Nico Aguilar Shank

“I went to El Salvador, my mom’s home country, for the first time when I was 19. From my family, I learned about the devastation of the US-backed civil war, and the courage, tenacity, and imagination of the revolutionary movement. I started to understand the power and urgency of organizing, and have applied the lessons I learned to my work for liberation in the US. As a queer survivor and abolitionist, I believe that we can build strong transnational communities rooted in love and accountability, and mobilize these communities to contest for power and transform our reality.”

Nico is a queer, mixed, Salvadoran parent, organizer, writer, trainer, English/Spanish interpreter, and abolitionist living in Portland, Oregon. They believe in practicing social transformation grounded in the self and extending outwards.

Nico has worked for 15 years in labor, non-profit, and community organizations in the US, Mexico and Central America. Most recently, they served as Deputy Director and Interim Executive Director at Freedom to Thrive, a national Black & brown network dedicated to ending criminalization of communities of color. At Freedom to Thrive, Nico led international trainings of directly impacted organizers, and local decriminalization campaigns.

Prior to Freedom to Thrive, Nico worked at the Rural Organizing Project, building Latinx leadership hubs in the face of white supremacist organizing. They also collaborated with and served on the board of Causa Oregon, organizing for policy change at the ballot and capitol.

“My belief is that our organizations must reflect internally the values that we seek to bring into the world, no matter how hard that is. As leaders, we face the urgency of harm done to our communities, external pressures, resource constraints, and the limitations of our own capacity. Yet, we must move through the work with depth, alignment, connection, and integrity. This is how we bring the world we long for into existence. This is the work.”

As a consultant, Nico most enjoys long-range planning, campaign planning, aligning workplace culture with organizational values, and program design & evaluation. They are committed to an intersectional feminist analysis, humbled to be building with/from generations of intellectual and emotional work of women and queer folks of color towards liberation.

After experiencing sexual harassment as a younger organizer in the immigrant rights movement and seeking transformative solutions, Nico realized the great need for organizations to plan for, preempt, and respond to instances of harm. They now consult with organizations on best practices for responding to sexual harassment, and creating safer organizations. Nico has a forthcoming article in the January 2020 anthology Beyond Survival: Stories and Strategies from the Transformative Justice Movement, edited by Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha and Ejeris Dixon.