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SWOP 40th's anniversary Podcast Episode 4 transcript

Marisol [00:00:14] Hi SWOPistas, this is Marisol. I hope you all are doing okay during these crazy times. I'm recording this in my closet because at SWOP we are all working from home right now. We also had to cancel or postpone a lot of the events we had been planning, but we haven't stopped fighting for justice. In fact, we are working right now with women of color and young people who are being shut out of the COVID-19 stimulus and what's left of the safety net. We are going to jump start a feminist economy. We've been building with our friends and families to make masks with messages for communities hit hardest by the pandemic, including Native, undocumented, refugee, transgender and incarcerated loved ones. If you'd like to support and join our effort, please visit We also want to hear from you familia. How are you doing.? Are you surviving right now? What do you want to tell other SWOPistas? Hit us up on our social media to share a message with the SWOP, familia and with our community.Today on the podcast, we've got Rodrigo Rodriguez. He's a community organizer at SWOP and he focuses on food justice and also youth justice and work to shut down youth detention centers. Also, we have Travis MacKenzie. He is a community organizer, a core SWOP member and a much loved middle school teacher here in Albuquerque. Take it away, boys.

Rodrigo [00:01:48] Saludos. My name is Rodrigo Rodriguez. I'm a community organizer at the Southwest Organizing Project. I'm a Pisces and I love long walks on the beach and pina coladas. I want to shout out my daughter Juanita Maiz, and I'm joined today.

Travis [00:02:06] What's up? I'm Travis McKenzie, also a community organizer with the Southwest Organizing Project. I'm currently a middle school teacher at Van Buren Middle School, teaching sixth grade social studies and the gardening elective, I'm also part of the National Youth Food Justice Network called Rooted in Community. And yeah, just an honor to be here. We've been doing food justice for over a decade here and just ready to get into it with all you on this awesome podcast.

Rodrigo [00:02:33] Go Falcons!

Travis [00:02:35] Let's go.

Amanda [00:02:38] SWOP 40th anniversary podcast is brought to you in part by the Praxis Project, the Praxis Project works nationally to help improve health, justice and racial equity to creating spaces where we can all learn from each other. Praxis has worked with SWOP to share learnings and provide encouragement to other base building groups from across the U.S. in this struggle for racial equity and health justice. Congratulations SWOP on your 40 years of organizing and just all around raising hell. Coming up, we'll be sharing a story with you all about SWOP and Praxis. But for now, we just want to shout out SWOP on their 40th. Congratulations.

Travis [00:03:20] Right. Well, here we go, Rodrigo. It's great to sit down with you, be here with you today. First question is, we're just wondering, how did you find out about SWOP or. How did SWOP find you?

Rodrigo [00:03:31] Yeah, let's see. So when I was a teenager, I was in a lot of trouble all the time, like many teenagers in Albuquerque are. And my probation officer at the time was in a class at New Mexico Highlands with our youth organizer, Monica Cordova and he was like, hey, you should go check those guys out. I had a little bit of background in community organizing when I lived in Denver at a [00:03:58] Escuela Tlatelolco. [0.7s] And he said you would fit right in Monica's a great organizer and also you need to like stay out of trouble. So here's this organization that can maybe help you do that. And I was also doing some work with the [00:04:10] Recuerda Cesar Chavez Coalition Committee. So just kind of all fell together. SWOP kind of helped me navigate those last few months of my probation and parole helped me stay out of trouble. Probably helped me stay out of jail. What about you?

Travis [00:04:28] You know, it was I first came into SWOP in college. I had just become part of the UNM Service Corps with El Centro de la Raza at UNM. I was like a mentor intern with El Centro. I remember hearing about SWOP and so I went in to check out down at the main office, some Chicano night. It was like a platica with all the OG Chicano activist like Joaquin Lujan, Santiago Maestas, Richard Moore like they were all just up front. I was like standing room only. It's my first time like walking in. And I was like, Oh shit, this place is awesome. You could feel like the old school vibe right away and the movimiento and all that. And so I was I was like that. And then the other first time was kind of when we went to the Border Social Forum, I think in 2008.

Rodrigo [00:05:19] Ya, that was the first time we met. For sure.

Travis [00:05:20] And then I linked with Rodrigo there. They had a whole SWOP delegation and I just remember playing saxophone at some Colonia in Juarez. And this dude was jamming Bob Marley on his guitar. And it was just like, well, these guys are tight. And then I think, you know, we tried to link strategically with SWOP after that. Me and Rodrigo became homies and started planting together and growing corn in his front yard by [00:05:44]South Lot [0.3s] and just started a little mini community garden operations around town. And eventually that led into us founding project Feed the Hood and stuff like that.

Rodrigo [00:05:52] Yup I remember that I remember being in on the trash can that night when you were jammin on the sax. So Mr. McKenzie, I think this is the, the meat and potatoes of why we're all here. What's the craziest SWOP story you're willing to share?

Travis [00:06:07] Holy cow. There's a bunch I don't know if I should just say a couple or like there's definitely ones. I'm not gonna say 'cause they're probably too crazy.

Rodrigo [00:06:16] Let's keep it PG 13 sir.

Travis [00:06:17] We'll try to keep it P.G. 13. But kind of along the lines of the Border Social Forum, you know, that was an amazing experience. One because the SWOP delegation was tight. I was the first time I met, like I think Tomasita was there, you know, just like all the old school SWOP homies and the border social forum was intense because we ended up taking over the Point de Santa Fe. We were like between the United States and Mexico, like over a thousand deep. How many men? I don't remember. As a couple thousand people took over the bridge. We didn't have a permit. It wasn't like asking permission. Like we just took it over and was like, you know, we need to get our stuff together. We need to build unity. We need to stop, you know, oppressive colonialism from building walls in our minds and all over. And it just felt good to like be up there. I think somebody had a huge New Mexico flag. And just to feel Nuevo Mexico representing it was Michael Montoya's Michael. Yeah. And I just have images of us marching in the Zia flag waving. And, you know, I think it was like a pretty crazy moment for me because, you know, we've been in a lot of marches, we've been a lot of protest, but that one felt like real spiritual, you know, and we're still in that fight, you know. Now it's 2020, but, you know, it's cool to take over and try to, you know, cling on to our ancestral unity in this land, Turtle Island, and take down our colonial borders that they're trying to put up on us. But, you know, there's a lot of other crazy SWOP memories, you know. But actually, another one I was thinking on the right down here, we went to the North American Food Sovereignty Alliance in Des Moines, Iowa. Never been to Des Moines. It was awesome. It was epic. Didn't expect what we were gonna do. But they asked us to be the like what the Latino America delegation like South Mesoamerica, Meso America. And there was a Maestra there. She was like an [00:08:06] Orisha. [0.0s] She was from, I think, Honduras or something.

Rodrigo [00:08:09] Mama Miriam.

Travis [00:08:10] Mamma Miriam just blessed us. And like together we like we had my flutes and some instruments. I think in the dark we did like . Cool. What was that? Where we represented we did like a little walk in procession with the music and represented....

Rodrigo [00:08:25] A mystica.

Travis [00:08:25] That was powerful, because I felt her vibe. Just an honor to be able to represent with somebody like her for Mesoamerica. Hold that down. So that was another pretty intense.

Rodrigo [00:08:37] Mama Medium is from. Oh, OFRANEH Garifuna from Honduras. They were black Indigenous folks.

Travis [00:08:43] Fierce sister, fierce fighters for land and water. Yeah. So that was pretty highlight, too. How about you, Rodrigo? What's one of your crazy as memories at SWOP?

Rodrigo [00:08:50] I have so many. There's two that stuck out to me because they're the funniest crazy stories of 2010. We were going to Detroit for the U.S. Social Forum, part two, and we had just started Feed the Hood and me and Travis were volunteering 100 percent of our time. And so SWOP was trying to keep us engaged and keep us active and keep us from talking too much shit about them. So they couldn't really pay us. But they were like, all we can send you to Detroit and we can take you guys here. We can show, you know, these could mean. It gives us a little perks because we can actually pay you, but we can send you on a cool trip to Detroit. So we were like, cool. We're gonna go to Detroit. We're gonna learn about food, justice and all the dope work in Detroit. Got a little excited the night before. And so we get to SWOP at 5:30 a.m. and everyone's getting on the bus and everyone's like, well, where's Travis? Like, I don't know. So we call them and everyone's calling him and we're calling his roommate and we're calling his girlfriend, you know, and answering. And we wait as long as we could. And it just he didn't make it. Travis just did not make the bus.

Travis [00:09:58] He did not no it was a bad one.

Rodrigo [00:10:01] That was a bad one.

Travis [00:10:01] I woke up and you guys were like four or five hours away and we thought about racing to go catch up. That at that point....

Rodrigo [00:10:06] We definitely floated the idea of you guys chasing us down on the highway.

Travis [00:10:10] I'll hang back. Take care of the gardens.

Rodrigo [00:10:12] But just all. Yeah, we've done so much over the years. I think two years ago or three years ago now when Donald Trump came to town organizing the Trump protest and then getting death threats at the office and getting just called after the city council president blamed us for a riot. Dan Dan Lewis, that's probably the craziest top story because of the way that it kind of affected everybody and trickled out and forced SWOP to kind of take a step back from a lot of the activism working. But that was my funniest SWOP story. My craziest SWOP story is.

Male voice [00:10:50] SWOPs 40th anniversary podcast is brought to you by the Praxis Project, Praxis and SWOP have a long history together and one memory that stands out to us is when we brought 80 members of the Praxis Network to Albuquerque for a learning circle that was focused on fundraising and using art and culture as an organizing anchor. Our national partners, many of whom do not have 40 years of history yet came to SWOP and could see a future vision of themselves, spaces and relationships with other groups of color, all working towards racial equity and health justice continues to inspire others Praxis deeply appreciates the partnership, collaboration and camaraderie with SWOP. So congratulations on your 40th anniversary and thank you all for inspiring hope in our communities. We can't wait to see you at 50.

Travis [00:11:41] Well, we're about to go into a segment that's called All Fast.

Rodrigo [00:11:45] All Fast!

Travis [00:11:45] It's all fast. We're going to go ask each other question. And we got about five seconds to answer. So I guess I'll go first. What's your first memory? A SWOP? My first memory is SWOP is walking in to two 211 10th Street Southwest and being blown away by Joaquin Luajan and Santiago Maiestas and Richard Moore talking about the Roosevelt Park riots. And like the real stories behind the Chicano movement, you know, thinking about the 60s and 70s and. Yeah. So that was my first memory that I have in the Southwest organizing project. How about you Rodrigo?

Rodrigo [00:12:20] Let's see my mom worked at Chicano studies. So I knew about SWOP, knew about 500 years of Chicano history. But my first like personal memory of SWOP was 2006. The Sensenbrenner bill, which was an immigration bill, spurred a bunch of protests and actions all around the country. And SWOP, along with some of our local partners, helped to organize some mass mobilizations against that bill.

Travis [00:12:46] Nice.

Rodrigo [00:12:46] OK. Trav. All right. Here we go. Here we go. OK. All fast. Describe SWOPs style. All fast. All fast.

Travis [00:12:55] SWOP style seems to be pretty grassroots. I think we're kind of a Zapatista esq that we are all out here in different forms, different capacities, alternate up all united with our values and shared vision. I think SWOP style too is honoring our history and our legacy. And I think, you know, holding onto the OGs, like Juaquin and Lorenzo and Antonio and all these old mentors and you know, I think that's real important. So SWOP style seems to be pretty intergenerational or like the viejos or the [00:13:29]antipasados [0.0s] I was there like helping us out and build in on the younger generation so we can take the torch and run with it.

Rodrigo [00:13:36] I like to think of SWOP is jazz. We're like jazz musicians, right? We're like we're classically trained. We can play the Bach and the Brahms and the old-school stuff. But we also like to improvise a little bit and try to be bop around a little bit.

Travis [00:13:50] Just tear it up wherever we're at. All right. Well, what about can you tell me a favorite place that SWOP has taken you?

Rodrigo [00:13:57] Yeah. So, you know, thankful and grateful and humbled and all that. Good stuff. But SWOPpers I've been fortunate to SWOP has sent me all around the world, literally. I've been able to go to Palestine to visit folks in the West Bank to learn about food systems. I've been able to go to Mexico to Brazil all over the country, grassroots communities all over the country, tribal communities all over the country. I can't really name a specific place, but like SWOP has definitely invested in my personal and professional development in a way that I'll be forever grateful for because of that experiences that I would have had otherwise. You know, I'm like a single....Product of a single mother from the war zone, like, oh, I have no business going to Palestine or Brazil or whatever, but SWOP has invested in me in that way.

Travis [00:14:49] Yeah, just to kind of echo that has been a blessing, you know, SWOPs taking me to conferences and stuff throughout the years. I guess one place that stuck out was Boston for the Roots and Remedies. And because I think that was one of our biggest New Mexico crews that, you know, I've been a part of it, a conference. Usually there's only like a handful of us and we bring it. Let's just be honest. Like we come in energy, we bring them to play. We bring the spice of life. And so usually we've got to hold it down, just a couple of us. But this time, I mean, we had people from the Pueblo Alliance, from [00:15:21]CESOSS, [0.0s] you know, we had a big delegation from just SWOP, I think [00:15:25]La Plazita [0.0s] that was in mix [00:15:26]the Acequia Association [1.0s] was there. And, you know, I think that stuck out because people could feel and Nuevo Mexico go hardcore. I think everybody was talking about it, you know. Well, New Mexico brings in and we want to go to New Mexico. And, you know, I think it was a powerful vibe that we rock Boston now.

Rodrigo [00:15:41] We rocked Boston the shit out.

Travis [00:15:43] That was pretty tight. Yeah. We'll right on. What about who is someone from SWOP that you'll never forget?

Rodrigo [00:15:53] Just to be real sappy, Joaquin saw us and kind of took on this role as our surrogate dad, our movement. Dad taught us about organizing, taught us about community, taught us about what's important, taught us how to organize in a way that maintains our integrity, uplifts our community, but also helps to take care of ourselves. You know, I think that's one of the things that Joaquin's really imparted to us is like, don't sacrifice yourself and don't sacrifice your kids, your family for the movement. There's ways to do this work that uplifts and upholds our community and our values in a in a real way.

Travis [00:16:30] Yeah. And I would say the same person I think that shows Joaquin's character in his you know how he brings it. But Juaquin Lujan has been like a father like figure to me and Rodrigo. And, you know, we're we're blessed to have a mentor that strong. And he taught us that chile is community organizing and we just gotta go do it, work hard, you know, [00:16:53]puro jale, el quien pone, saca. [1.2s] You know what I mean? When you put in, you take out, you reap what you sow. And he taught us that good work ethic. And I think, you know, he'll be a part of my being in shaping who I am for the rest of my life. You know, so it's been an honor to be a part of that, for sure. Did we forget? Oh, man.

Rodrigo [00:17:10] So what's your favorite chant?

Travis [00:17:13] I mean, you know, I'll be straight up honest. I think we probably should be a little more strategic and coming up with our like unique SWOP chants, you know, 'cause I don't know how many we got on the back burner. But, you know, I think one of my favorite chances, just like whose streets? Our street. Whose streets? Our streets, cause it really reminds us, you know, I think every time I'm on UNM campus with Richard Moore, he's like, this is our university. And, you know, like reminds us that these are our street. Sometimes I feel like we're fighting and we're on the defensive. But thinking, you know, hey, you know, our community, our world, our land, and we stand up, you know, and take charge and rock out with that kind of vibe. But what about you, Rodrigo? What's your favorite chant?

Rodrigo [00:17:56] Yeah. I wish we had more like unique ones. Well, we do have some fun ones, always like the one that goes up up with the workers. Yeah. Yeah. Down with the bosses. Boom, boom. That's the one I like because it contains all the words. Up up with the people Down, down with the police. Boom. Boom.

Travis [00:18:17] Yeah. We've been on the rock at some chants and some marchas for sure. Grab some mega phones.

Rodrigo [00:18:22] SWOP brings the energy.

Travis [00:18:23] The half miler.

Rodrigo [00:18:24] We bring the funk,.

Travis [00:18:25] We bring the half miler.

Rodrigo [00:18:27] And the half miler.

Travis [00:18:29] So what about what do you think. What's your dream for SWOP. When is your dream for SWOP?

Rodrigo [00:18:36] My dream for SWOP right now. If you ask me this a couple years ago, probably different answer. But right now I want I really want for my daughter to grow up in a beloved community. And SWOP is really that for me, you know, I don't like. Is it a kind of product of a single mom a lot of my family lives, other places. So SWOP was very definitely my chosen family. The folks who I spend most of my time with, you know, my daughter is is a big part of my life. And I definitely want her to have those experiences that I've had that other young people coming up in the organization have had in terms of like developing as a person, as a leader, as a revolutionary. So that's my biggest hope. My biggest dream for SWOP is that we continue to invest in young people in a way that is dynamic and revolutionary.

[00:19:29] Heck Yaw, Que Viva. I think mine's very similar. You know, I think the Southwest organizing project is almost like an incubator hatching all these cool ideas and projects and, you know, project feed the hoods one of. But my dream would be to that we build capacity to `where's. One day young people could think about food, justice as a career. You know, and they're like, hey, I want to be a food justice organizer when I grew up or, you know, I want to I want to me I want to manage a community garden, you know, or I want to lead a youth crew to go farm it up with our elders or, you know. And so I think that's one of my dreams. And also, you know, the Southwest organizing project seems like it's a lot of responsibility for us and for the concept to really organize the Southwest. We're so huge. I mean, even us in New Mexico, like it's hard to get up to Taos or it's hard to get down to Anthony or Las Cruces is out west, you know. And so if if we could maybe branch out and kind of harness the strength of the southwest, like I think of our homies, like TYLO, Beans not Bullets like, you know, or what are they called, just all the homies, you know, and [00:20:36]SWU, Poder [1.0s] like we're we're real strong and like to build on that network vibe. And we've been trying to work on like a youth, you know, Food Justice Network in the Southwest. But I think that's where we can flex and kind of breathe body into is like strengthening our network. Crossed the southwest and across the country and keep doing the work that we're doing, but build capacity where we can employ more people and have the ladder like we talk about, so you can start as like a food justice intern and then maybe build into a career in the future, you know? Yeah. So what about what do you think SWOP Superpower is? This is a hard core question for me.

Rodrigo [00:21:13] What superpower? OK. I think SWOP is bullet proof. And I think, you know, the Trump protest is a good example of that. You know, the city leadership pointed the finger at SWOP and, said that we started a riot. Even though Donald Trump had been going around the country to different Latino communities, different people of color communities, you saw in Chicago, you saw it in southern California. Everywhere that dude went, these riots popped off. He was going into low income communities of color and basically having KKK rallies. And so when he came to New Mexico, our first inclination was, shut it down, shut it down. The dude has no business here. And then the city leadership pointed the finger at SWOP in the media and said this SWOP started a riot. And so the way that folks came at us, the way that the administration of the city came with us and SWOP is still standing, we're probably a little stronger than we were three years ago. And it feels like, you know, SWOP. Is this a vehicle. It's this incubator, like you said, where folks can have those real conversations where we don't have to sugar coat what we think we can talk shit to put to the police. We can talk shit about the police, about our elected officials. We can hold even progressive mayors like Tim Keller. We can hold them accountable in a way that other organizations can't because we're bulletproof like Luke Cage.

Travis [00:22:33] Wolverine.

Travis [00:22:34] Yeah. I mean, you know, I think we've got the ability to fly to you know, we're over here soaring and we always joke that we're building the plane while we're flying it. So I guess that implies that we're flying. So the ability to fly high and bring our prayers and visions up top to kind of manifest them and rock them out and go anywhere. Let's go anywhere. Let's go.

Rodrigo [00:22:57] Well, that's going to wrap it up for our episode. SWOPs 40th anniversary podcast is produced by Monica Braine Marisol Archuleta.

Travis [00:23:05] We want to give a real special thanks to Antonio Maiestas for the original music. Mikyle Gray for the logo design. Our editors Amanda Gallegos, Manders Perla Garcia and Kevin Campa the sponsors for this episode, The Praxis, Project, and the Biggest Shoutout goes out to all the SWOPistas holding it down on the front lines for water in the grass roots stand rooted in our community. Hasta la Victoria siempre.

Rodrigo [00:23:36] Celebrate our 40th birthday with us by becoming a monthly sustainer to SWOP your money will not go to some non-profiteer to fly first class to a fancy board meeting, but it will go to send our youth organizers across state lines to share their expertise and to build power. Bottom line, your donations feed the grassroots, not the grass tops. So visit our web site and click on the donate button.

Travis [00:24:01] Lets do it. [00:24:02] Nos vemos, mi gente. Viva la lucha y hasta la victoria siempre.

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