black woman

Doing it the Hard Way

“Question people who have authority, because they tend not to use it well unless you stay on top of them.”

That’s what Ana Garcia-Ashley learned from her grandmother, a seamstress and a teacher in the campo of the Dominican Republic. She was a woman who taught by example, challenging anybody in her small village who misused power. “She would not tolerate anything,” remembers Ana. “She took on whomever—even priests.”

And you can say the same about Ana.

Throughout more than 30 years of community organizing, Ana has put her Catholic faith into action by holding people in power accountable: standing in protest at state capitols, stopping predatory lenders, and blocking deportation trucks by laying her body in the road. “To me there is only one way to be a Catholic,” she says, “and that is out in the public arena, doing something.”

In 2011, Ana became the executive director of Gamaliel, a national network for faith-based community organizing. As “congregational” or faith-based organizers, Gamaliel emphasizes systemic change: engaging congregations in the work of feeding the hungry, caring for the sick, and sheltering the homeless, but also in the work of transforming the oppressive systems that leave so many people without food, health insurance, or homes in the first place.

Ana also is the first woman of color to lead a national community organizing network, faith-based or otherwise.

“I am emboldened and encouraged that leadership in the field has become more representative of our grassroots leaders and organizers,” wrote Ana during her first year as executive director.

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