The building was covered in kaleidoscopic murals. The different scenes floating in front of a background of bright colors as though the building is in some induced trance-like state. What a relief to see a rampant display of soul after walking past countless homeless and a man mumbling to himself while shaking a mason jar filled with coins.
I faced architecture brimming with pride, soul and pure spirit. I stood reading the names of different women painted around the door frame; as though I am walking into what they once owned then gifted to the rest of us in hope we carry on their peace missions.
It is the Women’s Building on 18th Street in San Francisco. I stood outside, a bit nervous, and about to meet six women from Mexico and Central America through Mujeres Unidas y Activas.
Mujeres Unidas y Activas (MUA) is a grassroots organization of Latina immigrant women with a dual mission of personal transformation and community power. MUA empowers and educates these women to be leaders in their own lives and in the community. It encourages the women to participate in social-political processes while providing support and crisis intervention.
I climbed up a winding staircase to the 3rd floor; noticing the building is just as colorful on the inside and quite animated. I wandered into a communal area and heard a faint voice talking excitedly in Spanish. As I approached an open door, the voice grew louder and seemingly more excitable. Peeking into the room, I noticed a large group of Latina women listening to a speaker. A young woman walked out of the room past me and I turned abruptly to stop her and ask if she is Ariana- the Community Organizer I have shared emails with over the past two weeks.
She was and invited me into the meeting. The meeting ALL in Spanish, that is. I entered the room watching as the women glanced up at me quizzically. I sat off to the side, smiling awkwardly at everyone as the speaker continued uninterrupted by my presence. The meeting appeared to be a strategic planning initiative at least what I could manage to understand of it was.
I felt projected, as though I was invisible and I was witnessing the event. A woman seated perpendicular from me leaned in smiling, and whispered “Hola”. I repeated it back to her, feeling as though this was my informal initiation. Following the meeting, Ariana and I sat down with the six women to explain “50 Women” and hear their thoughts. I studied their faces as Ariana translated an explanation of the project. I watched them smile. They were warm and welcoming to me and very open to speaking about their experiences. At the end of the meeting, one of the women looked at me and said “I have triumphed in Mexico and in America. I am a survivor and will tell my story”…
I left that day feeling at ease with the process. The orientation was pleasant and very personable. Most of all- it was a pleasure to witness MUA in action during their meeting- even if I understood less than 10% of its content. I was able to cop a feel for the energy they possess and the initiatives on their agenda. I was inches away from discovering just how most of these women have struggled immensely in the past. They have triumphed and now emerge as community activists regarding the very causes which used to victimize them.
Time to find a translator…
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