Here are a few highlights of what Pan Valley Institute (PVI) has accomplished over the past 20 years:
Since its inception, PVI’s program work has been shaped by constant consultation with grassroots immigrant leaders and community volunteers to ensure our work is relevant, responds to the community’s social concerns and strengthens the leadership of immigrants and refugees.
Our first convening, which took place in December 1998, was a two-day residential gathering of members of Mexican, Central American and Mexican Indigenous immigrant communities, the purpose of which was to determine how PVI could best serve the emerging immigrant movement, support its leaders, and build cohesiveness among the diverse ethnic groups learning to call the Valley home.
A group of 10 Latino, Mexican Indigenous and Southeast Asian women who were identified for their leadership potential, participated in a popular education process from 1999 to 2003. They set the stage for what it takes to build interethnic relationships, assume leadership roles and be a voice for immigrant women, all while redefining their own traditional roles. In 2000, they produced a calendar documenting their migration journeys, followed by a book, “Immigrant Women: A Road to the Future.” These women have gone on to become influential, income-generating leaders and role models within their local communities.
From 2000 to 2002, we facilitated several gatherings between organized labor groups and immigrant leaders to identify strategies to help newly arrived immigrant workers protect their working rights as they transitioned from farm labor to the construction trade.
PVI developed a cultural organizing model seeded in the cultural and story sharing spaces that were a part of our residential gatherings and the Civic Action Network (CAN) gatherings. The network was a collaborative effort of the James Irvine Foundation and the Central Valley Partnership for Citizenship (CVPC) that provided assistance and small grants to emerging immigrant organizations throughout the Central Valley.
The highlight of PVI’s cultural organizing work was showcased through the Tamejavi Festivals, our most visible public events. Held bi-annually from 2002 to 2009, Tamejavi Festivals were a celebration of immigrants’ native cultures and traditions and they 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). Since its formation, the TCOFP has enabled PVI’s network to identify, train, and support cohorts of “cultural organizers” who are deeply committed to the wellbeing and cultural resilience of their communities. Twenty-three fellows and four apprentice fellows, representing a multigenerational group of men and women from Mexican Indigenous, South and Southeast Asian, Palestinian, Pakistani and Iranian communities, 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 reform from organizing marches, supporting families when a family member was detained to building partnerships with like-minded organizations, and responding to leaders of communities targeted by law enforcement.
PVI has grown into an organization that not only advocates for underserved immigrant and refugee populations, but one that accompanies them and provides spaces where they can identify their strengths, share their stories, and helps them reach a common understanding of the sociopolitical circumstances that have denied them social justice. As a result, they are able to form ties of solidarity that allow them to take active steps towards changing their conditions of oppression.