“I always thought that the Latin American leadership of Durham would come from the PTA,” Rodrigo Dorfman told me on the phone late last week. The award winning documentarian and producer was one of the people who had been recommended to me for background about Durham City Council Candidate, Javiera Caballero.
Caballero is one of the finalists for the appointed City Council seat to replace our newly elected Mayor Steve Schewel.
The last time there was an appointment made to the Durham City Council there was nowhere near this level of interest.
Since the Mayoral Primary, one of the other council seat finalists, noted community activist and musician, Pierce Freelon has been actively campaigning for the seat, encouraging his supporters to email the Council and the Mayor before the decision is made.
Pierce Freelon is surely both qualified and enthusiastic about Durham City Council.
At the Clarion Content, we were curious about Ms. Caballero, who even before her endorsement by the locally powerful, People’s Alliance, had emerged as a leading candidate. Both Schewel and Mayor Pro Tem Jillian Johnson had expressed a desire for a Latino candidate, given our city’s large, burgeoning (and probably undercounted) population of Latinos.
I met Javiera Caballero at Elmo’s Diner for breakfast last Sunday. She told me about growing up as an immigrant in Chicago where her father went to graduate school.
She told how once her family had moved to what they thought was a bigger, yet surprisingly cheaper apartment, on West 21st Street in the Pilsen neighborhood of Chicago. Sure it was closer to the train tracks, that was the downside or so they believed, until they learned it was also on the dividing line between two rival gangs territory.
Caballero not only survived, but thrived. Her background is in education.
According to her official bio, “She [Javiera Caballero] is a former Montessori educator with classroom teaching experience ranging from pre-K through middle school. She has developed and adapted Montessori curriculum for several non-Montessori education settings, including a community run preschool, in Durham, which she helped co-create. Javiera has worked at the community level organizing, fundraising and running a cooperative bakery that focused on issues around food security and access to sustainably sourced food for low-income families. She has also developed content for revised teacher screening processes and for competency standards rubrics.”
It should be noted that she is also the PTA president of Club Boulevard Humanities Magnet Elementary School.
Javiera’s candor and modesty got my attention three years ago when we met at a Multicultural Fair at Club Boulevard [School]. Since then, we’ve become close friends and have discussed prejudices and biases that contribute to the achievement gap in education and the disenfranchisement of families in the community. We have worked on parent engagement at Club Boulevard through our roles in PTA and through initiatives like Latino Outreach. She has a strong work ethic and an internal drive for consistency, sound analysis, and effective action. Many times, we’ve met at 7 in the morning at the school to talk to parents at drop-off and invite them to meetings, other times we’ve joined the outcries of families at community rallies. The fear instilled by checkpoints near schools in North Carolina made Javiera seek out the help of tech gurus to devise an app for carpools. I believe that the experiences and stories she’s learned along the way, have intensified Javiera’s inquiry into the social and political landscape and honed her abilities for problem-solving and teamwork with community members and leaders. She has grown in leadership over the years and has the potential to become one of the most influential leaders Durham has produced, which is why I believe she would be an important person to have in City Council.–AV
The renown filmaker Dorfman pointed to Caballero’s immigrant background. He said, “She has a leftist cultural consciousness, as a Latin American, an immigrant, [she has] an affinity to the needs, concerns, voices of working class folks.” He noted that Caballero does not carry the guilt of white privilege that sometimes accompanies class consciousness.
He said Caballero has been able to integrate, retain roots, and build bridges wherever she has gone. She helped organize Club Boulevard Elementary School’s weekly Community Fresh Food Delivery and Pick-Up. She has used the PTA as a vehicle to fight hunger, to provide translators for concerned parents who couldn’t afford them.
It is an impressive story.
It sounds to me, much like the choices in our 2017 Durham Mayoral race, no matter who the City Council picks, we are going to get a great public servant.