Rayes Barrera: Become Proactive Not Reactive

Graduating senior Rayes Barrera is an politically active organizer at Cal State LA. Fueled by hardships in 2012, Barrera decided to get politically informed – first with books, then with classes and after working at F21, he was linked up with someone that worked with former Los Angeles mayor, Antonio Villaraigosa and got an internship with the mayor’s office. Barrera’s path has been molded with strong women mentors, Capri Maddox, former Board of Public Works president among them. With his charisma and hard working ethics, Barrera got noticed and was later granted the opportunity to intern as a grant manager for the Department of Sanitation, reading policy. Currently, Barrera is campaigning for Arturo Carmona’s run for congress in district 34 in Los Angeles. While still going to school and dealing with the demands of university, Barrera still finds time to table, phone bank and go door to door canvassing to harness votes for Arturo Carmona. In fact, that is how this interview came to be; Barrera tabling on campus day in and day out, gaining the attention of student. He is so committed to this campaign that he even adorns his truck with placards of Carmona’s campaign to gain more attention from fellow students.

During a nice and fresh afternoon on campus, I sat down with Barrera and discussed the actions needed to fight this current demoralizing administration. While working in the 2016 presidential race, Barrera volunteered with the Bernie Brigade – in efforts to help get Bernie Sanders elected. During this time, Barrera met Arturo Carmona who worked for Bernie Sanders as National Deputy Political Director. Barrera was inspired to volunteer for Carmona’s campaign who like Bernie Sanders, stands for progressive ideals and inclusively. “We do not just demand for things, we want to change things through policy”, says Barrera. He continues to state, “Arturo for me represents, ‘Progressive, disciplined, principled values’”. When pressed to state his opinion on the difference between a democrat and a socialist, Barrera had this to say, “Well, I can tell you this, I can’t tell you a definitive meaning because what we have been taught has been so distraught […] at the end of the day we have common cores, which is that we have tax payer funded institutions like hospitals, social services and education.”

To get politically active, Barrera had a piece of advice that involve three paths, “The first is bloodline, which a lot of us aren't from. Money, which a lot of us aren’t from either. And people power. I took the people power route. I became an organizer. Become PROACTIVE not REACTIVE. Study your demographic, what issues do you face? Immigration, affordable housing, gentrification, crime is on the rise. Do not be lazy”. What did Barrera mean about not being lazy? During the last local election in Los Angeles, the voter turn out was 11%. Weren’t the same people protesting, showing up to marches, shutting down airports, roads, freeways also concern about policy that can better or worsen our future? Granted, some residents of Los Angeles County cannot vote but to be a measly 11% is pretty shocking and frustrating.

Barrera and I both agreed that there are big factors for this low voter turn out. The first and major one is the language on proposed bills. Reading these proposed bills is extremely challenging for those with a higher education. If college educated individuals are having a hard time understanding these soon to be laws, then how more confusing is it going to be to someone that couldn’t get a higher education. The second factor could be that some students actually don’t have time to go vote. While yes, there are vote by mail ballots, it would be more effective if there would be polling places on campus. The turnout would be much higher if the accessibility for young voters would be right on campus. Not to mention, the faculty and staff as well.  

On the final note, Barrera stressed the fact that we must become individuals that are proactive and not reactive. “Study policy. We cannot just demand for changes without having a plan for these changes. We need policy change. Want to change something, learn the rules. Do not use the excuse of ‘the system is already against us. The system is broken’. Forget that mentality”. Today, Barrera is putting his own words into work, he has gone into overtime to help with the Arturo Carmona run for congress.

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