Windy City Media Group Frontpage News

THE VOICE OF CHICAGO'S GAY, LESBIAN, BI, TRANS AND QUEER COMMUNITY SINCE 1985

home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2022-08-31
DOWNLOAD ISSUE
Donate

Sponsor
Sponsor

  WINDY CITY TIMES

TANIA UNZUETA: Fighting for justice, one cause at a time
by Melissa Wasserman
2021-03-04

This article shared 2729 times since Thu Mar 4, 2021
facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email


LGBTQ, immigration and political activist Tania Unzueta has spent the last three years living in Georgia involved in political and electoral organizing. She returned to Chicago in January with her partner.

Unzueta came to Chicago from Mexico City with her parents and sister when she was 10. Her family members are immigration and labor rights activists—as a child, Unzueta went to rallies and protests for various causes.

"I've always seen organizing as an option," Unzueta said.

A teenage Unzueta, who was undocumented, was faced with the issue of her immigration status for the first time when she was in high school and getting ready to apply for colleges. This, she said, was her first experience of activism for herself and her community.

She went on to earn a bachelor's degree in gender studies and a graduate degree from the Latin American and Latino Studies program from University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC).

Around 2010 she did lot of organizing around undocumented youth and that is when she said she decided to lean into it. Among her many experiences, she was a volunteer with a national group of young people fighting for the DREAM Act, co-founded the Immigrant Youth Justice League, worked on different campaigns including the Not One More campaign, Jesus "Chuy" García's mayoral campaign in 2015, and she worked on Stacey Abrams' gubernatorial campaign in Georgia. Additionally, she is a former journalist and public radio producer.

Unzueta, who identifies as queer, is the political director and co-founder of Mijente—a hub for Latinx and Chicanx people to build campaigns and connect around racial, economic, gender and climate justice.

She is also co-founder and on the board of directors at Organized Communities Against Deportations (OCHAD-).

"Part of our values as an organization and why I'm at Mijente is we believe in local people making decisions for themselves," she said, explaining Mijente always partners with local organizations.

She said when she started Mijente she was coming out of immigrants' rights organizing, particularly around deportation defense, but she had an interest in getting into electoral and political work.

She observed, when she went to work for the Garcia campaign in 2015, that the biggest problem reported in Chicago was that Latinos did not vote, so turnout was always low.

"So we have the problem where Latinos were the majority of our constituency and everyone was afraid the vote wouldn't happen," said Unzueta. "So, I feel like I've been spending the last five years at Mijente really thinking through what's missing in political organizing, what needs to happen differently, what do we know from grassroots organizing that could help political work?"

"I just think there's people who aren't excited about electoral politics and what we're trying to do within the organization is talk about the different strategies that it takes to create change and that includes outside the state, within the state, and non-electoral grassroots work as well as political work," Unzueta said.

Over the last year, Unzueta has run the entire

political program at Mijente, and her roles included supervising teams in Arizona, North Carolina and Georgia for the general election, supporting

local candidates and campaigning against Donald Trump. For the U.S. Senate runoff elections in Georgia that took place this past January, she ran the organization's political campaign in that state for the Democratic candidates. Unzueta explained that her responsibilities covered designing the plan, figuring out who to target and why, choosing the messaging, recruiting people on the ground and making decisions about payment for canvassers, among other things.

In Georgia, particularly for the runoffs, Unzueta said that she and her team succeeded in reaching every Latino voter in the state.

"I feel like it's part of why the political parties and candidates don't choose to invest in Latino communities because it takes a lot of resources to get us there and it's also why it needs to be done different than the way it is," said Unzueta. "It's worth it to invest in these people to be able to allow our voices to be heard."

As for the successes in this political work, Unzueta said that being able to reach every single Latino person in Georgia for the runoffs is something that has never been done in the state before.

"So we did a lot of microtargeting, for example, and the targeted messages for the community—and I think that was a huge success," said Unzueta. "I feel like having an independent political vehicle that's progressive, that's organizing Latinos nationally is important. Being able to participate for the first time in a presidential election is a win for Mijente."

When asked about efforts for future elections, Unzueta explained it is about figuring out how to support people who are interested in mobilizing in their own states.

"None of the work in Arizona and Georgia or North Carolina would've happened without people being really invested in it," she said.

"It doesn't mean the only way of participating has to be voting or has to be doing political work," she said. "I think there's a diversity of work that we could be doing and people just need to be involved in some way."

Unzueta said she is driven by the idea that that things can get better in time.

"I got into organizing because I was seeing the different ways in which my life was being impacted by being undocumented for most of my life and the only way that I was able to figure out how to get into school or how to find resources, how to find people who were telling me I couldn't do stuff, is to organize and so I feel like when I see injustices in my community and in my family," she said. "My experience has been by coming together and making a plan and figuring out how to leverage your power."

Unzueta said an important lesson from her years of organizing is to not just criticize, but to propose solutions.

"I think we spend a lot of time as organizers talking about what's wrong and don't often have answers for what is the thing that we are suggesting," said Unzueta. "So, I feel like that's part of the challenge for us this year too, like even if we have criticisms of the Biden administration, it's not about saying what they're doing wrong, but actually being able to figure out what can work and what are we actually proposing going forward."

Chicago Latinx, LGBTQ activist and Mijente member Emmanuel Garcia has been friends with Unzueta for about 15 years. They met working at a radio station.

"Tania's fearless," said Garcia.

Saying she inspires constructiveness in activism work and finding solutions, he described her as "an incredible organizer," a storyteller and someone who also works behind the scenes, as well as someone who would coach and motivate others to get their point across.

"It wasn't just that Latinx people are left out of electoral politics, it's like but what are we going to do about that and so you can see clearly what the outcome of that was for her in Georgia and all the places that she's been to," he pointed out. "For me that's the reminder; what are the solutions and how are we being more proactive about what we're building."

For future generations, Unzueta insisted that institutions can change. She shared a piece of advice she said she personally learned early in her activism: "Just because something is against the law, just because something is set in the institutions' rules, doesn't mean it can't change. I think the history of immigration and the history of the LGBTQ community are great examples of that. To think just because an institution, a government, an organization has a way of doing things, I actually think our experience and our organizing and all of the ways in which we come together can change those things."

To continue organizing efforts, Unzueta suggested staying safe, being forgiving—and being patient.

"Understand that some things are going to take longer or be less efficient or just less clear and that's okay," she said. "Maybe be creative. … It's a time where we need new strategies and new ways of doing things."

Justice might not take breaks, but Unzueta understands and practices work-life balance.

She believes that life varies and is not always 50/50. Sometimes the organizing requires a 15-hour work day or an all-nighter, but it is necessary to take a vacation.

"We shouldn't punish ourselves when that happens," she explained. "We should take the time on all of that to do what needs to be done and at the same time there's times when actually that's not needed. There's times when we can say no because we can. There's times when we need the vacation. When you have to step back, other people have to step forward. I think that's a thing to keep in mind."

For more information, visit mijente.net .


This article shared 2729 times since Thu Mar 4, 2021
facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

  ARTICLES YOU MIGHT LIKE

Gay News

AIDS Foundation Chicago holding Women's Connection Summit of Hope on Oct. 6 2022-09-27
-- From a press release - AIDS Foundation Chicago (AFC) is hosting a Women Connection Summit of Hope in partnership with the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) to address the needs of cis and transgender women who have been recently released from ...


Gay News

AIDS Foundation Chicago hosts two-day event about unique challenges facing elders living with HIV/AIDS 2022-09-24
- AIDS Foundation Chicago hosted a two-part educational webinar about the complex needs of elders living with HIV/AIDS Sept. 22-23, where experts discussed how to better serve patients through healthcare, policies ...


Gay News

National AIDS Memorial releases 'The Black Community & AIDS' 2022-09-23
- The National AIDS Memorial has released its latest mini-documentary, "The Black Community & AIDS," the seventh film in its oral history project. "The Black Community & AIDS" chronicles the personal stories of nearly two dozen survivors ...


Gay News

DoJ secures agreement resolving HIV-discrimination suit in Indiana 2022-09-19
- The Justice Department filed a proposed consent decree with the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana to resolve its lawsuit against the town of Clarksville, Indiana, for violating Title I of the Americans ...


Gay News

AIDS organization honors actors Farrell, Ralph and Theron 2022-09-19
- On Sept. 15, The Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation (ETAF) honored actors Sheryl Lee Ralph, Charlize Theron and Colin Farrell with the Elizabeth Taylor Commitment to End AIDS Award at The Elizabeth Taylor Ball to End AIDS ...


Gay News

Illinois HIV Care Connect introduces its HIV and Aging Campaign 2022-09-15
- In advance of National HIV/AIDS and Aging Awareness Day on Sept. 18, Illinois HIV Care Connect has introduced its HIV and Aging Campaign. Persons aged 50 and older make up nearly half of persons living with ...


Gay News

Texas judge: Mandated PrEP coverage violates religious freedom 2022-09-08
- On Sept. 7, a federal judge in Texas (U.S. District Judge Reed O'Connor) ruled that the government cannot force a Christian-owned company to cover HIV preventative medication (HIV PrEP) because it violates their religious freedom under ...


Gay News

Getting to Zero, AFC award $200K to help end the HIV epidemic in Illinois 2022-09-07
- Getting to Zero Illinois (GTZ-IL) and AIDS Foundation Chicago (AFC) recently awarded $200,000 to community-based organizations implementing strategies to end the HIV/AIDS epidemic by 2030. According to a press release ...


Gay News

Philadelphia AIDS and housing activist Michael Hinson Jr. dies at 55 2022-09-04
- Michael Hinson Jr.—a longtime AIDS and housing activist, and leader in Philadelphia's Black LGBTQ+ community—died Aug. 27 of an undisclosed cause at age 55, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported. An obituary in the Philadelphia Gay News stated ...


Gay News

Howard Brown president/CEO reflects on COVID's impact 2022-08-31
- According to Howard Brown Health President and CEO David Munar, the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic seemed eerily similar to the AIDS crisis of the '80s. "We saw all the same patterns at the dawning ...


Gay News

NATIONAL Gay judge, brewery threatened, Victory Fund, AIDS Quilt 2022-08-28
- New York's highest court has designated Associate Judge Anthony Cannataro to serve as acting chief judge after Janet DiFiore steps down, Gay City News reported. Cannataro, the former administrative judge of New York City's civil court, ...


Gay News

HHS Secretary Becerra announces more than $20 million in funding to end HIV epidemic 2022-08-23
-- From a press release - Today, at the National Ryan White Conference on HIV Care and Treatment, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra announced more than $20 million in funding to expand HIV prevention, testing, and ...


Gay News

Kinsey Institute exhibiting iconic Tom Fox HIV/AIDS photo series 2022-08-05
- An exhibition of 60 iconic photographs documenting Indiana University alumnus Tom Fox's battle with AIDS in the late 1980s will hang in the Grand Hall of Maxwell Hall on the Indiana University-Bloomington campus. "Wild Horse Running: ...


Gay News

Black AIDS Institute seeks president/CEO 2022-07-27
- The Black AIDS Institute (BAI) has partnered with Coleman Lew Canny Bowen, a retained executive search firm, to conduct a search for a president/CEO. This position reports directly to the board of directors and leads a ...


Gay News

Registration for the 31st Annual AIDS Run & Walk only $24 for 24 hours on July 24 2022-07-23
-- From a press release - (Chicago, IL) AIDS Foundation Chicago (AFC) announces the return of its popular $24 for 24 promotion on July 24 for discounted registration for the 31st annual AIDS Run & Walk Chicago (ARWC) taking place Oct. 2 ...


 



Copyright © 2022 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives. Single copies of back issues in print form are
available for $4 per issue, older than one month for $6 if available,
by check to the mailing address listed below.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.
All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transegender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.

 
 

TRENDINGBREAKINGPHOTOS







Sponsor


 

Sponsor


Donate


About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Advanced Search     
Windy City Queercast      Queercast Archives     
Press  Releases      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast      Blogs     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam     
Privacy Policy     

Windy City Media Group publishes Windy City Times,
The Bi-Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.