Layel Camargo’s involvement with activism and social justice work began when ze was in high school. From a very early age, Layel recognized the differences between the community ze grew up in, which was predominantly low-income people of color neighborhoods, and the white, wealthier neighborhoods around heir. Layel saw a lot of people close to heir (relatives included) in and out of jail. It wasn’t until a classmate named Donna was shot and killed that ze realized how close to violence and injustice ze was. It was at this moment that Layel and other classmates began a small campaign to restore and increase lighting at the park were Donna was shot.
Layel expanded heir intersectional analysis working at the UC Santa Cruz Engaging Education student-led outreach and retention center. Because of heir work at UC Santa Cruz, Layel decided to continue the fight for social justice. Ze currently works with victims of domestic violence and mentors youth in Oakland, guided by the belief that it is important to heal those that are in pain and invest time in those who hold our future so that they never have to feel our pain.
And now, without further ado, the Feministing Five, with Layel Camargo.
AS: What are some of the biggest issues facing the community you work with today?
Layel Camargo: I specifically serve communities for victims of domestic violence. I am very much a part of this community because I grew up witnessing domestic violence and was in a same-sex abusive relationship. I believe that the institutionalized patriarchy specifically within the legal system creates gaps in protection which makes it very difficult for my community to access immediate protection physically when they need it the most.
AS: Who is your favorite fictional heroine, and who are your heroines in real life?
LC: As a child, my favorite heroines were the Charmed sisters. I could watch that show for hours! First and foremost, that show hyper-romanticized San Francisco for me, thus me going to college in Northern California. I also think that through the show I learned what being selfless was about. I think I grew up with a Charmed- instilled mentality; if you sacrifice yourself for the betterment of others it’s worth it. Now, in real life my heroines are my mom and my grandma. It wasn’t until maybe 4 months ago that I placed my mom as a heroine in my life. My mom has been through hell and I would like to say “and back” but she’s still there. My whole life she has struggled with rage, reactive violence from my fathers DV, depression, and abandonment issues from her parents and still seemed to raise me and my sisters. Despite all of this, she taught me key things that got me where I am now. She would always say, “I am not rich and will not leave you money, but I will leave you with the passion for education because you will go to college.” She also taught me to be the best I can be and that people will appreciate that. These lessons may be simple for some people to receive from their parents but I received it from the most genuine place from a woman dealing with a horrendous life. The other heroine of mine is my grandma. She always validated me and consoled me; I never felt most appreciated then when I was with her. My grandma also taught me that I should always use my voice and stand up for what I believe. My grandma is my soft rock and my mom is my hard rock. A very good balance!
AS: What recent news story made you want to scream?
LC: The police brutality at the Occupy’s. Seeing people stand up for what they believe in in a peaceful way and seeing law enforcement physically abuse people is a real dissapointment. I think even more upsetting is seeing government officials justify and stand behind law enforcements’ actions. Our government has no regard for the people they are serving. It seems as though they only remember who we are during elections. Our current governmental structure is hypocritical, corrupt and abusive and we, the people, are left to scavage for any means of fairity we can hold on to and Occupy is just that: us seeking and holding on to how very little agency we have in seeking fairity.
AS: What, in your opinion, is the greatest challenge facing feminism today?
LC: I think that feminism is a struggle because we no longer have recognition. It’s just assumed that because we can vote now that everything is peachy. Reality is, it’s gotten more complex. The resentment for PoC female bodies and white female bodies still needs to be healed. Female bodies uniting with other movements must be recognized. Even at the Occupy’s, we are seeing more vocal male bodies and that is feminism’s biggest challenge. We are witnessing a point of transformation. Something will come from this global revolution and we must be grounded, united and ready to call shit out for the betterment of our female bodies!
AS: You’re going to a desert island, and you’re allowed to take one food, one drink and one feminist. What do you pick?
LC: I’m very utilitarian I would bring a chicken for eggs, a cactus for water and without a question, Carla Trujillo because of her amazing storytelling! I would be entertained forever!