First-Gen, First Internship – by Jorge Álvarez

I never thought I would get an internship before leaving college, but that changed when I received an offer in May. This summer, I’ve been interning for Just Harvest, a non-for-profit organization that addresses hunger in Allegheny County and Pittsburgh at its root, economic inequality.

In the first weeks of the internship, I was busy preparing for the Budget Day of Action at Harrisburg (June 4) and the Poor People’s Campaign National Rally for Moral Revival at DC (June 23). By busy, I mean reading a bunch of emails about what was on the State Budget and what was the history of the Poor People’s Campaign, respectively.

The state of Pennsylvania proposes a new budget before summer recess in early June. Given the fact I had previously never heard of the State Budget Day of Action prior to the internship, I had a lot of catching up to do. I learned about the We The People campaign, which is a longer-term effort to bring the state legislature to propose and support bills that help out working Pennsylvanians.

I can still recall striding in the Capitol building as I looked for State Senator Jay Costa’s office. On the north entrance of the Harrisburg State Capitol, there’s the central rotunda. Here was a sight! There was a huge audience of concerned Pennsylvanians calling for the state representatives and senators to listen to the problems affecting the people of Pennsylvania and rather than turn away, but to take immediate action to raise the minimum wage, protect the environment and fund public schools and colleges. Camera crews made sure they didn’t miss a second of the speeches voiced by several brave activists who represented their county.

“There was a huge audience of concerned Pennsylvanians calling for the state representatives and senators to listen to the problems affecting the people of Pennsylvania….”

The Poor People’s Campaign National Rally for Moral Revival at DC was the largest rally I had ever been in. From the stage, Reverend Dr. William Barber II, one of the leaders of the current Poor People’s Campaign—itself a movement started by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. during the era of civil rights—spoke of the importance of an intersectional movement. In other words, environmental protection, union representation, public services funded by the government, marriage equality, higher minimum wages were all connected. They are connected, Reverend Barber II stated, because everyone suffers when those priorities are not met. People across racial, religious, ethnic, national, gender and all other identities must unite in order to gain access to freedom and the resources that improve everyone’s lives.

Since those two rallies, I have been learning about the structure of Pennsylvania state government. I also keep on the pulse of new bills that get passed from Harrisburg. Nonetheless, as an activist, I enjoy being outside handing surveys to residents downtown to learn what issues matter to them and asking how they want to their communities involved to change the current policies in Pittsburgh and in Pennsylvania. Your rights are yours, I tell city residents. If you aren’t getting what you voted for, then you have every right to change who represents us.