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An Interview with Gloria Steinem and Samantha Ramirez-Herrera

Rachel, Theatre Academy | Originally Published: 2/6/2018

With DACA under attack, I was able to interview and speak with Gloria Steinem and Samantha Ramirez-Herrera on topics that affect the Theatre Academy and entire LACC campus.

The first day of a new semester is always one of renewal and fresh beginnings. At Los Angeles City College, it is also filled with courage and initiative. On February 5th Los Angeles City College hosted feminist icon Gloria Steinem and Latinx rights fighter Samantha Ramirez-Herrera to come and speak on DACA. Southern California is home to the largest population of illegal immigrants in the United States. The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals or DACA was created in 2012 under the Obama Administration as a way to allow children who arrived before 2007 in the United States without legal status to be able to remain here to go to school, work, and find opportunities to thrive. Over 800,000 undocumented youth in the United States are living here as DACA recipients with over 222,000 of them living in California alone. But as Samantha Ramirez-Herrera pointed out, they are much more than statistics and names. The LACC Theatre Academy itself has many dreamers, human beings who tell stories with their voices, costumes, and created spaces. They are your favorite waitress at your hometown diner, your mailman, and your classmate. They are your law abiding citizen, DACA recipients can’t have a criminal record to even apply and there is no factual evidence to higher crime rates as some communities with large immigrant populations have lower rates of crime. This country has become a “top power” in the world based on the calculations and achievements of immigrants. Albert Einstein, John Pulitzer, Madeleine Albright, and Jerry Yang creator of Yahoo! are all immigrants who made America a strong force in the world. Turning away these children and young adults, who were brought here by their parents, is taking away the opportunity that they deserve just as much as Albert Einstein did. These dreamers or “Doers” as Samantha Ramirez-Herrera puts it, could bring the next cure for cancer, the next discovery of a planet, or even just the next friendly neighbor who you have coffee with at the end of the day. They don’t get Social Security benefits and they pay taxes. Why shouldn’t they have a chance at making a good life for themselves? The United States is a country built on immigrants, my own mother immigrated here in the 90’s and my father’s family immigrated to New York in the 1890’s, so why is the current administration trying to eliminate this highly beneficial program?

Walking into the Herb Alpert Music Building was like walking into a bee’s nest, everyone buzzing about with two Queen Bees at the center. One opened door led to cameras and microphones jutted out as eager eyes swallowed responses to pressing questions about immigration and rights for Dreamers. With a backdrop of LACC logos and a red carpet, Gloria Steinem stood in the center, a soft spoken and elegant revolutionary wearing muted tones, and next to her was Samantha Ramirez-Herrera, in her vivacious patterned outfit and adorned hair looking like a warrior Frida Kahlo. They both had their own way of taking a stand that meshed together very well. And it’s a good thing it did, with cameras and microphones in their faces, they answered every question without a drop of sweat and with each word, connected their audiences even more to the cause. When asked a question that began with naming her the face of the women’s movement, Ms. Steinem calmly flipped it saying, “I’m not the face of the women’s movement. There are thousands of faces to it.”

She continued to further emphasize this point by putting a very driven thought in everyone’s head “We need to stop looking up for leadership and start looking around us.”

A reporter interviews Gloria Steinem

A group effort seemed to be the theme of the event, a call to unify students, feminists, and everyone to fight for Dreamers. In the age of social media, often times leaders are lauded with a post on Instagram and no follow through. This is why the call to opportunity was importantly guided in the cooperative direction. When asked about headlines that spurred divisiveness within feminists, Ms. Steinem shut it down, a journalist nearly her entire life, she was used to the popular headlines that caught attention, “The problem with media is they think that only negative is news.” Harmony within the movements is something that would make it even stronger, especially in the coming months towards November elections.

Student Blogger Rachel poses with Samantha Ramirez-HerreraOn Ms. Steinem’s right side was Samantha Ramirez-Herrera, who can be identified as the 21st century American Dream story, that has only just begun. She came to the United States when she was very young from Mexico City and grew up in Arizona. It was mainly in high school that she felt the force of being undocumented, when she got to senior year and all of her friends were applying for college. She didn’t have a social security number. She had to help her family pay bills. So she did what she had to do and through her struggles, wrote in journals and began to create and edit videos for YouTube. Fast forward to 2018, she has a son, she is able to provide for him as the CEO of Offtharecord.com, a creative content agency and digital magazine run by people of color, along with being the founder of Kick A** Girl Powow, a platform that highlights girls’ and women’s stories, and she is a DACA recipient. She goes around the United States to speak and fight for the rights of her DACA brothers and sisters, telling her story. With a list of content credits, Ms. Ramirez-Herrera is always on the move. After watching the flurry of flashes and hearing a stream of questions, I quietly approached Ms. Ramirez-Herrera for a few questions.


Luis Valdez started El Teatro Campesino in the 60’s to help inform and educate workers and the public about farmworkers and Chicanos during Cesar Chavez’s mission to organize the farmworkers into a union. How do you think we could take a page from his book in modern times in relation to DACA?

Well I think that content is important, right now we are living in a world of content. So telling stories with music and art. You know I've seen a lot of it, when I came to LA, I live in Atlanta, I saw so many murals and things like that so it's Art. Our art, our music, uur videos, our content should reflect the times that we're living in right now. And I think that we should just continue doing that, because we’re doing it in a millennial way but we're doing something similar to what they were doing back then.

When speaking to HATCH you spoke about journaling and and how that helped you get through difficult times. Do you think you'd ever turn that into a book or something like a play?

I brought the notebook with me because I carry it with me to kind of inspire myself. And I often think about that. I'm doing a talk at Montana State University next week and I'm actually using some of those pages to use them as part of my talk. So sometimes I think that maybe I should.

There are a few DACA recipients in the LACC Theater Academy, in the tech, costume, and acting department. Do you have any advice for them? How to fight? How to keep strong?

I think right now that keeping strong is self-care and loving yourself. And continuing to do things that set your soul on fire. Like continue creating art, continue waking up every morning and doing your best because no matter what, nobody can take that from you. They can take your DACA away, they can take your work permit away but they can’t take away your passion, your love for what you're doing and that is ultimately what is going to carry you to your purpose. What I was able to achieve was without DACA. But of course we want to do it the right way, we're going to continue to bloom no matter what.

What advice do you have for dreamers who are trying to find their purpose and struggling to find it? Because I know, my mother comes from Brazil so a lot of times artistic careers aren't seen as careers because they aren’t as secure. So children of immigrants often resort to being a doctor or something else instead. What advice would you give to those who are struggling to find that voice?

I think that you have to just trust your journey. Trust your intuition. And when you know what is meant for you, go for it. I always say “F*** fear” just forget what people want from you, Because I've been there where I was doing everything that everyone wanted me to do. And it's a scary road, but if you go out there and face your fear you can become who you want to be and you should do that.


With that, Samantha Ramirez-Herrera floated away, preparing to speak to LACC. I sheepishly asked Ms. Steinem if I could ask her a few questions after taking a picture with her, but sadly ran out of time, I was assured however that I would be able to ask her a question during the Q+A portion of the conversation. We all made our way to a filled auditorium hall where I sat next to a fellow Theatre Academy student, patiently waiting to hear more. It began with opening words of each speaker’s story, both battles in their own ways. Gloria Steinem addressed the audience with the perspective of wisdom gained from the past. Emphasizing that this notion of borders that divide us is only recent in human history, and that the world used to be covered in “migratory paths like lace.” I was able to connect this stance with my question to Ms. Steinem, asking her how her previous experience of being at the forefront of the Women’s Revolution in the 1970’s compares to the movements for immigration and DACA today. Ms. Steinem connected both movements together in a clear and concise manner, helping the younger audiences understand what caused this shift in mentality both in the 70’s and today.

 

“I think it’s different for everybody, I don’t want to answer for everybody, but I think the beginning was distinguished by saying “Wait a minute, I’m not crazy, the system is crazy.” I mean, which is a huge gift, because up to that  time, women, diverse women, all kinds of ways, had been made to feel literally crazy if we weren’t content with a set in class status, a derived identity. If it was even wrong that we were outside the home working at all. So it was in the beginning, that kind of excitement and discovery. It was clearly a particular group, a big group, we’re still kind of making this discovery, so there were all kinds of suppositions. That if you were a feminist it meant you were a lesbian because you could not possibly have an equal relationship. I mean there were just all kinds of myths which are gone and what the big difference now is that we’re the majority. We’re no longer this peculiar subset of people over here. For black women, for instance, who had been a huge part of the civil rights movement and weren’t acknowledged within the civil rights movement. And still are not acknowledged properly inside the civil rights movement or the women’s movement. Even though, black women especially, have always been way disproportionately feminist than white women. I mean look at the last election. But I think the main difference is that we are not this small group over here, we’re no longer meeting in each other’s living rooms. We’re here in an auditorium. It’s now a majority movement and a majority change in consciousness. That’s huge.”

 

 

 

Student Blogger Rachel poses with Gloria SteinemThe rest of the time was filled with empowered speeches by Samantha Ramirez-Herrera’s DACA mentees, all young adults who were essential in helping those registered for DACA to continue to live in the United States. With the force of a rocket, Melody Klingenfuss, a recent USC graduate and organizer of CHIRLA an organization that brings awareness and help to undocumented and immigrant youth, poured her heart out on the podium, each word drenched with the strength she had gained from her continuous battle for her cause. Melody and her fellow dreamers emphasized that DACA was created by students and that it could continue to exist if students kept fighting for it as well as adults. They brought to light how even the smallest of things like being able to get a Driver’s License or buying a house were things that Dreamers were fighting for, they wanted a chance like any other American immigrant throughout history. Our nation’s history of giving opportunities is at risk and our whole country is under attack which is why civic engagement is the next big step we as students must take. One behalf of the students at the Theatre Academy, I would like to thank Ms. Steinem and Ms. Ramirez-Herrera for taking the time to answer my questions, everyone who helped with the event, and Shaena Engle for allowing me to have this incredible opportunity. Linked below is CHIRLA’s website as well as an article on steps we can all take to help.

 

CHIRLA: http://www.chirla.org/content/california-dream-network-cdn

Five ways to help dreamers: https://www.americamagazine.org/politics-society/2017/09/14/five-ways-you-can-help-dreamers-affected-end-daca

About The Author

Rachel is a Theatre Major and a member of the LACC Theatre Academy from the Bay Area. She moved to Los Angeles to pursue theatre and is currently in her second year.

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