Ema Flores is a Mexican Catholic organizer from Vera Cruz, California. Ema is an organizer within Gamaliel affiliate Justice Overcoming Boundaries (JOB). She is a member of The Church of the Resurrection in Escondido, California, a city known for having a history of anti-immigrant measures. Ema has done extensive work on health care access, increased voter registration and education. However, her main focus is on comprehensive and fair immigration reform. Ema started organizing with JOB shortly after JOB began in 2003. Ema is proud of her work within the Gamaliel network and is very active in her community.
How did your work with Gamaliel begin?
I started working with Gamaliel between 2003-2004 around immigration reform. Gamaliel came to The Church of the Resurrection to discuss community organizing and its potential in San Diego County. I knew it was a meeting I had to attend and a group I was interested in supporting. We have been doing good work in San Diego and I am excited for the power we are building here. We hold weekly meetings here at church and I organize activities around the church trying to involve as many people as possible. Everyone involved in JOB knows that we all do whatever we have to do to move important issues forward. Throughout my time with JOB, I have been helping people become citizens and actively monitoring their progress toward citizenship. Every time I help someone, I say ‘I can help you now, but we need your help as well to get out and vote.’ I know we all have an important role to play in the change we are working toward.
How has the Gamaliel training experience impacted organizers within JOB?
Training is powerful for organizers all over. It was an especially transformative experience for me personally. I enjoyed and grew from everything I learned at training. I was also able to bring tools home to California that helped me organize within JOB. I’ve been to training multiple times, sometimes in English, sometimes in Spanish. It has taught me to understand my own people better, exposed me to other cultures and also learn how to more efficiently organize my community. I was so quiet before I went to training. Now I know and understand that I have the power to speak up and say whatever I want to say both within the Church and every day. Now, when I am in the room and people say to me ‘Ema, what do you want to do?’, they really listen to what I have to say.
How does Gamaliel’s Fire of Faith campaign align with your Catholic faith?
As Catholics, we are faithful people and we believe everyone is equal. It doesn’t matter if you are black or white, rich or poor. We are all brothers and sisters. I am a faithful woman and I know that we have only one world. I believe we all have to work to make it better. My faith is part of every single thing that I do. I want to help my people; I want to continue doing this work. I want to give it everything I’ve got. I’ll go to every training every time I get the opportunity because I believe I can always learn something different. Gamaliel and JOB have empowered my church and its people. They gave us the fire we needed to get going and keep us accountable to our commitment for change.