Hello, my name is Gerardo Lopez and I am an intern in the outreach department here at FairVote. I am originally from Riverside, California, which sits about 50 miles east of Los Angeles. A city originally founded with the intention of furthering education and culture in the early days of colonization in Southern California, it would inevitably be known for its thriving citrus industry which is still prominent to this day. That industry was propelled thanks to one of the city’s original settlers, Eliza Tibbets — a former DC activist who advocated for universal suffrage and the rights of former slaves.
Since its beginnings, the city of Riverside and the nation’s capital, have shared a long history in the fight for increased voting rights. It wasn’t long before I was captured by the allure of my hometown’s antecedents in the fight toward equal rights.
As a non-traditional student working full time while attending Riverside Community College, I had the opportunity to work for several national non-profit organizations advocating for the rights of some of the country’s most marginalized communities. I began to discover my passion for political organizing as a community organizer with Mi Familia Vota, a national non-partisan civic engagement organization that promotes voter participation in predominately Latinx communities through voter registration drives targeting youth in low-income communities and volunteer-led citizenship workshops. I further unraveled my interests in worker’s rights issues while learning practical mobilizing strategies as an intern with Service Employees International Union Local 721, which represents public sector workers across two of the largest counties in the nation, Riverside and San Bernardino counties.
In the transitioning months from community college to a four-year university, I was fortunate enough to work with the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California as a community engagement and policy advocate, where I led the Unlock the Vote project. Through the UTV efforts, I was tasked with encouraging civic participation among those directly impacted by the criminal justice system.
As a junior at the University of California, Santa Barbara, I study sociology with an emphasis on social movements and political organizing in an effort to continue addressing many of the social injustices currently impacting underrepresented communities across the country. Now as part of the University of California’s DC program’s Spring cohort, I have the opportunity to work alongside FairVote’s outreach team in order to garner community support to target the blatant issues plaguing our current electoral system in order to provide a more representative democracy.