ve been called a spic. I’ve been told a lot of things about me by people who don’t know me. I gave in to the feeling that maybe they knew more about me than I did. Fighting for yourself takes a lot of energy and I will admit I was really tired. 

For the majority of my life, I never knew many Latinos outside of my family. The folks I did meet all laughed loudly and joked in Spanish. I would listen and search their body language desperate to be in on the jokes. I finally got to meet more Latinos in the same range as me in college, the great land of self-exploration and debt. I would end up being called whitewashed by a Spanish-speaking peer in my History of Cuba class because I wasn’t fluent. It made my insides squirm. I felt ashamed. The same year when I was giving a Latina friend a ride home and when she saw I drove a pickup, she said “Man you really are white.” She knew my love of outdoor things and comics, so I guess driving a truck made me add up to white, I guess I didn’t carry the 1. I was so desperate to be cared about by a community that didn’t seem to want me. 

These moments of rejection by other Latinos take me back to the Selena movie when Edward James Olmos as Selena’s father says “Being Mexican American is tough. … We’ve gotta be twice as perfect as anybody else. We gotta be more Mexican than the Mexicans and more American than the Americans, both at the same time. It’s exhausting!” I found some comfort in the fact that Selena, the Mexican American Icon of Spanish music in the US was not fluent in Spanish either but people still loved her.

About 2 years ago I met Angel Rosado and Eric Maldonado. These men are the first Puerto Ricans I ever met that were born in the states and didn’t speak Spanish either. They gave me a gift I didn’t know I had been looking for all these years: validation. Two conversations I had with Eric live in a special place in my heart. We talked about how being Puerto Rican itself makes you feel like you don’t fit the right mold. We are Puerto Rican, the indigenous population of Puerto Rico were the Taino natives, then the Spanish Colonizers came over and brought enslaved Africans and the Spanish language with them. Puerto Ricans as we know them are a mix of these people. Since we are a mix we don’t align with the expectations of any group, we aren’t considered Native, Spanish, or Black. Let me add that I can’t call myself mixed either, both my parents are Puerto Rican and in America mixed means something else entirely. Once again, it really is exhausting. 

I called my Mom a few weeks back telling her about my trip to El Buen Amigo, a Latin American novelties fair trade store right here in Buffalo, where I had a conversation with the owner Santiago. We established that Santiago’s English wasn’t very good, and my Spanish wasn’t very good. I will say Santiago speaks English way better than I have ever spoken Spanish. When he found out I was open to improving my Spanish he launched into the conversation trying to be slow and more clear. I was anxious but I tried to engage, comforted by Santiago’s resemblance to my own Grandpa. Despite the terrible Spanglish I spoke, I didn’t feel judged by him. He would follow up with what the questions meant in English when I wasn’t sure, and I would still try to answer in Spanish. This was the first time I ever tried to talk to another Latino in Spanish and didn’t feel genuinely embarrassed. It was the first time I was free from judgment and I was able to try. If you are wondering, yes, Santiago at El Buen Amigo does run Spanish classes. I hope to enroll.

While I was telling my Mom how much this simple conversation meant to me, my older niece started crying about something at school. I drove to my parents on my way home. My beautiful intelligent niece is in a school program where her courses are in Spanish and it is supplemented in English. Since her primary language is English, some academic words in Spanish are unfamiliar to her. When she asks her teacher to explain work, her teacher whose first language is Spanish often doesn’t want to help. A little boy asked my niece in front of her entire online class why she was in a bilingual class if she isn’t bilingual. The teacher said my niece was in the program by parent request. My niece felt embarrassed and as she spoke to me I felt pangs of familiarity hit my chest. I validated my niece as best I could. I’ve felt embarrassed before too. We hugged. We talked about how what the teacher did wasn’t right, but what I stressed most is, it’s ok to try and it’s ok to be learning. Maybe my inner child got some healing too.

I hope that I can keep my niece from losing her desire to learn Spanish. I’m so proud of that kid, she’s still in middle school but she speaks better Spanish than I do. She speaks it with a loud happy passion. We need to build access to each other and our cultures instead of gatekeeping it. The next generation shouldn’t have to carry burdens of shame we made up. 

 I met English Speaking Puerto Ricans my age, at a ripe 24, and they felt out of place too which was extremely validating. As an adult, I have extreme pride in my Puerto Rican Heritage and have been on a journey learning about our history. All the things that brought me to today. I still want to improve my Spanish to better communicate with some family but that’s a journey that belongs to me. People don’t get to dictate my identity anymore. Calling me whitewashed for speaking English, is ironic when it comes from people speaking another European language. Taíno was the native tongue of the Caribbean and is now considered an extinct Arawakan language.

Every day I wake up with skin like caramel, brown eyes so dark they look like black pools you can fall into, and brown almost black hair that bronzes in the sun. I live the experience of a young brown woman. I eat and cook cultural food with my Mom. No matter how much I camp, how many comic books I read, or the weird animals I have, I am no less Puerto Rican. My ancestors set in motion a story that will take us to many different places but no matter where we go, it started with a small island in the Caribbean.

Encanto Validated My Generational Trauma


Disney’s Encanto validated my generational trauma. That’s a lot to say, so let’s unpack it, shall we? I’ve been putting off watching Disney’s Encanto for a while, because I rarely feel represented in films as a brown person. Last time I was this excited, In the Heights was coming out, however the movie failed to honor our dark skinned Latinos in Washington Heights. I needed prime movie watching conditions and I didn’t allow myself to multitask which is abnormal. I sat down to write this blog post after I finished watching the movie. 

The movie follows The Madrigals, a magical family living in the mountains of Colombia. We learn that the magic came after the Grandfather sacrificed himself to help his family start a new life, leaving behind his wife and 3 children. The children all have magic gifts and their children all have magic, except our main character, Mirabel. 

The 3 children, born as triplets were: Pepa, who controls the weather via her emotions, Bruno, who has visions, and Julieta, who can cure people’s illnesses through food. I love these characters. Julieta reminds me of my Mom, who pours love into food. Food that you can laugh over, smile, or cry over. As a Puerto Rican, nothing can bring you together like food. Hard conversation goes best with a hot drink in the kitchen. 

Bruno is cast out for his gift and the family won’t talk about him, giving an initial impression of family secrets. The ones that are kept from us growing up only to find out when we are older. It’s something we try to put away. Maybe it’s finding out about deep pain, perhaps it’s a family member in jail, could even be finding out the addictions of loved ones. 

 Pepa reminds me of the way energy can physically change when one person is a space. In some people that is a good thing; they can make it electric, freeing, or bright. In others it’s draining, suffocating, or empty. 

Julieta marries Augustín and they raise their family in La Casita with all the Madrigals. Luisa who is very strong, Isabela who is beautiful and able to grow flowers, and finally Maribel who has no gift. Pepa marries Félix, making some beautiful brown babies. Dolores who hears just about everything, Camilo who can look like anyone, and most recently gifted Antonio who can talk to animals. 

Luisa represents the cross we bear as the most recent generation, to be better and stronger for our families who just wanted a better life for us. I think a lot of people of color feel that pressure, it can look like: needing to do well in school, working from a young age to help the family, being successful because the elders didn’t sacrifice just for you to fail.

 Isabela seems perfect initially, but then we find out she’s only going to marry a man to please the family. She represents growth that is necessary to become who you want to be. She shows that many of us will just accept the role we have been given because it’s what you do for family. The family is first. Sometimes family is suffocating.

 Dolores hears everything, she reminds me of the family gossip. While family secrets are not gossip, they are often treated as such because of the desire to keep them covered. Dolores is the communication we have within our families. Without communication, we cannot heal from generational trauma. We shouldn’t be shamed for wanting answers or telling the truth. We do need to talk about Bruno!

Camilo, who can look like anyone, represents the youths in our families that are still impressionable and could end up like any of us. Reflecting ourselves back onto us. Our hurt generations can hurt more generations. I give credit to the forms of generational trauma that our grandparents and parents overcame, but the unaddressed trauma still harms their children. I’m sure there will always be things we do wrong, but we always need to be willing to do the work to change for our loved ones. People who can’t at least try to do the work aren’t committed to their loved ones. 

Little Antonio puts his hand out to Miribel before receiving his gift and says “I need you.” This scene felt like the moment my nieces were born. Antonio represents the children in our families, the babies, the innocents. They need us, all of us, to be better, to show up for them the way no one showed up for us. 

The conflict of the movie begins when Mirabel notices the magic that gives her family powers and keeps the house together is failing. She is determined to identify the cause despite her Grandmother’s demands that she stay out of the way. Mirabel reconnects with Bruno to learn about his vision. We can’t solve the problem until we outgrow the urge to be secretive about our family trauma. Maribel learns that she can still change the outcome of Bruno’s vision by connecting with her sister. When she gets her sister to open up, admitting that she is only marrying to please the family, she finally grows a cactus instead of strictly a flower.  Letting go of people-pleasing within the family can be scary and self-advocacy might feel a bit prickly, but it’s necessary. 

When Mirabel repairs her relationship with her sister Isabela, the magic of the family grows. Their Grandmother sees Mirabel getting Isabela to be herself and doesn’t like her loss of control. The Grandmother yells at Mirabel and blames her for the magic failing.The resulting fallout drains away the magic. This scene cut me pretty deep. I felt the pain of being let down by the older generations. Just wanting them to be proud of you, to just be enough, but getting trauma placed on you instead. In the end, the magic is only restored when Mirabel heals her troubled relationship with her Grandmother when her Grandma opens up about her pain and owns her toxic-ass-behavior. 

I love the movie, it had great songs, a physically strong female character, a diverse rainbow of Latinos, BLACK LATINOS included, but it also helped me focus on my place in my family. Breaking generational trauma is hard. For a really long time I just felt bad, full of anger, but right now I feel okay. I feel that I am finally growing in ways I didn’t know I could and I am doing the work I need to do to make this family better for my nieces. 

My Reasons for Leaving PUSH Buffalo

This a copy of what I sent to PUSH Buffalo in lieu of my exit interview with names omitted:

I worked at People United for Sustainable Housing (PUSH) Buffalo from April 2020 until July 16, 2021 operating as the Climate Justice Organizer. PUSH is a nonprofit that claims to be a social justice organization that believes in a Just Transition and the Jemez Principles. Here are some of the reasons why I left:

Lack of Training & Direction

When I was hired onto the Organizing Team at PUSH Buffalo, the Director of Organizing role was vacant, resulting in little guidance for my position. In the meantime the Deputy Director of PUSH, was the one guiding our work. When I was brought on I received no formal instruction on how to do my job, with a clear understanding I had no organizing experience when they brought me on. The interim Housing Justice Organizer, was kind enough to give me a presentation, Organizing 101, so I could understand more of what I should be doing besides watching Zoom meetings. My first work training, Midwest Academy, took place in January 2021 about 9 months into my position. [Name Removed] was hired as my direct supervisor, officially the Organizing Director, hired in March of 2021 just shy of my one year mark at PUSH. [Name Removed] off the bat got us into a Base Building Bootcamp.

Lack of Communication and Respect for Employees

Around June 2nd, only a few months into my time at PUSH, the Deputy Director who was acting as my direct supervisor, went on paternity leave. During his time out one of the founders, [Name Removed] as well as [Deputy Director of Administration] from finance, met with us weekly. The Organizing Team was to be the guinea pig for Participatory Budgeting at PUSH. I was told to make an excel spreadsheet sheet with everything I wanted to do for the year, along with estimated costs, and come up with a ballpark figure. When I went to finance for help with the ballpark figures I was told by [Name Removed] the staff accountant that “Organizing never knows what’s going on.” Again this was my first experience with a budgeting process and I was given no examples or clear deadlines. The only time I was able to get effective help from [Staff Accountant] was after [Finance Controller] joined us on a phone call.

The entire Organizing team was struggling through the budgeting process. The Organizing Team at the time consisted of myself as Climate Justice Organizer, [Name Removed] as the Street Team Manager, [Name Removed] as Data and Logistics Organizer (a title that was changed to coordinator without her consent), [Name Removed] as Tenant Advocate, [Name Removed] as Interim Housing Justice Organizer Part Time, and last but not least [Name Removed] as the head of the GSNC. [Deputy Director of Movement Building] returned near the end of the budgeting period. I ended up breaking down and leaving a Zoom meeting related to the budgeting process because I felt like I couldn’t meet standards because none were being given. I even emailed [Deputy Director of Movement Building] about how it was affecting me on July 17th 2020. 

My suggestions would all be used for the next group. The Organizing Team felt like this process omitted a lot of what grants pay for what parts of our work, how much they are, which also would help us think on what work we should plan for. To this day I know money from Citizen Action and NY RENEWs pay for my salary, I’m not sure from where else or how much. Since they didn’t even teach us in depth about the budgeting process we were in the dark. One of the Organizing Team members asked to be at the board meeting where the final budget was presented and they were told no. We as a team had a conversation and came to an agreement. We would like to be able to see the final numbers being used for our work so we can better navigate what we do since we operate on a lot of specific grants. I remember the day we sent it because I had taken off, but logged into my email to cosign it with my team as we all agreed.

At some point I received some calls from senior management that I very anxiously declined. The following week we were supposed to report to School 77 for an Organizing Retreat. This retreat was canceled after close of business that day along with the Midwest Academy training we were originally supposed to receive in August of 2020 not January of 2021. Even the weekly one to ones we each had scheduled for that week with [Deputy Director of Movement Building] were canceled.  When I was working again I talked to [Executive Director] on the phone and she asked why we would do something like that. The lack of information we were being given and solidarity was apparently not the right answer.

That week [Executive Director] joined us in our Admin meeting along with [Deputy Director of Administration]. We were working virtually and [Executive Director] demanded all cameras be on. She proceeded to talk at us despite [Executive Director]’s request for answers, [Deputy Director of Administration] stayed silent the entire meeting and then left when [Executive Director of Administration] left. Senior management was being short with us but not taking in why.

Following the email we sent we faced clear retaliation, [Data Logistics Organizer] was forced to resign after being locked out of the programs that are required to do her job. [Tenant Advocate] was fired after 15 years as well as being the first PUSH Employee. If anything, as PUSH is a community lead organization, [Tenant Advocate] needed more support as an elder that is so active in our community not less. [Interim Housing Justice Organizer] would go on to be passed over as the Full Time Housing Justice Organizer despite doing the work in a part time capacity and ultimately asked not to come back to PUSH over a text message sent illuminating distrust for [Name Removed], our Deputy Director.

As for me, the first time I ever interacted with [Executive Director] directly was my one to one with her when I was on boarded, the second when she called me to ask me what the board email was about, the 3rd time when she scolded us, and the 4th time she spent about 40 minutes in depth explaining to me how the budgeting process at PUSH works. Then towards the very end of the meeting, [Executive Director] was explaining to me that it’s an at will state, more specifically that she could fire me for the color of my shirt, then she laughed, and said that’s not really what PUSH does. It was clear to me that I was on the receiving end of a thinly veiled threat. There was also mention of how my title may change because not just anyone can be an organizer, and it takes years to become an organizer. Despite that being what they hired me for. 

Lack of Investment into Current Staff

On April 22nd 2021, I asked [Name Removed] the Deputy Director for a raise after hitting my one year mark. I was told I would need to redirect my request to [New Organizing Director] who was still new at the time and wasn’t even involved in the yearly evaluation. I was also told by [Deputy Director of Movement Building and I quote “We are taking a look across the organization at this point around salaries because we have had some people and especially since we have been doing national searches in order to be competitive and to have people be apart of the organization we have had to like do salary enhancements for people who like [New Organizing Director] who is coming from Portland or like this other person who is coming from Atlanta like these are cost of living expenses and so [Executive Director] is asking for an entire proposal of us thinking and having conversations and department heads having conversations – so like your equity questions so is there like a single mom who needs a daycare subsidy that hasn’t fought for themselves. Are there people we feel need that boost right now?” This to me seems a lot more like we need to pay brand new employees more to get them here from other places than we need to pay the current Buffalo based staff. I have been time and time again a face for PUSH Buffalo on Facebook, the newsletter, etc. but I, a woman of color from Buffalo, wasn’t worth being invested in, that is a slap in the face especially when equity is cited as a reason why I wasn’t given a raise. 

PULL Buffalo

When PULL Buffalo first came online and the Facebook takeovers began we were all made aware it was something that was being monitored. As a PUSH employee I went on the site and looked it over. What rubbed me the wrong way with how this was handled is that PUSH never made an attempt to look into the content on the site and address the valid critiques. We claim to be a community led organization, but we ignored the gripes of the community in its entirety. There was time for [Executive Director] to discuss Cancel Culture but no time to say we as an organization are looking into the points made by this blog to see how we can improve. Then to add insult to injury, staff was asked to make donations to get senior management massages because of the stress of PULL Buffalo. The blog might be anonymous and it may be painful at times but there is no excuse for ignoring the concerns being brought forward. 

[New Organizing Director]

I was very excited to have [Name Removed] brought on as Director of Organizing, I thought I was finally going to become a powerful organizer because I finally had someone to help develop my skills. That excitement was short-lived. [Organizing Director] was a previous PUSH Board member who used to live in Buffalo and had to move back here from Portland for the Director of Organizing Position. [New Organizing Director] is out of touch with the Buffalo community and a performative white ally. I have felt micromanaged by her and had to deal with microaggressions as a brown woman. I brought up numerous times to [New Organizing Director] that I was feeling micromanaged and I know this is a feeling other staff had as well, but my concerns were brushed to the side. In the way of microaggressions one glaring example was the time I was told by [New Organizing Director], a white woman that I interrupt her too much. I was livid but I let her finish. I made it clear that I have felt talked to and not talked with, [New Organizing Director] would go on for chunks of time listing off things she needed to talk about with no room for me to respond. In trying to directly respond to items brought up so we could have a conversation I was told I interrupt too much. This is something that would never be said to a white man, I brought up how more space is made for white people to speak their mind but when I advocate for space for my thoughts I am interrupting and viewed as aggressive because I am a brown woman. This is not something I thought I would need to explain to the Director of Organizing at a social justice organization. My opinions on the cultural and class need for food at PUSH Buffalo events was also belittled and made to be an unimportant part of events.

I have also brought to light numerous concerns about the documenting one to ones with community members, as well as the intent of [New Organizing Director] to sit in on a one to one which goes against the entire concept. In the end all of my concerns were ignored and I was told these things were going to happen anyway. If multiple people on a team have the same concern about an idea maybe you shouldn’t go through with that idea.

It’s Not About the Work It’s About PUSH

Something that has become evident to me while working at PUSH is that PUSH has to be front and center in the work or else they don’t support the work. A few weeks ago when NY Renews went to Albany to demand we pass the CCIA, PUSH wasn’t going to lead any major aspects of the event as the Organizing Team was being put into training so I did not have the capacity to plan. I personally took a car full of folks to Albany and was even a speaker in front of The Business Council of NY. No other PUSH staff came except for the Street Team members I brought. 

When we held an action at Karen McMahon’s office, I spoke at that action as well, [Web Developer and Interaction Design Specialist] and [Lead Street Team Organizer] were able to join the action. The action was a success, but since it was a quick turn around action senior management didn’t feel we had communicated well enough and [Executive Director] even stated that there was a breakdown in communication and no specific person was at fault. However then PUSH told NY Renews that [Name Removed], a staff organizer at NY Renews and previous PUSH Climate Justice Organizer that [Name Removed] was purposefully excluding PUSH staff. An accusation that almost cost Buffalo positive community change because [Name Removed] wasn’t going to be allowed to organize in the Buffalo area because of it. It’s clear to me that this is motivated by a vendetta against [Name Removed] because I have witnessed [Executive Director] say before that we don’t work for [Name Removed], she works for us (PUSH) and that [Executive Director] pays [Name Removed]’s salary because she is on the NY Renews steering committee. 


For the sake of length I have not listed all of my reasons for leaving PUSH Buffalo but rather some highlights. These comments have been made from my perspective and experiences. I wrote these aware that I could be black listed in the Buffalo Organizing circle as PUSH has a very large reach, but I took the time to write them out any because I genuinely believe in the work that I have done, I believe in a Just Transition, and PUSH needs to do better or else PUSH is going to continue to be a part of the extractive non profit industrial complex like so many other major non profits. PUSH often uses Movement Generation’s quote “If we are not prepared to govern, we are not prepared to win.” I fear that PUSH Buffalo’s version of governing looks a lot like the extractive model we are already working from. 

-Kelly Camacho

The Environmental Equality Center

During my time at the University at Buffalo there was one teacher whose classes everyone wanted to get into. Ralph Critelli taught at a Kenmore School by day, and classes at UB by night. I took his History of the Environmental Movement at 7pm once a week during my senior year. The time was important because while most late night classes are ones that you would want to skip, Critelli’s wasn’t. Critelli  knew it was hard for us to be there so late so he would bring in a coffee maker and pastries every week. I even brought my dogs with me to class, but if UB finds themselves reading this blog Critelli never said I could bring them.

Critelli was all the things a teacher should be and even got me to watch The Dead Poet’s Society for the first time. Critelli wasn’t one to assign busy work, the things he had us put our energy into were designed to help change ourselves and the others around us. One of my presentations resulted in him recommending teaching to me as a career path, part of the reason I would go on to be a teacher’s aide for 2 years. Our final project he assigned flipped on a switch I didn’t know I had. The assignment was to present an idea to change the world, it could be a product, service, or organization and we didn’t have to limit our idea by financial constraints.

I started with what I wanted to see changed around me: I was on of the few People of Color in my major, community gardens can change lives but many people don’t have access to them, outdoor activities are inaccessible because of the cost of gear or entry, climate change will impact people of color first and worst, and black people keep getting the police called on them by white people for living their lives. The next step was creating a solution and thus the Environmental Equality Center was born. 

My idea for the Environmental Equality Center is to create a community for people historically left out of the environmental movement (Black, Ingigenous, People of Color, low income, LGBTQ+, women, etc.) to feel safe and comfortable in pursuing outdoor education and experiences. I call it the Environmental Equality Center, because I want everyone to be treated equally in outdoor spaces, but I don’t just want equality, I want the equity to get us there. There is a long history of violence against these marginalized groups when outdoors, as recently as September of 2020 Ahmaud Arbery was murdered by white men for jogging while Black. Not only do I want to help create a relationship for people with the outdoors, but I want to create a safe community for people to seek joy without fear.

It is harder for people without a direct relationship to the environment to care about the environment. The goal is to encourage more relationships with the outdoors so we can build more momentum around proactively fighting the Climate Crisis. Additionally, I want to help normalize praise for the work marginalized communities already do, sometimes without even knowing it to fight the crisis such as using public transport and repurposing items instead of throwing them away.

My long term goal is to have a physical location on the east side of Buffalo, ideally in 14215, where we can educate the public about the environment. Someday the site will have a community garden with a green house so we can be hands-on with plants all year round, educating on where food comes and making urban gardening more accessible. The center will have a community space where we can have presentations, a small scale library, some computers for public use, and a free thrift store. My short term goal while we are still developing is to offer free or low cost programming. Long term goals include securing funds to buy outdoor equipment that can be shared with the public to use for outdoor recreation. Maybe even some day sponsoring trips nationally and even internationally. 

For a few years I let my idea gather dust after a few shallow attempts failed. I graduated in the summer of 2018 and packed up my truck to head to Minnesota for an internship with the Forest Service through the Student Conservation Association. I was invigorated by being in the Bozeman Ranger District. I met some people there I think of everyday. Something less positive I think of often was the day I spent with about all 80 Forest Service employees and interns at a sexual harassment training. When it came time for folks to bring up any feedback they had for the Forest Service one white woman in her 20’s said it would be nice to see more diversity in leadership positions. This was fitting, looking around that room of the 80 people there 2 were brown women and I was one of them, and there were no black or asian people. 

The next person to take the mic said we needed to remember we want QUALIFIED people. The joy brought to me by the woman was quickly soured by this white man in his 40s. Not being a white man doesn’t make any of us less qualified to be here. All of our cultures have traditions that utilize the environments of our home places, that doesn’t die just because old white men were the spotlight of the environmental movement. This made me realize I had to work everyday to keep combating this way of thinking and developing more environmentalists of color and my idea had to become a reality.

This is a project that has become the product of my life experiences so far. As I work my day job I will continue to develop the Environmental Equality Center. So far I have managed to become a legal entity and am currently working on a business plan. If this is something that speaks to you please contact eecbuffalo@gmail.com. You can also follow us on Facebook as we develop.

Disruption Against Destruction

The protestors seen in my photos have been blurred out for safety and out of respect for their identities and work.

My Mom is usually pretty busy so I hope she doesn’t find the time to read this blog post specifically.

Today I participated in some actions to Stop Line 3. Leaving at 5am in the dark we drove about an hour to our destination. It was dark and cold, our masks would become wet with moisture from our mouths but then freeze up on our faces and eyelashes. We went to a location where Enbridge has an easement on a public road, behind door number one: a giant mud pool with giant machines putting a green (ironic?) pipeline in the ground. Behind door number 2: the other side of the road, bare land cleared of the trees there before with a pipeline laid to go into the ground next. 

Folks gathered at the edge of the driveways going into the site just off the road chanting things like “Can’t drink oil, keep it in the soil”, “Indigenous Rights, not greedy whites”, “Tar sands, bloody hands”, “Protect the Sacred”, “Pipelines are leaky, Protect the Mississippi.” Relatively quickly the police showed up telling us if we went on the property we would be arrested for trespassing, a short man in a uniform with most of his face covered read a 2 page packet to us. Honestly it probably only needed half a page not a whole packet. Also who doesn’t print front and back? Are my taxes paying for this? Anyway that’s not why we are here. Between the road and the Enbridge No Trespassing sign was our safe zone. We were also told if we blocked the road we were going to be arrested. Someone went around writing the jail assistance number on our arms in sharpie. Safety was only about a yard and a half wide, but at least it spanned the entire road. Some people left but not before the cops took down all of our plates. Jokes on you, it’s a rental.  I stayed to express my nonviolent protest to the pipeline within legal limits.

While arrest was not my goal today some folks have the capacity to do it which is important as right now the ground thawing which makes construction possible. If we slow the pipeline process, we cost Enbridge money, the goal being to eventually make it fruitless for them to continue. One person spent over 2 hours under a machine in the morning, this morning was around 29 degrees Fahrenheit. He was arrested face first in the snow after leaving of his own accord.

There was also a woman who somehow secured herself to a machine halting the process. Once a “special team” had to come to remove her, who we believe is the sheriff became very short with us. More threats of arrest came, which makes me  wonder if he knows he drinks the same water as us, or does his pension include Fiji water?

We stayed for hours, but in one special moment we gathered in the best circle we could manage considering the Trespassing sign. We all saged and were led in a moment of grounding by an Indigenous woman. We kneeled and put our hands on the earth. It was cold and muddy but it felt good. One of my companions was shaking because of the cold. I put my hand on their back and the shaking ceased. We all pulsed with energy, later they told me putting my hand on them pushed the cold away. Does the Power of the People count as a renewable energy source? Following our grounding, I busted out what every good act of protest needs, water and snacks and for a while things were smooth.

What kind of story would this be if things stayed smooth? The special team showed up, and took out what looked like a blow torch and a generator to assist in the removal of the protestor on the machine. All day we had no problems from the police for walking across the easement driveway along the side of the road under the condition we do not block the easement driveway. Things changed when the sheriff told a specific organizer that he could not keep walking near him or across the easement, and if he kept up ‘his mouth’ he would be arrested. Important PSA: disrespecting the cops is still not a crime. We were then told that we could no longer pass the easement driveway or we would be arrested. The problem is half the group was on the other side of the easement watching the police try to remove the remaining protestor on the machine. Folks came back to our side and were not stopped or addressed by the police. We confirmed with the present legal observers and we came to the conclusion that being on public land isn’t illegal so acknowledging the risks we all crossed together to sing to the protester during the attempted removal.

After a song, the sheriff took out these big black thick zip ties. I wear glasses but I saw those things quick! My goal wasn’t to get arrested, my Dad would freak out, finding jobs would be harder. I just wanted fresh clean water. Communication about what to do broke out. We all started looping arms with our folks. Myself along with 2 elders and 2 young adults linked together approached the sheriff. We were willing to leave if they would let us even if we didn’t agree with their reasoning however we would have to cross the easement again. The troll under the bridge let us pass without answering a riddle. Most of the group followed hustling to our line of cars. We live to organize another day.

We got to our car and threw the cooler in the trunk. The sheriff and 2 officers came up to our car to start harassing the elders about not getting in the truck fast enough. One of our elders struggled to even hear their complaints. We got out of there going under the speed limit and over using all our signals. We weren’t followed. 

Coming back we all felt drained, we left so early that cooler snacks were the only thing we had eaten. We had to care for ourselves and rest for a while. Trying to help stop Line 3 has fulfilled my soul in a way that I have missed during the socially distanced time of COVID-19. I was drained but it felt right. Some people left, I didn’t get arrested but I could have been, and some were arrested. To me it’s all honorable work even getting arrested. All these folks are getting arrested for something they believe in. We all want clean water, so spend summers splashing around, to drink, to skate on, to fish in, the freedom to use the land, all things we could lose when we create pipelines. America is supposed to be for the People, so as the People when something is wrong we need to change the system to suit our needs not the other way around. Legality has never been morality, we make the laws by the morals we prioritize, however those change over time. Times have changed and now we know the harm that pipelines cause. Take action today. Donate to get supplies to Indigenous protestors on the frontlines here. Thank you to those who have already donated. Or help us spread the word and get people here for the spring!