Below is a note from our managing director, Mary Lassen.
Eric Quezada passed away early this morning in San Francisco. Eric’s wife, Lorena Melgarejo, is a key member of CCC’s Immigration Team. Their 3 year old daughter, Ixchel, was a source of great pride for Eric.
Born in Los Angeles to Guatemalan immigrants, Eric’s parents moved to the San Francisco area when he was 5 years old to join other members of their family who lived in the city. Growing up in Daly City and the Mission District where Eric’s family ran a small business, he was active in sports and music, and was influenced by the Central American political movements impacting the Mission in the 70’s and 80’s. He was recruited to study and play soccer at California State University, Chico where he played and earned degrees in International Relations and Latin American Studies.
Upon returning to San Francisco Eric began his career in the non-profit sector and has been active in San Francisco’s social justice movements ever since. He was a leader in affordable housing and land-use issues, immigrant rights, and international solidarity. For the past six years he was the Executive Director of Dolores Street Community Services which has evolved into a leading agency based on a social service and social justice model. He was a candidate for the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 2008.
I met Eric at the Windcall Institute in 2005. He had been battling cancer since the previous year. His amazing spirit and energy will stay with me forever. His long bike rides and even longer passionate conversations have stayed with me ever since. I was delighted to connect with Eric in his role at Dolores Street after I came to CCC; he was an important organizer in the immigrant rights struggle in California. When Lorena joined our staff, I was excited about joining her deep experience and commitment to our work.
When Eric suffered a recurrence of cancer last year, it was clear that he would muster all his strength so that he could be with his family and carry on the work that meant so much to him. The grace and courage with which Eric and Lorena have faced this journey is remarkable. Marty and I visited them and Ixchel last month in San Francisco soon before they made the decision to seek an alternative cancer treatment in Germany. They returned to California at the end of last week. Lorena wrote the “month in Germany was beautiful because the treatment made him strong enough and took away his pain so that he could enjoy his daughter and life, it was his last fight and the perfect last holiday.”
Here are further relfections from our Director of Organizational Learning, Pamela Chiang:
With deep roots in the contemporary and progressive left, Eric crossed many movements and sectors in the United States and internationally. Eric was an active person in many struggles – he saw that they were all related and he helped many people and organizations understand what solidarity from the local to global really meant. Among the many struggles he was part of, he was influential in the environmental and economic justice movement of the 1990s. In the “New Left” he was a strong bridge between older and younger generations; he influenced a whole generation of people of color who are now in their 20s to 40s. There, he brought an appreciation and understanding for the intersection of race, class, gender, environment and spirituality into progressive analysis and pushed people to move toward partnership. He was rooted in these principles by his very practice of empowering those who are impacted to lead change.
He was self-effacing and very generous with his time. No matter how intense a situation, Eric always saw things from the positive, which exuded from his smiling eyes.
Eric also reminded us that the path to liberation and justice is a path of love within community and fun. As a creative and dynamic DJ he brought music, dance, and celebration to countless political and social settings. He was passionate about soccer, the Giants and sports.
Eric was a beacon for what can be possible when one is open to change. He demonstrated that in his personal struggle with cancer.
Here are reflections from our National Field Director of Organizing, David Kimball:
Eric was a visionary and long time leader and organizer in the fight for working class people and immigrants in San Francisco and California. In 2009 and 2010, Eric led the efforts to build a new team of leaders with the Reform Immigration for America Campaign in the San Francisco Bay Area. He was instrumental in a state-wide strategy to pin Senator Diane Feinstein and demand her support for immigration reform legislation in the US Senate. Just months earlier Senator Feinstein had ignored the requests of immigrant leaders across the state to meet with her. Eric coordinated an amazing response that culminated in 2000 spirited protestors taking to the streets of San Francisco on Wednesday, March 24, 2010 to demand Senator Feinstein meet with us and support immigration reform efforts in the US Senate. The protestors assembled at Justin Herman Plaza on the waterfront and marched to the very foot of Senator Diane Feinstein’s barricaded downtown office building. Every media outlet in the City was present and the rally blew the roof of the City and showed that the 200,000+ March for America held a few days earlier in DC was not the end but the beginning of a new, creative and committed phase of the immigrant rights movements. The protestors demanded Senator Feinstein take action and she did by starting a Senate sign-on letter in April that attracted the signatures of more than 20 Senators to support immigration reform legislation.