Vulnerability as Strength: Letter from our Interim Executive Director

Vulnerability as Strength: Letter from our Interim Executive Director

At the start of 2018, we celebrated MA becoming an ALL women and queer trans people of color staff under 30.

This dream became a reality for the first time in our 6 years of existence. We know we have to do better at including and supporting our most excluded youth. We began to plan for a new year of prioritizing social justice issues like anti-Blackness, rape culture, disability justice, and healing for youth of color. Being a nonprofit entirely staffed by young women and queer trans people of color in this racist, heterosexist, transphobic, and capitalist world is not easy.

MA supporters amazed us with Willamette Week's 2017 Give!Guide

Momentum Alliance would like to give a huge thank you thank you THANK YOU to the 100+ people who donated to our Willamette Week Give!Guide campaign at any level and to every single person who liked, shared or told someone about our campaign!

Because of your love and tremendous generosity we were able to raise an impressive $8,436!!
All to help build youth power!!

We love you all and can't thank you enough.

-MA Crew

Exciting changes at Momentum Alliance!!

After more than seven years at Momentum Alliance (MA), I am writing to announce that I will be leaving this extraordinary organization to pursue new adventures. As one of MA’s founders, it has been honor to support MA as a participant, Coach, Youth Director and now Executive Director. Thank you to all the young people, staff, Board members and supporters who have given me opportunities to learn, grow, lead, and heal over the years.

It is my pleasure to announce that MA’s staff and Board of Directors has selected our very own Emily Lai as Momentum Alliance's Interim Executive Director, effective November 10, 2017! For those who don’t know Emily, she is a 27 year old Scorpio of Taiwanese descent. Emily first joined MA in 2015 as a program participant, and has served as MA’s Program & Advocacy Director this past year. Her favorite MA memories from 2017 include helping to pass HB 2845 Statewide K-12 Ethnic Studies, MA’s free Social Justice camp, and MA’s racial equity partnership with Metro. In Emily’s words: “I am deeply passionate about youth organizing, policy making, and social justice. I am excited to support MA’s staff, partners, program participants and board members!”  

Emily’s transition offers exciting new opportunities to two staff members: Karla Castañeda (22) and Fatmah Worfeley (19). We are thrilled to announce that Karla and Fatmah will be MA’s new Program and Advocacy Directors. Karla has been with MA since she was 17 years old, and has 5 years of organizing experience. She helped launch our issue-based advocacy cohorts: Reproductive Justice Youth Advocates (RJYA) and Youth Education Advocates (YEA!). Karla has worked on campaigns including Tuition Equity, Measure 88, and Measure 97. Fatmah has been involved with MA since she was 18 years old, starting off as a participant in YEA! And then becoming our Youth Equity Collaborative Manager. Prior to working with MA, Fatmah was the Student Body President of PCC - Sylvania where she worked to decrease tuition, implement a Muslim prayer room, and create a student role on the Board of Directors.

Thank you again to everyone who had supported me and this organization, I’m excited to watch MA continue to grow and make change in our world.


Vanessa Dominguez


 Fatmah Worfeley, Emily Lai and Karla Castañeda

Fatmah Worfeley, Emily Lai and Karla Castañeda

 Vanessa Dominguez and MA's 2017 Board of Directors

Vanessa Dominguez and MA's 2017 Board of Directors

With community support, Momentum Alliance helped make DACA Renewals possible!

On September 7th, Momentum Alliance rolled out a fundraiser with the hopes of raising enough money to cover the reapplication fee for 40 DACA recipients.
With your help, we were able to surpass our sizable goal of $20,600 and raise an astounding $27,308!

During this process, we came face to face with the harsh realities that:
1. Many people thought they qualified for reapplication but did not due to their DACA expiration date.
2. Many people who did qualify to renew their DACA were afraid to do so because the application requires a current address, which they felt increased their risk of detention with the current adminstration.

As a result of the tremendous outpouring of community support, Momentum Alliance was able to support 35 people by providing them with the full $495 needed to reapply for DACA by the October 5th deadline.

As of October 12th, we have a remaining balance of $9,607.01 that will be restricted to use involving or supporting work with undocumented and DACAmented communities.

We are so so grateful to every person who donated to and/or shared this fundraiser with their networks. This level of community action is what keeps Momentum Alliance going!

Hiking with Momentum!

May 20th  we took 9 young people for a hike on the Old Salmon River Trail in Mount Hood National Forest! Thanks so much to Maclaine from Northwest Youth Corps’ Outdoor Ambassador program, who partnered with Momentum Alliance to find this awesome location and provide transportation for us! We will be going on a few more hikes in the metro area coming up soon, so keep an eye out for all our fun summer activities!

Youth Equity Collaborative, because youth ARE capable of making change.

Part of Momentum Alliances’ programing includes convening a Youth Equity Collaborative once a month with four other partner organizations: Multnomah Youth Commission, Oregon Student Association (OSCC), CAPACES/TURNO/LUS and OPAL-YEJA.
The Youth Equity Collaborative is a youth-led social justice driven collaborative, that encourages youth to take action and promotes them being at decision making tables for issues that affect them, because youth are capable of making change.
The Youth Equity Collaborative identified something that they wanted to prioritize for themselves and their communities: Self Care! To highlight this, they hosted their first ever Self Care Day on April 1st at the APANO Jams space!!

 Youth Equity Collaborative at 2016 Oregon Students of Color Confrence

Youth Equity Collaborative at 2016 Oregon Students of Color Confrence

Reproductive Health Equity Act Lobby Day

The Reproductive Health Equity Act (RHEA)is the first bill Momentum Alliance officially endorsed! RHEA is a bill that establishes sexual health care coverage for Oregonians regardless of immigration status, gender identity, insurance type, and income level. On February 28th, MA staff & youth leaders joined the Pro-Choice Coalition in lobbying for this bill in Salem. MA staff led energizers for over 400 lobby day participants, facilitated workshops on intersectionality, and spoke at the rally.

Here are some of the highlights from that amazing lobby day!

2016 MA Youth Education Advocate! Gloria Pinzon’s rally speech about the importance of affordable access to post-partum care for low-income families:

MA staff Llondyn celebrated his 20th birthday at RHEA Lobby Day by closing out the rally with an improvised but powerful speech on healthcare barriers for trans people of color and women of color:
Check out the news coverage of the rally that quotes Llondyn here!

In the spirit of giving appreciations, we would like to appreciate the BRAVE Coalition at Western States Center and Zeenia Junkeer from Pro-Choice NARAL for providing MA youth leaders the opportunity to advocate for this amazing bill and for getting Llondyn a birthday cake.


Coming Out of the Shadows: Undocumented + Unashamed Rally

On Monday, February 27th, members of the undocumented community, with support from Momentum Alliance and other allies, gathered outside of the ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) building in Southwest Portland. Jhoana is a community organizer with Oregon DreamActivists and was a speaker at the Coming out of The Shadows rally. After the rally, we asked her about her experience as a speaker and as a participant.

What do you think made this Coming out of The Shadows rally successful?

J: I think it was successful because our community, especially our speakers, felt empowered and fearless by facing an oppressor (in this case ICE). The rally was also a success because at the end of the day, no one was arrested by the police or ICE. It was great to see so many community members and organizations coming together to show solidarity. Seeing this solidarity made me feel that my community had and has my back.

What lesson(s) did you learned from the event?

J: One lesson that I learned was to be able to recognize that not everyone has the same privilege as I do, since I am a DACA recipient. Having DACA made me realize her privilege and how those who don’t have DACA and are undocumented need more resources and support. As an organizers I  also realized how much fear there is in our community and the reactions of those around me.

What’s next for you?

J: What is next is to continue the fight by sharing my story and to keepencouraging DACA & Undocumented people to speak out, as well.  I will continue to encourage folks to show up in the spaces where decisions about their lives are being debated or talked about. I also believe that allies need to continue to show up at rallies like this and speak up when injustice is happening. I will continue my community organizing with a community led group called Oregon DreamActivist which will focus on 3 areas: Educate, Advocate and Escalate.

(Shout-outs and more photos here.)

Learn more about our Coming Out of the Shadows rally from local + national media coverage:

Undocumented, Unapologetic, Unafraid: Updates on Wednesday’s 2/15 Reporting of Immigration Agency Activities

On February 15th 2017, around 3 pm MA staff posted Facebook live videos of our encounter with an Custom and Border Protection (CBP) agent in North Portland. This video received widespread attention and feedback. In this video we referred to CBP activities as Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) activities. We are issuing a statement to provide context for the video and also address some of the feedback we received. Below is our statement:

Momentum Alliance is a youth-led nonprofit whose mission is to inspire young people to realize their power individually and collectively and to mentor future social justice leaders. Momentum Alliance emerged in 2011 from the  “Papers” Youth Crew -Portland youth who helped produce and organize the documentary film: “Papers: Stories of Undocumented Youth.” From our founding to our current organizing, we have been for and by undocumented youth. We are deeply committed to advancing justice for immigrant communities. We are deeply connected to the vulnerabilities of undocumented communities. We know first hand the fear and the consequences of deportation.

On February 15th 2017 around 10am, MA staff Jaime Guzman witnessed homeland security vehicles parked along N Columbia Blvd in North Portland at Columbia Wool Scouring Mills. A few MA staff went to this location around 1 pm to check if homeland security was still present, when we drove by, the parking lot was full and had at least 3 homeland security vehicles. Around 2:45 pm, Jaime received a call from a community member stating that a friend’s brother had been stopped by ICE at the exact location where MA staff witnessed homeland security vehicles earlier in the morning. Upon receiving this news, Jaime called the Portland Immigrant Rights Coalition (PIRC)’s hotline to report this incident. After that most of the MA staff decided to head to that location to investigate, document and attempt to confirm whether or not there were ICE checkpoints, raids or something else happening.

On our way, Jaime was able to receive confirmation directly from the person. Jaime learned from the person that traffic was stopped on Columbia Blvd. so that vans with people in them could pull out the parking lot. While traffic was stopped, the person was approached by an officer who asked to see his identification and social security number. When the officer turned around he saw the ICE logo on the officer’s back. He attempted to record a video of what was going on but was told not to by the officer.

Upon arriving at Columbia Wool Scouring Mills around 3 pm., we noticed that all marked homeland security vehicles were gone. MA staff approached a few vehicles in the parking lot to interview people who might have witnessed homeland security’s presence. While doing this, we discovered that one of the cars in the parking lot was driven by an uniformed officer of CBP. At this point, we made the decision to go live on Facebook in order to document and publicize the interaction and to address rumors that ICE was in the area. As seen in the Facebook live video, MA staff attempted to question the officer about why they were in the area and whether not they asked people for their social security number cards.

The officer said, “ That would not be possible”.

Jaime asked, ”Are you border patrol?”

The officer responded “Customs and Border Protection.”

Jaime then asked “What do you store here [Columbia Wool Scouring Mills]?”

The officer then drove off. Immediately afterwards, we emailed the One Coalition email list seeking confirmation for rumors about an ICE checkpoint.

We intentionally publicized our investigation and interpretations of this incident through Facebook live in order to immediately inform and mobilize vulnerable communities. If there was in fact any activity by immigration agencies, we wanted to be able to immediately organize support for those impacted.

Three of the six MA staff members that were present are directly impacted by immigration agencies; two staff can be at risk of deportation; and another staff has family members who have been and continue to be at risk of deportation. All three of these staff grew up in Portland and have been active in organizing with undocumented communities. We will continue to support and follow the lead of those within the undocumented community.

Since publicizing this encounter with CBP, we have received widespread attention and feedback. In retrospect, we recognize that some things could have been done differently. For example, we repeatedly referred to CBP vehicles/officers as ICE vehicles/agents. We understand that Customs and Border Protections (CBP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) are different agencies that work closely together. That said, the undocumented community has been targeted and negatively impacted by both agencies. This and past experiences, led us to interpret these events as potential ICE activity, e.g. a checkpoint. Although we stand by our decision to use Facebook live, we recognize that we did not have to interpret and publicize these events as potential ICE activity.

Some people are appreciative of our first-hand grassroots reporting while others have valid reservations. Those who are appreciative believe that given the extreme uncertainty of the current political climate and the intense vulnerability of undocumented communities, any first-hand reports on immigration agency activities are useful. They feel that such reports are transparent, accessible, and timely. Those who have expressed reservations of our reporting felt that we should not have referred to CBP as ICE without further confirmation. We agree. We will not make that mistake in the future. Some also feel that reporting should only be done once designated civil rights and immigrant advocacy organizations have been able to “confirm” CBP &/or ICE’s activity.

We will remain vigilant for any possible ICE activity and encourage our community to do the same. We refuse to let ICE continue terrorizing our community. We will fight back. Therefore, on February 27th we are organizing a “Coming Out of the Shadows” rally led by the undocumented community. We invite any and all people in support of the undocumented community to join us. To learn more: To report potential ICE raids or activities in Portland, Portland Immigrant Rights Coalition (PIRC) has a 24 hour hotline: 1-888-622-1510.