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The Dream Defenders

By Lisbeth Chavarria, Staff Writer

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Dream Defenders at their most recent convening in Fruitland, Florida

If you would have asked me two years ago what grassroots activism was, I wouldn’t have been able to answer the question. Today, I am a little more familiar with the term—a method of campaigning for a cause that the activist feels strongly about. Grassroots refer to the most basic level of an activity or organization.

At the end of the 2017-2018 school year, Miami High approved a course called Multicultural Studies to be offered during the 2018-19. The course immediately caught my eye where I met teacher Ms. Fernandini. As a precursor for the class, she invited several organizations to make presentations, including the Dream Defenders, United We Dream, Flick, and the Florida Immigrant Coalition. There I learned about a three day camp called Camp Power, which was sponsored by The Dream Defenders.

Andrea Mirabal, a leader in the organization, said, “I’m a Dream Defender because as communities, we have so much potential and possibilities constantly being blocked in the name of greed and power. I want our next generations to enjoy our world. Dream Defenders is focusing on our state, Florida, organizing black and brown youth and demanding our freedom to be.”

During the first weekend of summer, I traveled to Miramar where the camp took place. While in the camp, we were split into groups, so that we could work with different people around the state, as well as be able to complete the learning tasks faster. As the exercises progressed, the groups went into deep discussions about issues they felt were very prominent in their communities, such as education, health care, the school to prison pipeline, and mass incarceration.

I think the most valuable things that I took away from the camp were connections and bonds I formed with my peers, the camp directors, and people that were already involved in community organizing.

A week or so after Camp Power, I was sent an email that said that there was a paid fellowship opening to work with The Dream Defenders and that someone had recommended me. To this day, I don’t know who did that, but either way, it opened several doors for me to step foot into community organizing.

When I first sent out my application to be a Freedom Fellow, I was sure my chances of actually obtaining the job were slim. Compared to everyone else’s participation in actual organizational activities, my resume appeared to be lacking, but my interest was high and I made sure to learn as much about the Dream Defenders as possible before the interviews, which were conducted by video chat.

I have been working in this fellowship since the end of July, and I have learned a multitude of things such as all the work it takes to operate an organization and how important each individual voice is to the collective narrative of society.

Enyer Robles Martinez, another leader from Dream Defenders, said, “I believe the DD is doing necessary work to bring people to understand that they have the power to change their communities. Everyday is a new experience, and I gain a new understanding on what our communities need to better our youth.”

One of the issues the Dream Defenders and other organizations are pushing for is Rights Restoration, which aims to restore, through Amendment 4 of the Florida Constitution, the eligibility to vote of previously convicted felons that have non- violent offenses. Currently 1.5 million people in Florida do not have the right to vote; the Sunshine State is one of only four other states in the U.S. that doesn’t allow for rights restoration. Nationwide, about 6 million Americans can’t vote as a result of a felony conviction. About half have fully completed their sentences, another quarter are in the community under probation or parole supervision, and a quarter are still incarcerated

Dream Defenders and other organizations have banded together to bring awareness to different communities about the amendment and gather pledges as an approximation of how many people will come out to vote for Amendment 4. The elections are November 6. If anyone is interested to sign the pledge, they can do so on the Dream Defenders web page.

If you happen to be interested in becoming a Dream Defender, DD has meetings every other Tuesday for all members.

The Dream Defenders believe in…

  1. Freedom from Poverty
  2. Freedom from Prisons & Police
  3. Freedom of Mind
  4. A Free, Flourishing Democracy
  5. Freedom of Movement
  6. Freedom from War, Violence & Environmental Destruction
  7. Freedom to Be

Lisbeth Chavarria with Shown and Enyer, from the Dream Defenders, who also participate in a Youtube commercial.

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1 Comment

One Response to “The Dream Defenders”

  1. Jonathan on October 9th, 2018 5:57 pm


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