Children’s Alliance is pleased to announce the Voices for Children Brewster C. Denny Rising Advocate, Alicia Luna. Alicia will accept the award Wednesday, June 7, at the Children’s Alliance annual luncheon in Seattle. Join us: Purchase a ticket to Voices for Children here.
Alicia, a Lacey grandmother of five granddaughters, is committed wholeheartedly to advocate with Children’s Alliance because of two of our fundamental strengths: the organized presence we maintain in Olympia, and the leadership we spark in families and children across the state.
Alicia first experienced that particular spark in 2011, when she attended our Advocacy Camp leadership training. Alicia brought years of familiarity with state-level issues facing Latino families, but wanted a greater sense of the possibility for positive action and transformation with issues such as hunger, lack of access to affordable health, access to early learning and other forms of adversity.
She had been to other, similar trainings, and had observed that the trainees skewed mainly white. That’s an impediment to good advocacy when you understand that the unequal race-based distribution of power and resources is a key contributor to the obstacles kids and families face.
“I remember thinking, ‘It’s going to be all lily-white,’” she recalls.
What she got, instead, was a multiracial echo of the community organizing she was doing over a simple meal of beans, rice and salad with mothers, fathers and children in the South Sound, where Latino families shared stories that connected and lifted them over their common struggles.
Advocating alongside those moms and dads, Alicia has been helping with that lift for many years. But with us, she’s newly rising to challenges and opportunities to move Children’s Alliance policy campaigns forward. Last year she testified in support of the State Food Assistance program that delivers SNAP (food stamps) benefits to immigrant families and others who don’t qualify for federal aid.
She spoke up for the addition of dental therapists to increase access to oral health care for kids and families who were suffering without it.
She also attended Have a Heart for Kids Day in Olympia with her two youngest granddaughters and brought a young Lacey mother to learn more about lobbying elected officials.
With Alicia’s counseling, support, guidance and encouragement, that mom has climbed over the barriers of language and immigration status to defend her son when he was suspended from school.
In honoring their gifts, strengths and contributions, Alicia finds that parents are emboldened to find their voice, build relationships and create new possibilities for their children. She sees how community-based power grows each time a person challenges a system to get what his or her kids need.
At some point in these relationships, she says, “I’ve advocated for you, and now I ask that you advocate for others. Now that you’ve learned this, please share it forward. Other families need this as much as you do.”
Her approach resembles the energy and purpose of Children’s Alliance Advocacy Camp, which is devoted to drawing forth the leadership potential inherent in every human being.
The Brewster C. Denny Rising Advocate Award is named after a dedicated public servant and former Children’s Alliance board member. In his distinguished career of service to the people of our state, Denny nurtured and mentored many a rising star along the path of advocacy for the public good. Beginning in 2011, this annual award has been presented to a rising star in child advocacy at the Voices for Children Luncheon.
Alicia has reflected on the meaning of this honor for her life and her family. The award has caused her to think about the legacy she’s building—and the one she inherited.
As a girl, she remembers what her father did when struggling farmworkers supporting the Caesar Chavez grape boycott, neighbors in need or newly arrived immigrants came to their house in California’s San Joaquin Valley.
He helped collect non-perishable food, blankets, and other necessities and set up the garage to accommodate and meet the needs of the farmworkers. “He would give them a warm welcome and say, ‘Go ahead and take what you need,’” she recalls of those days. There was much that she didn’t see, though.
“When he died, all these people I didn’t even know came to his funeral and told me stories I didn’t know about; how he helped them out with money, gas, finding work, etcetera,” she said.
“He never stopped giving, and he never stopped helping.”
That’s the legacy Alicia has been passed; that’s the legacy she’s passing down.