Why I give. Why I fight. #GivingTuesday

December 2, 2014

Before Giving Tuesday ends, I want to tell you why I give.

My Grandpa, I call him Papo is a lot of the reason why I do what I do.

Papo was born in New Mexico at the tail end of the Great Depression in 1936 to a 15 year old Pueblo girl. He grew up helping his Grandmother pick Pinon nuts on the long walk to town to trade for salt and butter. He had very little primary education and had to teach himself English.

If he hadn’t taken me to see where he grew up when I was a kid I wouldn’t have believed him. It sounds so far from our reality and our world today.

Papo lived the American Dream for most of his life. From the windowless shack he called home in New Mexico to his first job installing bumpers at a General Motors plant on up to management and retirement with a pension and healthcare. He was able to own his home, raise five kids, and play a major part in the lives of more than a dozen grandchildren.

The economy that held so much opportunity for Papo was being torn down at the same time his kids were entering it. His oldest son was laid off when the GM plant closed and found a soft landing at the U.S. Postal Service. Papo’s youngest daughter wasn’t so lucky; she struggled like so many others to find opportunity but found drugs and alcohol, poverty, and the growing mass incarceration system instead.

Even my Grandpa who thought he would have a secure retirement when he retired in the 1980s wasn’t immune. For many years he was able to paint and create art, he was able to travel all across the country in an RV with grandchildren in tow. It was straight out of a Norman Rockwell Painting or a great American Novel except it was real and its star was the son of a teenage Native American girl, who taught himself English, and had the last name Martinez.

Then the Great Recession struck and General Motors went bankrupt. Pensions were altered, transferred, and privatized. Health care benefits would be cut and restructured. Without the strength of his former union, the United Auto Workers, it could have been a lot worse.

It did enough to make clear that the American Dream was just that, a dream.

Papo is now fighting for his life and in a different way so am I. Will you join me in this fight?

The life he lived seemed so fantastical and like a perfect dream, but I know it wasn’t. It was real and the opportunity for life like his has been stolen from us by a greedy few who rigged the system.

I fight to make his life story the life story of millions of Californian kids that are living or being born into poverty and our modern versions of his New Mexico shack.

I fight to fulfill the promise of a dignified and secure retirement that was made to millions of people just like Papo before it was ripped out from under them by hedge funds and investment bankers.

I fight for the people like my Aunt who couldn’t find opportunity before the full weight of a corrupted system was pilled on her back to keep her down.

When California Partnership trains and assists seniors and people with disabilities to advocate for State Supplemental Payments that give them a little extra cash to help them with their needs I think about people like Papo. Can you help us do more trainings?

When we rally In Home Support Service Providers and recipients to protect overtime hours and labor rights, I think about people like Papo and my Aunt who cares for him while he fights cancer. Can you help us hold more rallies?

When we train and equip people in the Inland Empire to contact 12,000 unlikely voters to talk about the importance of voting and the importance of passing Proposition 47, I think about my people like my Aunt and how a little bit of weight will be lifted off their backs. Can you help us contact more voters?

Same when our members helped lift the lifetime ban on CalWorks and CalFresh that punished people for crimes long after their sentences had been completed. Can you help us change more policies to help more people?

When we work to raise the minimum wage, when we work to pass Health for All, when we work to reform Prop 13 and raise revenue for programs, I think about the future and the millions of people that will be helped, about how each little step gets us closer to a world full of opportunity for the next Papo. Can you help us continue to fight and do what is right?

This is why I give. This is why I fight. This is why I’m asking you for help. There is a lot to do but none of us can afford to not do it.

Please join the fight and click here to give on this Giving Tuesday.


Jeff Brewer