This post is part of a special Women’s History Month series highlighting 31 community advocates (one for each day in March). The words on the feature image above were chosen by the interviewee when asked to select three words that best describe her role in the community.
For more information on how you can get involved, follow the links provided at the end of each interview.
Full name and age: Karina Ceja, 31
Your cause(s)/organization(s)/profession(s)/passion project(s):
I am passionate about community empowerment, collective healing, hood liberation, and the transformative power of the arts. I am currently involved in a number of organizations and collectives, including El Hormiguero cooperative house and HOODsisters all-womyn mural collective. I’m also a Tia Chuchas’s Centro Cultural & Bookstore board member, Communities Against Displacement (C.A.D.) organizer and co-creator of Arte Pipirisnais jewelry and art.
Why do you choose to focus on the Valley and do the work that you do?
As a Mexican migrant re-rooted in Pacoima at the age of 2, I make the intentional choice to focus my work on the northeast San Fernando Valley because this is the community that helped raise me. I went to MEND every Christmas for my free gifts, taught myself to use a computer at the Pacoima Branch Library, and learned to swim at the Paxton Park pool.
In my process of learning about giving back to my community, I saw how Pacoima has been marginalized, forgotten, and dumped on for many years. Since becoming politicized while studying at Cal State Northridge in the Chicana/o Studies Department, I have felt the responsibility to stay in my community and give back by helping raise Pacoima into consciousness.
Why is it important for women to share their passion with the community?
It is important that womyn share their passions because I believe that womyn are transforming and will continue to transform the world.
As womyn of color in a society that has historically minimized our talents and contributions, we must center our stories in ways that will help heal, re-connect and re-power ourselves and our communities.
In recent years, I have seen a rise in womyn-lead and womyn-oriented grassroots work across the San Fernando Valley and Los Angeles. From mural collectives, bicycle brigades, natural birthing practices, and moon circles, womyn have begun honoring their authentic selves by creating their own paths and working towards achieving the liberation we have always sought.
If you had one wish for the San Fernando Valley, what would it be?
I have many wishes for the San Fernando Valley, but if I had to choose one I would say that every city in the Valley had it’s very own cultural community center focused around the healing power of the arts.
Where can we find you online?
Note: Some women use the alternate spelling of “womyn” or “wombyn” as a way of redefining etymological history. There was a time when it was thought necessary to attach a masculine noun to a noun denoting a female person in order to denote a female person exclusively.
i am san fernando uses the traditional spelling of women, though you will see the alternate if that’s the interviewee’s conscious choice.