TEARING DOWN WALLS WITH ELSA MARIE COLLINS

September 15, 2020

TEARING DOWN WALLS WITH ELSA MARIE COLLINS

In Elsa Marie Collins’ dreams, 2021 is a year with “more equality, less brutality, more empathy, more travel and more family.” The social impact strategist is not only the co-founder of impactful US/Mexico border organization, This Is About Humanity, but she also works to bolster causes like Latina empowerment through She Se Puede and voter registration with I am a Voter and the movement for Black lives with Harness, among others. This busy working mother took a beat to discuss her own experience growing up at the border, the dire circumstances there now and how we can help make this world a better place for our children.

 
SALT: Can you talk a bit about your background and how that led you to want to make the world a better place?
Elsa Marie Collins: I was raised on both sides of the border (San Diego-Tijuana), so I really grew up as a border child, taking and learning from each culture to become the person I am today. I attended schools on both sides of the border, becoming truly bilingual, bicultural and bi-literate.

Growing up, my mother was always giving back. So, the concept of philanthropy is something that was introduced to me from an early age and I just felt it was something everyone did. 
Once I started my own social impact consulting company, The Ideateur, I realized that I could make real change too and I have been focused on doing that through This is About Humanity and more.

 
SALT: You’re a social impact strategist. What exactly does that mean?
EMC: Social impact strategy is about making change in areas that involve social justice through strategy. The strategy helps to move the needle in the direction one wants to see it go. I mostly focus on social justice issues that I have a connection with or that I feel are crucial to advancing equality in all spheres. My involvement on the strategy side includes voter registration and access with I am a Voter, criminal justice reform and the Movement for Black Lives with Harness and This is About Humanity (TIAH).  Most recently, I co-founded She Se Puede with 9 other amazing Latinas including America Ferrera and Eva Longoria to help shift the culture and narrative around Latinas in this country.  

 
SALT: You started This Is About Humanity with your sister and Zoe Winkler. Can you talk about what moved you to action?
EMC: I had recently traveled to Texas to  protest what was happening with families at the border and, on the way home, I realized that there was so much to be done right in my hometown of Tijuana. I started looking into ways to help these families and Yolanda and Zoe were all in. It really started as a donation drive; I don't think any of us knew what was developing. But we saw so much support and interest that we realized that people wanted to do and learn more. I think when people feel they don't know enough about an issue, they don't feel comfortable talking about it. So much of what we try to do at TIAH is help people understand the circumstances these individuals are escaping and are currently facing at the border.

 
SALT: Is the situation at the border just as dire and devastating as it was at the outset? Is there anything we can all be doing—even in a pandemic—to help?
EMC: I would say the situation is worse now than it was before. Many of these families have been returned to Mexico, making them more vulnerable. Obviously, right now in COVID-19 times, we have had to help these families navigate a pandemic in less than ideal circumstances.  Social distancing in shelters is virtually impossible and access to medical care is also difficult. We have been able to complete two matching campaigns, one for border health and one for PPE items for these vulnerable communities.

Starting in August, we will be focused on our third matching grant to address food insecurity.  We have been able to provide a mobile health clinic to help these communities, but sometimes all they need is food. You can stay updated on the latest by following us on TIAH and following some of our partners like Immigrant Defenders Law Center (@immdef_lawcenter). You can also donate to our fund on our website.

SALT: Speaking of pandemics, this is a moment of great upheaval. How has your approach to motherhood shifted in the face of health concerns, school closures, political unrest, racial tensions, protests against police brutality and more?
EMC: I think that the pandemic really put our whole world on pause to give us an opportunity to realize what is happening in our lives and in our country. For me, personally, I am always on the go and, in these circumstances, I realized that the most important thing in the world is my husband and my children and making this world better for them. We are raising multi-racial children who will have to face these issues head-on and be prepared. This means we are having conversations daily about police brutality, the movement for Black lives, inequality in healthcare and how COVID is disproportionately affecting BIPOC communities of which they are a part.

This time involves the most active parenting that I have ever experienced. Add to that the uncertainty around the pandemic and remote schooling and all I can do is take it one day at a time with them. We talk about the importance of taking care of others by wearing a mask and trying to stay on top of their studies.

Of course, my flexibility has had to increase too! I can’t really be a stickler for their early bedtimes and I try not to freak out about the increase in screen time.

SALT: Being a parent in the midst of this all can be overwhelming. We all need some serious self-care. What are some ways you’re taking a time out for yourself these days?
EMC: Self-care is necessary! I would recommend meditation (if only I took my own advice!). For me, self-care is legitimately getting my workout in. It is essential in order for me to be able to operate in the way that I need! Once I get my workout in, the whole day has already gotten off to a good start.

SALT: You’re always in incredible shape. What’s your fitness/workout routine or go-to class?
EMC: For me the key is variety! We are living in a virtual world, and when it comes to working out, I couldn't be more thankful that I have remote options. Some of my favorite workouts in quarantine are The Studio MDR for Pilates, The Ness for rebounder classes, Coach Karl Buchanan for boxing, AArmy for spin and my Sunday run with my 25lb weight vest is the most satisfying. But, as long as I move, I am happy.

SALT: Let’s fantasize for a second. Please paint a picture of what your ideal 2021 looks like.
EMC: More equality, less brutality, more empathy, more travel and more family.

QUICK + SALTY!

THE SALT STRAP THAT’S SO ME IS: The new TIAH Strap!
IN MY DREAMS, I PAIR IT WITH: A Clare Vivier clutch.
THE ACTUAL BAG I SWEAR BY EVERY DAY IS: My Adidas fanny pack—it comes with me on every trip to the border.
THE INSIDE OF MY BAG IN 5 WORDS (OR LESS!):  Airpods, ID, cell, chapstick, mints.
I STAY UP LATE WITH: A book.
MY BEAUTY SECURITY BLANKET IS: Kat Rudu serum.
PLEASE TRANSPORT ME TO: Italia.
MY UNIFORM IS: joggers and tank (when I'm not in a workout outfit).
RECENTLY, I’M GIRL CRUSHING ON: Activist woman Zoe Saldana.
MY KARAOKE JAM IS: Journey — Don't Stop Believing.
THE CAUSES CLOSEST TO MY HEART ARE: Families at the border, Latina empowerment and voter registration.