Lyda Ness-Garcia: El Paso's Advocate
Lyda Ness-García, the co-founder of Women’s March of El Paso and Stand with El Paso Women, an activist for child advocacy and immigration reform, a family law attorney, and child welfare expert, is a force to be reckoned with. Born in North Carolina and raised in Athens, Greece, her childhood played a crucial role in shaping her into the advocate and activist she has become for El Paso. Listening to the old radio in her grandmother’s kitchen, she realized at a very young age how important it is to learn and talk about what is happening in the world.
During her undergraduate education at the University of Michigan, Lyda joined the Latin American Solidarity Committee and discovered a lifetime passion for activism. She describes her college years as a time of exposure that reshaped her ideas of the world and led her to question realities that had not crossed her mind. “I started to see that what I was taught in high school about U.S. history and our involvement in the world wasn’t necessarily true, particularly for me growing up in the 80s. I thought, ‘Wait, what do you mean we sell weapons to Central America?’ I was faced with these types of questions that really made me realize I wanted to make a difference.” After college, she moved to Austin and began volunteering with the Women’s Advocacy Project, where she advocated for women in need by providing resources to survivors of domestic violence. Through this powerful work, she felt called to child advocacy and began representing children in the Child Protective Services (CPS) system as a student attorney. Lyda was led to El Paso to prosecute child welfare cases and represent CPS. She believes that representing parents in child welfare cases for 20 years has been her greatest accomplishment. “The feeling that I am advocating for these parents and that I am probably the first interaction with a system that can be confusing, cold, and leave people feeling like they don’t have a voice, for me that is the most important thing that I do.” In 2014, Lyda ran as a Democratic candidate for District 77 of the Texas House of Representatives. When asked her advice on balancing work and running for office as a woman, she shared thoughts about equality and support: “As a woman, people always ask this question, especially with me being a single parent and running for office. My initial response is to make sure that they ask that of male candidates as well because very often male candidates are not getting asked that. But as far as maintaining balance, when they say it takes a whole village it really does—I have an amazing support system of friends and family, so I am lucky and blessed in that respect.” She also shared her perspective on the best forms of support and guidance when running as a candidate. “Get involved with your party, because there are some amazing individuals within your party that can offer guidance. I had a lot of amazing activists and community changemakers who really helped guide me.” She believes it is important to seek perspectives outside of the political realm; sometimes those perspectives can open your eyes to possibilities you had not considered before. As an activist and advocate living in El Paso, Lyda stresses the importance of responsibility to one’s community. “The issue that sits right on our doorstep is family detention and Remain in Mexico programs. We see firsthand the influx of people coming to our community who are not being taken care of by our government.” She has always ingrained in her children this responsibility. Whenever she feels frustrated by our representatives’ failure to act on gun reform, reproductive rights, or any other issue, she tells them, “We have to do something about it; we rally, we march, and these are powerful mechanisms to let the government know that we demand change, and to find commiseration with our community in understanding that we are not alone.” The only solution to Lyda is to vote, tell others to vote, and get the people within your community active.