Southwest Workers Union (SWU) is a non-profit organization which has been around for about 23 years now. SWU focuses on 6 main areas of work them being movement building, youth empowerment, border and migrant rights, environmental justice, leadership development and economic justice. The organization was created in 1988 in Hondo, Texas and has since then moved to San Antonio while still organizing in Hondo. SWU currently has 2,500 members a number that keeps growing with each coming day, a large part of those members are kids, teenagers and young adults ranging anywhere from 5-24 years of age, most of them come from low-income, and working class households. SWU has worked with (SWOP) Southwest Organizing Project out of Albuquerque, New Mexico and Southern ECHO out of Jackson, Mississippi, but it wasn’t till about four years ago that the South by Southwest Experiment (SxSW) was created. I have attended and participated in many of these workshops, which focus on creating awareness, empowering the community, and building trust across groups of people.
The South by Southwest Experiment consists of the three organizations mentioned above, Southwest Workers Union, Southwest Organizing Project, and Southern ECHO, all of which do work around environmental and economic justice in their respective towns. The main goal of SxSW is creating acceptance between people of different cultures and races, while also empowering the community to really take part in the decisions being made by our government officials, decisions that affect the minorities in this country, and to create an alliance between black, brown and red, all of these communities have a history of being oppressed, marginalized, and discriminated against.
Not only are Latin Americans or people without the proper documentation marginalized, but also African Americans, people who are already citizens of the U.S. yet their voices are almost never heard, and it seems as if very little if anything has changed since the 1950’s and 1960’s. Americans take pride in belonging to a nation with many cultures, and kinds of people yet racism is still alive and well. So where is the disconnect? Why is it that we are living in the 21st century and there is still prejudice, and discrimination against a person’s skin color, language and/or culture?
Organizations such as SWU, Southern ECHO, and SWOP struggle every day to make a change not only in their household, communities and cities, but in the country as a whole. It may seem as an overwhelming task to take on but if only everyone took a part in this movement, then our voices would be heard. Minorities in this country have to form bonds, and relationships with each other, we have to realize that we do have similar issues, and we can’t face them alone, there is power in numbers, and the day we realize it, will be the day that we begin to make a change. We not only owe it to ourselves, but to others who came before us, who dedicated their life to achieving equality, acceptance, and acquiring the dream of succeeding in life.
BY: Ashely Terrazas