Paulina Helm-Hernández – LIVES OF COMMITMENT 2019

Learn more about the 2019 Auburn Lives of Commitment Benefit Breakfast and Awards at

By Paul Brandeis Raushenbush

Paulina Helm-Hernández is from a fierce Latinx family of immigrants and activists who came from Veracruz, Mexico to North Carolina when Helm-Hernández was 11 years old, and who instilled in her a resilient, fierce, and joyful spirit. Committed to honoring the legacy of her ancestors, she, along with her partner Ashe, attend mass in a Catholic church while simultaneously drawing on queer and indigenous communities for spiritual power and resilience. Helm-Hernández’s depth and breadth of spiritual resources act as an invitation to people from many backgrounds to create a spiritually aligned majority that will work together for justice for all.

It is the spiritual imperative, given to us from our ancestors and our communities, that should direct and focus all of our work for liberation.”

With this vision of collective liberation, Helm-Hernández’s work is guided by the principle that the people who are most immediately affected by systematic oppressions are at the center of creating their own freedom, and that we also all have challenging key roles to play in fighting for a future transformed in justice.

Helm-Hernández has been a hands-on organizer on issues ranging from the rights of farmworkers, immigrants, and refugees, to anti-violence and anti-racism work, as wells as sexual liberation organizing. Helm-Hernández coordinated the Southern regional youth activism program at the Highlander Research and Education Center before serving for 11 years as the Co-Director of Southerners on New Ground (SONG) — the largest grassroots LGBTQ organization in the South. In all her work, she offers much needed critical analysis of the complex intersections between diverse struggles around race, class, gender, and sexual orientation; and the political will to put that analysis into strategy and action.

Campaigns for liberation can be hard, and lead to burnout and in-fighting. Within movements, Helm-Hernández is known for creating principled and spiritually-grounded organized spaces. Her way of living her own life with integrity and her courage to speak up for others has painted her as a role model and mentor to countless young activists, LGBTQ people, and people of color across the South. Along with activism, art plays a central role in Helm-Hernández’s own self-understanding as a queer activist.

Through art, we can continue to bring joy, pleasure, and brightness to our organizing while honoring our most beloved cultural traditions.”

In 2017, Helm-Hernández joined the Foundation for a Just Society as a program officer, recognizing that movements need bold funders that demonstrate long-term commitments to racial and gender justice. A willingness to try new approaches and co-create with people on the ground with a spiritually aligned purpose characterize her ideas about philanthropy in this time.

Given the time in which we live, it is urgent that we get serious about moving resources for highest principles, integrity, and impact.”

Learn more about the 2019 Auburn Lives of Commitment Benefit Breakfast and Awards at

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