PVI has grown into an organization that not only advocates for underserved immigrant and refugee populations, but also accompanies them and provides spaces where they can identify their strengths, share their stories, and reach a common understanding of the sociopolitical circumstances that have denied them social justice. As a result, they can form ties of solidarity that allow them to take active steps towards changing their conditions of oppression.
Since its inception, PVI’s program work has been shaped by constant consultation with grassroots immigrant, refugee leaders, and community volunteers to ensure our work is relevant, responds to these communities’ social concerns, and strengthens immigrants and refugees’ capacity as effective social actors.
Our first convening took place in December 1998–a two-day residential gathering of Mexican, Central American, and Mexican Indigenous immigrants, the purpose of which was to determine how PVI could best serve new immigrants, build community, leadership, and cohesiveness among the diverse ethnic groups calling the Valley home. From that initial gathering grew a group of 10 Latino, Mexican Indigenous, and Southeast Asian women who participated in a popular education process from 1999 to 2003. They demonstrated what it takes to build interethnic relationships, assume leadership roles, and be a voice for immigrant women, all while redefining their own traditional roles. Many of these women have gone on to become influential public officials, income-generating leaders, and role models within their local communities.
PVI developed a cultural organizing model seeded in the cultural and story-sharing spaces that were part of our residential gatherings and support for the Civic Action Network (CAN). CAN was a collaborative effort of the James Irvine Foundation and the Central Valley Partnership for Citizenship (CVPC), of which PVI was a member, to provide assistance and small grants to emerging immigrant organizations throughout the California’s Central Valley.
The highlight of PVI’s cultural organizing work was showcased through Tamejavi Festivals, our most visible public events. Held bi-annually from 2002 to 2009, Tamejavi Festivals were celebrations of immigrants’ native cultures and traditions. The Tamejavi Festivals played a pivotal role in building a sense of place, solidarity, pride, and civic responsibility for participants. In 2011, we launched the Tamejavi Cultural Organizing Fellowship Program (TCOFP). The program trained and supported four cohorts of “cultural organizers” who are deeply committed to the well-being and cultural resilience of their communities. Twenty-three fellows and four apprentice fellows, representing a multigenerational group of Mexican Indigenous, South, and Southeast Asian, Palestinian, Pakistani, and Iranian men and women, have graduated from the program.
Aside from the projects guided by the principles of popular education, participatory action research, and cultural organizing, we have played an active role in advocating for immigration policy reform. This has included organizing marches, supporting families when a family member was detained by Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE), building partnerships with like-minded organizations, and responding to leaders of communities targeted by ICE and other law enforcement agencies like local police or the Highway Patrol.