A voice calling for social justice, action in North Carolina

An activist helping immigrant communities let their voices be heard

A voice calling for social justice, action in North Carolina

One of our neighbors is leaving his mark right here in Charlotte. His name is Héctor Vaca, an activist with Action NC who is helping immigrant communities let their voices be heard. This is his story.

Vaca started out working at a store in South Carolina, but what happened there one day triggered his sense of social justice.

“I saw the store supervisor mistreating the workers, so I started educating my colleagues on their rights in the workplace. When the supervisor found out, she got angry and found a way to fire me,” Vaca said.

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He was fired.

“I was simply educating them because I don’t like to see the mistreatment of others. I am the son of immigrants and I grew up poor, so I know what racism is and I know what mistreatment is. I don’t want anyone else to go through that,” he said.

That experience sparked his interest in activism – something that defines him to this day. For 10 years now at Action NC, he listens to the concerns and frustrations of immigrant communities and makes their voices heard.

Action NC’s mission is to confront andreduce the root causes of poverty, underdevelopment, and social and economic inequality through grassroots education, training, organization and mobilization.

His voice can sometimes be heard in the heart of Uptown Charlotte fighting for justice and immigrants' rights.

“We also organize car caravans with signs about the census – why it’s important and how to fill it out. We use the car horn to let people know we are here to help. We work closely with small businesses and churches to make sure people fill it out,” Vaca said.

In the wake of the Uptown protests in June, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department announced reforms, but Vaca is not all that sure if they will live up to the community’s expectations.

“Sadly, when CMPD, or any other police agency, talks about reforms, they are talking from their perspective without talking first with the community to find out what the community wants or what the community wants to see happen,” he said.

For Vaca, people in the community are not the obstacle. He believes the obstacles come from those who have the means to resolve them.

“Charlotte has an excellent system when it comes to listening to the concerns of the community, but it has a terrible system when it comes to doing something about the concerns of the community,” Vaca said.

He insists that all change begins at the personal and individual levels.

“You yourself can be a leader,” Vaca said. “You don’t have to wait for a superman or some superhero to rescue you.”

He wants to leave his own legacy in community activism and hopes to inspire others.

“I see a better world coming, especially after this virus, which is reminding us that we can’t continue living like we did before. We have to change and we have to save our planet, and people are waking up,” Vaca said.

If you have an inspiring story to share, email Kevin Campbell, WSOC-TV/WAXN-TV/Telemundo Charlotte public affairs manager, at Kevin.Campbell@wsoctv.com.