By: Elisabet Medina
Let me start by saying I’m a Shakira fan.
From the moment my cousin burned me a CD of grungy dark haired rocker Shakira I was hooked. I’ve feel like I grew up with Shakira and every permutation a reminder of the many ways Latinos adapt to other cultures while continuing to embrace their own.
The half time show carried with it many expectations. Many artists given the platform have political messages within their show that uplift the LGBT community or speak out against police brutality.
When it was announced that JLO and Shakira were the performers there was critique that these two Latinas were crossing the racial picket line where many Black performers had refused. There was a missed opportunity for Black/Brown solidarity, for this many were disappointed.
To be honest, I was never expecting radical political performances as both Shakira and JLO have played it relatively politically safe in their musical careers. I was pleasantly surprised when I saw JLO wearing a Puerto Rican flag while singing Born in the USA.
This moment was a reminder of Puerto Rico called us back to how Puerto Ricans are U.S citizens, even though it had been “foreignized” by political leaders and abandoned in its time of need.
Also, worth mentioning that during the show there were children singing while sitting in cages, including JLO’s own daughter. To me this symbolized, “this could be your daughter”. For many Latinos, seeing migrant children locked up in cages and even dying while in immigration custody reminds us of our vulnerablities to anti-immigrant policies. Let’s get loud on the eve of the 2020 election is sending a message.
Musically, I have to say I appreciated the guest appearances by Bad Bunny and J Balvin, it was a #Latinogang party complete with trumpets and reggeton. The medley showed how Latino music has spanned past any genre bounds.
There are some that critique JLO and Shakira’s wardrobe choices, saying that they were just playing into the sexy Latina stereotype, poor role models for young girls, or worse still objectifying themselves.
While it is true that Latina women are over sexualized, what I found refreshing is that these are not scantily clad backup dancers these are women running the show, agents of their own their sexuality. I’m all for women, especially women in their 40’s and 50’s embracing their sexuality. Yes, I was shocked too, JLO is in her 50s! #goals.
Overall, I feel that Shakira and JLO seized the moment on the national stage, sent a message and looked like they had a good time doing it.
I know there are days when you feel like it was yesterday.
You can still hear, smell, taste, feel, and see it like it was happening hear and now.
It’s hard to believe that it is over because it keeps replaying in your mind.
Or maybe its not over and everyday is a strategy of survival to keep your mind, body and spirit as intact as possible.
I hold no judgement against you not for the times that you went back to him.
I hold no judgement against you for running away from the group home, because three meals a day and a place to sleep isn’t what makes a place a home.
I hold no judgement for how you are trying to keep and protect your kids while in a situation no one should ever be in.
I hold no judgement for the times that you escaped from your own body because it was too much to bear.
I hold no judgement if your still out there trying to make ends meet on your own terms.
I hope that everyday you inch closer towards healing, towards more self-love, towards dreams that are truly yours.
You are amazing, and there is nothing wrong with you.
You are not alone.
You are not your own worst nightmares nor defined by the shadows of the past.
I hope this new year breathes new life into your lungs and whispers freedom into your ear.
I hope you find the courage to be yourself and to love who you are unapologetically.
I hope you begin to thread back together your mind, body and spirit.
We need you. We need you whole. We need your time, talent and energy to make this world a better place.
I believe it and I hope you do to.
Every New Years Day I spend time reflecting on goals for the year personal, professional, financial, emotional and spiritual.
Goals have included practices like saving at least $100 every month, or waking up 30 minutes earlier to enjoy some quiet time in the morning.
Some goals turned into habits and stuck around, yay! Others I am still working on.
This year we are talking about a whole new decade! And while there are definitely new goals and practices to embrace, I’ve really been reflecting on patterns that I need to just stop. Looking in the mirror at myself, saying “Girl you need to stop that”. Here is a list of thoughts, attitudes and habits I need to drop and leave in 2019.
And in true New Years fashion a count down:
Number 5) The comparison game- Sometimes I can’t help it. I look over at the women on the treadmill next to mine and see she burned 1000 calories in the same amount of time I burned 300. Or I am scrolling through Facebook or Instagram and see friends posting engagement photos or perfect family portraits and I literally have to take a deep breath. In theory I know we are all on our own journeys and no two bodies or stories are the same. In my heart though, I play the comparison game and it robs of a lot of joy. I get so caught up in someone else’s life that I have a hard time being grateful for mine. Well that’s enough of that.
Number 4) Fear of the future- I can be a worrier, that’s right. I said worrier instead of warrior. I worry about how what I say will impact others. I worry about whether the guy I went on two dates with will get along with my family. I worry about what if that little ache in my chest is actually something really serious. I worry about what were to happen if I were to lose my apartment. The list goes on. There are literally nights where its 3 am and my mind has not shut off, its like I have crystal ball that only shows me the worst case scenario at any given time. And because I am a planner, I want to plan for all of the worst case scenarios, just in case. Moving into a new decade I am working on being present, focusing on my energy on what is right in front of me instead of tackling the what if monster.
Number 3) Imposter Syndrome- I constantly feel like I am performing and that I have to bring my A game. I am living in a capitalist, white supremacist, hamster wheel. I keep going faster but all I feel is tired. Burnout has taught me that you can’t bring your A game, 365 days a year, its not humanly possible. And those times when I can’t meet the expectations of others or those of myself are not failures but in fact reminders of my own human limitations; it doesn’t make me an imposter it makes me human. It’s time to celebrate being human and being alive.
Number 2) FOMO- Fear of Missing out. There were so many times I remember bending over backwards to hangout with particular friends or in a particular clique because I did not want to miss out on that party, on that trip, on that group pic on social media. As I have gotten older, I am realizing that in reality there is nothing to be afraid of, I can genuinely enjoy time by myself. I even travel on my own and have a blast. There is no such thing as missing out, because I am exactly where I am meant to be, doing what I am doing, with whom I am supposed to be on this journey of life.
Number 1) Disrespect- I’m starting to realize that love is spelled r-e-s-p-e-c-t. There has just been too many times where I have allowed people to disrespect my time, talent and energy because I did not feel like I deserved any better. I can recall so many moments in the last ten years where I didn’t want to be alone so I was putting up with nonsense. As my grandmother would say mejor sola que mal acompañada, better to be alone than in bad company. I’m done with disrespect.
2019 was a rough year, with such devastation its hard to have hope for a better future, much less find the motivation to strive for it.
Yet where there is great adversity there are also people who are luchando to make a difference everyday in their community.
Take for example, community organizers at SIREN, who are knocking door to door to make sure that people are registered to vote.
If you are not familiar with the work of SIREN- Services, Immigrant Rights & Education Network they are Bay Area non-profit organization that provides immigration legal services, and empowers the community through organizing, civic engagement, and policy advocacy. Many of the volunteers that are knocking door to door registering people to vote are immigrants themselves. When asked why they do this work, the response is “even if I can’t vote I want to make sure those that can have their voice heard”. SIREN is helping people know their rights and advocating on a neighborhood, regional and national level.
Organizing and civic engagement are powerful tools. And in 2020 there are two great opportunities to make our voice heard.
First, the census is a tremendous opportunity for Latinos and other groups to be counted. Why does being included in the census matter? The census is one of the key data points that determines how resources are distributed to communities. “Local government use the census to ensure public safety and plan new schools and hospitals...city planners use the census to plan new homes and improve neighborhoods; every 10 years, the results of the census are used to reapportion the U.S. House of Representatives, determining how many seats each state gets; and, after each census, state officials use the results to redraw the boundaries of state and legislative districts, adapting to population shifts.” (Neilson, 2019)
The U.S. is going through a demographic revolution, “the total population of the U.S. grew 16% from 2000 to 2018, while the Hispanic population grew by 69.6%. The non-Hispanic population grew just 9% over the same period”. (Nielson, 2019). Latinos in the U.S. are a young community with unending potential, and resources must be allocated accordingly for Latinos to thrive.
Second, the 2020 election will be a defining moment for the country and the future of our policies at a national level in major areas including immigration, health care and education to name a few. Latinos care about voting and have demonstrated this in recent elections. “Overall, Latinx voter turnout nearly doubled, reaching 11.7 million in 2018, up from 6.8 million in 2014—the single largest increase on record from one midterm election to another ” (Nielson, 2019). Let’s not forget the importance of local elections, school boards and propositions. At the end of the day, voting matters. Being counted matters. We can all do our part to ensure that our friends, family, comadres are registered to vote and counted. If you are curious about how you can get involved learn more by clicking below:
Volunteer with SIREN: http://www.siren-bayarea.org/
Learn more about Latino demographic changes by reading the Neilson Report:
By: Elisabet Medina
It’s almost Giving Tuesday and tis the season for non-profits to pull out the mailer, the holiday gala, the social media blitz.
Each non-profit is clamoring, declaring just how worthy their cause is. Donor appeal centers around story telling. Stories of success and stories depicting the need. Yet, how we tell the story matters just as much as the story itself.
I remember being at a fundraising event for a victims services agency and a survivor got up to tell their story of how they were sexually brutalized, bearing their trauma for all to hear.
I wondered how many times this survivor had told their harrowing story in front of people dressed in cocktail attire while eating steak.
Was each time a conscious choice of their own volition or now more of a routine, a different kind of trick?
When I look at fundraising campaigns that have black and brown faces on them. I wonder how many black and brown people are on that organizations board or senior level staff making a decent wage and having a say in the decisions that are made. There comes a point where it’s no longer about telling a story, it becomes a way to make inequality attractive to donors also referred to as poverty porn.
Donors are happy to write a check, ease their conscience about their wealth and privilege and have a nice day. Why bother with root causes right?
What does it look like to Ethically Fundraise?
First, the organizations promotions acknowledge the strengths and resilience of the people it serves. I’m leery of organizations that portray themselves as the hero saving the damsel in distress community. This kind of narrative is a complete slap in the face to people in the community that are in the struggle to make their own lives better for themselves and their children.
Second, the organization acknowledges system inequality and disparities. It’s great when an organization helps individuals; it’s better when an organization recognizes how the people it serves are being impacted by larger forces in society beyond the narrative of poor decision making.
Third, the organization practices sharing power. It speaks volumes when an organizations staffing demographics have no resemblance to the people it’s seeking to serve. What’s more, if none of the people in leadership are from that community or live in the community, steer clear. An organization is only as effective as its first hand knowledge from the community on what the community actually needs.
Know your community, know who you are donating to, tell stories with the same respect as if it was your story being told. Give effectively.
By: Elisabet Medina
If I were to describe Italy in two words it would be kindness and beauty. Traveling part of the time alone, I encountered so many people that incredibly kind. Even the smallest gestures of telling me where I could catch a certain bus, or taking me out for a drink; left me feeling incredibly cared for. There is something about traveling alone that attracts others to sit with you, hear your story and share theirs. The kindness I experienced filled my heart and in many ways reminded me that kind people exist. Trauma teaches us not to trust people, to put walls up, to have people prove themselves before we let our guard down. Kindness is disarming, like an Italian grandmother that gives you a hug as she gets off the bus.
Wild by Cheryl Strayed says to “Put yourself in the way of beauty”. This is exactly what I did when I went to Italy. Everything from its picturesque windows with flower boxes to its Easter egg colored coastal communities makes you feel like you’ve stepped into a painting. And speaking of paintings, I felt like a kid in a candy store ogling The Birth of Venus and Primavera. The Sistine chapel took my breath away and the Cathedrals in Venice and Milan left me in awe. One of my favorites was hearing the origin story of Michael Angelo’s David. Michael Angelo was convinced that there was a man in the marble that he had to let out. A flawed, discarded block of marble that had been the “headache of Florence” became the priceless work of art treasured by people around the world. It reminded me that even when I feel flawed or overlooked, I am still being shaped. I am a work in progress, I am not finished yet, and I too am beautiful.
Racing thoughts about tomorrow’s presentation, what I am going to say, how I’m going to address questions, rehearsing in my mind that should be on its first REM cycle of sleep by now. 3 am, I try to not to look at the clock on a sleeplessness night because then I start to worry about not being able to function tomorrow on so little sleep. I think about each meeting I have to go to, draft e-mails in my mind while I should be dreaming. And some nights when I do dream there are meetings happening in my living room. By the time morning comes there’s no desire to get out of bed, but somehow I do.
Just going through the motions putting one foot in front of the other. Standing on the train, packed in hot air and shuffling bodies. I can feel the tension in my neck as I sift through the pile of emails each demanding response, a decision to be made or a problem to solve. The avalanche, that even my eyes strained to see through, in the white light of the screen. I literally feel the weight of responsibility on my shoulders, pressure and tensions that climb up my neck and like to sit cross-legged on top of my head.
How are you doing? Fine, good, ok these are autopilot responses which don’t require to delve into how I am really doing. There are times when I can’t tell if the other person genuinely wants to know or if they are also on autopilot. The reality is, there are days when I have no idea how I’m feeling because I’m so caught up in the next thing to do. I feel like a human doing instead of a human being. Even my spiritual practices become another task instead of connecting to God who I know loves me.
This is burn out, when you have laid it out all out, when you have nothing left to give, when your Mind, Body and Spirit feel like distant relatives. Recognizing and acknowledging the burn out is half the battle, instead of pretending everything is ok even to myself. Now the real work begins to bring back the disjointed pieces of myself and nurture them back to health; gingerly, patiently and with grace. Now its time to let go of the expectations and release myself from the higher and than high expectations that I have set up. Time to recover, even if for a brief moment from the traumas I have bared witness to.
Time to Rest.
Why celebrate Latinx Heritage Month? Too often as Latinos we are type casted, the portrayals of Latinas in media is either oversexualized object or a maid. Latino men are too often the gangster or gardener. We are so much more than the boxes we are put in. As I started researching for myself I learned that birth control, color television, the artificial heart all of these were invited by Latinos.
Growing up I was taught about the contributions of European culture to western civilization and was told that the United States as we know it wouldn’t exist but there was very little comment on the contributions of people that looked like me.
When I stand back and see all that Latinos have accomplished and continue to achieve in spite of adversity, I feel pride. Dolores Huerta, Frida Kahlo, Isabel Allende, Rita Moreno, these Latinas have left their mark and the world will never be the same. Too often Latinos in the U.S. are seen as invasive, as a burden ,when in reality Latinos are getting the job done.
Latinos are putting food on America’s tables, building businesses that lift up the economy and advancing in every field. Often when Latinos advance in their careers there’s a tension particularly around upward mobility. There can be family, friends, neighbors that will say quien te crees? Who do you think you are?
And it’s because to advance many Latinos assimilate; changing their names, manner of speaking, dress, mannerism etc to fit in with the mainstream. There was a generation of parents that did not teach their children Spanish for fear that it would hold them back from succeeding. We are ourselves have bought into the narrative that assimilation is the key to success.
Yet in reality we can keep who we are as we move forward on our journey. There is nothing to be ashamed of. We can pass on our language and legacy because our culture is one of achievement. We can contribute to a negative narrative of immigrants and Latinos or a positive one. What you believe about your own culture deeply impacts how you engage or disengage from it and whether it is passed down.
I was lucky that I grew up in a home speaking Spanish and engaging my culture from a place of joy and pride. This has opened countless doors for me to enter bilingual roles and to serve the community utilizing my full self.
I hope that children that grow up now in 2019 feel a freedom to embrace who they are and know they can succeed without checking their identity at the door.
Growing up in church, I heard it repeated over and over that Jesus loves me, died for my sins and redeemed me in this act.
Yet, there’s more to Jesus life than a path to personal salvation. There’s the Jesus we never talk about.
The Jesus who crosses racial lines:
In his interactions with the Samaritan woman at the well. Jews and Samaritans were not to interact because they were different. Jesus did not let these societal issues stop him from showing grace to someone society had rejected.
The Jesus who empowered women:
Jesus elevated women, appeared first to women after the resurrection, and discipled women. Mary sat at his feet and listened to his teaching.
The Jesus who spoke truth to those in power:
Whether it was turning over tables in the table or calling the Pharisees a brood of vipers. Jesus was not shy nor sought political correctness in calling out oppression and exploitation.
The Jesus who spent time with people with sex workers: he ate with them, spent time with them and said they would enter the kingdom of heaven ahead of the religious leaders.
The Jesus showed mercy to the stranger: A Canaanite woman had approached Jesus seeking healing for her daughter. Jesus saw her faith and showed mercy regardless that her people were not his people.
This is the Jesus I want to talk about, the one I follow and hope to be more like each day.
Why do they call it ghosting?
Is it because, they appear in moments unexpected?
Like seeing an event that is coming up and remembering that it was there when we first met listening to Mariachi music.
Remember how I showed up to tell you that it wasn’t going to work out but still had four whiskeys each and kissed like we didn’t care that this was going nowhere.
Remembering the last time I was at a wine bar and how it was the best conversation I had in a long time.
Not trying to get too close to someone because you’re not sure when they are going to leave or when you will leave.
lets be friends when we both know we are not even Facebook friends.
wondering if I already told you this story or was it someone else?
Cooking his favorite dish and feeling like I’m cheating even though it’s been years.
hearing a song and instantly feeling like we are slow dancing.
I wonder if I am someone else’s ghost and if I haunt their thoughts too.
I wonder if they wonder what could have been.
The years feel like fragments, with memories divvied up, a piece for you, a summer with them, and a piece I’m saving for the future.
Not that I would have it any other way. Because what is, is what was supposed to happen. There’s no right way to fall in love.
There’s only the decisions we make and those we don’t. There’s the things we can live with and those that linger because we wouldn't.
The consolation of the ghosted and those that do the ghosting is that we get to make mistakes and fumble our way through.
Our mistakes do not make us any less deserving of love nor does rejection make anyone unworthy. We are infinitely loved no matter what.