Damaris Ortiz is an Afro-Latina mother and grandmother who joined the fight for racial equality and civil rights as early as age 7. Growing up in Chicago Damaris recalls her family being involved in protests and fighting for the rights and equality for Latino families living in America.
In 1984, her early teenage years the family relocated to a community in Milford, Ma where they would reside as one of the very few Latino families in the area. By this age, Damaris was fully aware of the racial discrimination, disadvantages, and disparities of being a woman and a person of color.
These experiences coupled with her people-first approach enabled her to work for more than 26 years in human services, helping people living with mental, medical, or physical challenges. For over 14 years, she has been an employee with Community Resources for Justice, a human services and reentry organization that is headquartered in Boston Massachusetts.
While working as a Recovery Therapist Assistant at a prison, Damaris experienced closely the negative influences of so-called correctional facilities on impacted people. Fueled by the personal stories of false imprisonment, the entrapping criminal law enforcement procedure against Black and Brown people, and the influence of the for-profit prison industrial complex on the already unfair incarceration system, she discovered her passion to work towards reuniting wrongfully convicted people with their families. She never wants another human being to feel the way that she did when her loved one was incarcerated - when she couldn't eat, breathe, or sleep.
Damaris has since joined forces with various stakeholders to develop and sustain network efforts across Massachusetts to free people from incarceration and detention, and she is also a member Mind-body, and healing. Damaris is also A member of The Post Conviction Team.
As she works to unite some young men of color who are detained in immigration facilities with their families, she is also fighting to free Stephen A. Pina, who has been wrongfully incarcerated for 30 years. Stephen is the son of her beloved friend Josephine Pina, who has helped Damaris become passionate about learning from and supporting elders.
Damaris’s family is global, and her vision is One Nation Inside the Sun. She is fighting the fight for her kids, for her grandchildren, and because she knows what’s right and wrong.
Damaris’s dream is to build a community center to provide services and popular education programs that meet people where they are, to share knowledge and power on such topics as our political system, our civil rights, cultures, and history to promote community self-care and -determination. She envisions a farm with enough land to live off of. Our next generation is in desperate need of education and healing, and our elders need a place where they feel needed, and where they can be heard, understood, and loved.
Damaris is spiritual and believes in the balance of the feminine and masculine energies in nature. Born in Rochester New York, Damaris maintains her Latina and African roots and enjoys cooking delicious Latina dishes, dancing, listening to music, practicing yoga, and spending time with her grandchildren whenever she can.