Jorge Rivera – Leader Spotlight

This Month’s Leader Highlight:   Jorge Rivera

How did you get involved with Housing Long Beach as a volunteer?

I got involved with HLB because I was working on a documentary about the City and wanted to learn about what different organizations in the City were doing.  When I spoke to HLB, I was very drawn to the cause.  I started by going to the monthly community meetings and then was invited onto the storytelling project committee.  It was here that I helped to guide the direction of what the photo and video project were going to look like and what the goals were, I developed trainings for residents, and was able to help connect the film crew I had been working with to the documentary portion of the project.  It was a great experience.

What was the highlight of the Storytelling Project for you?

To see with my own eyes the actual living conditions of our community members.  It made the issues so much more real to me, and it made me that much more invested in the work.

At what point did you realize you wanted to be a community organizer?

While I was volunteering for Housing Long Beach, I joined the Advanced Organizing Institute through Centro Shalom and was learning all about being an organizer.  Both experiences made me realize I can affect change on a larger scale through doing organizing work and I felt called to become a full-time organizer.

What have you learned in your first three months as an organizer with HLB?

I have a much clearer understanding of how the city runs things and who actually has the decision-making power to influence our lives.  I have also learned the importance of relationships in the work that we do, not only with our community leaders but also with our decision makers.  I think the most important thing I’ve learned is that the reason why systems don’t work is because we don’t participate in them and we need to participate if we want them to change.

Who Is your role model and why?1233397_638389402848286_1663074535_n-2

One of my role models is Martin Luther King Jr. because he is one of the more immediate people that embodies non-violent approaches to change.  The other is Ghandi for the same reasons, but also because for me he exemplifies the spiritual component of our connection with one another and how important that is in establishing community and social change.

What is your vision for Housing Long Beach in the next 5 years?

That we dramatically raise the quality of the current housing stock through programs such as REAP, and increase participation of residents in advocating for such things.  In the next 5 years I hope to see some sort of MIHO implemented in Long Beach.