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Thursday, March 15, 2012

Sonia Fuentes: Why The Time To Act Is Now

by Cyrus Webb

Over the past decade I have been privileged to interview people of all walks of life but Sonia Fuentes is definitely in a class all of her own.

She is known by many as the Co-Founder of NOW (the National Organization for Women) and an advocate for human rights and equality all over the world. There are so many layers to the life she has lived, and when she joined me on Conversations LIVE earlier this year I wanted to talk about as much of it as I possibly could.

"I feel very fortunate at this age to have the rich and fulfilling life that I do," Ms. Fuentes told me. "I am grateful for every day that I have."

That gratefulness began many years ago when she came to the United States in 1934 to escape the evil that was going on in Germany due to the Holocaust. "It certainly shaped my life completely," she told me. "My family had been in Germany for over twenty years and had to flee for their lives. They were Jews. That had an effect on everything since."

The actions of Sonia's parents made a deep impression on her. "They are an integral part of my life," she says. That is why she wanted to preserve their lives through her memoir (Eat First -- You Don't Know What They'll Give You). Over the years she has not only been able to chronicle her own journey but has gotten to be known as a respected speaker and advocate who has dedicated her life to fighting for equality.

I asked her during the interview if she was surprised that all these years later we were still having the same fights and struggles when it comes to inequality. "It doesn't surprise me at all," she told me. "I think it is a fight that will go on forever. As soon as anyone or any group is different the majority will be fearful and treat them differently. Hopefully it will decrease and get better. That is why we have to be vigilant."

That vigilance is why Sonia believes we all have to be aware and not afraid to speak up and act if necessary. She recounted while riding through the states when she was younger and seeing racism and segregation firsthand. It had a "terrible, striking effect" on her. Her determination to do something about it in her life has made her an inspiration for so many to show what is possible.

This has been especially true when it comes to energizing and empowering women. "One of the pleasures I have had in my life is that I am in touch with young women," she says. "It is gratifying to see them carry on the fight. I enjoy that a great deal."

When I asked her if she thought that fear played a large role in why some don't do more or get involved, Ms. Fuentes shared this: "I think that most people are busy making a living for a family. They don't have the luxury of fighting for causes."

There are many things that I thought we could learn from Sonia Fuentes and how she has been able to harness her own power and project in a way that has benefited so many. The way she looks at her influence,however, reflects the true motive of why she does what she does. "My life evolved," she explained. "I never had a plan. In high school I saw the world and wondered how I could have an effect. If you join with like-minded people there is much that you will be able to accomplish. Change is possible. Things are possible. We don't have to let the status quo be the way that things continue."

Her encouragement for all of us is this: "First of all get all of the education that you need for whatever you will want to do in the future. It stays with you forever. Keep your eyes open. You start from where you are. If you see something that you believe is an injustice, stop right there. See what you can do, who you can join with to do something towards that piece of injustice. That will lead to other things."

Stay in contact with Sonia Fuentes on Facebook at You can order a copy of her book on by visiting

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