Five Mujeres Positively Changing Our County in 2010


In case you haven’t noticed, women are at the forefront of making positive change in our Orange County communities – and have been for quite some time. From the picket line to the DREAM and everything in between their contributions are essential. Only five, you say? The number is psychologically pleasing to the reader, never to the writer! This 2010 retrospective is but a tribute to their dedication and effort. Just know that there are many more mujeres out there than this short list could ever hope to highlight. And please feel free to add on your own mujeristas in the comments section. Now, in no particular order:

1. Ada Briceño

Arrested as part of an action that shut down the entrance to Disneyland years back, labor leader Ada Briceño (pictured seated wearing a red shirt) has continually worked on behalf of Disney Resort Hotel workers. The major corporation doesn’t want to budge in seeking to couple the low wages they pay out to their workers with a new reduction in health benefits. Briceño, as a long time organizer of the hotel workers and Secretary-Treasurer of UNITE HERE Local 11, has done all she can to ensure that the Mouse doesn’t have its cheese and eat it too. This year was yet another of organized protests and innovative appropriations of Disney characters to drive the point home. May next year bring a long hard fought labor victory!

2. Ginger Hahn

Ginger Hahn is Executive Director of the Center Orange County, “a welcoming home for LGBT youth, adults, and families, as well as for our allies.” The space offers numerous services including a safe social space, health education programs and affordable mental health counseling. This year, the major media reported on a string of LGBT suicides occurring across the nation underlying how fatal bigotry and bullying can be. Here in Orange County, The Center has been on those front lines for years. If those news headlines finally caught your attention, supporting the work of Ginger Hahn and the Center is a way to bring much needed change close to home.

3. The Ladies of the OCDT

This year was one in which a DREAM was demanded and ultimately deferred. It certainly wasn’t for a lack of effort on behalf of undocumented students and their advocates wanting a future in the form of a pathway to U.S. citizenship.  The slogan “Undocumented and Unafraid” will enter history alongside “We Shall Overcome” and “Si Se Puede.” Locally, the Orange County DREAM Team has grown in size and scope since its inception in 2004. In this pivotal year, OC DREAMers Noemi and Antonia both participated in acts of civil disobedience covered in the media aimed at bringing the DREAM Act to a vote. OCDTers Yenni Diaz and Vanessa Castillo were a ubiquitous tandem in the struggle for the rights of  undocumented students and the community at large. Together, the OCDT applied grassroots political savvy to make Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez co-sponsor the legislation. Difficult circumstances present themselves in 2011, but we all know, in the words of poet Langston Hughes, “what happens to a dream deferred”

4. Sarah Rafael Garcia

Published author Sarah Rafael Garcia started the “Barrio Writers” program in Santa Ana in 2009. It took youth in the city and helped them express their worlds through the power of the written word. This past summer, her efforts, including numerous workshops, produced the first edition publication of her students’ efforts in writing. Yes, these barrio teenagers are now published authors thanks to Garcia’s program! 2010 brought another year in which the author expanded the vision of Barrio Writers to include the city of Anaheim as well making her a true “Santanaheimer!” In the coming year, Garcia is looking to publish her own second memoir as well as another edition of the Barrio Writers book. Now in Austin, Texas, 2011 will see her take her talents and vision there while hopefully finding someone to keep BW going here at home. Either way, she will be a deeply missed presence up in the OC mix.

5. Natalie Kennedy [In Memoriam]

As OC Weekly Managing Editor Gustavo Arellano recently noted, 2010 was the year in which the County lost the life of Natalie Kennedy. The early civil rights advocate passed away earlier in June. The Weekly’s obit wrote of her involvement in many organizations that have helped shaped County life for the betterment of us all. Along with her husband Ralph Kennedy, Natalie started the Orange County Fair Housing Council and the Fullerton Observer newspaper — a publication I always make a point to pick up whenever I roll through the Fullerton Library. News of her death was written in an article there and concluded with the words, “Thank you Natalie; the world is a better place for your having been here. We are all personally enriched and inspired by your life having touched ours.”

Men and women alike should aspire to live a life eulogized in such a manner.

About Gabriel San Roman