Freedom Fellow shares experiences in organizing for Black worker rights in the Inland Empire

Motunrayo Ekunboyejo discussed Freedom Fellow experiences and accomplishments.

Simone Frank | February 14, 2022

Launched in Summer 2021, the UCLA Center for the Advancement of Racial Equity (CARE) at Work Freedom Fellowship aims to build a bridge between students and labor leaders, union members and field organizers in partnership with the Southern California Black Worker Hub and CARE at Work’s regional Black Worker Center allies.  

The fellowship offers a 10-week experiential learning opportunity that gives both community college and UCLA students a chance to gain hands-on organizing experience working in the movement for civic and economic justice for Black workers. 

Originally from Toronto, Motunrayo Ekunboyejo is a fourth-year transfer political science student at UCLA who grew up in Mountain House, a small town located in Northern California. Ekunboyejo is passionate about serving her community and has a strong desire to uplift workers facing economic difficulties so she formed part of the Freedom Fellowship’s first cohort during the summer of 2021.

“Even though Motunrayo was supposed to learn from me, I learned so much from her. She is just so determined, so smart, so cool and any amazing descriptors I could use. I thank her for all of her help,” Grayson Bell, program assistant for Blu Educational Foundation.

Motunrayo Ekunboyejo discussed her experiences as a Freedom Fellow and her accomplishments below. 

What are you passionate about and what are your interests around Black worker justice? 

I am passionate about making sure Black workers are not facing discrimination within their workplaces and are given equal opportunity to advance within their jobs. Black workers are often the last hired and first fired which disproportionately puts them in challenging situations, making it harder to support their loved ones. Seeing how the people around me from friends, family, and community members have experienced the workforce has made me interested in learning what part I can play to help combat some of the issues Black workers face in the workforce. 

What was your experience as a participant of the Freedom Fellowship? 

The Freedom Fellowship, was a completely different experience from any type of work I’ve done. I had the opportunity to work directly with community members and hear from them about issues they were experiencing for our mutual aid resource fair for the Inland Empire Black Worker Center. During this resource fair, PPE and groceries were handed out to the community. This event was also an introductory event to introduce the community to the Black Worker Center and get people familiar with the work it’s trying to accomplish. 

Part of the reason that this resource fair was put together was to address the Black jobs crisis. As many of us know, the Black jobs crisis looks like Black workers not being able to have enough wages to support their families comfortably. Bringing this resource fair to introduce the community to different work and job opportunities was the first step in addressing some of the issues that Black workers are facing in this region. I appreciated that I got to see the different facets of organizing work and it motivated me even more to continue in my pursuit to advocate for the Black community.

How exactly did you support the mutual aid resource fair as a fellow?

I was able to exercise my creativity and personal talents through the different organizing roles that I had. I acted as a content creator by helping to create fliers that would be used to promote the event on different social media platforms and also helped create the Inland Empire Black Worker Center Instagram page. I was able to do phone banking and text banking, which was a new experience for me, where I got to directly talk to Black workers in this region and not only invite them to the event but also talk to them more about the Black Worker Center. This resource fair ended up being a huge success and it was just amazing to see that after weeks of hard work by not only myself and the other fellows, but also the board of directors, and other community partners for its success and seeing our hard work come to fruition. 

What are your plans after completing the Freedom Fellowship?

As I am going into my last year of college, I plan to take the LSAT and attend law school. I am hoping to become a civil rights attorney in the next few years and be able to help members of disenfranchised communities.

How has the Freedom Fellowship helped you grow?

I improved my time management and organizational skills. Both are two really important attributes when doing organizing work because things cannot get done without appropriate planning and care. 

A new skill I developed was learning to be more of an 80/20 listener, especially when speaking directly to community members who could be sharing their stories and vulnerable parts of their life. Overall, I would say the Freedom Fellowship helped me grow into a more empathic and well-rounded person.

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Simone Frank

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The 2022 Freedom Fellowship beginning in July 2022 will be offered exclusively to students who have taken We Gone Be Alright: Developing the Next Generation of Black Worker Organizers. We Gon’ Be Alright is a joint UCLA Labor Studies and LACCD Course (UC Transferable) that will focus on the tenets of hands-on community organizing and aims to give students an in-depth look at the historical and modern efforts of the Black Worker Justice Movement.

Enrollment for this course will be through the instructor’s consent. Please complete the class application form to be considered for this course.