By Macy Lu
DAVIS — “Activist,” “business owner,” “mother” and now “Brinley Award Recipient” are just some of the ways to begin describing Anoosh Jorjorian, a fifth-year Davis resident with an impressive community service record that bespeaks of her passion for justice and equality.
As a mixed Asian-American who grew up in a mostly white Sacramento, Jorjorian has always been acutely aware of “issues of inclusion and exclusion, prejudice, and discrimination.”
When former President Trump was elected in 2016, “it was immediately apparent to me that it would be a very bad 4 years, for especially immigrants,” Jorjorian recalled. “That combination of my own experience and that sense of justice and community is what drove me to these issues of social justice.”
In early 2020, Jorjorian became one of the founders of ApoYolo, a program that began after Jorjorian learned that the parent of a child in the Davis school district had been deported by Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Since its inception, the program has helped cover basic needs such as rent, utility and food costs for 65 Spanish-speaking families.
Rather than having to go to multiple agencies for assistance, ApoYolo families only need to reach out to one person who can help connect them with the appropriate resources.
This unique model, Jorjorian remarked, “is very culturally sensitive” and helps families “develop a sense of trust and comfort” in their community.
Regarding her vision in creating ApoYolo, Jorjorian said it was “very much envisioned as a temporary solution to a temporary problem.” She admitted that due to the intensity of the model, it has been “hard to sustain.”
However, because of its overwhelming relevancy to families in Davis, especially during the pandemic, it has already lasted 10 months and will anticipate another 6 more months of operation.
Besides volunteering, Jorjorian plans to continue serving the Davis community through her company, Inclusive Futures Consulting, LLC, whose purpose is to help “parents and educators and institutions talk openly with kids about identity differences and how to be inclusive.”
Jorjorian recognized a need for this type of service after hearing her two children share a conversation many years ago in which they “obviously” expressed “internalized, anti-black racism.”
“It would be tempting for a lot of parents to just gloss that over, but I knew in that moment that I really needed to grapple with that,” she said. “Ironically, by not talking about [identity differences], it actually teaches kids that identity difference is shameful and can actually exacerbate prejudice rather than diminish it.”
“I really feel strongly that in order to transform our future, we need to focus on our children’s education,” Jorjorian explained.
Her advice to parents when it comes to talking to children about this sensitive yet relevant topic is to “be honest with your kid about your own learning.Your children can learn along with you as you teach yourself about your own internalized racism and how you are unlearning it.”
Though she emphasized in an interview with the Vanguard that public recognition is not the “prize” she seeks for her work, Jorjorian’s contributions to the City of Davis has not gone unnoticed.
“[Jorjorian] has instilled her presence into the fabric of our social justice movements so seamlessly that her absence would cause the tapestry to unravel,” said Davis Mayor Gloria Partida.
Thus, it was only fitting that Jorjorian has been named the 2021 recipient of the Brinley Award. The accolade was created in 1969 to recognize an individual for their “outstanding service in a particular project” or “contributions in a major area over an extended period of time.”
When asked what truly motivates her activism, Jorjorian underscored, “When I can make a difference in people’s lives, that’s what feeds me…I do it for the people.”
Her community of friends, from the ApoYolo volunteers to folks from other nonprofits such as Empower Yolo and CommuniCare, also keeps her fueled.
“The accomplishment of keeping these folks housed and fed and safe–it’s the accomplishment of all of us,” she remarked.
For people who feel the urgency to get involved with activism, Jorjorian offered these words of wisdom:
“Find an organization that is led by the people who you want to help…It’s always people experiencing whatever oppression you want to combat who are the experts on how to tackle it.
“Remember that activism is not the way it’s portrayed in movies. It’s not a whole lot of speech-making…Activism is a lot of meetings, it’s a lot of typing up notes, it’s a lot of doing data entry, but every movement really needs that work and runs on that work. Be prepared for the reality of what that work entails.”
Macy is a junior from Orange County, CA, studying Communications and English at UC Davis. She loves meeting people, reading books, and writing creatively.