We’re excited to introduce to the community our new Youth Environmental Justice Alliance Organizer, Alejandra Gallegos-Chacón. Alejandra was born in Quito, Ecuador. “I was born two weeks later than planned,” she says, “because even back then I wasn’t about to let a man tell me what to do.” She and her mother left Ecuador when she was a toddler to follow her father to Chicago, and eventually they moved to Hillsboro, Oregon.
A recent graduate from the University of Oregon, Alejandra majored in Ethnic Studies, and minored in Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies and Environmental Studies. “While I was there I was obsessed with the history of social movements, key leaders, and critical tactics used in the generations before us,” she says. “I feel it is quite important to acknowledge and understand that we come from a long line filled with ancestral knowledge edged in resistance, and I am grateful that my education gave me the tools to contest and resist the University itself.” While in college, Alejandra was deeply invested in student and community organizing around access to reproductive health care, food justice, tuition affordability, and disarming the campus police.
“I love deep-dives on astrology. I am a Libra sun and Aquarius rising,” Alejandra says. “Both signs are tightly affiliated with social justice, and that feels about right for me. I am also passionate about feminist social movements, my cat Doña Flor, and I’m a bit of a policy wonk.”
Alejandra first became connected to OPAL in her fall term of freshman year, in a class about environmental racism where OPAL sent a guest speaker. That summer Alejandra became an Organizer in Training with OPAL and learned about people power and the capacity we have as a community to fight for transportation justice. Her cohort organized for the low income bus fare. “And guess what?” she says proudly. “A few months later, OPAL won that campaign.”
Although she is not new to student organizing, Alejandra believes this generation of youth has so much to teach her. “Working with high school youth is so refreshing. They have so much wisdom, and a fresh look at the work that sometimes I don’t see as an adult who has been in the field for a little longer.” Through organizing with YEJA, Alejandra is interested in addressing the safety aspects of environmental justice. “I fundamentally believe if police have to exist, they should not be armed with deadly weapons,” she says, “as we know our Black siblings are brutally terrorized by law enforcement.
“I also know with white supremacy becoming more acceptable in Portland that we need to address white nationalism and patriarchy. As a Queer Woman of Color, I cannot separate environmental racism from sexism and homophobia as it is in my every day experience within the environment. When I walk any where or any time of the day I can almost certainly count on being sexually harassed on the basis of being a Brown Queer girl. I hope to bring a more direct feminist lens to OPAL to address gender justice and continue queering the movement.”
Alejandra’s vision of the world we’re fighting for inspires OPAL to continue to learn and grow. “I see a world where Black and Brown, Trans and Queer womxn are centered and at the forefront of all decision-making. So much of what we consider ‘movement’ politics have come from our perspectives and analysis.” At the same time, Alejandra struggles to imagine what that future might look like. “I can’t even fathom what a world would look like without cisheterosexist white supremacist capitalist patriarchal domination, but that’s what I’m fighting for. I won’t stop working until all power systems are dismantled.”
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