by Dorota Umeno on March 22, 2011
Unless you’ve been hiding somewhere to avoid the news (I know I’ve been tempted to do that), you’re aware of the discussion about the role social spaces such as Facebook and Twitter have played in helping organize, initiate and connect revolutionaries and changemakers in the Middle East and North Africa. The Egyptian revolution did not start on Tahrir Square on January 25th. It started more than a year earlier with a virtual organizational effort in the digital space with the creation of a page on Facebook. Even after the Egyptian government responded by shutting down the Internet, tech-savvy Generation Y citizen journalists continued to put “social” and “media” back into social media. Using a service called speak to tweet, created through an unprecedented collaboration between engineers from Google, Twitter and SayNow, protesters on the ground were able to use their cellphones to continue to supplement traditional media reports with a rich, live Twitter “breaking news” stream.
But we don’t have to go all the way to Egypt to appreciate the potential of social media and its ability to augment the impact of traditional media channels to precipitate change. Confluence Digital is happy to welcome Alonso Chehade who has joined our home office team as of March 7, 2011. Alonso has a very unique and personal experience of the power of the digital space, and social media in particular. We thought it would be good to share his story with readers of our blog.
Alonso Chehade, in his own words:
I am originally from Peru, but I have been a Seattleite for the past 5 years and a proud Husky from the Michael G. Foster School of Business at the University of Washington.
One day two years ago I found myself locked up in an immigration detention center waiting to be deported back to my birth country, Peru. You can read more about the specific circumstances that got me there in my bio. I found myself caught in a strange immigration law loophole under which children of immigrant parents whose papers were not 100% in order were being deported, effectively being punished for the actions of their parents.
While at the center, I decided to give my future in the United States one more shot. I didn’t want to just give up. I had friends here and I felt I belonged here. But I needed a miracle to get that done. What I needed to do was to find a way to get noticed nationally in the hope of getting support from immigration advocates and politicians who could lobby Congress on my behalf and that of other young people in my situation.
With the help of my younger sister I started sharing my story through a Facebook page. Two weeks later I was released from detention thanks to a bond posted by my family and I began posting my story in immigrant blogs and contacting the local traditional mass media.
The initiative led me to local and national advocacy organizations, two politically savvy individuals and two pro-bono attorneys who became my key allies. I was invited to speak at various events. That helped me to further promote my campaign. As the word spread through word of mouth and social media, more people learned about me and about the battle I was fighting. In time the mass media finally started paying attention giving my case national exposure.
To keep all my supporters updated and engaged with the campaign I began working on strengthening the relationship with them by launching a weekly newsletter. Later on during the most critical phase of my campaign I followed up with daily live video streams through a channel called “Alonso Live”. After three months I saw a ray of hope when my deportation was delayed, and the impossible became possible giving me an opportunity to keep fighting.
I continued my efforts by building a website that included a summary of my story, its current political support, the latest updates about my legal situation, and ways people could take action online to help me by signing an electronic petition and share my story through social media.
During the next five months my deportation was delayed two more times, my story was all over the traditional media and generated 64,000 results in search engines. Exhausted of working non-stop and with much stress over my shoulders, the miracle I was looking for happened. One of my U.S. Senators directly intervened on my behalf during a meeting in Congress and my deportation was stayed indefinitely, giving me the right to remain and pursue my dreams in the land of opportunity.
Since then I have been working as a campaign organizer at change.org launching and managing campaigns using new media on behalf of young immigrants facing deportation, and on the side I’ve been running a business as a success coach for teens.
I believe the future is in digital, and digital made my future possible. My goal is to be an advertising executive and I am thankful for the opportunity to work with the Confluence Digital team.