Now, more than ever, we need more voices and fighters on the frontline like Paola Luisi and the Families Belong Together coalition. The mission for Families Belong Together? To permanently end family separations and detentions happening throughout the US. A daunting task, when you think about it, but Families Belong Together has brought together 250 different organizations, artists and activists such as Orange Is The New Black actress Diane Guerrero. Diane, who experienced a family separation at a young age (which she talks about in her book In The Country We Love: My Family Divided), supports Families Belong Together for the tireless work they do day-in and day-out.
Paola recently chatted with HOLA! USA for our HOLA! Uplifts series about all the things that makes her heart sing surrounding the uproar of Americans that are speaking out about “how systemic racism disproportionately impacts” our local communities, how she wants everyone to know that their contributions make them superheroes in their own right and what she hopes for the future.
What was the mission and objective for launching Families Belong Together: Families Belong Together was founded to address the family separation crisis that saw thousands of children separated from their families during the summer of 2018. It’s a coalition of 250 groups that decided to band together to reunite children with their families. It took hundreds of local and national organizations to find the children in order to safely get them back to their loved ones.
How has Families Belong Together grown and evolved over the years? Since its inception, we’ve been able to partner with artists, activists and also launch a successful corporate accountability campaign led by our partner, MomsRising, that led to the divestment of billions of dollars from the private prison industry. We continue to shed light on the conditions within family detention centers, ongoing family separations and the rights of immigrant communities.
For you, what has been the best part of being working for Families Belong Together: The best part for me is seeing hundreds of thousands of people take action to demand we live up to our values as a nation. I think we’re seeing more of that now as we have a national conversation about how systemic racism disproportionately impacts our Black brothers and sisters.
What is something you hope for the future: We’re taught that superheroes have super powers and capes, but that’s just not true. I get to meet real heroes everyday who are perfectly normal people, who have risen to the occasion during a crucial moment in our nation’s history. Whether it was organizing protests in small towns or gathering donations for people in need, I hope that people don’t ever underestimate how powerful their contribution is, no matter how big or how small.
Who is someone uplifts you on the daily: From Guerline Jozef from the Haitian Bridge Alliance or Dr. Marie DeLuca from Doctors for Camp Closure, the best part of my job is coming across fearless women who won’t take ‘no.’ It’s that same strength, grit and determination that I see in the eyes of the mothers who will walk across deserts to give their children a shot at a better life.
Who do you hope Families Belong Together uplifts: We hope to uplift the families who are so often forgotten, but whose stories need to be heard. The amazing women of color who have led this movement—they are my north star.
What are some of your future goals: Easy—end family detention and reunite every single child with their loved ones. Most importantly, we need to reckon with the lack of basic human dignity, care and compassion that we extend to Black and Brown people, whether on our southern border or on the streets of our cities. It will take a lot hard work, humility, introspection and difficult conversations, but I still have hope.