Thursday, August 25, 2011

Remembering Our Allies- Eric Quezada, Presente!

Eric Quezada with his wife, Lorena Melgarejo & daughter, Ixchel - picture taken from his facebook page.

This post is written by Erik Schnabel in honor of Eric Quezada, who is a progressive activist and has supported our issues and our organization for many years.

So often in our movements for equal rights, we forget to recognize and acknowledge our allies. We seem to spend so much time struggling against the people who want to restrict our rights and keep us oppressed, that we forget the people that will stand beside us and fight for our rights. Often it isn’t until it is too late, that we stop to remember the people that stand on the side of justice.

Eric Quezada was one of these allies. He passed away yesterday from a vicious cancer that he had been fighting for 7 years. Eric was a long-time community organizer and general all-around fighter for social justice in San Francisco. The amazing thing is that he had done so much and stayed so incredibly engaged despite the cancer. In the years after being diagnosed with cancer, he managed to get married to another amazing community organizer, have a beautiful daughter, become Executive Director of Dolores Street Community Services (a large multi-issue non-profit organization that works on housing, immigrant rights, HIV issues, and larger community issues), run for San Francisco city supervisor (he came in 2nd in an amazing grassroots campaign), and finally got elected to the Democrat Central Committee for San Francisco.

He also was the strength and soul of an amazing network of activists working to change national immigration policy. This is where I really got to know Eric.

For the last 2 years, I have been involved, as an organizational representative of Out4Immigration, in the San Francisco Bay Coalition for Comprehensive Immigration Reform. (SFB4CIR). We are grassroots coalition of organizers concerned with the depressing direction of our national immigration policy. We are Latino, Asian, African, Middle Eastern, and European; we are young and old; religious and non-religious; and we are LGBT. We have grown from a group of people who were often concerned with our personal interest in the immigration issue- whether it be DREAM Act students, families split apart by long waits to be together, and LGBT people who want to sponsor our partners for immigration. Together we have grown into a committed group of activists who are truly committed to what it means to be an ally- we support not only comprehensive immigration reform, but we also go to rallies to support our friends who are working of DREAM Act, UAFA, and the impact of S.Comm. Part of the reason we have come together in such a beautiful, caring and supportive way was because of Eric.

I remember coming to the first meeting as a member of Out4Immigration, and being nervous about the response that I would receive for bringing up UAFA and the plight of LGBT immigrants and binational couples. But Eric made sure that we were included in everything, and our issues as LGBT people were always there in what we said or did as a coalition. I truly saw this when they invited me to Washington, DC as part of a national immigrant lobby day. They made clear in their invitation that they wanted me to bring up UAFA and LGBT immigrant issues, and they would support me. We were upset when we arrived in DC to find that the organizing efforts had taken a more conservative tone to try and include the Catholic bishops and evangelical community. The message from some of the organizers became- don’t talk about LGBT issues, we support you but don’t rock the boat. Eric was one of the people that continued to help make sure we were heard.

Eric continued to fight for what was right up until the end. He kept coming to our SFB4CIR meetings as long as he was still well enough to show up. Right before he got too sick, we had even talked about him using his elected position on the Democratic Central Committee to push a resolution of support for UAFA. It would have been a symbolic but important moment to put San Francisco on record as supporting LGBT binational couples, and would hopefully also help to push Sen. Dianne Feinstein to become a co-sponsor of UAFA. But then his condition worsened and his next struggle became about trying to live as long as he could to continue to be present to his family and his community.

Eric passed away yesterday morning from cancer. Last night, many of us gathered in a park close to his house, carrying pots of flowers, and holding candles in his honor. We marched to his house together, a procession to honor this amazing activist. The procession grew to include the many people that had been touched by Eric over the years. We walked to his house, and gently laid the pots of flowers out front, creating a garden of flowers for him to look down on and give comfort to his family, while we placed our candles on an altar to pay our respects to him. It was a fitting way to remember Eric- all these diverse people who had been touched by his presence, and struggled beside him on this quest for justice. All of us seemed to realize that he would not be with us much longer. But we held out hope, knowing that he may be gone but that his spirit will live in each one of us who will continue this struggle for justice.

Eric Quezada, Presente! Long Live the Spirit of Eric Quezada!


Sarah Lawton said...

Lovely tribute, Erik. Thank you.

Melquis said...

Erik, this is Melquis who used to work for CARECEN. Beautiful article! We will all miss him! Keep up the good fight Erik.