For Jonathan Ruiz Cervantes, it’s faith that fuels his activism. Growing up in Kansas City, his parents always taught him to be an advocate for others, and when he started reading the Scriptures as a high schooler, he noticed that “a lot of the things you see preached in the New Testament were related to justice and being there for others who need it more.”
While in college at the University of Kansas, Cervantes got inspired by the protesters seeking justice for Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and he jumped into student government and campus activism, switching his major from biology to political science. “I kind of got out of my own comfort zone and started seeing that I could be doing more for people,” he said.
One way he tried to do more was by working to get out the vote in the 2016 election. After he graduated, Cervantes started working with the Voter Network, a nonpartisan organization dedicated to increasing voter turnout in Kansas. An untapped channel for getting out the vote, he thought, was churches. He saw how they could be a political force in their local communities, so he took an opportunity to work on a campaign that partnered with congregations to encourage their members to vote.
“Churches have their hand on the pulse of the community. They're in the communities, they interact with the communities,” he says. “And that's why I feel like churches are the ones who can drive and push their congregations to vote when election time comes.”
Jonathan looks at voting as a privilege. “I grew up with a lot of people who are undocumented and who couldn't vote for one reason or the other,” he explains. “Existing as a marginalized identity in any capacity is political in itself, and it gives more fuel, more fire, to be involved in politics.”