When I was living in Texas, I was undocumented for 15 years. That shaped my identity and how I felt about the world. Every day, I lived in fear of being detained. I dreaded being separated from my parents and brother. After college, I got documented, but I still felt sad about the people, who were still where I had been. I felt the need to do something about it.
One day, I woke up and googled Immigrants’ rights movement. I found organizations in New York and California, that worked on the subject but Boston City is what spoke to me. I moved to Boston and researched different organizations and events. Right when I was about to give up, my then roommate was interning at Matahari Women’s Worker Center. She insisted I check it out.
The organization felt so comfortable and I was very excited. I knew that women of color were not well catered for in regards to immigration, and, therefore, decided to take on the challenge.
A few years into working for them, the director was ready to close the project but I wasn’t ready to let go because I felt it was really needed. I stuck around until I she decided to step down. I took over, started over and made a few changes.
Meanwhile, my parents moved back to Canada_ they self-deported themselves. They couldn’t wait for laws to change.
Monique Nguyen Belizario is the Executive Director of Matahari since 2012. She is a skilled strategist and community organizer known for her abilities in using technology for advocacy and movement building. She has spoken on women’s leadership and empowerment, community base-building, domestic workers’ rights, racial justice and immigrant rights at campuses and events across the country.
I wish I was in a magical place, where all my family could be together. My family were Vietnam war refugees. They ended up all over the world: Canada, Australia, Europe some stayed back in Vietnam. I haven’t met a quarter of them since.
I wish all wars could end so that people don’t have to leave their countries, and that borders didn’t matter.
I wish all families could stay together_ Parents are separated from children for decades and all they are left with is to send money home for food every week.
(Monique and I stopped for a moment to recollect_ We got emotional over all these wishes)
You are the leader that you have been looking for ~ Grace Lee Boggs
Q: If you could go back to the start of your project, what advice would you have to share?
Be your own type of leader and trust your skills because the answers are within you. Of course, listen to some guidance and acquire extra knowledge. But always trust your instincts and develop them.