After three years of civic engagement initiatives dedicated to education, justice and service in Albuquerque, Fight for Our Lives, a student-led organization established to propel social justice causes, announced their self-decided shutdown on Oct. 2.
FFOL was focused on advocating for gun violence prevention in 2018, seeking climate crisis action in 2019 and creating ABQ Mutual Aid in 2020, according to FFOL co-founder Jonathon Juarez-Alonzo. He said on social media that the decision to dissolve the organization was a tough one and that “all good things must come to an end.”
A key legacy of FFOL was the youth involved in the movement’s work, who were able to develop leadership skills through organizing efforts, according to co-founder and former President Zoey Craft. Former Vice President Emil Phan said she got involved with FFOL in high school with the goal of advancing action and conversations on urgent social justice issues, which directly pertained to Albuquerque's underserved communities.
“I felt like I could be someone who could make a difference,” Phan said.
Juarez-Alonzo said he expressed a need to step away from FFOL before the decision to dissolve was in the works, but ultimately the rest of the organization followed suit.
“(Juarez-Alonzo) and I felt like there wasn’t enough work being done by anyone at that point and we felt like it was kind of falling apart,” Phan said. “It’s nice to hold an organization while it can last, but I think … trying to hold onto it when it’s ready to go is a bad idea.”
Phan said expectations about the future of FFOL were unclear and communication was lacking after she and Juarez-Alonzo stepped down, but that the eventual decision to dissolve the organization was a collective one.
“There’s no one reason why we’re dissolving," Juarez-Alonzo said. "It’s really (that) everyone has their own life situations that are keeping them from their commitments to the work.”
“In July 2018, we were essentially just condemning and voicing how we believed that the Albuquerque Police Department were some of the largest perpetrators of gun violence in our community,” Juarez-Alonzo said.
Juarez-Alonzo said FFOL empowered many young voices on issues such as gun control and climate action at the city and state levels in New Mexico.
Following a year of leading movements conceived to spur gun violence prevention, Phan said FFOL shifted focus in 2019 to compel conversations and action related to the climate crisis, organizing the “U.S. Climate Strike” in May and the “Global Climate Strike ABQ” in September.
“Organizing isn’t just taking to the streets one time, but actually having a campaign and a strategy,” Juarez-Alonzo said.
Juarez-Alonzo and Craft said they worked to develop ABQ Mutual Aid in 2020, which is a collective of organizers that seeks to fulfill basic human needs during the pandemic, such as distributing hygiene products and groceries. Juarez-Alonzo said ABQ Mutual Aid, while a separate entity from FFOL, holds many of the same values and missions and is an ongoing effort that has served over 60,000 community members. ABQ Mutual Aid, like FFOL, is fiscally sponsored by the Southwest Organizing Project.
“(ABQ Mutual Aid) is something that was born out of FFOL and is going to be ongoing and is not slowing down anytime soon,” Juarez-Alonzo said.
Phan said FFOL served as a vessel for community outreach and positive change, and “opened the doors for endless possibilities,” even with its dissolution.
“Our communities are undoubtedly better because of the work that (FFOL) did,” Juarez-Alonzo said.
Rebecca Hobart is a beat reporter at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at email@example.com or on Twitter @rjhobart