Alum spotlight: Victor Narro, J.D. (BA History ‘86/H&S)
In 2018, Victor Narro's passion for helping immigrant communiites led him to establish the Victor Humberto Narro Scholarship in the College of Humanities and Sciences, supporting students who are part of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, interested in migration studies, or who are involved in work or volunteerism at an organization with a mission to serve immigrant communities.
Narro encountered professors who profoundly contributed to the formation of his political and social justice conscious during the course of his VCU undergraduate experience. Taking courses in history, political science and philosophy were especially impactful on his developing views. Classes on Central America with Harold E. Greer, Ph.D., emeritus professor in the history department, helped him connect with his own roots (Narro is the foreign-born son of a Spanish mother and a Peruvian father); a course with Bill Blake, Ph.D., professor emeritus in history, “opened [him] to a whole history of the middle ages;” coursework on genocide and the Vietnam War taught by the late Herbert Hirsch, Ph.D., professor in political science, “helped [him] connect with a sense of justice.” Other important lessons taught by George Munro, Ph.D. (history), Joseph Bendersky, Ph.D. (history), Cliff Edwards, Ph.D. (philosophy) and the late Thomas Hall, Ph.D. (philosophy) are ones he recalls with admiration and respect—all of these professors “helped me to develop a critical perspective.”
Narro took these lessons outside of the walls of the classroom as well, modeling his professors’ activism. Though formalized student organizations were fewer in number in the mid 1980s compared with the VCU of today, Victor joined the efforts of like-minded activist students who banded together to form a group they called Caucus on Peace. The group staged awareness protests on campus and in nearby Monroe Park, previewing what would be a successful future in community activism and social justice.
Following his graduation from VCU, Narro spent the next year and a half working on social justice issues in Richmond and began law school at the University of Richmond. “I wanted to develop a toolkit and [I] thought the law would be a good vehicle for me to do social justice work.” Though he was on the U.R. campus for classes, he still spent much of his time in and around the VCU campus, keeping his study environment familiar with regular visits to Cabell library. After earning his law degree in 1991, Narro moved to Los Angeles, California where he put his newly earned law degree and his undergraduate-born activism into action. His professional stops included leadership positions within the Los Angeles Regional Office of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Sweatshop Watch, Workers’ Rights Project Director for the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, and other labor and immigrant rights groups. “I helped to form coalitions and launch organizations, did policy advocacy work and worked with immigrants—it was the best use of my activism and legal skills.”
Now as the project director for the University of California Los Angeles Labor Center and core faculty member of the UCLA Department of Labor Studies, Victor has come “full circle” in championing immigrant and labor rights by sharing his knowledge with the next generation of activist scholars. It’s something he says he had wanted to emulate since he was a twenty-something undergraduate. “I admired and recognized the value of teaching.”
Today, VCU students who learn the name Victor Narro in relationship to his eponymous scholarship know their part in that legacy. “I want to do for students today what my professors did for me at VCU and one of the best ways to do it is to create a scholarship.” His scholarship not only provides tuition support to its recipients—it also gives them the message that they belong. “You have to admire these students who were brought to this country by their parents or other family members and have excelled in their education. They’ve committed themselves to an education and a future. ‘Undocumented and unafraid’ is the trademark that these courageous young immigrants have come to embrace over the years.”