Campaña de los pobres

Kenia Alcocer, Copresidenta de la Campaña de los Pobres de California, Organizadora con Unión de Vecinos, Local del Este del Sindicato de Inquilinos de Los Ángeles

In English.

Immigrating to Los Angeles as a small child, soon witnessing the 92’ riots after the acquittal of four white police officers in the beating of Rodney King, and later navigating access to higher education as an undocumented person, have been some of the forces that have shaped Kenia Alcocer’s life and work. As a teenager she became involved in the Unión de Vecinos, Eastside Local of the Los Angeles Tenants Union, starting to organize to prevent the eviction of her aunts from their homes in the projects of Boyle Heights. Kenia then came on as a full-time organizer, supporting the formation of neighborhood committees in Boyle Heights and the City of Maywood, and driving campaigns for clean water and safe housing.  Kenia is currently the Co-Chair of the California Poor People’s Campaign.


I grew up in Watts, we got here from Mexico in late 89, when I was 3 years old. The 92 Watts riots were my first impression of how things really were in this country. 

El racismo sistémico se siente mucho en esa comunidad, especialmente cuando los policías intentan jugar la carta de latinos contra negros contra los miembros de la comunidad. Comprendí desde una edad temprana que el sistema tiene personas que luchan por los recursos. 

I wasn’t the typical undocumented young person that came here and didn’t know I was undocumented. I was really young when I arrived, so that could have been a possibility but my parents decided to tell us that we were undocumented and how we needed to study and pursue things differently. When I was in high school I started getting politically involved. I knew that college wasn’t a possibility for me because of my status so I got involved in a campaign to pass state legislation that would allow undocumented people to pay in-state tuition at the universities.

Cuando me gradué en 2003, el proyecto de ley se había implementado, así que estaba en el primer año de estudiantes indocumentados que tenían que ir a la escuela y pagar la matrícula estatal. 

Comencé a involucrarme en problemas de vivienda cuando mis tías estaban en proceso de desalojo y luchaban por sus hogares en los proyectos en Boyle Heights. Eran miembros fundadores de la Unión de Vecinos. Me enamoré del trabajo y dejé de ir a la escuela por un tiempo para comprometerme realmente con la organización que estaba haciendo en el vecindario. 

Boyle Heights is a very vibrant, low-income community. People walk a lot here even though there is hardly any green space. You see a lot of street vendors, and if you go to Plaza del Mariachi you’ll see men wearing mariachi suits on the corner asking folks to be hired. It is also a community that’s been heavily under attack since the 90’s through a gentrification process.

This has been an immigrant community for a long time. Now it is mostly Latino but back in the day we used to have a lot of Japanese community here. During World War II they were ripped out of their homes and sent to internment camps so that community was completely removed and displaced. Displacement is very typical in Boyle Heights. It’s something that’s been dealt with before and something we continue to fight against. 

Before this pandemic even started we were organizing to get rent control at the state level, we were organizing to get eviction moratoriums, we were organizing to get anti-harassment laws for tenants. We don’t want to go back to ‘normal’ because normal wasn’t good. Going back to ‘normal’ means going back to people still dying, going back to people still being homeless, going back to people not having access to healthcare.

On April 1, we decided to go on rent strike because a lot of our members said they didn’t have the money to pay. We are also telling people who are still working, like myself, to not pay rent. Why? Because you don’t know every time you step your foot outside the door, if you’re gonna get sick or not, you don’t know if you’re gonna bring that disease back to your family. Keep that money to feed yourself, keep that money to buy your medications, keep that money to stay alive. Choose life over death. That is a basic principle of the Food Not Rent campaign. 

Si nuestro trabajo es esencial, es mejor que satisfaga nuestras necesidades esenciales: necesitamos vivienda, atención médica y mejores condiciones de trabajo y mejores salarios.

We’re also encouraging folks to stay at home, stay alive, let’s show this country that we’re not just essential as workers. If our work is essential then you better provide for our essential needs — we need housing, we need healthcare and we need better working conditions and better pay. 

During this pandemic, we are being shown that things we were told were impossible are actually possible. So we are using this moment to open people’s eyes to the possibility of things really changing and for us to push for something that is bigger and better.

Pero para hacer eso necesitamos seguir protestando y mostrando las estructuras racistas de este sistema, porque cuando se trata de personas que se organizan afuera, nuestra gente es la que está siendo criminalizada incluso con máscaras y distanciamiento social, mientras que las personas con armas y no hay equipo de protección que se apodere de los edificios del capitolio, ¡Están obteniendo más respeto de la policía que nosotros!

La gente se está uniendo, la gente se está organizando, la gente se está movilizando. Somos parte de la Campaña de los Pobres porque está dirigida por los pobres que están haciendo el trabajo preliminar en todo el país y están llevando esta campaña a donde debe ir. La gente pobre sabe cuál es su sufrimiento y la gente pobre sabe cuál es la cura para ese sufrimiento, y la Campaña de los Pobres nos ha dado las herramientas para construir realmente el poder que se necesita para asegurarnos de que creemos un tremendo cambio y revolución en este país.