2/24/18 Session #10


This morning we ground ourselves with the reminder from Juliet our Brown In Chicago project director that, “to study is a revolutionary duty, and we ain’t just doing this for an A+ within a capitalistic society!” We each took turns sharing what topics we want to research for the duration of the Brown In Chicago Fellowship up until May. Within the next two months we will work within groups to conduct our own research projects on a topic of interest related to previous lessons. The following are topic ideas presented by each fellow and answers these questions: What I hope to learn/research more? What have I learned so far? What are ways I plan to learn more?

Emma: I used to think Latino culture and identity was more or less the same and I want to know more about what doesn’t make them monolithic. I’m interested in learning more about my indigenous background. I would love to find out how it’s still alive today in multiple cultures in Latin America. I’ve done limited research on this topic so far but I’ve been able to read small articles about different cultures in Latin America. Now that I have more concrete data about my DNA and what it’s made up of I can go from there. The first step in my plan is to conduct more research using all the resources that have been provided to me. I would also like to interview people to see if they have any input or information that I might not be able to find.

Austin: I want to deepen my own familial experience and to get to the root of acculturation and assimilation. How can internalized racism become so defining, despite it not being an explicitly overt/conscious action? I’ve found a couple of great resources on the topic and have been able to put my own experiences and the experiences of others into perspective. While I do want to use academic sources and back up what I say, I want this piece to be more personal. I will keep on finding more resources! Talk with more individuals about their experiences and work on formatting the whole piece.

Lucas: Understanding how we are developing or ascribed to the way we are today? Perhaps looking into epigenetics? Where did Mexicans get culture from that made it it’s own in terms of music food and appearances? How different are we to even say we are different from one another if I look more Puerto Rican than Mexican to others? What I have learned so far is that nothing past being born on a different plot of land and our skin color and adaptation occurring making from scratch what they had that later carried itself into the twenty first century. The way I plan to learn more is by investigating the lands and tribes/groups of people I am blood related to and see how much I relate to them in my personality, looks or how I am in my everyday life.

Arely : Last year my Mexican identity was deconstructed and I felt shook. I am proud of the diversity I see in Mexico similarly to the U.S. I want to know how to claim my indigeneity and access it. But, by doing so this means to reject my family’s Catholicism which upsets them. My research question is, What does it mean to be Mexican? Who are we as culture? I’ve learned that there is colorism and that it’s very similar to the U.S. we come from different backgrounds and are treated accordingly. But we are also one at the same time, being Mexican means being the colonizer and colonized at the same time for me. I plan to make more trips to Mexico and keep learning about the history of Mexico and learn how the people interact with the different dimensions Mexican culture.

Anaiza: How can POC students take education into our own hands? Why are we still struggling with dropout rates if our ancestors fought so hard to win us the fight to go to school?

Brittany: Why isn’t Latino history taught in school? Or just the option for it, having it available would be nice. Even when I was in grammar school in Puerto Rico for a little, we spent a little time learning about Tainos but more focus on Mayans groups. Meeting a Taino man on the isla who was proud of his culture inspired me that the culture isn’t dead. When we learn about Latin American in U.S schools, it is still Eurocentric and focuses on economic development and influences of colonialism is viewed as “mixing” which is just whitewashing. I am learning that more about more types of indigenous groups, challenging in school why don’t we learn more about Latin American History, about historical challenges against education/institutions to include more ethnic studies in our schools. I’m Interested in creating curriculum that is accessible Ethnic Studies and Integrating personal narratives.I want to explore how music, dance, and other mediums can challenge racism?

Ashley:  I want to begin to Heal from Catholicism. By shifting religious affiliation and practice I want to see someone like me when I pray to God. While exploring and practicing Yoruba culture and spirituality I want to embrace natural and holistic forms of healing. Not depending on one person like God and to better feel supported by multiple orishas instead. This is a life changing process that will take time for me to better understand my familial indigeneity abuelita knowledge. I wish to know more about their traditions and our history?

Merari: I want to learn more about ending cycles of generational trauma, understanding my own healing, and learning more about my family’s battle with mental illness history.

Of the eight research topics and questions discussed above from the students in attendance I narrowed their topics into three main research groups based on their interests:

1) What is the history of the U.S Education Systems and importance of implementing Ethnic Studies?

2) Exploring what is Latinx identity, Nationalism, and internalized prejudice?

3) What Generational Trauma and decolonized healing?

Within these next two month we will continue to work on our research projects and continue to find creative ways to present our projects and share them within various upcoming community events which are planned or in the planning process still. One upcoming event that was co-planned with a B.I.C Fellow with a relationship with ICIRR: Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights will take place at on March 10th at the Immigrant Youth Conference at Northeastern Illinois University – El Centro Campus from 9 am – 2 pm. As a response to the attacks on immigrants and our youth, ICIRR and partners are creating a safe space for immigrant youth and provide resources, workshops, and an opportunity to meet other immigrant youth across Illinois.

Evelyn, a B.I.C fellow collaborated to design an hour long workshop for this conference called, WE ARE ENOUGH:  I don’t need your papers to be whole, I am already whole, I am already enough. While it’s so important to fight back and arm ourselves with information, it’s also important to recognize our need to heal from being an immigrant in this nation at this time. In this workshop we will introduce the concept of healing justice, create art that affirms who we are regardless of this status and create a safe space to share our stories.

This workshop is just one example and community engagement opportunity that was inspired by the Brown In Chicago project and am excited to see the other projects grow into fruition this upcoming spring 2018!



Meeting #15 11/19/2016

Lily Be Storytelling Workshop and Photo Journalism Workshop Diosa Latinx Photoshoot: Honoring our ancestors and indigeneity

We began this morning with a passage from  Follow the Rabbit Proof Fence  is personal account of an indigenous Australian family’s experiences as members of the Stolen Generation. The erasure of a person’s culture is stripping people of their power. Colonist use this technique to make you feel ashamed for keeping traditions alive whether that is through language, music, religion, or clothes. The these things is what protects our energy and keep us grounded to our ancestral power. This power are secret songs, recipes, dances, prayers, and wishes that we used to survive erasure.

We asked students around the table their thoughts about the reading and many stories resonated with one another’s similar experiences.

Violet: the reading reminded me of the erasure of culture and I feel sad that there are things about my culture that I will ever know or known it was lost. I feel guilty at times that my attempts to learn Spanish or more about Puerto Rican or Colombian culture is a mere caricature of what I try to embrace. But I have to be easy on myself because the goal of colonization is to make me forget my past or leave to responsibility for myself to uncover my history. I am grateful to not have to explore and connect on my own and with the support of this space,

Many other agreed for feeling guilty about their spanglish but we had to stop to check ourselves and as a reminder that the Spanish language is a colonizer language and we do not know the tongues of our maternal native ancestor.

Aide: I feel like instead there is now a shift within our generation in comparison to our past generations that had to assimilate to survive. Now we digging up our buried cultures and history so we do not forget. In order to survive we must remember our past.

Eduardo: This passage reminded me about the Korean exchange program at his High School and how he stood up for his fellow exchange student and checked a teacher for scolding the exchange students for speaking Korean and not English. He connected that experience to being young and learning English in elementary school and also being scolded for not speaking English. When you police language around students that are in their right to speak to what is comfortable to them and made me feel safe when I wanted to be understood.

Arely: I want to keep speaking Spanish alive in my family because it makes me sad that my cousins refuse to speak Spanish. I am taking extra classes to improve my reading and writing in Spanish because I think my language is beautiful.

It was revealed within a few other reflections in the room that many students had a similar experience of being forced into speech therapy services or put in low comprehensive courses Spanish was their first language and they were still learning English. Offering the wrong referral services can highly impact the self-esteem of a young student who is made to feel their Spanish is a barrier. img_2888
The remainder our meeting was spent split into two groups. Students with Lily Be who was crafting their stories and students in our Diosa Latinx photo shoot. Towards the end of our meeting we all came together for an impromptu bruja circle photo opt. I never felt so fierce, magical and strong while hand and hand with my sisters. All dope Latina women with different strengths and experiences. All between us centuries of beauty and light we share within our blood through our ancestors.  

Meeting #13 11/5/2016

[Meeting #13] 11/5/2016

History made us. We will not eat ourselves up anymore. We are whole.” Rosario Morales and Aurora Levins Morales- Ending Poem

We began our meeting last week revisiting a poem we read during our first meetings this past summer that was written by mother and daughter Rosario and Aurora Morales. This poem unpacks how their diasporic identity is rooted in colonization and indigeneity. While expressing the difficulty to connect with the fragments of our fractured ancestry. History made us glue together the pieces of narratives that were suppressed, ignored and overwritten by colonization and supremacy. We hunger for truth, connection and understanding of these untold tales that were fed to us by institutional structures. Together we nourish and fill ourselves with the experience to grapple with knowledge and replenish the erasure of our history until we are whole.

Today we hosted three guest in anticipation to blend our lenses and understanding of Latinx identity throughout this project. A geneticist, Cultural Anthropologist/Historian, and a Social Work informed Genealogist provided workshops to help us unpack the “makeup of our brownness”. It is important to have three different professional disciplines to challenge and demonstrate how our constructed knowledge is shaped by our lived experiences and the framework in which we like to explore our Latinx identity.

We began with a Mexican native geneticist named Dr. Noe De La Sancha. He discussed biodiversity and contextualized the origins of the earth, homo sapiens, and how our notions of race is socially constructed. It was very meaningful personally to be taught by a Latinx scientist because my educational experience as child had limited exposure to predominantly male, white instructor for math and science courses. As a young girl I always dreamed of becoming a scientist because it was the subject I thrived the most in up into college.

At one point while reviewing natural selection, I blurted “survival of the fittest” because it was the mnemonic phrase I connected with while learning about Darwinism in high school. Dr. De La Sancha laughed and reassured that natural selection doesn’t imply this notion of “survival of the fittest because, “evolution isn’t necessarily the survival of the fittest but survival of those who adapt to current conditions.” The phrase actually derives from Herbert Spencer who coined the phrase, after reading Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species. Spencer drew parallels between his own economic theories and Darwin’s biological ones. Spencer states, “This survival of the fittest, which I have here sought to express in mechanical terms, is that which Mr. Darwin has called ‘natural selection’, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life.”

This ideology within the late 19th and early 20th centuries and was used to justify political conservatism, imperialism, and racism and to discourage intervention and reform. This helped informed eugenics movements and promoted by the Nazi party in their quest to sustain a superior race and eliminate those who do not share the traits and identities of white supremacy. Social Darwinism in reality is all of life is constantly trying to catch up to fluctuations in our environment. We are resilient beings striving to adapt through socially constructed barriers and ideologies that are reinforced in our modern day textbooks and consumed by our youth. We must resist, re-write and challenge these notions for our survival.

Cultural Anthropologist/Historian Dr. Jesse Mumm, presented on Biocultural Us, which discussed the migration, origins and genes of homo sapiens. The lecture began by discussing our migration patterns from Africa and how climate change shaped our paths for adaptation and survival. Within the 1800’s “five races” were created and supported by U.S and European scientist who determined distinct biological races by skull size and phenotypic traits such as skin, nose size and hair type/color. The social construction of race is inherently problematic beyond the inaccuracy of the scientific findings but used to inform racist ideologies and practices.

Biology and culture intersect through our generational experiences and have deeply shaped the outcomes of those who are polarized as dominant “white” or other. Although we understand among humans there are no biological differences between races, the legacy of racism is widespread and detrimental. For instance, Dr. Mumm explained how up until the 1870’s African Americans were first documented by their names rather than as property items. In 2016, racism still shapes legislation, resources and the polarization between the dominate culture vs marginalized identities is felt so deeply during our Presidential election. By learning how society and culture is highly informed by the intersection of race, law and power we can begin unlearn to decolonize these institutionalized structures and resources.

Kerry Cochrane is our resident Genealogist who uses Social Work to inform her practice. During our time with Kerry we were able to unpack many of the questions we had since the end of the summer when our students received their DNA results that were collected a few months ago. Our start was slow because many students either did their own research upon receiving their results and others did not know what questions to ask because the DNA results report is very overwhelming and heavy with information. The questions that were asked wanted more information of what are haplogroups or what it mean to be “broadly East Asian or European”? Overall, it was fascinating to learn more in depth about our genetic breakdown and to process the magnitude legacies.