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Still Invisible? Waging Stories with Social Media

#sxsw #StoryPower

What does it mean to wage a story? In this panel, Pulitzer prize-winning journalist Jose Antonio Vargas describes the moment of coming out as an undocumented immigrant, an "outlaw" in his own country. He explores the ways in which his radically visible story traveled from the New York Times to Facebook to Youtube and back -- and forced a toxic national debate into a human frame. As context for Jose's incredible story, Joe Sudbay, Deputy Editor of AMERICABlog, describes how bold, hi-tech storytelling transformed the political calculus during the waning months of the last Congress and landed him in a meeting with President Obama at the White House. Felipe Matos takes us on a journey that reinvents what it means to push for civil rights: a 1,500 mile walk from Miami to DC, tweeted at every turn.These hypervisible, once-invisible stories are changing what we thought we knew about the communities that are "coming out," as well as how to tap the power of social media to ignite change.


Felipe Matos Organizer

Felipe Matos was born to a single mother in the slums of Brazil. At the age of 14 he was sent to the United States to live with his older sister. This is when he first dreamed of becoming a teacher. However, while he had the intelligence and drive, Felipe’s immigration status served as a barrier in the way of achieving this dream. Felipe had been accepted by many top colleges, but was barred from receiving financial aid due to his undocumented status.

Rather than sit back and do nothing, Felipe became a young leader in the immigrant’s rights movement. Using the power of storytelling, Felipe worked with fellow undocumented students to advocates for the passage of the DREAM Act, a bill that would give undocumented students of “good moral character” a pathway to citizenship if they go to college or the military.

To help raise awareness about the importance of the DREAM Act and the plight of undocumented students, Felipe and three other DREAMers (young people who would benefit from the DREAM Act) walked from Miami, FL to Washington DC in Spring of 2010 on a trip they called the Trail of DREAMs. All along the way they met with community members to share their stories.

Many say it was because of the work of the DREAMers that the bill was voted on and passed for the first time ever in the House in December of 2010. If not for them, the bill would not have even been brought to the floor of the House. Unfortunately, the vote was only five votes shy of passing in the Senate. Since then, Felipe and others have been pushing the Obama administration to stop the deportation of DREAMers, a victory that was just won in mid-August.

But Felipe’s activism hasn’t stopped there. Felipe has been traveling to help organize against anti-immigrant measures in a variety of states while continuing school and participating in immigrant rights work in his home state of Florida.

Felipe has served on the Board of Directors of the Florida Immigrant Coalition and is a core leader with Students Working for Equal Rights. He is part of the National Coordinating Committee of the national organization United WE DREAM and an online advocate for the national group

In 2008, Felipe was ranked one of the top 20 community college students in the United States and best student in the state of Florida according to the American Association of Community Colleges. In addition to his educational excellence, Felipe also found time to serve his peers as the student government president of Miami Dade College Wolfson Campus where he graduated from their Honor’s College.
Felipe is currently studying Business and Administration at St. Thomas University and he still hopes that one day he will be able to teach young people, because he believes education is the key to pulling people out of poverty.

Heather Cronk Managing Dir GetEQUAL

Heather joined GetEQUAL in May 2010. Prior to GetEQUAL, Heather was the Chief Operating Officer at the New Organizing Institute, overseeing operations and expanding programs. Heather has also worked with organizations such as mySociety in the U.K. and with in the U.S., always focused on building community and pushing for tangible social change. A native of Lexington, KY, Heather holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in religion/philosophy from Berry College in Rome, GA, and a Master of Divinity degree from Wake Forest University Divinity School in Winston-Salem, NC.

Jackie Mahendra Dir of Organizing

Jackie serves as Director of Organizing for Immigrant Rights at, the world’s fastest-growing platform for social change, which empowers millions of people to start, join, and win campaigns that matter. Prior to joining, Jackie spent four years designing new media initiatives for immigration reform from Chicago, IL to Washington, DC, where she incubated online strategy for America’s Voice, a rapid-response communications hub based in Washington, DC.

These days, Jackie enjoys helping everyday people “wage” the types of stories that can bring corporations to their knees, save families from deportation, or send politicians running.

Jackie earned her degree in New Media and Science Studies from Brown University.

Jehmu Greene Contributer Fox News

Joe Sudbay Contributing Editor AMERICABlog

Joe Sudbay serves as a Contributing Editor of and AMERICAblog Gay. He began writing on in November 2004. In that capacity, he has broken news stories, served on numerous panels, spoken at conferences and frequently appeared in the traditional media. In February of 2009, he became the first blogger credentialed to attend a Presidential news conference. In October of 2010, Joe was one of five bloggers to conduct the first-ever sit-down interview with President Obama.

For the past six years, Joe Sudbay has been the President of Sudbay Strategies, LLC. In that role, Mr. Sudbay works with non-profit organizations, companies and campaigns, primarily designing and implementing strategies for dealing with the social networking and online world. He has worked with a wide-array of national non-profit organizations.

Joe has a J.D. from the University of Maine School of Law and an M.P.A. from Lehigh University and received a B.A. from the University of New Hampshire.

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