By Claudia K. Haro-Contreras
Elotes, Churros, Raspados, Fruta Picada, Hot Dogs, Ice Cream, Paletas, and Quesadillas. There is no doubt that “The Mission” in San Francisco has it all. Hearing the “buenos dias” and “good morning” greetings while walking down Mission Street sure makes me feel homesick. I never imagined that working in such a diverse and fast-paced city would warm my heart in this way.
On the other side of this very hilly city is “The Marina,” a very different neighborhood and environment. The streets are not as congested, and you’re far less likely to bump into people on the sidewalk. Instead, you see rows of large homes, trees, and wide streets lined with fancy cars.
Last week I learned that I would be the lead organizer in this area for the San Francisco vs Big Soda campaign. Little did I imagine I would be working in one of the wealthiest areas of the city. This news left me with a bittersweet feeling, knowing I would no longer have the long conversations in Spanish that reminded me of home and my familia. However, I am finding the courage within myself to confront perceived social barriers and have real conversations with people.
Working with such amazing organizers these past few weeks has challenged me to dismantle some of my presumptions of people, in order to communicate the bigger message of diabetes education and prevention. Being passionate about the cause is essentially what has given me the ability to look into someone’s eyes and speak with urgency about the epidemic our communities are confronting to fight diabetes.
I still recall the time I walked up to Jamal, clipboard in hand, with a big smile on my face. I asked him how his day was going. Without hesitation he told me he was not interested. As I stood there not knowing what to do, I continued to talk with him. With some confusion in his face, he smiled, took out his phone, and proceeded to call his mother. He asked her if she wanted a lawn sign for her house!
My experience with Jamal is something that grassroots organizers confront every day. When you take risks and engage with people, you’re often able to turn a “No thanks, I’m not interested…” response into, “What can I do to help?” More importantly, I’ve come to realize that it takes a love for the cause to be able to organize anywhere, with anyone, at any time. Across the City of San Francisco, from the Marina to the Crocker Amazon neighborhood, it’s time to say YES on Proposition V.