Davin Cardenas of west Sonoma County-based North Bay Organizing Project has won one of this year’s North Bay Business Journal’s Latino Business Leadership Awards.
Tell us your story and that of your organization:
I was born in Orange County to a Tex-Mex father and a Mexican mother, who provided me with an amazing foundation of love, support, and resilience, as well as an older brother and sister. My older siblings were instrumental in my early teens, in helping me politicize my feelings of marginalization, rebellion, and identity. I began reading Latin American history at an early age and became deeply inspired by the social movements that developed out of our countries of origin. When I attended Sonoma State University, I was able to find a firmer political identity, connecting with MEChA, which is a student organization composed of Chicana/Chicano students who were also figuring out how to think critically while beginning to serve our community beyond the campus.
I graduated in 2004, and immediately began working as the first day labor organizer in the town of Graton, Ca, at the Graton Day Labor Center. Along with many incredible volunteers, I organized workers into a democratic hiring process, that included political education, English classes, and health services. In 2011, the North Bay Organizing Project NBOP) was born. NBOP was born from the understanding that individual organizations had very little ability to forge political change, and to challenge the power of money in democracy, but united, could offer a counter-balance. We have worked hard to develop a vehicle that trains leaders and propels social justice values into a more prominent position of influence within Sonoma County.
Is there a major accomplishment in the past year or so that you would like to share?:
Organizing the Santa Rosa City Council to pass rent control and just cause eviction was one of my, and my organizations, largest accomplishments in the last year. The ordinance was eventually blocked by corporate interests, but offered me incredible learning’s about how to run a successful political campaign.
What is the achievement you are most proud of?:
Having been part of amazing teams of people who have developed 2 significant and successful social justice organizations
What is your biggest challenge today?:
Developing deeper theoretical and educational understandings, expanding my knowledge, while putting theories into practice. Raising a budget is always challenging as well.
Words that best describe you: Curious, Hopeful, and Restless
As a successful professional, what were the biggest obstacles you faced and how did you overcome them?:
Insecurities and self-doubt are the most prominent. I still face them, and try overcoming them with the belief that conflict brings change, and challenge brings growth
How do you think your profession will change in the next five years?
The ability to connect person to person is the most important tool in my trade, and this is becoming more difficult in computerized age. I think we will find interesting nuances that make us more creative and skilled, and more successful.
Who was your most important mentor?:
Both my brother and sister were able to show me that social justice was not just about how you talked, but how you walked in the world, how you treated other people, how you produced change, and had a whole lot of fun while doing it.
Tell us about your community involvement:
Community involvement is the foundation of how I choose to be in the world, and includes everything from the political, to the cultural, to the athletic.
What advice would you give to a young person today?:
Be curious, critical, joyous and irreverent, but non-dogmatic. Build hella relationships with every interesting person around you. Ask them questions. Use any skill you have to help organize with the most marginalized, because we all have a roll. Experiences are better then possessions, and make for better stories.
Most admired businessperson outside your organization: St. Paul of Tarsus and Alicia Garza
Current reading: “Walking with the Comrades” by Arundhati Roy
Most want to meet: Colin Kaepernick and Nessa Diab
Stress relievers: Running and music
Favorite hobbies: Reading, watching the Warriors and Raiders