Activism is more than just a facet of life for a local activist fighting for immigrants; it’s a way of life.
"Serving the community has been like a lifestyle for me, it has become a part of my life. I serve the community, sometimes I live for that and to help others and this won't change at all," Aylene Valentin said.
Born in Puerto Rico, Valentin came to the United States and settled in Huntsville when she was 5 years old. Her passion for activism comes in part from her parents, who always encouraged her to serve others and to take pride in being Latina. This passion grew when Valentin married her Mexican husband.
"I have always tried to be active in the Hispanic community, whether it would be translating or how I can help in another way, but especially translating. But when I met my husband, it motivated me a lot to go to another level and fight and help the immigrant community more. It's another world I didn't understand and couldn't understand until I married my husband," Valentin said.
Since 2006, Valentin has been involved in community work and activism, both in Huntsville and different counties statewide. Her involvement ranges from leadership positions like board member of the Alabama Coalition for Immigrant Justice to the founding of a community group called Huntsville Helping Hands.
During the pandemic, Valentin started a food bank with the United Church of Huntsville that has fed over 10,000 families so far, a majority being Latinos. She is also the administrator of a Facebook group called Somos Huntsville that provides resources in Spanish to almost 1,200 members.
She says she does not plan to stop her fight for the immigrant and Latino community anytime soon.
"Their struggle, the struggle of the immigrant community, is my struggle. My family has personally gone through separation, deportation, lack of a father because of an unfair system and not because I am a citizen does it give me the privilege of sitting down and doing nothing—on the contrary," Valentin said.
Valentin is currently fundraising for the Alabama Coalition for Immigrant Justice’s annual community fund. You can find more information and contribute to the fund here. The United Church of Huntsville is also accepting donations for its food bank.