Grantee Spotlight: Mujeres Unidas y Activas

Jennifer Alejo, an organizer with MUA

Akonadi Foundation’s mission is to eliminate structural racism that leads to inequity in the United States. Using an ecosystem grantmaking lens, Akonadi supports and nurtures grassroots organizing, culture shift, and policy changes that build Oakland’s racial justice movement. We are lifting up the work of our grant partners through a monthly spotlight series; for our March installment, we feature Mujeres Unidas y Activas (MUA).

Jennifer Alejo, an organizer with MUA joined us to talk about the organization’s work:

Mujeres Unidas y Activas (MUA) is a grassroots organization of Latina immigrant women with a dual mission of promoting personal transformation and building community power for social and economic justice.

What draws you to the work on a personal level?

As a daughter of an immigrant, undocumented, indigenous mother whose first language isn’t Spanish I know first-hand the importance of being part of a space that supports you in navigating institutions, resources, and healing. As a single undocumented mother working in the garment industry earning a piece rate of 3-4 cents, my mother was afraid to ask the government for assistance for her U.S born daughter. Instead, she was always on the lookout for free clinics to take me for check-ups. I strongly believe that if my mother had access to a space like MUA her life would have been very different.

This is why I am part of MUA, because our immigrant community shouldn’t be afraid, because of immigration status, to seek out resources. Latina immigrant women have the right to know about how labor laws protect them from exploitation and poverty wages. MUA has a strong commitment to making sure not only that the Latina immigrant community knows their rights but also that we are supporting community members’ growth and development as leaders in their own neighborhoods and beyond.

How does MUA  affirm and celebrate the collective memory, shared histories, social identities, and/or cultures of Oakland’s communities of color?

MUA celebrates Latina immigrant women by making sure that we are holding space in the community through language. Because MUA is really committed to the liberation of all communities of color, our members also reach out to diverse communities, even when they don’t know the language! There is something really powerful in seeing Spanish-speaking Latina immigrant women trying to communicate with the Arab community around knowing their rights if ICE shows up to their workplace or home.  

And while most of our meetings are in Spanish, more recently we’ve had Guatemalan indigenous women who speak Maya Mam coming to some of our Oakland meetings. In February we began a series of focus groups with them to see how we could best meet their needs as full participants in all MUA activities, and also to explore starting a regular Mam-dominant meeting within MUA.

Finally, MUA helps women celebrate their ancestral heritage through collective ritual. At all major assemblies and retreats, we build an altar covered in sage and rosemary, with natural elements such as stones and wood, to remind ourselves of the ancient medicine of many of our indigenous ancestors, and we invite women to open their hearts to this ancient medicine.

What is the vision that guides your work? What will the world – and specifically Oakland – look like if you are successful?

A vision that guides our work is the Zapatistas from Chiapas, a community that rose to power to make sure that they were at the center of making decisions. If we are successful in recruiting Latina immigrant women into MUA we will see more of the immigrant community in the forefront of the resistance because they have the found their inner power and strength to be the leaders our communities need. If we are successful we will see Latina immigrant women running for positions in their children’s schools, organizing their neighborhoods, and even running for local office!

What will you be focused on for the rest of the year?

Our focus for the rest of the year will be growing our base in the East Bay. We will canvass every major street, door-knock on specific blocks until we have talked to as many Latina immigrant women possible and introduced them to MUA.  We will make ourselves available for services and resources that are needed, at the same time making sure that we are developing and promoting the growth and involvement of our members in the community.

Find out more about Mujeres Unidas y Activas here.

Akonadi Foundation strives to eliminate structural racism that lies at the heart of inequity in the United States. We work towards a racially just society by funding organizations and leaders fighting on the ground through grassroots organizing, culture shift, and policy change. Find out more about Akonadi Foundation here.