Meet 2017 Fellow Luz Hernandez

“The right people aren’t always at the table. In this work, I’ve seen queer people of color be pushed out who are super talented, and I feel that if we really want to win, we have to be inclusive.”

Luz Hernandez (Photo credit: Justina Smith)

Incoming Kairos Fellow Luz Hernandez credits her interest in digital campaigning to her time as an organizer with both Planned Parenthood in Texas and NextGen Climate in Nevada, where she was the data director for their successful campaign to help elect Catherine Cortez Masto to the US Senate during this past election cycle. As she put it, “I started being really interested in data and tech and how those tools, especially social media, could be used in a strategic way in order to make a real impact in the community.”

Hernandez was born and raised in Dallas, TX, to immigrant parents from Mexico. After graduating from college, she became a Planned Parenthood Raíz organizer, where she was in charge of outreach to the Latinx community. Her interest in working for the organization was personal. Having never had health insurance, “Planned Parenthood was my doctor, and it was the first regular doctor that I had ever had,” she said. At the time, there were programs in Texas that allowed people without health insurance to access critical health care at a low cost, but while she was in college, the state legislature eliminated those programs. That “pissed me off,” she said. “I went into the work from a patient perspective, and I was super passionate because of that.”

It was also while at Planned Parenthood that she began to understand the importance of having people of color in leadership roles. “I quickly learned that I was going into a White space, and it was going to be really challenging for me to engage Latino communities under the Planned Parenthood brand,” Hernandez said, noting that while Planned Parenthood worked in communities of color, its supporters tended to be largely White.

This is one reason why she found the Kairos Fellowship, with its focus on promoting the leadership of people of color, so appealing. “There aren’t a lot of people who look like me and who are rooted in the Latinx community who are gaining these types of skills, and being put in a leadership position where they’re able to develop these skills,” Hernandez pointed out. “The right people aren’t always at the table. In this work, I’ve seen queer people of color be pushed out who are super talented, and I feel that if we really want to win, we have to be inclusive.”

While working for NextGen Climate last year, Hernandez saw the power of digital tools and using data in driving voter turnout, and she’s excited to deepen those skills as a Kairos Fellow at Food and Water Watch. She’s also looking forward to learning the ins and outs of how to craft successful campaigns. “They’ve won, multiple times in the past,” she said of the organization. “Coming from Texas, this is a breath of fresh air for me.”

She also appreciates their approach towards climate justice work. “I believe that climate change and environmental justice work is really important, but sometimes I feel it can be out of touch. Having clean energy by 2050 — how are we making that relevant to someone who might get shot by a cop?” Hernandez said. “Toxic facilities, like coal fired power plants and fracking wells, emit contaminants into the water, food, and lungs of communities, especially communities of color. What I like about Food and Water Watch is that they’re thinking about the impact that these companies and the lack of environmental regulations are having on these communities today.”

For Hernandez, her work is all about community building. “Donald Trump is playing on people’s prejudiced fears in order to push his agenda, and I think it’s so important now more than ever that we’re not ignoring race,” she said. “I’m a strong believer in that if the most marginalized communities are being uplifted, everyone else will be uplifted with them.”

Read more about Luz Hernandez and the 2017 Kairos Fellows here.

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