I got in touch Loreto Ansaldo through Maggie from Urbano project. She is an educator, organizer, and artist who has previously led workshops at Urbano, and currently both teaches and leads the Activist Calendar project.
She introduced herself to me as “an intersectional activist;” she’s concerned with how many topics around under-represented and marginalized communities are connected and affect each other.
Loreto grew up in Boston, and her aunt still lives in Egleston. When asked why Egleston is being targeted by developers today, she responded simply that Egleston was one of the few places left in Boston that hadn’t yet been gentrified. As if it were only a matter of time:
“There’s almost this list of neighborhoods… Now, what do we have left? We have East Boston, we have Egleston Square.”
Language, she emphasized, is a crucial tool. It can open up emotions—she notices how, in public events where people are speaking in their native Spanish, they’re able to be “more expressive,” and more full of feeling. Of course, it creates essential channels for access, and autonomy.
“While there are a lot of events talking about gentrification and knowing your rights, if we’re not making them accessible in other languages…. [people have to] rely on family to help them out.”
She cited successful organizations in Egleston as Keep It 100% and City Life Vida Urbana; she noted that their long-term impact and focus have derived from specific goals as well as multiple modes of outreach. Like we discussed in class, she emphasized how crucial it was to organize across many communication modes: social media, to face-to-face, to local publications, to using your physical body to prevent evictions.
For young people like ourselves—who are often just learning about specific neighborhoods, and beginning to understand displacement in our cities—she advised us to really tap into the expertise and experience of existing groups. Marginalized communities have been fighting these fights for “a really long time,” and we might actually “be hurting them,” at worst, or at best “still doing double the work,” if we don’t deeply understand their work.
Finally, I wanted her perspective on how displacement is connected with other long-standing issues in low-income, marginalized communities:
It’s affecting kids educations because when families have to move away, education gets disrupted. And then families then will have longer commutes to work. So it’s affecting their job. So they need to find new work, or spend less time with their children. So it affects their family life. Then down and down the line. Now people have less access to healthy food…
As a teacher, I look at my classroom. And I have mostly students of color. But if they’re being pushed out of their houses, what will this classroom look like down the road
Or, will this school even exist? Because of the push for… charter schools? Will my school even be there?
The more you ask questions, the more you see that everything is affected. And connected.”