Cristina Jiménez, Co-founder of United We Dream, Talks About Inclusivity and the ‘Evolutionaries’ Movement

Photo courtesy of nbcnews.com Belatina, latinx
Photo courtesy of nbcnews.com

It has become increasingly apparent that we are en route to a more inclusive future thanks to a heavy cultural shift unfolding before our eyes. 

Our current society is riddled with visionaries on a mission to help transform the narrative landscape in America around historically underrepresented communities. 

These missions are being backed by various organizations, foundations, and spaces more so than before. The CAA Foundation and The Pop Culture Collaborative, for instance, are seeing through that these improved narratives advance.

An unprecedented movement

The CAA Foundation and The Pop Culture Collaborative recently announced that they are launching their latest collective of movement leaders, cultural organizers, and civic activists called “Evolutionaries.” The members of the inaugural cohort and those that follow will use different mediums, from books and podcasts to performance art, to inspire public engagement. 

The “Evolutionaries” is composed of people who have worked towards creating change, leading organizations, being a voice of reason to influence systemic change for the sake of a more inclusive society. 

In a recent interview, we had the pleasure of speaking with one of the inaugural cohort members, Cristina Jiménez, a life-long social justice leader.

A life experience in leadership

Jiménez is the co-founder and former executive director of United We Dream. She is a force to be reckoned with and has been consistent in her push towards social justice. 

As she told BELatina, her work has focused on empowering young people; in particular young immigrants, to lead in their communities, be agents of change, speak up, organize our communities, and work for social justice.

Interview Highlights 

The interview has been lightly edited for clarity and brevity. 

On her collaboration with The CAA Foundation and The Pop Culture Collaborative

The collaboration is really aimed to amplify our voices, the stories that we want to uplift, and to use culture as a way to accelerate change in the country. We believe that storytelling and cultural content are powerful tools to bring more change in our communities and bring awareness in the conversation about the institutions and policies that need to change.

The Pop Culture Collaborative has a wealth of knowledge and experience on narrative change and leveraging pop culture to bring about change in policy and politics. And the CAA Foundation, they’ve played a huge role in building brands and building voices in Hollywood. They work for lots of celebrities, voices,  and platforms. In that way, they’ll be coming together to support the work of our cohort in lifting our voices and helping us think through how we can use our storytelling, our project, our books, our podcast to reach new audiences.

On how her creative vision fit into the “Evolutionaries”

My role in “The Evolutionaries” is to work on a project intended to be a narrative intervention on how we think about immigrants and immigration. My goal is to call on audiences that we haven’t reached yet. Everyone in the cohort will be using different tools.  I’ll be working on a book. But the collective goal is the same in terms of using the power of culture and storytelling to accelerate change in our communities and lift our voices from our particular communities and areas of work.

On what empassions her about her particular project for the “Evolutionaries”

The fact is that Latinx representation is lacking in every sector and narrative or political conversation. And I think that at the intersection of being a Latina and an immigrant who’s formerly undocumented, there’s a big opportunity to bring the lived experience and the perspective of our community and bring in more visibility and representation of the Latinx experience.

This fuels a big passion for my project, which is to confront and invite Latinx and immigrant audiences to engage in conversations about the anti-Blackness in our own communities and how that holds us back from building solidarity and bridges of mutuality and unity as we try to work to lift up everyone in our communities.

On her motivation to continue to push the envelope and ensure people are having conversations that will lead to progress

My motivation comes from the work I’ve done all these past years and seeing young people and many other people in different movements doing the work every day to build a country where we all belong.  I hope that, collectively, as a people, we can all live in this country in harmony — whatever our background, our race, or gender may be to build a truly inclusive America together.

On the current climate regarding social justice

We are in a very critical moment in this country. The last four years of the Trump administration created an awakening about the white supremacist, anti-Black, racist history and legacy of this country that has shaped our culture, our institutions, our systems, our policies.

And that experience of seeing how that administration drove one of the most aggressive, anti-immigrant, and racist agendas that we’ve seen in recent years, yet seeing that millions of people voted against that is important. All of this has created an opportunity because of the work of movements to engage in a different conversation about the country we want to be in, and we can build together.

On why it’s important to dive into history

Our work is to confront that history of white supremacy and anti-Blackness and how it has shaped the foreign immigration system. It is also to inspire people to take action and share.  

I think that confronting our history allows everyone to see how historical forces have shaped the immigration system and many of our institutions and laws. This, ultimately, is an opportunity to organize.

On the effectiveness of social justice movements

At the moment, it can feel really overwhelming and difficult to see a backlash about this whole conversation. For example, what we see on critical race theory is a backlash to the effectiveness of social movement leaders and organizers that have pushed this country to confront what it really is. It also gives us a big moment of opportunity to reach new people in our communities, and beyond that, we have not engaged yet.

Cristina Jiménez is, unequivocally, a champion for social justice, and we should all follow her lead. Stay on the lookout for her book!