My Tour of the Tents: a look inside Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s Tent City Jail

Last month, July 16 – 18, I was lucky enough to attend the annual Netroots Nation conference, which this year was held here in Phoenix. This is the final piece in a four-part recap of my #NN15 experience. The previous three pieces are available here:

I want to send a huge THANK YOU to my friend Hannah Simpson for sharing the photos from our Tent City tour with me to include in this post. Check out Hannah’s recent Op-ed from Advocate.com: Why This Trans Woman Doesn’t Want to Ban Drag, But Say ‘Thank You.’


Estrella Jail, Maricopa County, Arizona
Estrella Jail, Maricopa County, Arizona

Tent City sits directly behind another detention facility, the Estrella Jail. It’s not at all a long drive from downtown Phoenix, and Hannah and I arrive right on time. The building itself resembles an elementary school on the outside, but with the notable addition of razor wire adorning the top of the perimeter walls, serving as crown molding for a facility designed to keep people in at all cost.

Not knowing quite what to expect, we enter through the main doors of Estrella to check in as instructed in the confirmation email from a few days earlier. The place is deserted. We wait for a moment at the front desk, until an office attendant behind the glass notices we’re there. We’re told no one knew we were coming. We produce the email confirming our scheduled tour, take our seats in the waiting room, and wonder if we’ll be able to see the jail after all.
Estrella Jail Waiting Room
Estrella Jail Waiting Room

Nearly 45 minutes later, a guard appears to collect us and off we go. We follow him out the door and around the east side of Estrella, toward the entrance to Tent City. A second guard appears, ready to join us for the remainder of the tour.

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Netroots Nation 2015 Recap part 3

Last month, July 16 – 18, I was lucky enough to attend the annual Netroots Nation conference, which this year was held here in Phoenix. This is part 3 of 4 of my #NN15 recap. The other three parts of this series are available here:


Day 3

Day 3 of #NN15 was not as cram-packed with programming as the first two days. Some attendees were already catching flights home, disappointed to miss the upcoming Presidential Town Hall. I wasn’t able to get away from the office that morning, but between fielding emails and returning phone calls, I was able to beam into the Town Hall by switching between a handful of live Periscope streams. This allowed me to experience the event from the unique perspective of the front row activists from the Movement for Black Lives.

After the Black Lives Matter disruption of Martin O’Malley and Bernie Sanders I posted a short observation about the apparent contradiction within the ideological positions of many out-spoken conference attendees. My general impression of Sanders’ reaction (or lack thereof) to the disruption was that “if this man will not address issues of race in America as a candidate, he will not lead on issues of race in America as President.”

Netroots Nation Day 3
Netroots Nation Day 3

Later that afternoon, I hopped on the train and made it back to the convention center for the last session of the conference, “Trans Organizers Are Winning the Internet.” The panel included a number of individuals currently on the forefront of queer and trans* organizing. (I got there early, and the room filled up as the panel continued.)

We heard from Jennicet Gutierrez, the undocumented trans activist who was silenced at the White House in June when she called for President Obama to stop the torture and abuse of trans women in detention Centers. We heard from Elle Hearns, a regional coordinator for Black Lives Matter and GetEqual, who emphasized the importance of funding trans and QPOC leadership as a step toward creating spaces of safety and justice. The session closed with a dynamite Q & A about how organizers can continue to create spaces for Trans* and Queer folks online, even in today’s political climate that has yet to fully recognize the unique ways in which these members of our communities are policed, oppressed, and invisiblized.

Saturday was the last official day of Netroots Nation 2015, but there was one more thing to do before wrapping up the weekend: a scheduled tour of Sheriff Joe’s infamous Tent City county jail.

Netroots Nation 2015 Recap part 2

Last month, July 16 – 18, I was lucky enough to attend the annual Netroots Nation conference, which this year was held here in Phoenix. This is part 2 of 4 of my #NN15 recap. The other three parts of this series are available here:


Day 2

Netroots Nation Day 2
Netroots Nation Day 2

I took a deep breath as I stepped through the doors of the convention center Friday morning for Day 2 of Netroots Nation. I’d had only a few hours to process the outstanding sessions from Day 1, and already here I was about to embark on a new day of #NN15. Today though, the 2nd floor of the convention center was oddly calm. I soon learned that Netroots Karaoke and bar hopping the night before may have been to blame. Or perhaps everyone was taking the time to prepare themselves for Elizabeth Warren’s upcoming speech. Whatever the case, I was determined to make the most of this conference, which meant not missing a single session if I could help it. I made my way to the first session with just as much enthusiasm as Day 1.

“New Voices, New Visionaries: Toward a Migrant Justice Movement Led from the Queer and Trans* Frontlines” began with a discussion among four panelists and a moderator, each of whom brought a unique and valuable perspective to the conversation. We heard about the Arizona Queer Undocumented Immigrant Project (AZ QUIP), and the Arcoiris Liberation Team. We heard the story of Yesenia Palencia, a lesbian woman who fled el Salvador for a better life in the US. Yesenia has been held in detention in Eloy for nearly a year, where she has faced trials not only for her immigration status, but because of her sexual orientation as well. In September 2013 Yesenia even faced sexual assault. If you have the means to do so, please consider donating to Yesenia’s crowdfunding campaign raising money for her bond so that she can be released from detention and reunited with her loved ones.Read More »

Netroots Nation 2015 Recap part 1

Two weeks ago, July 16 – 18, I was lucky enough to attend the annual Netroots Nation conference, which this year was held here in Phoenix. This is part 1 of 4 of my #NN15 recap. The other three parts of this series are available here:

Thank you

I want to first thank Emily’s List, and more locally Arizona List, for the generous sponsorship allowing me the opportunity to attend Netroots Nation. This was truly an experience I’ve grown from, and that I’ll genuinely cherish for years to come. I learned so much and I can’t wait to put that knowledge to use for the community here in Arizona.

I also want to thank Phoenix Pride for allowing me to take time away from the Center for events like Netroots for the purposes of professional development. Time and time again, this organization has shown they believe in me. First while I was in college when I became a Phoenix Pride Scholar, and again last year when I was hired as the Center Coordinator for the Phoenix Pride LGBT Center. Without them, my life would be very different, and I’m forever grateful.


Day 1

I arrived at the Phoenix Convention Center just after 8:30 in the morning. As the button from the conference SWAG bag stated, I was a “Netroots Nation First-Timer,” and thus I had no agenda and no idea what to expect. I made my way up the escalator and across the second floor, and I was struck by the number of fresh-faced millennials excitedly milling around. From the look of things, most of us were already well into our second cup of coffee, with no signs of slowing down. The place was buzzing with anticipation, and with guests like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren lined up, it was clear how much we were all looking forward to the weekend.

Netroots Nation Day 1: Netroots Newbie!
Netroots Nation Day 1: Netroots Newbie!

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An observation of NN15

  • Netroots Nation day 1-2: “Cis white men are the problem!”
  • Netroots Nation day 3: “We want Bernie! #feeltheBern”

So what is the truth?

I’m watching Bernie Sanders live on Periscope at the Presidential Town Hall of Netroots Nation 2015. Yikes. If this man will not address issues of race in America as a candidate, he will not lead on issues of race in America as President.

Carlos Maza Tweet 01

Carlos Maza Tweet 02

AZ’s Gov. Jan Brewer Is a Threat to Justice Everywhere

I’m as relieved as you are that AZ’s SB1062 was vetoed yesterday, but I’m not about to thank Jan Brewer for doing so any more than I’m about thank her for choosing not to spit in my face.

Jan Brewer has done more than enough harm to the state of Arizona and its people while Governor. She doesn’t deserve a prize for choosing this one time not to make things even worse for us and our neighbors.

If you don’t think so, just ask the millions of people who have had their families torn apart as a result of racist policies she has supported and signed into law.

MLK said that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. The reality for Arizonans in 2014 is that as long as Jan Brewer and her cronies in the state legislature remain in office, it is clear that the arc of Arizona’s moral universe will not bend toward justice.