On a dark and stormy day, a movement was born

Community News & Features Feb 1, 2005 at 4:10 pm

By Jerry Villanueva

IT could have been better. In fact, a lot better. The sun could be shining, the temperature could be warm and there could have been thousands of supporters in attendance. But this was not the case at all.

The official launching of the Community Alliance for Social Justice (CASJ) on January 22, 2005, was nothing short of the ordinary. With the first major snow storm of the year at hand, the ceremony was declared a success by the organizers in spite of the low turnout due to the unkindly weather condition. On numerous occasions, various speakers acknowledged the presence of a surprising number of supporters and expressed their appreciation.

The weather condition is typical of the playing field that the Filipino community had been experiencing in the last dozens of years: Hard, dirty and nasty. In some of this cases, the battle was either unsuccessful; or the fighters just gave up; or simply internal bickering brought the movement down.

Nevertheless, what should have been accomplished at the beginning is being painfully started now.
Social Issues that were identified at the last CASJ workshop are real and legitimate. These are problems that are faced by common citizens, especially newcomers, on a daily basis. There are people who believe that these problems do not exist. Some others feel they are better off just not being bothered. And there are those who pretend to be fighters but are uncomfortable putting their name and face with the fight. Still, many are merely afraid to rock the boat. No matter what, the difference now is that there are more and more people who are not satisfied with the status quo. To sit down quietly and do nothing is just not an option any longer.

If not now, then when?

It’s very sad that the current movement had to be ignited by the murder of a young Filipino teen. Nobody should have to die to awaken our eyes. But history dictates that unjust deaths somehow solidify our thoughts and resolve.

And based on the expression on the faces and body language of the people in attendance at the event, everyone is determined and confident that something can be accomplished at the end of the day. The goals and objectives can be achieved. It may not happen overnight but everyone agrees it must start now.

Although a lot of the issues that were pressing in the community had been identified and various initiatives had been taken, three major objectives are the focus for the coming year: to expand and strengthen CASJ, to carry out the mandate that came out of the October 30, 2004 Conference and to undertake internal education and training for members. CASJ is also committed to creating various ways to improve public awareness on every issue.

The three forefront mandates that CASJ is determined to tackle in 2005 are the issues of Live-In Caregiver Program; Access to Professions and Trades; and the issue of Policing and Community Safety. Activists spoke one after another to update the audience about recent actions, as well as, future plan.
If not us, then who?

Leadership is neither an occupation, nor a popularity contests. Leadership is the ability to make sacrifices and be able to induce the most out of the membership. It’s a special skill to initiate and raise the fight to the next level, the talent to lead, period. To see a large number of community leaders and activists join forces and become one voice is a rare occasion, indeed. One of the biggest challenges now may be to spread the cause in the community and expand the membership. The Generals and the Lieutenants are now in place, could the foot soldiers be not that far away?

In any case, effort by an individual or group of people to do something worthy for the good of the community must be embraced and encouraged. This movement, therefore, deserves all the support it needs from the community, especially at the early stages. It’s time now for people to start asking themselves whether they are willing to stand by while our advancement are being derailed, or be a part of the drive that will hopefully pave the way for a better society for the sake of our children.

Mind you, there will always be pessimists waiting to knock down what others are trying to build. But one true sign of a good leadership is the ability to handle obstacles along the way, including all types of detractors.

And as long as our community can sustain the leadership needed for the cause, the fight will eventually snowball until all objectives are achieved.