By Reade Adams
MN350 volunteer

Francisco Segovia, Executive Director of COPAL, and a supporter of MN350, has been a community organizer in Minnesota for more than 20 years.

Originally from El Salvador, where he taught school and went to university in San Miguel, Segovia came to the United States in 1990 after the Salvadoran government began to crack down on teachers and students involved in community organizing. Segovia found his way to Minnesota where he spent 14 years as the director of Waite House Center, building networks and coalitions with and across diverse communities to bring about changes that would expand choices for people of color on a local level. Segovia is a knowledgeable, well-spoken man who has had a long career in community service and activism.

MN350 shares COPAL’s vision and values of inclusive solutions to the climate crisis. MN350 is part of the global grassroots movement for climate justice through our affiliation with the international


MN350 volunteer Reade Adams met with Segovia to learn about COPAL’s goals for climate justice.

On a chilly, overcast day, I met Segovia at a little coffee shop near his office on East Lake Street in Minneapolis to talk about his new work as executive director of COPAL (Comunidades Organizando el Poder y la Acciόn Latina), a statewide organization he helped build, and to learn more from him about COPAL’s initiative to send a climate justice organizer to El Salvador. As Executive Director of COPAL, Segovia continues his work to create a more just society, focusing on a local vision and a global perspective.

Segovia explained that COPAL seeks to be part of the solution to counteract the global climate crisis, as well as fulfilling its mission to unite Latinx in Minnesota. In his capacity as director of the organization, he wears multiple hats. Part of his job is to build this new organization and its infrastructure.

COPAL has a range of campaigns that relate to community organizing and public policy. A major element is fundraising to provide resources for engagement.

One of the campaigns deals with the environment.

Segovia said that “when we look at the landscape of the environment and who has been on this topic for a while, people of color haven’t been. And because there hasn’t been much investment from foundations into having people of color to introduce their framework… there’s one or two brown-led organizations for the environment… there may be ten white organizations doing the same thing. So it’s key, I believe, for us to ensure that there’s not only one or two [diverse organizations], but there are many participating in the process or in the conversations about environment.”

Segovia emphasized that networking with many organizations is key. “Each one has their own way to engage their own communities or their own constituents, as they wish to do. We are part of the 100% campaign with MN350 and others. COPAL brings its own perspective as a Latino-led organization, and that’s how we feel we can make our own contribution to this conversation.”

COPAL recently hired a climate justice organizer to put together a delegation to Honduras to learn about the connections between environmental justice, human rights, political issues, and climate change in that country. It is important for people to understand that the worsening climate crisis is a global issue and is recognized as one of the reasons for a migration that is producing huge waves of immigrants from European and Latin American countries. COPAL is collaborating with other environmental groups to build and participate in a larger network to address those issues. “We want to help people understand that global damage is everywhere,” said Segovia, “and that we need to be part of the solution.” The climate justice organizer will not provide direct physical help in Honduras, but is hoping to impact the climate crisis conversation.

COPAL seeks to encourage Minnesotans to look beyond Minnesota at global points of connection as it relates to immigration and global warming. This is seen as an opportunity to bring environmental groups into the conversation.

Segovia notes that in Central America, many of the people who are producing food are not seeing the regular seasons like before, which is impacting their ability to grow food. Environmental degradation occurs when companies like Monsanto, for instance, sell various farming chemicals to farmers in Central America, which has affected the ability of the soil to produce food. Corporations are engaged in mining in several countries, their runoff polluting the rivers. Those global companies that are still doing business are impacting the environment in Central America.

When corporations impact the environment, they also affect the lives of thousands of people who are no longer able to produce food and to feed themselves. “When there is no food, you look for food, and migration is the result of that,” said Segovia.

The goal of sending a delegation to Honduras is to help people understand that environmental change doesn’t happen only in their own communities. Segovia continued, “We want them to see the connection with climate change, not only locally but globally.”

COPAL has already begun some collaborations with MN350 and others. The idea is to work with everyone, as it relates to the environment, and participate in some of the system networks. COPAL wants to be part of the solution. It is engaging right now and looking for things they can work on. Each of the organizations has a core set of activities. According to Segovia, “We’re trying to find the areas where we can collaborate, determine points of connection. What is our niche in this conversation and our contribution? How do we interact with the rest of the network groups that are pursuing policies to decarbonize the economy? Our engagement is into those networks and into our community. What strategies are we going to use to bring people into the conversation within our own community?”

Segovia added, “Our organization is nearly two years old, and we are just beginning to build our framework and narrative about this particular issue and finding ways in which Latinos feel connected to that. When we talk about Latinos, we are talking about people coming from some 24 different countries. So it’s not one unified vision, because we are 24 or more communities.”

In 2013 Segovia was recognized by the Minneapolis City Council as a Latino Influential Leader of the City. He is currently serving on the board of Take Action Minnesota and participates in The Minnesota Civic Studies Initiative, a project of the College of Education & Human Development of the University of Minnesota, seeking to encourage conversation among leaders representing various political viewpoints.

Reade Adams is retired and spends most of her time gardening in the summer and wishing she could garden in the winter. She has a long history of activism, beginning in the early 1970s and continuing on to present day. She looks forward to becoming more conversant in everything MN350.