I’ve been spending a lot of time with Jess and Ermete lately. I’ll probably be spending even more time with them soon as some of this organizing heats up. So I may as well tell you a little more about them.
Jess is hard to describe. She grew up in Southern Illinois and has spent most of her life here, so she knows all about the history, the people, the land, and so on. On that level, it’s obvious that she’s a local. But on another level, you would think she came here from some big city. She’s very intelligent and very talkative when there’s a political or philosophical discussion. She has all of these big green political ideas that she talks about in great detail with anyone who will listen. The way she talks so quickly and passionately and intellectually about politics reminds me of one of my New York organizer friends. Usually the locals here with those types of beliefs are slow to talk about them with new people because they don’t want to be labeled Green Front. That’s a good way to get run out of town in some parts of Southern Illinois. But Jess has no hesitation. She just says what’s on her mind. She’s not rude about it, but she also doesn’t care if it offends you. She’s very outspoken. I like that about her.
Ermete is a bit more soft-spoken. He’s also very intelligent, as you may have guessed from his interests in science and engineering. But he waits to see if you’re interested in what he has to say. If you are, he’ll lean in closer and tell you in hushed tones all about the secrets of the universe. As he talks, his eyes widen at the most exciting parts, and his hands trace shapes in sweeping gestures as if to show you the curving of magnetic fields, or the shape of molecules, or the structure of political systems. He’s lived in the United States most of his life, but he was born in Italy and has a noticeable Italian accent. It’s interesting. His voice has an almost musical quality to it.
They are both organizers at heart. Jess is a grad student in communication studies and Ermete finds odd jobs related to his green interests, especially anything technical. They have very different styles, but they both have these similar visions of how to improve their community, and they both spend a lot of time and energy making it happen. Even when the details are a little boring, the overall lifestyle is very exciting. I can see the appeal. I used to just do this type of thing in my spare time as my way of giving back to the community. But now I want to do more.
We hope to do a lot together while I’m here this summer. It will take some time to organize anything big, but there are plenty of small things to do in the meantime. There are times when I wish I had found a place to stay closer to Miami so that I could visit on the weekends and do some volunteering there. But then I would have missed out on spending the summer with Alejandra and meeting Jess and Ermete. At the end of the day, I think I made the right choice.