I met Pam while we were both getting our undergraduate degrees in New York City. Though we have so much in common, we didn’t become friends until our last semester there. After three and a half years of wandering the same halls, sitting in the same classes, we decided to have a chat, and hit it off. Strange? Maybe, but I think this is the way it was supposed to be. We needed to be older, wiser and tired of what was happening. Pam now lives in Milwaukee and though she is not happy about the change of pace, I think she’s there at an important time. Pamela continued her education at Milwaukee Area Technical College, where she became the Public Relations Officer for the Latino Student Organization. With the support of her organization, MATC was the first college in the nation to boycott Arizona due to SB1070 (http://su.pr/4FFu3l). I first read about this on her Twitter and was extremely proud that she took part. I believe strongly in the power of social media and I know Pam does too, though she mentioned she gets more satisfaction from the connection when she marches with the masses. It has been interesting for me to follow her on twitter and hear her thoughts on a topic I am also deeply invested in. But I do think the internet is making it too easy for us to feel comfortable with our opinions. We only tend to go to blogs that agree with what we have to say and only follow people who are on the same train as us. When I asked Pam what her thoughts on this were she agreed, “I never realized how biased I was until one day I began to search Twitter to see what conservatives were saying about the issue. I noticed that a lot of these people, though rightfully entitled to their own opinion, stated heavily heated comments that seemed to be coming from a side I never knew before.” So how do we get the attention of those who don’t agree with us online? I think we have to stay informed and look out for the point of view of others. See who’s saying something you may not agree with, try and understand where they are coming from, and most importantly don’t believe in what anyone says unless it absolutely makes rational sense to you.
Pam has gotten a lot of negativity, even threats due to her constant call to action. But she’s got a past that reminds her why she was fighting for in the first place, a supportive family and she’s got heart. When you talk to her you know the girl really feels it. Today, she is also involved with Voces de la Frontera and continues everyday to keep herself informed and giving opinions to all that she comes across.
Here is the full interview with Pam, the conversation was carried out via e-mail:
You have been out there as part of the masses fighting for immigration reform as well as letting your personal voice be heard through social media. Do you see more reward from one or the other?
Online, I find that certain information does travel faster. Often when I join a rally or march, I Twitter that way an archive is created with what has been happening in real time. I find that some people find out more through the internet because social media provides a more dynamic and quick way to getting a message across. When some of your friends see how involved you really are, they tend to come back and check up on what you are doing. A lot of the times, those people begin to depend on you as a source of information. I do think social media is a very successful way reaching out to people cross borders or even building a network of supporters. It becomes satisfying when you begin to see how big your support network online can become.
When I march or I become physically involved with the people, there is a certain energy that connects you to the masses. You cannot get it from sitting in front of your computer. It is always a beautiful and strong message when people come together in solidarity for a common cause. I think that is the most satisfying feeling. Human contact may never be replaced by cyberspace for that same reason.
Social Media is helping us get the information we want more of, but it is making it just as easy to be biased and only be informed by those who share your point of view. When the people we are trying to reach are not paying as much attention as we would want them to, how do you think this effects Immigration reform?
That is an interesting question. Because I never realized how biased I was until one day I began to search Twitter to see what conservatives were saying about the issue. I notice that a lot of these people, though rightfully entitled to their own opinion, stated heavily heated comments that seemed to be coming from a side I never knew before. I also noticed that most people used more hate in their statements rather than trying to be comprehensive and finding a solution to the problem. I think it is very easy to fall into a circle of hate when you begin to fear what you do not understand. I believe that it is true to a certain point that the information I provide goes to the selected few who are interested. However, I have seen people change their minds because they were exposed to both sides of the spectrum. Those who already agree with me, know that they are not alone and therefore feel more empowered to fight for their cause. Those who do not agree with me, usually leave it alone and continue on with their lives. Unfortunately, you cannot convince anyone to be on your side.
What drives you?
My drive comes from many places. Being discriminated against my whole life for being Mexican has played a part in my involvement. I had to struggle to get to college because my guidance counselor in high school told me I had no chance. Being in college and working three jobs reinforced that drive. I grew up proud of my culture and I plan on conserving it as much as possible. I am sure that goes for many people of many races, backgrounds and languages living in America today. We just want to live and live as platonic as possible in a country made of immigrants. When I was young, I never understood why I was always looked down on. I was born in Mexico, but my cousins would always say I was too “gringa” or “gabacha”. When I went to school there, the kids made fun of my accent and I became an outcast. Here in the USA, I was always put on hold, no matter how good my grades where and no matter how good a person I was. This confusion lead me astray for a long time because I felt as though I never belonged anywhere. Now, three undergraduate degrees and a green card later, I see many walking those same steps I took only five years ago as they graduate from high school. A lot of them, are not going to be fortunate enough to go through college like I did. Unfortunately, many will lose their drive to do so. I do it for them so they can see that anything is possible and they can have hope in knowing that they are not alone in their struggle. I also do it for the children. Those kids that I too often see marching along side their undocumented parents. Having to understand that there is a possibility in something happening to them at such a young age affects them in ways we will not know until they grow older. There is a culture of immigrants, Chicano’s and first generation Americans who suffer from serious identity issues and have no way of expressing themselves the “correct way”, much less dealing with it. The faster we move forward with Immigration Reform the quicker we can get to in dealing with these issues that nobody really has considered yet. My drive started out with the journey in trying to find myself, connecting to “my people” and finally being established in a culture that I can relate too. In this way, whatever happens to them, happens to me. However, the masses are now finding that immigration reform affects everyone in this country.
Many immigrants, both documented and not. Are extremely cautious when speaking about the government. Some of those who are undocumented are living in fear of becoming separated from their families, those who have waited on the lines and are now documented either don’t care anymore or still have that fear instilled in them. Being that your family is living and working in America, do you have their support in your fight for immigration reform?
I can say that I am lucky to have a supportive family. However, there are some fears that are constantly being talked about during dinner. When I became active in the fight for the Dream Act and Immigration Reform, there was a certain level of apprehension in the household. Naturally, my parents were afraid that I might be involved in acts of civil disobedience. Or being mistaken and therefore my status coming into question. I think it is hard for any parent to accept that their child is fighting for something that can truly determine the future of a nation. The consequences might be great if we loss and those who are very involved will be taking the blame. However, there comes a time in our lives where our hearts beat stronger when we face certain obstacles. No matter what our parents say, we always end up doing what feels right. I know they are proud of me, in spite their fears and hostile sentiments. Sometimes it does feel like your up against the world. Then that is when I remember all the Christmas Eves and New Year Eves I never got to see my daddy because he was always working for us and my mommy (Professional social worker in Mexico City) juggling jobs she never went to school for just so my brother and I can have a normal life. That is when my heart beats the fastest. Now it is my time to carry the torch.
Follow Pam @PamNanet
Follow Karol @Alpakarol