Alyshia Gonzalez is a first generation graduate with a deep personal and civic commitment to social justice and equity for every community. Her experience has put her at the center of the policy process where she has worked effectively with government officials and other community groups to enact positive change and visibility for underrepresented communities. She has managed and trained hundreds of students on the best practices for effective community engagement in the fundraising, grassroots, and state election sector. In her spare time, Alyshia enjoys performing spoken word poetry and cooking for family and friends.
Campus: Arizona State University- Phoenix, Arizona
Fellowship Class Year: 2017
Featured Fellow Spotlight
1.What experiences/opportunities lead you to apply to the YP4 Fellowship program?
Alyshia Gonzalez: I was working as a fellow for the Democratic party of Arizona during the 2016 election and one of my regional organizers, Chula Robertson, told me about her experience as a YP4 fellow. She thought it would be a perfect fit for me and sent me the paper work for the application.
2. What social justice work are you currently doing in your communities, or on your college campuses?
AG: Currently, I am in the process of creating my own non-profit organization; First Step Coalition. Our inception began after the murder of Terrence Crutcher. We believe that protests are an important part of activism and create space for the conversation about police brutality. However, we saw a lack of community organization after the initial buzz of the injustice; particularly in the state of Arizona. Arizona has a history of passing racially charged legislation including the SB 1070’s and most recently SB 1366 coined the blue lives matter bill, which acts as an affront to the Black Lives Matter Movement. Our goal is to become a sustainable organization that promotes the importance of investing back into minority owned businesses as well as providing education on financial literacy, the importance of voting, the way bills are passed, and the operation of the courts. Our hope is that this education, will help empower those who have been traditionally disenfranchised by the justice system to run for positions of government at the local, state, and national level.
3. What are you passionate about/what motivates you to do public service?
AG: I am most passionate about empowering the next generation of progressive leaders. I believe our youth is the vehicle towards progress and I want to continue to help develop and mentor young folks about the power they hold as an individual and within a sociopolitical context. I believe we are developing the most rapidly during adolescence, and the right education and mentorship is invaluable at this time. I want young progressives to have a voice and make sure people are listening.
4. What is the main goal you want to accomplish in your social justice work?
AG: Ideally, I would like to coalition build and create true solidarity within the progressive movement. There are so many intersecting identities for individuals within activism that cannot be blanketed by one movement, and no one should have to feel that they are sacrificing part of that identity in order to further one agenda. Often times, I feel I have to pick one or the other as a biracial person and a woman because there isn’t the proper space created for me in either movement. In order to accomplish this, the progressive movement has to be honest about their perpetuation of harmful ideologies such as anti-blackness in non-black poc communities, transmisogyny, and heteropatriarhy. These continue to erase and silence intersecting identities in our community and prevent us from true solidarity. No matter how long you’ve been involved in the progressive movement there are always things we need to continue to learn and unlearn for ourselves and our communitesi.
5. If you could have dinner with any organizer past or present, who would it be?
AG: Definitely Angela Davis. Her professors described her as one of the most brilliant people of her time and she unapologetically fought for her people in the face of adversity, false political accusations, and literal death threats. She is a force and I’d love to soak up any knowledge I could from her.
6. What was the most eye-opening experience for you during your Regional Training?
AG: The courts cohort training was life changing for me. I had no idea the lack of representation in all facets of the judicial system or that #45 has the power to fill the 129 federal judge vacancies that will oversee criminal cases. This particular training helped me to recenter my focus for my blueprint (First Step Coalition).
7. What do you hope to give and what do you hope to gain during your YP4 Fellowship year?
AG: I want to give an open mind. When you become well versed within the progressive movement you walk into a space thinking that you’ll be familiar with what is being presented to you. During the training, I was challenged in ways that I didn’t believe I would be, and every time I convene with my class I want to walk into the space asking what I can learn and not what I can teach. I would love to gain and maintain life long connections and friendships with like-minded individuals. Ideally, we will all be working together in some capacity in the future.
8. What brings you joy?
AG: Writing poetry brings me joy. It’s cathartic for me and gives me time to assess what I’m feeling or what I might have compartmentalized and not given myself a space to feel or heal. I love going to poetry slams. I make it a point to go to Poetic Soul every Wednesday in Phoenix. It’s a black owned motown/open mic event that highlights local artists of all backgrounds. The atmosphere is so welcoming. We truly feel like a family.
9. Where do you think your YP4 training will take you in the future?
AG: This organization has already connected me with so many amazing folks that I would not have met otherwise. I believe the next phase of my life in the progressive movement will be connected to Yp4 and the alumni network.
10. What do you want to be remembered for?
AG: An educated chingona who always fought for her culture and the representation and liberation of all people.
11. Why should someone apply to be a YP4 Fellow?
AG: It’s already been a life changing experience and I’m only a few months in. If you’d like to be challenged, sharpen your community organizational skills, and be connected to wonderful people within the movement, this is the place for you.