As Rob Siltanen once wrote for an advertising campaign: “Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.” That’s the exact description of the progressive and nonconformist Lucy Flores, former Nevada assemblywoman and the newest Women’s March board member — but she was not always it like this.
The daughter of a hard-working immigrant father and an absent mother, Flores and her 12 siblings lived firsthand how the lack of parental guidance, bad influences, and a broken criminal justice system can put your life on the dark side of the road. After living recklessly, associating with gangs, committing crimes, and dropping out of high school in her teenage years, Flores had to spend months in juvenile detention. “It was a combination of just my own decisions with a lot of luck. You know, when we look at our criminal justice system, when we look at our school-to-prison pipeline system and the inequities that exist in this country, you can determine by zip code whether or not someone is going to end up in prison, end up dead, end up on welfare, end up in poverty,” explained Lucy Flores in an exclusive interview for BELatina. “Statistically speaking, breaking those cycles of poverty and violence isn’t just about your personal choice or a decision that you would just wake up and make one day. It’s because you actually have intervention and you have people and resources that come into your life. And that’s exactly what happened to me.”
After living a gang lifestyle, Flores thought that her gang members were the right people to look up to, and never imagined that inside the same system that imprisoned her she would be able to find a guardian angel walking on earth. “It wasn’t just like I woke up one day and said to myself, ‘Hmm, maybe I should do something different.’ It was a long process and it started with my parole officer [Leslie Camp], who decided that instead of revoking my parole because I had violated it, she would instead give me another chance. And she knew and she would tell me that she understood that I wasn’t a bad person, that I was just in a bad situation,” said Flores. “And little by little, I began to feel like she was recognizing me as a human being instead of just another number, which is what these systems do to these young people. They strip away their humanity and their sense of self-worth. And you do begin to believe that you’re never going to be capable of anything and that you’re destined to that kind of a lifestyle.”
Flores revealed that immediately after Officer Leslie Camp released her, something clicked. “A little light bulb went off and it wasn’t so much about, ‘Oh, I can be better.’ It was about, wow, let me try to figure this out. Let me, you know, how do I repay her for not treating me like everybody else did? And I just decided that I was going to do whatever I could to not affiliate myself with gangs anymore,” she said. “Eventually I did end up getting the mentors that I needed. I did end up getting out of that lifestyle, it was really, really difficult. Every day was a struggle. And again, I just, I was lucky in so many different ways, and I did get the support that I needed.”
She also added that it was a long process and it took years before she finally was convinced and believed in herself enough to think that she could go to college. After passing the GED test and working as a receptionist and office manager, she started attending the College of Southern Nevada to later transfer to and graduated from the University of Southern California and also earned a J.D. degree from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
Her tough experiences taught her how important it is to help the community; while attending UNLV, she pushed the school to start a course that allows students to analyze potential wrongful convictions. “I just continuously tried to not only improve myself but also bring my community along with me and bring underrepresented and underserved, marginalized voices with me,” she said. “I think one of the ways in which my experiences have really informed how I live every day is that it really is about making sure that we are being beyond the superficial and beyond the stereotypes and recognize that there’s a lot of potentials and there’s a lot of talent and there’s a lot of dreams in everyone, and sometimes they just need a chance.”
Knowing she could help more people, Lucy Flores pursued a political career and was elected to the Nevada State Assembly in 2010. Being one of the first Latina members of the Nevada Assembly, and as a hard-core advocate for human rights, Flores introduced bills for domestic violence abuse victims, education, sports event medical presence, supported sex education bills plus early childhood education, and organized a conference on how to improve educational success among the Latinx community.
In 2019, Flores continues advocating for progressive causes and recently became one of the 16 Women’s March board members, an unapologetically powerful movement led by a smart and strong group of females fighting for women’s fundamental human rights. “When I decided to serve on the board of the Women’s March, it definitely wasn’t because I needed something else to do,” assures the Mexican-American politician. “I do feel a very deep commitment to working on behalf of my community and to working with others on behalf of the community. The Women’s March is a movement. I’ve definitely learned that it’s never just one person. It’s always a community, many different people making sacrifices, whether it’s a person who decides to volunteer an hour or two of their time on a campaign or sign a petition or go to a city council meeting.”
Flores believes that every single person taking part of this movement is just as important as anyone serving on the Women’s March board; therefore, for her, it was a no brainer to collaborate with so many souls seeking the same goal — demanding the end of violence against women, reproductive freedom, LGBTQI+ rights, workers’ rights, civil rights, disability rights, immigrant rights, indigenous rights, and climate justice. “For me, it would be a very fulfilling effort to join these really incredible group of women and, and to help lead this movement. At the end of the day, this is really just all of us being powerful together. And that’s the way I look at it when I think of the ways in which the things that I have been through and the things that I have decided to talk about, whether it was my abortion or my uncomfortable encounter with Vice President Joe Biden. It’s always been for the purpose of bringing light to experiences and issues that women experience every day. And especially Latinas who oftentimes are really removed from the resources that they need,” said the California native.
On January 18, 2020, feminists and allies will march again in the 4th Annual Global Women’s March and our newest board member guarantees an energized environment filled with excitement. “There’s nothing like being in a place with so many like-minded women and people and supporters. The momentum of people who are literally taking to the streets to bring change to their communities and to their country,” said Flores to BELatina. “It’s just a really incredible experience to be around so many people who care just as much as you do, and it’s an opportunity to have your voice heard, have your face seen.”
Even though the Women’s March is a project with high demands and requires a lot of time and organization, Lucy Flores also started an enterprise dedicated to changing inaccurate media narratives and giving light to stories about Latinas in the United States. The Luz Collective is a digital media and events production company that centers on Latinas. “We very much have an emphasis on empowerment and on social impact issues and in challenging narratives and stereotypes about what it means to be a US-based Latina,” said the publisher, adding that she still thinks there’s not enough of us in mainstream media. “I think that what BELatina is doing is incredibly necessary just as, The Luz Collective. There are 29 million Latinas out there, so clearly it’s not enough and clearly there are more than enough readers and viewership to go around and for me, it was really important to build a platform that felt like a community, that felt like a home, and where Latinas can feel seen and feel represented and heard.” Flores told BELatina that she is actively seeking women of color and Latina writers that want to share their stories and submit ideas.
Lastly, the American lawyer wanted to take the opportunity to send a positive message to the amazing Latinx community living in the U.S that constantly feels underrepresented and targeted. “This is an exciting time for Latinas in this country. We are so powerful! We’re educated, we’re resilient, we are strong and now the Women’s March gives us an opportunity to all come together and declare our power,” said Flores. “And as far as The Luz Collective is concerned, it’s built for them. It’s built for us. I highly encourage this community to come together, to support all of the platforms and companies that are emerging. It is our responsibility to build a community and truly demonstrate what we’re capable of.”