April 24, 2013
By ERIKA CARMONA / GUEST COLUMNIST
On May 2, OC Human Relations, a nonprofit organization, will present WE Are Anaheim, SOMOS Anaheim with the Diverse Community Leader Award for its distinguished community involvement in Orange County at the City National Grove of Anaheim.
Last summer, while several police units from Orange County made their way to Anaheim Boulevard to contain upset and violent crowds, another group of residents watched and realized it was time for a positive change.
The day after Anaheim experienced a riot, Veronica Rodarte, a 26-year-old Anaheim native, decided to create a Facebook event page inviting the community to do something different, and walk for peace. Quickly, five other individuals – Juan Alvarez, Alejandrina Arellano, Elsa Covarrubias, Erika Sanchez and me – joined Rodarte’s movement, and together formed a community group called WE Are Anaheim, SOMOS Anaheim.
“I witnessed a lot of violence the night of the riots and while discussing it on Facebook that evening it became apparent that many felt powerless to the events. There was sadness, and Anaheim needed to unite rather than self-destruct,” said Rodarte, an Anaheim High School alumna. “I’ve always admired the nonviolent strategies of MLK and Gandhi, so a Peace Walk that would calm tensions and bring the city together seemed perfect.”
In a span of minutes after the event page went live, hundreds joined the cause.
“It was interesting to witness the dynamic of interactions that developed between the diverse crowds of people that joined in on conversations on the WE Are Anaheim, SOMOS Anaheim Facebook page,” said Alvarez, an Anaheim Union High School District teacher. “In a sense, the page started to serve as an emotional outlet for many people that were by no means in agreement with the issues at hand. The page ended up becoming a cyber-mediator of sorts,” he added.
More than 100 participatants from different walks of life and with varying opinions on the recent events walked silently in solidarity carrying signs with positive messages of unity through the streets by City Hall.
Since then, WE Are Anaheim, SOMOS Anaheim, has reached out to Anaheim and Orange County residents through collaborative community work. The group hosted several art events, one of which took place on Anna Drive; held a community picnic filled with arts and crafts, face painting and giveaways at Pearson Park; adopted a family for the holidays; and helped spread voter registration awareness throughout the city.
“This has really opened our eyes and our hearts to continue striving for peace by enriching our youth through arts, volunteer work, and a sense of pride within the community,” Sanchez said. “We are humbled by receiving such an award.”
The group’s Facebook page has 341 followers, and counting. The page is regularly updated with community events while followers are encouraged to volunteer or donate to different causes. Currently, the group is in the process of becoming a nonprofit organization and hopes to raise funds through donations and campaigns for future projects.
“One of the things I am most proud of is that six people were brought together by a negative event and are now working together to make a difference in Anaheim, a city that has given so much to us since we were kids.” Sanchez added.
– Erika Carmona is a Cal State Fullerton alumna who was raised and currently lives in Anaheim. She also writes personal blogs about a variety of topics that can be found at yourstrulye.com.
Contributors to be honored at gala
Eleven outstanding Orange County community members, schools and community-policing projects are slated for recognition at the OC Human Relations Awards 42 gala on May 2 at the City National Grove of Anaheim. Disneyland will serve as the title sponsor for the OC Human Relations awards celebration.
We Are Anaheim/Somos Anaheim, a grassroots group representing residents who come from different walks of life, speak different languages, and have varied opinions, but come together with the common goal of working for a peaceful Anaheim, will be one of the 11 award recipients in the Diverse Community Leaders category.
For the first time at Awards 42, OC Human Relations will honor an Orange County business for embracing the principles of diversity and inclusion in the workplace.