Tomás Garrett-Rosas is a Sociology Professor at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. Some of the courses he teaches are Communities of Color, Social Problems and Social Change. His research focuses on the academic achievement of African American, Latina/o, and mixed race/multiethnic urban high school students. He received his Master’s degree in Sociology from the University of Illinois at Chicago and his Ph.D. in Urban Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Dr. Garrett-Rosas is also a Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Fellow.
I initially got involved with CTWO in the summer of 92’ through my participation in the Minority Activist Apprenticeship Program at the age of 18. I was nominated to the program by a mentor at a community organization that I volunteered at in Milwaukee. While volunteering at Esperanza Unida, I was introduced to the concepts of giving back to the community. However, I did not fully understand the concepts of community organizing and what MAAP had to offer.
I was initially skeptical about leaving Milwaukee and going to Oakland. First of all I was wondering why they would take interest in me in the first place. I was a high school drop-out, graffiti artist, and a former gang member. However, CTWO recognized my potential and passion for social change that others didn’t. During my first week of training, we participated in various worker’s union actions, which included taking over an office building and a restaurant. After that first week of training, I realized the power of organizing. I felt proud to be a part of a movement that was made up primarily of people of color.
Ever since participating in MAAP my life has been focused on the empowerment of communities of color. I’ve worked on organizing campaigns dealing with various issues such as lead abatement, immigration, police accountability and asset forfeiture. While working with Action for a Better Community in Denver, we were able to get the first free lead tests for children in the state of Colorado. I also initially organized Youth of Oakland United to train teens of color in Oakland to organize against forms of social control.
My experience with MAAP helped to build the foundation for the rest of my life. It inspires and shapes my current research on urban youth of color. I sometimes run my research work past folks at CTWO to get insight and advice. Finally, my teaching is informed by my experiences in organizing and from the training that I received since initially becoming part of this extraordinary family. “Always remember the first rule of power tactics; power is not only what you have but what the enemy thinks you have” (Saul Alinsky)