We could've met on the campus of
Thanks to his efforts -- which resulted in the creation of the
We could've dug into crab fries at Chickie's & Pete's, whose workers just won a staggering
Or, if I had the money, Rodriguez and I could've flown to Juneau, Ala., and chatted near the silver mine where he once toiled alongside his father. They pushed their employer to honor the law allowing miners the right to wash their hands before lunch and to eat their meal in a clean place. Father and son got fired for their trouble, but three years later the rights they'd demanded were finally enforced.
In the end, Rodriguez and I settled for lunch at El Fuego, the fabulous Center City Mexican cafeteria whose owner,
That makes him a hero in Rodriguez's eyes. So that's where we met, because Rodriguez is a hero in mine. When it comes to issues of economic and social justice in this city, he's not only on the right side of issues affecting the low-paid and working poor, he actually makes change happen.
I wanted to ask Rodriguez about his a new gig as an organizer for nonprofit POWER, the increasingly influential collective of faith-based organizations that has been able to get an initiative put on the
Rodriguez says that POWER's mission speaks to his heart.
"So many people feel hopeless," says Rodriguez, 42, as we dig into our burrito bowls at El Fuego. "They work at jobs that don't pay enough. The houses around them collapse. Their neighborhood schools are bad. The systems that are supposed to support us are breaking down, and those who are most affected are the poor. Helping them is a matter of justice and dignity."
But the way you do it matters, says Bishop
"Fabricio has great love for people, a strong faith and deep commitment to compassion and equality," says Royster (who officiated at Rodriguez's wedding last summer).
"When you couple that with the fact that he's one of the best organizers in the city, and perhaps the country, that's when change happens. . . . He is fearless. He'll speak truth to power for those who are most deeply impacted by what's failing in our city.
"He may make some enemies," Royster laughs, recalling how he and Rodriguez were threatened with arrest by
Rodriguez says he wants to help POWER's constituents differentiate between prayer and hope. Prayer, he says, is where we articulate our "future-perfect" dreams. Hope, he says, is what we feel when a plan has been laid out to get us there.
Hope is everything. In its absence, as sociologist
I'm thinking about this as I tell Rodriguez that he has set a tall order for himself. He corrects me.
"The job of an organizer is not to make social change happen but to be a midwife to other people's power" to make it happen, he says. "Since the day I left the mines, my only focus has been on building the capacity, courage and leadership of normal people to change the world."
Go get 'em, Fabricio. So glad you're here.
On Twitter: @RonniePhilly
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