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By Esmeralda Santos, Shut Down Adelanto 

“Let me begin by saying that I came to theory because I was hurting – the pain within me was so intense that I could not go on living. I came to theory desperate, wanting to comprehend-to grasp what was happening around and within me. Most importantly, I wanted to make the hurt go away. I saw in theory then a location for healing.” – Bell Hooks

When I first read this quote by Bell Hooks in my third year in college, it resonated with me – it named the exact feeling I experienced in my body when I read the works of Gloria Anzaldua, Audre Lorde, and other scholars. As a woman, this was the first time I felt power in my being. I had experienced gendered violence in relationships, and I did not know how to explain or comprehend it. Reading their literature not only helped me feel seen but also helped me understand the world that was happening around and within me.

At that time, it felt like the world was moving too fast for me to keep up with. I needed a change. This is when I shifted and came closer to the person I am today. I did not know how to organize myself and the community around me. I existed in a world where the beliefs of capitalism and individualism constrained me. It was so small and limited. I did not know a space where I could make mistakes and discover myself simultaneously existed. I did not see a wealth of knowledge existed in the form of people around me. I did not know that physical spaces offered me grace and honesty to create a safe space.

I can feel it – 2024 is going to be everyone’s year. I encourage everyone to find their space in their community this year to see themselves. You will likely find pieces of yourself that you didn’t know. You only know who you are once you allow yourself to try new things. New people and experiences challenge us to see ourselves in a different light. Whether as a healer, leader, volunteer, organizer, or maybe as something none of us have ever heard of, you owe yourself the chance to discover who you are.

Facing yourself amid this beautiful community, we have is powerful. I invite you all to step off of the sidelines and revel in what the people and spaces around you have to offer. We all have a unique talent to provide our community with – one that is necessary and moving. When we share pieces of ourselves, we build on that power and pour love into the spaces we walk into. This is what’s allowed me to become a better ally. It has broadened my perspective on organizing and enabled this version of myself to continue fighting against social injustices that matter to me, such as the fight to shut down Adelanto.

As you think about your spaces, I want to share some of my favorites. I hope you find a sense of unity and peace similar to the one I had when visiting them. 

Café con Libros

Lopez Urban Farm

@thegarciacenterofthearts

@creatvegrounds