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November 15, 2021

Movement Maker Profiles: Aneiry Zapata

Aneiry Simonnaeh Zapata was born in a small black-Garífuna community called “Sambo Creek” in Honduras. She is a transgender Black woman, a primary education teacher, a feminist, and a human rights activist, and specifically LGBTQIA+ rights.

Who are your people?

My community is everyone that the television does not see, my community is what is not on the radio, my community is those who do not have access to social media, the small, remote villages, the community that does not speak the languages we know, that does not speak English, that does not speak Spanish. I speak Garifuna and I know that there are many other dialects, many other languages in life, throughout the earth.

I consider that to be my community, the people that nobody sees. The socially invisible, they are mine and that’s why I’m here.

What brings you to this work?

I was brought to this movement by my history, by my own life. I’ve been through a lot in my 25 years of existence and at one point I felt like there was no one or nothing that could back me up.

When I found out that there were organizations, a few, that looked out for the Black community, for the immigrant community, I said, “Okay, there is an organization, there are people who are interested in this and I also want to be, I want to be able to be around for the other people who have less privilege or less opportunity than I do.”

What aspect of your movement work brings you the most joy?

It’s hard to be joyful when there are so many people suffering, but what brings me the most joy is when someone sends me a message, “Aneiry, my political asylum,” “I got my work permit,” “I got my apartment approved,” it kind of gives me life. In the midst of so much suffering that I see, when I see that someone will have the opportunity to change their life for the better, it’s inspiring for me.

What moves are you making to end the violence?

I’m in MEV, which is one of the main ones to end violence, but I’m also the Garifuna community coordinator at Black LGBTQIA+ Migrant Project and our vision is to be able to empower the world, because I think the most effective thing for the eradication of violence is to raise children in the proper way.

If you raise a child right today, you know you’re not going to have a violent person tomorrow, you know you’re not going to have a person who’s going to need to come out of a closet, you know you’re not going to have a person who’s going to have a gender marker that wants to force them to be someone they are not. Abolish so many things that we need to abolish, but I believe that the children today can save our world, if we raise them the right way.

My main vision is that. This year I have been working with LGBT youth. My 2022 plan is to be able to work with children and with adults, LGBT seniors. With that I think the contribution we will make to the world will be quite strong, I think it will be one of the best contributions we can make to the world.

How would you describe your leadership strengths?

My leadership strengths are human. Yes, I can describe them as human, because I don’t hide what I feel. If something is bothering me, I make it known. If something is hurting me, I let it be known. I am a person who tries to be transparent.

I think that’s my main strength in this job, the humanity behind me. With all the lived experience I have, to be able to continue to be human, to be able to continue to feel what others feel, to be able to continue to speak for those who can’t speak, that keeps me going.

What helps you stay in the movement?

It helps me to stay in the movement, is to know that we still need to have a movement, to know that there are still people in jail, to know that there are still laws that dehumanize, to know that there are still people coming out of the closet.

The need for there to be a movement helps me to stay in the movement. I say there will come a day when we can all live with freedom and we won’t need this at all. I may say, “Now I can rest,” but as long as there is injustice, I cannot rest in the face of injustice.

The only thing I can add is people are really suffering. You can’t imagine, we all go through something every day, every day. I am always here trying to smile to whoever comes and trying to find a solution to whoever comes with a problem, who needs a connection, but I am also human and we all suffer things.

Let’s try to be as kind as possible, because we all go through something, everyone, Black, white, LGBT, non-LGBT, we all go through something.

Art by lizar_tistry