The International Examiner honored Jill Mangaliman with the Tatsuo Nakata Youth Award as part of the 2016 Community Voice Awards. Mangaliman is a queer Filipino-American community organizer and writer from Seattle. Thanks to Federal Pell Grants, Mangaliman graduated from the University of Washington as a student of Human Geography. For six years they organized in local and national campaigns involving health care equity, immigrant rights, and protecting social services. In 2009, Mangaliman joined Got Green as part of the City Weatherization program. Here, they stepped into leadership, from founding board member to lead organizer, and instrumental in the formation and strategy of the Food Access Team. Mangaliman is also a member of GABRIELA Seattle and the winner of the 2013 Social Change Reporting award for the Seattle Globalist.
The International Examiner caught up with Mangaliman to talk about their work in the community.
International Examiner: What are the issues you care about and why?
Jill Mangaliman: Definitely environmental justice, climate justice. I believe that everybody should have access to a living wage and green jobs, housing, food, transit, and a healthy environment, whatever that environment is. To recognize that race and gender are factors in your access to health and economic [stability] and the environment. More lately I’ve been getting involved with Asians for Black Lives to show true solidarity for Black Lives Matter and towards communities that are being criminalized and killed. … How do we counter this narrative that people of color or working class folks don’t care about the environment, but our communities actually really do?
IE: How did you get your start with Got Green?
Mangaliman: In 2009, towards the end of 2008, I had just been laid off from my work. I had previously been doing canvassing, and I got a phone call from our founder Michael Woo, who invited me to join the City Weatherization project to basically create green jobs for youth of color and have conversations in our community about energy efficiency. … I handed out light bulbs from Seattle City Light and low flow shower heads … This introduced me to Got Green and other people. I joined their leadership team and eventually their food access team. Then I was on their board, and then in 2012, Michael Woo asked me to be his successor and we did a two-year leadership transition and I became director in 2014.
IE: In terms of GABRIELA, what pushes you to advocate for women in the Philippines?
Mangaliman: GABRIELA was during that time when I was trying to become an activist and when I just got politicized … I wanted to reconnect with my roots and the Philippines. As a Filipino American, I grew up feeling out of place, not American enough, not Filipino enough. It as through the national democratic movement through GABRIELA where I could see where I could fit into this community. They do a lot of educational dialogue, direct action, cultural events, to really express the diaspora and the real struggles of Filipinos. The real focus is gender justice. The Philippines was semi-colonial semi-feudal, so there was a lot of patriarchy, unfortunately, in the society. The way GABRIELA sees it is that we won’t all be free until the women are free. It is really acknowledging that violence against women happens in the home, it happens in the workplace, through the state. [It is about] trying to ensure that there is gender justice and that new democracy in the Philippines is critical. For a queer person, it is really close to my heart about gender justice and liberation. I had the opportunity to go on an exposure trip to the Philippines in 2013 and 2014 where I got to experience first-hand the conditions of the Philippines through a political lens—which I wasn’t able to [before] because I felt distant or my parents hid it from me. So now I have a better understanding.
IE: What does it mean to be a Filipino?
Mangaliman: It means holding a history and resistance in our blood. Filipinos have been fighting for their liberation for years and decades, since the Spanish, since the Americans, and it’s been a continuation of that revolution. I know that my parents, my grandparents, and ancestors, all of them have experienced that injustice of not being able to “just be.” I think that I look back and think about what is my role as a person being from a colonized country living in the U.S. How do I maintain that connection and continue that fight alongside those folks who are on the frontlines and experiencing injustice. I remind myself that I have role to play here and I cannot forget that.
IE: What’s your advice to someone who wants to act more on their social justice issues?
Mangaliman: I think it’s really about building relationships and a commitment to the issues and causes in the long term. You really have to open yourself up and take a risk because it’s more than just being the best, it’s more about how can you contribute and what is your role and trying to figure that out. … It’s hard to get started, and sometimes you feel like you don’t know anyone but if you see an event of interest just go and take a risk and talk to people and try to connect and talk to people. Find the community you belong in and opening up those conversations.