Highlights from our conversation with Eryn Wilson, Black mother, proud daughter of immigrants, foodie, and community leader at Alliance San Diego.
“Being the daughter of a Black immigrant mother really shaped me and so many of the folks I talked to in my community dialogues. Not everyone in our families or communities can vote (many are undocumented), so when I speak, I always recognize the importance and power of all of us being represented.”
Eryn Wilson, first-generation Black immigrant and San Diego resident.
Why does redistricting matter?
It matters for those of us who are undocumented, and those of us who see our families navigating a system that denies equal access to immigrants and Blacks. I spoke to Black folks who feel a level of fear and insecurity due to their immigration status. We must have representation that sees and works for all of us, whether we can vote or not.
What are the strengths and challenges that have shaped Black San Diego?
We are so diverse–we are Belizean (like me), Haitian, East African, Black American, Mexican, and Black Mexican. And we have deep roots in activism. When MLK visited California, he stopped at Calvary Baptist Church because it was a hub of Black activism. As Black people in San Diego, we are ignited and rooted by activism, but also targeted by police brutality and left out of affordable housing. We also have vibrant Black-owned businesses in San Diego. Many of us want to stay in the city, but it is becoming increasingly hard to find affordable housing and quality schools.
What issues will define Black futures in San Diego?
There is a blatant lack of funding in Southeast San Diego, where many of our people are living in food deserts, can’t find affordable housing, and our children attend neglected schools. We have a large Black military population, and many of those families have to leave the city to find affordable housing. We’ve also seen a rise in Black folks who are houseless. The funding and resources to care for our growing houseless population have not kept pace with the problem of housing access and affordability in San Diego.
What will it look like for Black folks to not only survive, but to thrive in San Diego?
We will have Black representation at all levels of elected office. There are currently very few county, state, and federal representatives in our region that are Black. We have a desire to have elected representatives really see and represent our diverse Black communities. For Black folks in San Diego to not only survive, but thrive, we must be healthy, whole and growing. We will not be fighting to be seen or to breathe. For this to happen, we need schools that nurture Black minds, and to value Black-owned businesses across San Diego.
What should a map look like that protects and honors Black lives in San Diego?
During my conversations, I heard loud and clear that redistricting is about protecting the integrity of communities in Southeast San Diego. Right now, we are split up at all levels of representation (assembly, county, and city) and that makes advocacy difficult. It can be easy for one person to access their representative for community needs, but their neighbor across the street could be represented by someone different who is much harder to reach.
Our Black communities in Southeast San Diego deserve a chance to have political representatives that share our perspectives and goals.