Leaders + Members

Causa Justa :: Just Cause members are leaders in their communities and advocates for radical change in our society. Our members are Latinos and African-Americans from the neighborhoods of East and West Oakland and the Mission and Excelsior districts of San Francisco.

Causa Justa members participate in skills trainings, know-your-rights trainings, political education, and campaigns. They strategize with each other as well as with allies. They talk with their neighbors. They talk to the media. They speak out on the streets and in the offices of elected officials.

Causa Justa invests in our members because we know that in building people’s power we build stronger communities while building a stronger movement for change.

Meet our members!

Ana Gutierrez..."Keep fighting. No one can help you if you don't help yourself."

Candelario Melendez..."I came here and this is where I landed. This is my place."

Margarita Ramirez...… "I will fight it to the end. I will keep fighting.

Alma Blackwell“I learned how a person can have a voice, an opinion, to voice how they feel, and people hear the stories.”

Maria HernandezI've grown and developed and have learned to express myself publicly. My dreams have come back.”

Mai-Stella Khantouche...“I found a political home. I found organizational mentorship. That's what has kept me here.”

 Talia Herrera“I got involved with the issue of immigrant rights and made a poster on the topic that is now a mural.”

Dabphne HugesThe canvassing work is critical for bringing information directly to the people in my community.”

Yvonne Smith….“I’m exited to be working on our first cross-bay campaign.”

 

Ana Gutierrez, Member

"CJJC held me up and didn't let me buckle."
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Ana Gutierrez, has been a member since 2008. About two years ago she asked CJJC for assistance after a new landlord filed an Ellis Act. Ana has lived in her Mission district flat for 35 years and raised all her children there. This spring, she celebrated a victory after a settlement prevented the owner or successors from issuing a new Ellis notice until March 2016-- and now  she can remain in her Mission district apartment two more years. Ana is an active participant at most of our events, lending support, woman power and testimony. Ana has advice for others fighting to remain in their homes: “Keep fighting. No one can help you if you don’t help yourself. CJJC held me up and didn’t let me buckle. Now [with the new agreement] I’m more peaceful and can finally sleep through the night instead of waking up every 2-3 hours wondering what’s going to happen.”  We’re inspired by Ana’s victory and hope it inspires other tenants as well.

 

Candelario Melendez, Member

"I have seen too many people evicted that I am organizing. We cannot allow private capital to change our community. "

"I came here when I saw Causa Justa helps the community.  Without hope, nothing changes. I came in and asked what I could do to help. I see how they treat community members and resolve cases. The service that CJJC gives the people, well, if they weren’t here a lot of these clients would be out on the streets. I was organizing in El Salvador when I was a young man. I came here and this is where I landed. This is my place. In my opinion, both neighborhood residents and community organizations need to organize broadly so that our community loses our fear and becomes committed to fighting for our right to a just rent and freedom from harassment. It is because I have seen too many people evicted that I am organizing. We cannot allow private capital to change our community."

 

Margarita Ramirez, Member

"This (foreclosure) is happening all over — we are not the only family this is happening to. You have to make room in your life to keep attending the meetings and actions to help other people."

Click here to watch video on Margarita by the Reel Justice Program/Center for Third World Organizing.

Margarita Ramirez has been a member with CJJC since 2011. She bought her home almost 15 years ago. In 2011, Bank of America, in collaboration with Fannie Mae, sold their house early to an investment company, EB Fund I, LLC. The family was dual tracked. She tried to negotiate a loan modification with the bank. She waited 18 months for a response. None came. The family could not make the monthly payment. They didn’t understand that the bank was going to sell their home, the documents were in English and the Ramirez’ speak primarily Spanish.The family is now paying rent on the home they once owned. She continues to fight for the return of her home and remains active at all our meetings and actions. She is among one of our most active members, consistently offering support to other tenants and homeowners who are trying to remain in their homes.

 

Alma Blackwell, Member Leader, Steering Committee

I decided that change doesn’t happen overnight. Being part of the organization helped me personally transform from who I was —  to who I am now."

Ms_AlmaMy name is Alma Blackwell and I am a member of Causa Justa :: Just Cause. 

I had never been involved in a community-based organization until they knocked on my door that summer of 2008. I kept getting calls inviting me to things. In October 2009 I started volunteering once a week, four hours a day as a receptionist for the housing clinic. I didn’t think it would last as long as it did! It’s now been over two years — almost three. So I continue doing that once a week. I got involved in the Housing Rights Committee, and the Housing Rights Campaign Team, and then the monthly meetings and member meetings, I started to be consistent. I felt obligated as a member and to my commitment to continue to stay involved with the organization. Then I decided that change doesn’t happen overnight. The key thing, is when a person — or even myself getting involved — is to come back and make the commitment to stay with it and continue doing it. I’ve always been a community person… but I didn’t have the opportunity to have a voice. I learned how a person can have a voice, an opinion, to voice how they feel, and people hear the stories.

In 2010 they needed program canvassers for the census so I got hired to work the census team, that was even more inspiring. Shortly after that, Universidad came about. I thought I could get more experience being involved with the organization and get over my fear of participating. I went to the Universidad in 2011 and again, in 2012 and learned more about the organization and built up my skills as far as being a leader with organization.  

At CJJC I’ve been able to participate in actions, given the chance to put the bullhorn in my hand. Been able to fight against big corporations, help with the fight against big banks, and participate in the housing rights campaign, and internally grow as a member

I’ve become more conscious about the struggle for liberation and how the system doesn’t always reflect towards people of color, people of lower income, living below poverty. It raised my consciousness as to how the system works and how it can be improved and that there are organizations out there working to transform the system.

Being part of the organization helped me personally transform from who I was to who I am now.

 

Maria Hernandez, Member Leader, Steering Committee

"I am committed to do the best work I can do and give my best to the organization. I've grown and developed and have learned to express myself publicly. My dreams have come back."

Maria

 

My name is Maria Hernandez. I joined in 2001 when I needed a repair done in my apartment, and I sought out the support of a community agency that defends tenants against landlord abuses. What we won was not only repairs but also the landlord stopped abusing us. Three days after the counselor sent a letter to the landlord, he fixed the ceiling leak! Since then I have felt truly supported in any housing-related problem that I have. I am committed to continue working for unity and to invite more people to dedicate themselves to this organization — making us stronger. Since I’ve been named as one of the member leaders at CJJC, I am even more committed to do the best work I can do and be a better person, giving the best to the organization. I was looking to volunteer, to understand how the system worked. I told my brother I like it here. I had the idea that this was the place I was looking for. And it is.

 

 

 

Mai-Stella Khantouche, Member Leader, Steering Committee

"I found a political home. I found organizational mentorship. That's what has kept me here."

Mai_Stella_a“I was working at another nonprofit and someone I worked with was volunteering to help organize the Just Cause anniversary event in 2007, [this was before the merger between Just Cause and St. Peter's Housing].  He asked me to help him with the silent auction and that’s what initially introduced me. I started learning more about their politics and what they stood for. Their organization really led me to want to be more involved. I tend to be a little shy about being a member leader. One of my challenges is to really step up as a leader.
The spaces they leave for political development is really attractive to me. We don’t get many spaces to actually discuss and learn for members and for allies. I found a political home. Other organizations aren’t organized or as clear for me and not as in line with my beliefs. I found organizational mentorship. That’s what has kept me here. I like going to meetings where there is an agenda and goals.
The members inspire and excite me, and keep me engaged. If you listen and let people speak, you learn different things, things you may not have thought about before. We wouldn’t be transforming ourselves or transforming the system if we all agreed on everything, or had the same strengths and weaknesses. And the dedication of the staff is pretty amazing.
Currently the system is not working for any one of us. CJJC gives you that place to explore your different thoughts, bounce them off other people, It is a good political home to explore those different ideas and things you want to see and change — and feel that support that you’re not all out there by yourself.
Nothing is ever changed by one person doing something even though there are names that stick out (throughout history) they were all part of something. If it’s not this organization, then join an org that will transform you and allow you to grow and learn. It’s important to work together to change the system.”

 

Talia Herrera, Member

 "I got involved with the issue of immigrant rights."
My name is Talia Herrera. I came to Causa Justa when it was St. Peter’s Housing Committee due to some housing problems I was having, which St. Peter’s helped me resolve. In addition to winning my case, my family gained a group of people whose intentions were to continue helping ourselves, and I got involved with the issue of immigrant rights and made a poster on the topic that is now a mural in Clarion Alley near Valencia and 17th. I am moved by the suffering that so many families were living, having been separated by deportation, and the insecurity that this causes in the Latino community. In addition to fighting for housing, Causa Justa fights on behalf of immigrants, and because of this, I am committed to uniting with this struggle to win immigrant rights and amnesty for all.

 

Dabphne Huges, Member

"The people I talk to really appreciate us being out there."

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I’m Daphney Hughes. I came to CJJC for a census outreach job [in 2010]. I joined as a member because I liked what I saw. I liked the people. I liked the participation in the community, and the campaign work is really important. I can see that we’re actually trying to solve problems. There’s so much I’m learning that I wouldn’t get if I wasn’t a part of this organization.  Once I have information, I’m able to share it with my family, my neighbors. Through civic engagement work and canvassing I can reach even more people. The canvassing work is critical for bringing information directly to the people in my community that are usually left out of decisions that affect our lives. The people I talk to really appreciate us being out there. And it felt good sharing! Once you start sharing, it was like I was giving away money. People come around to see what you’re talking about, and then you can give them important information about things that affect them and show them how they can get involved. I am commited to giving more of myself to the work and to making sure we’re able to reach even more people and follow up with the great people we meet so they can join our work.

 

Yvonne Smith, Member

"I've lived in West Oakland for 60 years, and in the same home for 40 years."

My name is Yvonne Smith. I’ve lived in West Oakland for 60 years and in the same home for 40 years. I first got involved in struggles to benefit my neighborhood. I’ve been part of the organization ever since, fighting to stop displacement and gentrification and to improve the standard of life for people in Oakland. I’m exited to be working on our first cross-bay campaign- Utilies ON! Utilities ON! is a fight to ensure that utilities stay on for tenants in foreclosed properties. We are fighting to keep water on for Oakland tenants, and to keep PG&E on for San Francisco tenants, and to make the banks pay! I’m committed to supporting all the work of the organization, knowing that as we continue to grow, there will be more, and more we will be called on to do to meet our community’s needs. I will always remember our basic needs for reasonable rents for all people—in public housing and rent-controlled housing—and to stand up against illegal evictions and injustices.