As we get closer to Lánzate, we are profiling some badass Puertoriqueñxs – on the island and part of the diaspora – who are doing exciting social justice work. As we get ready to strategize, plan, and be in familia in San Juan, it’s important to lift up Boricua voices. Today we’re profiling Nelini Stamp!
How did you first become involved in social justice work?
When I was finishing high school I was denied FASFA, mostly because they said my mother made “too much” for me to get financial aid. The reality was that the federal government at the time did not examine nor recognize same sex couples’ finances together, and I ended up losing so much hope that I dropped out of High School. After years of working minimum wage jobs, I finally reapplied for college in 2008. I was denied the ability to take out student loans and no one in my family was in the financial situation to help me. That was the year Obama was running for office and his narrative of Hope and Change made me seek out social justice work, and that’s when I started working at the Working Families Party.
What kind of social justice work are you most involved in right now?
I am lucky enough to have lots of intersections in social justice work. For the last four-five years I’ve been mostly involved in building independent electoral power with my work at the Working Families Party. I’ve also been able to work on building power to defeat mass incarceration with amazing organizations such as Rise Up Georgia and Dream Defenders. I am a firm believer in being able to not just preach intersectionality but to practice it – if I listed all of the things/projects I work on I’d bore you all but I do believe in taking that work on even if it’s making calls for an organization or movement or licking envelopes (does anyone actually lick envelopes anymore?).
What is a pressing Latinx social justice issue you don’t see talked about enough?
This is a tough one. I think the Latinx community still has a long way to go to see themselves in the fight against mass incarceration as whole system and not just Deportation centers. There have been Latinx at the forefront of the mass incarceration movement and I know there is still much more to uncover, like the fact that many documented Latinx folks are sitting in jail cells across this country for ridiculous crimes. I wish the Latinx community could really talk about prison abolition at some point – and I think it will come – but we need to keep having these discussions.
Additionally I’m happy that we are having Lánzante in Puerto Rico because I do want to see our community come out and support Boricuas both on the island and those of us in the diaspora.
What do you think is important for us to know about Puerto Rico & the diaspora as we prepare to gather in San Juan?
Boricuas are not a monolith and that’s a big thing to know heading into the Lánzante convening. Yes, our island might be small, but we have a mighty history and a variety of peoples – including our indigenous Taino population. I hope that people who come to the convening and come to the island understand that there has been a deep level of debate for years on the island about colonization, the status of island and the self-determination of Puerto Ricans. Also, over the last eight years especially our island has gone through an economic state that most folks living in the mainland U.S. might have not ever seen. So yes, the island is beautiful and you should enjoy yourselves, but my biggest hope is that people carry the Puerto Rican struggle with them back home and teach others.
Lánzate will take place December 2-4 in San Juan, PR. Register and apply for scholarships here!