Sometimes you get to be part of something really special.
That’s what happened when Mr. Salazar invited me into his home.
Last October, something really special happened to me. I drove in the early morning from my home in Pacifica to a small town in the Central Valley – Firebaugh, California. And there, I met Mr. Florentino Salazar, who invited me into his home.
You see, a couple of months earlier, OneJustice won an amazing contest run by Dave Brick of Brick Films. Dave is an incredibly talented filmmaker (you can see his work on his website) – and he decided to provide a free film to a nonprofit as a way of giving back. After 47 contest submissions and thousands of votes cast for the finalists, OneJustice was the contest winner – and the recipient of Dave’s generosity with his time, energy and expertise. Working with Dave, we all decided that the best possible idea was a film that could be used by the entire legal services sector to relate the power of our work – through the lens of one client’s experience. And with OneJustice’s focus on reaching isolated areas of the state, and Dave’s prior work for CRLA and PolicyLink documenting the needs of small unincorporated communities in rural areas, it was a no-brainer that we would focus on the Central Valley.
And so we worked with Chris Schneider and the dedicated team at Central California Legal Services, who introduced us to Mr. Salazar. He agreed to meet with me, to hear more about the film idea, so I trundled off to Firebaugh.
And had my heart broken wide open. As we sat around his kitchen table, Mr. Salazar was incredibly open with me about his experience. He had worked his entire life to provide for his family. Like many low-wage workers, they lived one pay period away from truly hard times. And then came medical problems, surgery, and trouble making ends meet – followed by a terrible experience with a loan modification company whose unlawful practices brought Mr. Salazar and his family to the brink of losing their home. Somehow they miraculously made it to Central California Legal Services – who stepped in, saved the home, and ultimately won an injunction that prohibited the company from continuing their illegal and predatory behavior.
Now I know that this story is repeated hundreds and thousands of times throughout California. Legal services attorneys work miracles in family’s lives every day. But sitting in Mr. Salazar’s modest and immaculate home, meeting his wife, sons and family members, hearing him describe the attorneys at Central California Legal Services as angels who came into his life – it reminded me what an honor and a privilege it is to do this work.
And so it seems particularly right to share this film with you all on Martin Luther King Jr. day. Because I think Dr. King would have agreed with Mr. Salazar that “To believe is power. Justice is power. This is justice.”
(Click here or on the image above to watch the film.)