Please join us in welcoming Carolina Velez to her new position as a full-time organizer with Wayside! Save the date for a happy hour and open house in Richmond the evening of Friday, December 13th – details coming soon!
I am Carolina! Mestiza, Cale?a, Colombian, immigrant, mother of an amazing 8 year old human being named Isabella, activist, partner and friend. elcw shop I came to the United States 11 years ago from Cali, Colombia, and have been living in Richmond, VA since then. I left behind my family, college, friends, student/community activism and everything that made and shaped who I was. The journey was not (and still isn’t) easy, and it would have been impossible if not for the people and spaces that I have encountered throughout this journey that have always provided me the support, learning, encouragement, and hope to continue building and creating with others, the community and world that many of us dream with on a daily basis.
One of those spaces is Wayside. Around seven years ago I met Pink Evening Dresses several of the people that initiated Wayside, they became friends, family and support for me. We started organizing together through The People United and then started the Virginia Immigrant Peoples Coalition. At that time, being able to create deep personal connections with people around me, learning about each other, sharing and respecting our lives stories, was essential for me to continue surviving in this journey. It has been those deep connections, what has allowed us to organize together around issues that affect me and my community on a daily basis, such us immigrant rights. In 2010 I became a member of the Core Collective and few weeks ago I was hired as the second full time staff member at Wayside.
I bring 15 years of community organizing experience to this position, starting as a student organizer in Colombia. At my University, I created the first political student group called “Los Idiotas” with the goal of creating a space for leftist political analysis of the conflict in Colombia and building power with other students around the country. I also worked around the issues of people displaced due to the political conflict, and organized youth to express through art their reactions/feelings to the war in Colombia. Since coming to the United States, I have been involved organizing around immigrant rights, working to build power and relationships with immigrant communities at the neighborhood level for the last 11 years.
Wayside was the materialization of the space that allowed us to come together, care for each other and fight for justice. Wayside has allowed me to connect with people from different cultures, experiences, life styles and struggles. It has allowed me to have respectful, safe, deep and genuine dialogues that must happen to be able to create a movement where we are not divided, a movement were we support each other and don’t feel alone in the struggle, a movement where communities can come together to create an analysis and solutions to their own situations. It has allowed me to see the intersectionality of the issues that different communities face. And it’s a space much needed in the region for individuals and communities to build resistance and a political analysis at a personal, local and international level.
Seeing Wayside Center grow during these years has been an amazing experience. Amazing people that believe in and are committed to the creation of a long-term movement have made this second paid position possible.?I look forward to continuing to learn, nurture and build resistance with the individuals and organizations that I have been working with, as well as creating new connections with communities across cultures, life styles and struggles to work together to build welcoming, just, autonomous communities for all.