LGBT-U Apprentice Q&A: Jose Rivas in Phoenix, ArizonaBy Adam Polaski • January 15, 2016 • 10:06 pm
Last year, Freedom for All Americans launched a new program designed to strengthen the movement to win non-discrimination protections for all LGBT Americans: LGBT University, an ambitious training and development program for the next wave of campaign leaders. The first cohort, comprised of 16 apprentices from all across the country, is nearly halfway through the year-long training, which convened for the first time last fall in Phoenix, Arizona for training sessions and informational overviews about every facet of running public education and political campaigns – from fundraising to field to communications to strategy.
One of the LGBT-U apprentices in the first cohort was Jose Rivas, who is working as a campaign manager for Competitive Arizona, a campaign to secure full non-discrimination protections for LGBT Arizonans. We spoke with Jose about his current work with Competitive Arizona, his time with LGBT-U so far, and his work in other movements.
Can you describe your work now with Competitive Arizona?
I manage a non-discrimination campaign here in Arizona. The local team putting together the campaign needed a Campaign Manager, so one of the operatives told me to apply. I was excited to get involved.
How has your previous experience prepared you for your current role, and how has it led you to LGBT-U?
My background before Competitive Arizona was as a political consultant for a few years – and before that, I worked for a member of Congress for ten years. I’ve managed local city council races, was a fundraiser, and was a field operative, so my background has always been political.
I’ve always worked in social justice movements – when I was 18, I got involved in a Justice for Janitors campaign, and that’s where my passion for this all began. While working for a member of Congress, we worked closely with some of the lowest-income areas of the country. We saw many different people with different plights. I’ve always believed in the basic human rights we all deserve of equal treatment under the law, equal opportunity, and to have the respect to live and let live.
I’ve always been an ally to the LGBT community. And so for this position with Competitive Arizona, I knew that I needed to learn more about the the LGBT movement, and also what the transgender experience is like, and what we’re trying to accomplish with non-discrimination work. I was hopeful to find a way to get quickly up to speed – and then learned about LGBT University. It was a great opportunity for me to learn how the current campaign aspect of the movement examines all of the various pieces.
What would you tell prospective applicants to LGBT University?
I think LGBT University was the best way to get started if you want to run campaigns or get involved with these types of efforts. You may have your own understanding of what best practices are – but they may not always be the best practices when running a non-discrimination campaign.
My experience with LGBT University was really good – the apprentices were very diverse, and I learned a lot from people with different levels of experience. You can always learn from different people who have different experiences. The presenters were all awesome, and every part of every day from the first convening was useful and informative.
Why is it important to work on winning LGBT-inclusive non-discrimination protections – in Arizona and across the country?
My goal is to help improve the quality of life for everyone – and everyone has their struggle. Through my previous work, I’ve been able to work with seniors, young people, workers, women, veterans, people from all walks of life. Working closely with all of these constituency groups have helped educate me about the diverse needs of our communities. Furthering civil rights for all has always been a major goal of mine. Being able to join in the LGBT fight here in Arizona is another way to help further civil rights. I’m passionate about all human beings getting equal treatment and living their life with freedom – and we have a lot to work on.
What’s one big takeaway from your time at LGBT-U and your experiences with campaigns?
Campaigns are a lot of work – The insights I garnered from LGBT-U equipped me with the knowledge I needed to be successful. LGBT-U reiterated to me something that I’ve found that works for winning campaigns, “Work is something you do when you don’t like why you are doing it. Passion is what you do, when you love why you are doing it.”