In her younger years, Esselene challenged the curriculum in her children’s classroom, and volunteered with POWER as a community organizer. Though she’s less active now, Esselene’s voice still carries weight in her community. So, when she told her friends they needed to enroll in CLCs computer classes, they came.
“I told them the computer has taken over our lives, we have to learn how to use it,” Esselene explained. “They want to learn but they need a lot of encouragement. We encourage each other, we pick up handouts when someone is sick, and my son drives us home. When they’re afraid to ask questions, I speak for them. It’s like they think I’m in charge; they won’t go unless I’m there.”
Training Led to Unionizing
Esselene trained as a keypunch operator. When racism prevented her from finding a job where she could use those skills, she found work as a pre-school cook, eventually becoming a union rep in what became the Culinary Union.
Chester Williams, coordinator and instructor in CLCs computer classes in Bayview, agrees, “Esselene is really important to our program. She brings the women out and makes sure they keep attending.”