With the contentious Durham elections now in the rearview, documentarian Rodrigo Dorfmanwho caught hell for a fiery email he wrote defending city council member Javiera Caballero—pens a note of gratitude to Mayor Steve Schewel. 

“We woke up to the incredible electoral news of a lot of firsts,” Dorfman writes. “A Latina mayor in Tucson! A Working Families Party candidate winning a council seat in Philly! And in Durham, we elected, for the first time, a Latina candidate to the city council. When Steve won his mayoral race in 2017, he explicitly said that he wanted his [council] seat to go to a Latina. Why? Because he knew that Latinos needed political representation in a city where too many of them live in the shadows and have no voice. 

“But he also knew that, at that time, we did not have sufficient political power and privilege to access a seat by ourselves. We needed help to pull ourselves up. Just as we needed help to start a Latino Credit Union, immigrants have to seek alliances to survive. That is our reality. Many of us fought very hard to make sure that Javiera Caballero was chosen by the council to take Steve’s seat, and when she was chosen, Javiera was given the opportunity to be mentored by her colleagues Charlie Reece and Jillian Johnson and the rest of the council. Javiera worked twice as hard because as a woman and as a Latina candidate, as an immigrant and a mother of three, she had to carry the voices of thousands of her fellow immigrants who did not have a voice. That’s quite a burden. 

“Steve Schewel opened the door, and we pushed it wide open. This morning, there’s a little Latina girl in Durham who is looking up to her undocumented mother and saying, ‘Mami, one day, I’m going to be on the city council, and I’m going to help my community become a Durham para todos.’”

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