As Deputy Director of Grantmaking at Liberty Hill, Margarita Ramirez has been an institution builder and a change agent. Margarita's longtime shepherding of Liberty Hill's grantmaking program has been vital to the strength and longevity of L.A.'s social justice organizations. Margarita came to Liberty Hill as an activist and organizer, bringing with her an already-deep understanding of the social justice movement. She helped define, articulate, and put into practice the "change not charity" approach, and has made sure Liberty Hill continues to be relevant and responsive to the movement for three decades.
Beginning in 1981 as Program Associate and since then as Deputy Director of Grantmaking, Margarita has helped many organizations that are now flourishing to get started, pioneering a process of "seeding" fledgling social justice organizations. She was also integral to the rigorous analysis that led to periodic strategic shifts, including Liberty Hill's impactful move from a global to local focus in grantmaking. She was part of the decision to fund a conference that spear-headed historic community-based responses to the crack cocaine epidemic of the 1980s and was also pivotal to the prescient decision to convene grantees and funding partners to build coalitions to work against the deep disconnects in L.A. society so prevalent during the time of the Rodney King beating.
Margarita, who grew up in Boyle Heights, was discouraged by nuns at her high school from aspiring to college but nevertheless got herself to St. Mary's College in Moraga, CA in 1971, where she promptly started agitating for a Chicano Studies program and taking strong feminist stands in the Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán (M.E.Ch.A). She immersed herself in student/community statewide organizing as part of Oakland's Editorial Prensa Sembradora (a propaganda collective). This led her to work in New York with the Federation of Socialist Puerto Rican Students, as well as organizing with several other international solidarity groups before moving back to L.A. for work with the Center for Autonomous Social Action (CASA). She marched with students, community members and also the older generation of Chicano activists including unionists and activists who had been part of the 1940s Sleepy Lagoon Defense Committee.