Spotlight: Shinin' the light on Henry Ortiz
This week’s spotlight is shining on the amazing Henry Ortiz. Henry is a formerly incarcerated Community Healer, and an activist for social justice issues. He co-founded Self-Awareness and Recovery (SAR) during his incarceration, and also wrote “Trauma Through Traumatized Perspective” - which is an emotional intelligence curriculum model - during his time in prison. This fearless activist has spent time conducting facilitator trainings and running facilitation workshops on issues relevant to trauma, social justice, grassroots organizing, and political advocacy, to name a few. He has also spent time teaching evidence-based model programs in prisons, and participating in re-entry services for the formerly incarcerated. In short, he’s a bad ass organizer, activist, and leader, and we are so grateful to get the chance to spotlight him. We asked him a few questions for this piece, please read on to learn some more about him!
What does social justice mean to you?
Social justice to me, means fighting for freedom for our disenfranchised communities of color impacted by systemic racism. It means organizing communities on the grassroots level to engage in political advocacy, community engagement, and empowering the voices of those directly impacted. Social justice to me is a quest to fight for equality, respect, liberty, justice, freedom, and healing in our local communities.
Without mobilizing the people to take action, and be awake and aware of the circumstances they face every day, there will be no justice. Social justice means holding elected officials accountable for funding practices, policing policy and addressing the various systems that have hurt and traumatized disenfranchised communities.
Social justice to me is fighting what Mexican Revolutionist Emiliano Zapata stood for:
“ Land, Liberty and Justice.”
Why are you involved in social justice?
I am involved in social justice because of my circumstances growing up in communities impacted by violence, incarceration and hyper-criminalization. I am invested in this fight because, not only am I impacted as a formerly incarcerated person, but my community and the people I grew up with are also impacted.
And I will continue fighting to make sure our people come home to their families one day.
How do you self care to keep fighting for social justice?
Self-care is very important in this work. I’ve gone through like five burnouts. I need to continue getting back on that fight. The passion that I, and many of us, have can cause us to work ourselves into stress and anxiety. My self-care consists of prayer, meditation, playing the guitar and writing songs, swimming and working out and doing yoga or stretching. Also take time to have good conversations centered around healing and growth.
I arm myself with good partnerships consisting of attorneys, system impacted communities and families, legislators, formerly incarcerated people and community organizers, and collaborative grassroots organizers (the heart and soul of social justice).
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