Meeting people in the streets and talking about voter registration presents some fun moments!
One day, while volunteering with Promise Arizona, Faith Hope Vote, I was out scouting locations. I am a Fellow with this organization donating my time to register Latino voters so they can choose leaders who represent their community!
We had our leadership conference in a week and we needed places for our people to canvas for unregistered voters. My job was to interview business owners and see who was up for having a few of our people posted near the entrance to talk to customers.
Phoenix is a hurting pup right now when it comes to business. The new law, SB 1070, has put a lot of fear and suspicion into the immigrant community. Businesses of every kind are suffering the results of an economic downturn. What do you think the reception from the Latino business community was from this gavacho who wanted permission for teams to speak with his customers and see if they were eligible to register to vote?
“We are the people that started the vigil at the catpatol” I told them.
If that opening line did not win immediate approval at least it invoked a discussion and some hard thinking. Sure shooting there were plenty of “no’s”. After all, there are not many customers left to go after anymore. Would asking people if they were eligible to vote cost business? Maybe, but there were plenty of business owners who were so upset with the politics of SB 1070, a yes was easy to get!
I had been at it all day and was just whipped by the heat. When you do cold calling you are not in air-conditioned surroundings for long. I figured it was time for a coke and maybe a chance to ask about one last location. I pulled up to the Latino version of a 7-11 I had spotted and made a dash for the air-conditioned climate I was sure I would find on the other side of the door.
It was air-conditioned, all right. But the clerk was sitting behind one of those glass cages you see in the glitz stores. I was a little surprised because these cages are expensive to put in and usually out of the range of small store owners.
I nosed around a bit, taking interest in a Diet Pepsi, which was my typical modus opperendi. I immediately engaged the gal who was seated behind the bullet proof glass in a discussion. At first, she pretended not to be very interested untill I got to the “vigil in the capitol” part. We got to talking and the topic of where Promise Arizona is located, St. Matthews School! She was checking me out to see if my story about being a gavacho civil rights activist for immigrants rights was true.
“St. Matthews! Do you know Ray?” the gal asked surprised!
Sure enough, I know Ray quite well. He is retired from Catholic Charities and is a frequent volunteer with us. She looked like she was not quite sure what I was saying, a common problem with me, since I don’t always know what I am saying myself! One day I will have to tell you my story about the word “embarazada”.
“Well, I have not been in church for a long time!” She told me a little bashfully. “Could you take this to Father Ray?”
I didn’t know Ray was a “Father” and I was a little reluctant to take money from someone I had never met before! But what the hey! Anything for the cause! I signed her up as a voter registration site, put a Promise Arizona sticker on the door, picked up the offerings and headed for the barn.
Little did I know, there are two Rays at St. Matthews. One is my friend who works as a volunteer. He is not ordained. The other is Father Ray from the parrish! The trusting soul in the convenience store had given a perfect stranger money!
Needless to say, I delivered the funds safely to the church and put them into hands I trusted well. I wish I could develop the love and trust for others the lady in the convenience store had for me. This is why I adore the Latino community and this is why I am working hard for immigration reform!
Promise Arizona has a wonderful program to develop leaders in the community. They are looking for more volunteers like me. It is going to take an immense amount of shoe leather to continue to nurture the kind of love and trust I encountered in the store. I am sure we will get the job done! I hope you and some of your friends come along!