Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal
Jobs, masks and census participation.
That sums up the issues the SouthWest Organizing Project and several partner organizations are trying to address through their “masks with a message” project, said organizer Monica Demarco.
Demarco, a newly graduated SWOP intern, said when the coronavirus pandemic hit, she wanted to find a way to reach people whose livelihoods would be affected but who wouldn’t be eligible for stimulus funds. She reached out to a number of organizations that work with refugees and immigrants, and came up with the plan: With help from those partner agencies, SWOP could recruit a number of people, including refugees and immigrants, to sew masks. SWOP would pay them a wage to do so, and the masks would be distributed in areas with high needs and low resources.
Then, Demarco said, SWOP CFO Marisol Archuleta had another suggestion: Use the masks as a vehicle to encourage people to fill out the census form, a flag SWOP had already been carrying since last year, since an undercount of New Mexico residents could result in millions of dollars in lost federal funding.
“It’s … making connections and collaborating and building positive relationships between all these organizations,” Demarco said.
SWOP spokesperson Mikyle Gray wrote in an email that Matron Records helped promote and design the masks, which bear slogans like “Don’t be silenced, be counted,” and are now available in English, Spanish, Tewa and Swahili. Representatives of New Mexico Women’s Global Pathways and Casa Fortaleza and others then produced the fabric masks. Finally, organizations including Pueblo Action Alliance, Transwoman Empowerment Initiative, Crossroads For Women, Street Safe, the Resource Reentry Center, Shiprock and Santa Clara Pueblo have helped manage distribution to those in need, including to Native, undocumented, refugee, transgender and incarcerated people.
Demarco said Wednesday about 2,500 masks have been created so far, and about 2,000 have been handed out through partner agencies.