I AM GOOD

feel better Yesterday, a student I’ve been mentoring was suspended for giving a xanax to another student. He was expelled earlier in the year for selling weed.   The adults all seemed to be disappointed beyond redemption, mostly angry, and intent on punishing the student. This does not mean the student should not be held accountable for restoring the harm and learning the lesson. But when a child falters, the last thing we want to do is shame and isolate him.

Stay with me on this one. . .

When we feel better, we do better. This is why a compassionate community is so important, and the greatest predictor to how well an individual will do. There’s a lot of trendy talk around restorative processes at schools, but these processes will become just another failed intervention if we don’t truly understand the incredible amount of mercy that it takes to support our children through transformation and change. It’s not only about understanding that we can hold children accountable for their behavior and give them an opportunity to restore the harm without being punitive and retaliatory; it’s also about understanding what it takes for a child to redeem himself and develop new behaviors that are positive, productive, and build their sense of worth.

Every river is born from a single drip of melted snow. The drips collect together and trickle down the mountain forming into creaks and streams that meet together and converge into a river. Moving water is a powerful force and can wear away soil and rocks through erosion. Once a path is created by erosion, because water takes the path of less resistance, water will most likely continue to flow through that path, creating further erosion and therefore, greater flow. Our thoughts and behaviors work in the same way. The more we think or behave a certain way, the more we entrench ourselves in those patterns. Our patterns are the result of the repeated behavior, like rivers are the result of repeated erosion.

Once a river is established, it takes an incredible amount of force for it to create a new pathway. In this same manner, rewiring our brain’s cognitive processes and retraining it to develop new patterns takes an incredible amount of very specific and intentional work, along with immense determination and support systems. Rewiring takes time. It’s not a consistent process. It takes an extreme amount of motivation to perform a habit. The most difficult part of changing a behavior is one’s life is to actually start the behavior. Like a river starts with a drip, a new habit starts with a small behavior change that doesn’t feel threatening or exhausting. Something that seems easy and reasonable to do consistently and constantly.

We can’t expect our children to change a negative habit from one day to the other, or as some would put it, to never fall off the wagon. They will, and we have to be compassionate, forgiving, and patient enough to support them in getting right back up; encouraging them to try again. Each time they try again, they are reaffirming their worth, their goodness, and the idea that they are deserving of better.

Here is what we can expect them to do:

We can expect them to make mistakes from which they will learn lessons, especially when given the space to process the experiences. Similar experiences will repeat over and over again until the lesson is learned. As parents, mentors, teachers, counselors, and guides, this is where we have to do better than punishment. We have to guide our children to recognize the patterns of the experiences they are living to try to understand why they continue to find themselves in those same circumstances. When we recognize that life provides countless opportunities to heal and our experiences are far more than isolated occurrences, we can begin to feel empowered and determined to take ownership of how we give meaning to our experiences. We can expect to hold them accountable by guiding them to take the necessary steps to restore the harm they have caused as a result of their actions. This not only strengthens their individual dignity, but also allows them to continue to see themselves as part of a community that is always working together for the betterment of all. We can expect to teach them problem solving skills, because when a child learns to work things out on their own, they are less likely to blame others and make excuses. Mostly we can and must expect them to be the beautiful, loving human beings they were born to be.

The following is a community process that was described online in reference to how a tribe uplifts, redirects, and restores the individuals in their community when they have lost their way: When someone does something hurtful and wrong, they take the person to the center of town, and the entire tribe comes and surrounds him. For two days they’ll tell the man every good thing he has ever done.

The tribe believes that every human being comes into the world as good; each of us desiring safety, love, peace, and happiness. But sometimes in the pursuit of those things people make mistakes. The community sees misdeeds as a cry for help. They band together for the sake of their fellow man to hold him up, to reconnect him with his true nature, to remind him who he really is, until he fully remembers the truth from which he’d temporarily been disconnected.. Ultimately to have him remember. “I Am Good.”

**Some sources state this is a made up story.  Some sources cite this process from a tribe in the continent of Africa.  It’s a beautiful process that I hope does exist in some form.

Schooling Wendy’s Week of Action

This is the work and movement my daughter has been involved in for several years.  I am honored to be able to support her and the amazing Coalition of Immokalee Workers in whatever way possible, starting with an action this Sunday.   

If you are in the San Diego area, please join us to call on final fast food holdout Wendy’s to respect farmworkers’ rights!

Between Ahold USA becoming the 14th corporation to join the Coalition of Immokalee Workers’ Fair Food Program, the expansion of the Fair Food Program to thousands more workers in Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, and New Jersey, and the growing pressure on Wendy’s, it’s been a momentous summer to be part of the ally movement to the CIW. The CIW is realizing the dreams of dignity and respect in the fields that thousands of farmworkers and their allies have worked towards for decades.

Yet in the face of these tremendous gains, Wendy’s remains the only of the five major fast food corporations to still refuse becoming part of the proven solution to farmworker exploitation — despite countless community marches and pickets, an ongoing Boot the Braids campaign to end university ties with Wendy’s, and the growing national student boycott of Wendy’s.

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So as we enter the fall season, I am inviting all local Fair Food supporters to take ACTION this SUNDAY at the Wendy’s at El Cajon Blvd for a “Schooling Wendy’s” Week of Action!

Where: Wendy’s 2825 El Cajon Blvd., San Diego, CA 92104

When: Sunday, October 4th

Time: 12:00 – 2:00

What: We will do a letter delivery asking Wendy’s to join the Fair Food Program and participate in a picket in front of the restaurant with signs, chants, music, and a huge heart to show our support to the CIW!

 

I will host a SIGN-MAKING GATHERING on SATURDAY

Where: My house

When: Saturday, October 3rd

Time: 12:00 – 2:00

What: We will create colorful signs and messages! SUPPLIES will be provided, but if you have markers, please bring them.

Join us to call on Wendy’s to “make the grade” and respect farmworker rights! Send me a message with any questions or for more information. See you in the streets!

The CIW is about to enter the fifth full season of implementation of the worker-created Fair Food Program’, which in four short years has resulted in massive improvements to farmworkers’ wages and working conditions in Florida tomato fields, creating conditions of dignity and respect where for centuries have existed deep-rooted exploitation and poverty.

By committing to the FFP, participating retailers agree to purchase exclusively from Florida tomato suppliers who meet a series of more humane labor standards, among them a zero-tolerance policy for slavery and sexual harassment. Participating corporations also pay a “penny-per-pound” premium, which is passed down through the supply chain and paid out to workers by their employers. Since the Program’s inception in 2011, buyers have paid over $16 million into the FFP.

For the first time this summer, the Program expanded to tomato fields beyond Florida — to Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, and New Jersey — where thousands of workers participated in worker-to-worker education to learn about their new rights under the Fair Food Program. Like its competitors, Wendy’s must join the Program in order to ensure its continued success!

“Tens of thousands of Florida farmworkers are experiencing never-before-seen rights as a result of the Fair Food Program,” says Santiago Perez of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers. “We seek now to continue to expand those basic human rights protections to the hundreds of thousands of workers beyond the tomato fields and beyond Florida — but Wendy’s participation in the Program is essential to that expansion.”

If you haven’t already watched the documentary, FOOD CHAINS, about the wonderful work the CIW is doing, I highly recommend you do so. 

http://www.foodchainsfilm.com/

 

 

The Little Boy Who Holds Magic

hummingbird boy

She saw in the little boy, Magic.

The kind of magic that reveals the secrets of life.

 

And she asked him,

What does the sun tell the flower

to make her open up?

 

And the boy told her,

The sun reflects her beauty

with his light, and she learns to

believe in herself.

 

She then asked,

How does the wind mold

the clouds into daydreams?

 

And he responded,

It whispers the dreams

people hold in their hearts.

 

Her curiosity grew.

How does the moon, even from so far away,

attract the ocean to her?

 

The boy explained,

At night, when the darkness weighs heavy

like a dream deferred,

she lifts the burden and soothes the fear.

 

She wanted to know more.

Why must the butterfly struggle

through the cocoon to fly?

 

The boy reminded her,

It is in the struggle that the butterfly

builds strength in her wings

affirming her determination to fulfill

her purpose.

 

How does the Evergreen find the courage

to survive the coldest winters and

parched summers?

 

He learns and grows wise. Understands the

parts of him he needs to strengthen and

transform.

 

Finally, she was enchanted with the boy’s

ability to attract hummingbirds, and had

to ask,

How do you get the hummingbirds

to trust you?

 

The greatest magic, and the most

noble answers you will find are held

in your heart. When it opens completely,

the hummingbird will come to

pollinate.

The Q’ewar Project

The Q’ewar poject is a social and economic initiative working with the indigenous women living in the Quechua Community of Q’ewar in Southern Peru.  The women of the Q’ewar Project live in extreme poverty, and for most, this is the first chance they have had to learn skills to earn money in a humane and respectful working environment.  Although the project is young, the original intention to provide the opportunity for these women to improve the difficult conditions of their lives is bearing fruit, little by little.  The project is self-sustainable and everything that has been accomplished by the project has been possible because of the beautiful dolls the women make.

Unlike many of the dolls made with plastic and other toxic materials, the dolls are made with natural fibers from the interior, stuffed with pure sheep’s wool, to the dolls’ hair, made from alpaca yarn.  The women wash, card, and spin the wool used for hair, sweaters and shoes, sewing and knitting all the distinctive clothes. Hand dyed fibers color the hats and the panchos.  Much of the dye used is made from indigenous plants.  The dolls’ clothing reflects a wide variety of styles worn by the rural dwellers.  Most importantly, unlike the mass-produced dolls that companies like Mattel manufacture, these dolls are made with love and joy by the very hands of the women whose lives are being changed by the dolls.  

The Project is located in a beautiful commune-like complex nestled in the hills of Andahuaylillas. As you walk in, the first aspect that catches your attention is the loving and nurturing community that women build as they work surrounded by large windows that let in the healing light of the sun and the beauty of the surrounding landscape.  Here, the women lift each other, teach each other, and inspire each other to be more than they have been treated.

It’s a place where women can recapture their sense of self-worth and confidence, stripped away by centuries of colonization.  In a world in which the Quechua women often suffer marginalization through domestic violence, modern economies, and social systems that perpetuate ethnic discrimination, the Q’ewar Project offers them a space for healing, reconnecting, and building a dignified life. In this beautiful space founded by Don Julio Herrera and his wife Lucy, women are able to come together and act on their concern for creating a more just and moral society.   While engaged in their work,women share personal stories and discuss issues pertaining to child-bearing and rearing, personal and family health, economic stability, sustainable agriculture, access to natural resources, spiritual practices, etc.  Women circles have been around for centuries, and they have been the hub for the sharing of wisdom and solidarity as well as the incubators of transformative ideas and visions.  By teaching and empowering each other, these women, our sisters, are changing the course of how their children will participate and contribute to their community.

 

Qewar4

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I had the honor of listening to some of the stories these inspirational leaders shared.  In telling their stories, they are able to heal and find the strength to continue to transform their lives and the lives of others.  Vilma, one of the women with the most longevity at the project was recently asked, by one of the service learning students I mentored at the project, Alana, if she owned one of the dolls she had hand-made for 13 years. When Vilma responded no, Hanah took it upon herself to purchase a doll for her, and had Vilma select the doll of her choice.  This act of generosity overwhelmed Vilma, but not just for the obvious reason. Vilma lost both of her parents when she was eight years old. As a result, she had to work from a very young age to support herself and her siblings.

The doll Alana gave her was the first doll anyone had given her, and the first doll she had owned.  The doll she had yearned for since she was a child had finally come to her at age 40.  Vilma felt in her heart that her mother’s spirit had nudged Alana’s heart, so that through Alana’s gesture, she could finally give her daughter the doll she had not been able to give her. In this act of kindness, Vilma was not only able to find healing for the little girl inside of her whose childhood had ended so abruptly, but she was also finally able to find closure to her mom’s death, because she had a presentiment that her mom had been with her all along. Witnessing all of this allowed me to see that this is what the magic of life looks like when we are open to it.

Paulina is another woman I met through the Q’ewar project.  I felt drawn to her spirit before I knew I’d become such good friends with her. She had a vibrant spark in her eyes and a confidence that is not commonly observed in the women from Andahuaylillas.  As I began to speak to her and learn about her journey of healing, I became so inspired by her.  In her I saw the journey of liberation and truth I have been on, and that so many beautiful women I know strive everyday to achieve.

She got married at a very young age, 17, and became widowed and a single mother at age 18.  In time she married again, to a man that abused her verbally and repeatedly reminded her that she was “used goods.” He told her she was lucky she had found someone who would want to marry her, especially because she had a son my another man.  In the midst of the abuse, she lost the will to live.  She had lost all understanding of the purpose of life.

Her work at Q’ewar helped her to find that purpose again and have a more concrete vision for the kind of life she wanted to begin to work toward.  We had conversations in which we both held a sacred and respectful space to be able to share some of the most intimate and painful parts of our lives.  One image that she shared with me that was so powerfully imprinted in my mind was one of her sessions with a local psychologists she had begun to visit when she felt she had nothing to live for.

As she sat in his office describing the degrading experiences she lived with her husband, he grabbed her hands and told her she was consumed by fear, so much fear she had forgotten how to live.  He then covered her mouth with his hands and she began to feel a sense of suffocation.  A slow loss of breath, an oppressive heaviness in her chest synonymous to the overwhelming fear that was dictating her life.  He pressed his hands harder against her mouth and nose.  She became agitated and tried to shake her head away with no success, until she gathered enough strength to pull his hands off her mouth and push him away from her.  He then raised his voice at her and asked, “Quien respira por ti! Quien respira por ti! Quien respira por ti!” (Who breathes for you!)  Over and over, until she sreamed back, “Yo, you respiro por mi!” (I breathe for me!)  She now speaks without her voice quivering or her hands shaking.  She says she is not afraid anymore.  Her life is hers to create.

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Like many of the women, when she started working at the Q’ewar project, Paulina wouldn’t look at anyone in the eyes; didn’t feel worthy enough, to.  At Q’ewar she learned about labor laws and just labor conditions.  Simple regulations like keeping track of the hours she worked, understanding full-time and part-time shifts, knowing she had a right to two breaks during an eight-hour shift, and demanding overtime pay when she worked over her eight hours empowered her to demand dignity, both at work and her house.  Here was a seemingly vulnerable, but confident woman starting her own quiet revolution; beginning to assert her truth and demanding the dignity she was born to deserve.

When Don Julio began this project, he hired three women, whom he paid from his own salary as a teacher.  The project now hires over 40 women.  More than 60% percent of the women have been able to build their homes from the sustainable work they do at the project.  Many have also been able to find the self-reliance they needed to leave their abusive spouses.  The Q’ewar project has also expanded into other areas.  They have an on-site kindergarten school, “Wawa Munakuy” (giving love to children – in Quechua),  based on the Waldorf pedagogy, which strives to transform education into an art that educates the whole child – “the heart and the hands, as well as the head.”  The children of the women that work at the Q’ewar project attend the kindergarten school free of charge and are supplied with all the materials they need for learning.  The blueprints for the expansion of the school to include primary grades have already been created, and Don Julio along with supporters are working on raising funds to see this vision come to fruition.  Change happens when opportunities are created for people to empower themselves and have ownership and determination over their lives.

One last anecdote:  One of the students during the last session bought a doll, specifically assembled to reflect the student’s physical features.  When the student saw her doll, she became overwhelmed and welled up with tears.  The women, concerned with her reaction, questioned what was wrong, to which she responded that it was “so beautiful and the first time [she] had a doll that looked like [her].  The student was of Indian heritage and had lived in the United States her whole life, yet it was in this magical place that she finally found the very thing that would allow her, like the women, to rescue a piece of the self-acceptance she had struggled for so long to experience.

To order a girl or boy Village or  Collector’s doll, please contact JoAnne at Dolls@qewar.com or by phone in the U.S. (802)425-4185.  You may also visit the website at http://qewar.com

See Me – Interview 1

Michelle4

Me: How is your heart?

Student: My heart. It’s a mix. It’s full of . . . mmm. It’s weird. It’s like a cloud full of thoughts and it grabs on to everything that come to it, but only expresses the good. But sometimes the bad just stays there. And it tries to mix the good and the bad to see what happens, and to see how it can function, so that it can keep nourishing me with things that will help me grow.

Me: It seems like it was difficult to answer at first. Why?

Student: I don’t know. It’s just thinking about it. Because you never think about it until someone asks you.

Me: When do you feel the most powerful?

Student: When I feel . . . When I know. . . I feel connected to my cause. And I know it’s going to benefit not only me, but others. And I know that nobody is going to do it for me, so I have to do it by myself. When I know no one’s there supporting me. It’s just me. It’s just that decision that is you. So that is when I feel more . . .

Me: When do you feel the most powerless?

Student: When there is people around me and I feel that I need them, and I feel like if I do something, they don’t like it, they are going to be separate; they’re going to leave me. I don’t know how, but I feel like when there’s more people, I feel like I might be wrong, and I don’t be right for them. Even though I know that you have to do it by yourself, I feel afraid for showing. And, when also when there is someone really powerful, it keeps you (student creates a motion of pushing down with her hands), and there is nothing you can do about it; or you don’t have the control of the situation.

Me: When do you find that you show your true self? When do you get to show your true self or you get to be the most authentic?

Student: When I’m doing something related to art. It’s like an extension of me. It doesn’t matter how. It could be music, it could be paintings, it could be poetry, it could be writing something, but if it’s art, I feel like that is my mayor honor. And I feel that when you express your feelings, things go away and I can just be me, because it’s just an extension of me.

Michelle2

Me: When do you feel that you are the least authentic?

Student: When I’m expected to say something or feel like something from the world. I feel like, like in school, mostly, I feel like I have to be in a box because I have to do whatever they think for me to do it. And if I don’t do it that way, I’m not going to get the degree or the diploma because I have to do it how is it right for. It has to be in that exact way – how they want me to be.

Me: So would you say that the time or the place you are the least authentic is in school?

Student: Yeah. Not by acting, but by showing my feelings in the work that is requested. Mostly like that.

Me: Who are you?

Student: I feel like I am a breeze that grabs from everywhere. I can’t say that my ethnicity is just Mexican, because my grandparents are from Spain. I can’t say I’m just from here or from there because I feel that I come from different places. My blood comes from different places and I was raised with a white, American, blue eyes, and I came to the United States. And I don’t feel like from here or there. I feel that we are all connected, and I feel like I am a mixture of it all, together. Even though I’ve never been in other countries, I feel that I have that culture and I make it a part of me. And I am, I believe I have a lot of imagination. I dream too much. I am a person that is more vulnerable than the rest because I focus more on my feelings and so then I feel that. . . .I am strong, but I feel that that strength comes from where my vulnerability lies. What makes me the most vulnerable, also makes me more strong.

Me: What do you like most or love most about yourself?

Student: Mmm? When I am with others I feel like they feel a liking toward what I reflect toward them. And I like to be with people. Not just being with people. I like to transmit things, and I am capable of doing it, I feel. That’s what I like the most.

Me: What do you dislike or hate about yourself?

Student: Sometimes I’m too emotional and what doesn’t affect others, does affect me. That makes me angry and sometimes, for me, not being able to do what I want, because what I think I should do and is right to do, sometimes I don’t do it. And that is what makes me the most angry- to know that I have an idea that I want to follow through with, but I stop myself from doing it due to other things. I don’t know if I am explaining myself.

*Post-interview: I think what I really mean is to not be loyal to myself, or to my principles.

Michelle

Me: Are there any things that seem to block you the most from doing the things you want?

Student: Mmmm? Maybe the environment. Where I am. How people believe in how the world should be. Like rich, money and stuff. The illusion of something that is not connected to the earth or others. That’s what makes me freak out.

Me: What makes you strong?

Student: Probably, my own experience of what I have seen, and to know I’m not alone in the way I think. And to know that I can help others. There are others experiencing the same problems or worse, and they have overcome. Maybe the examples I am basing my opinion on, the people who I see and admire, and see how they were able to succeed. That’s what gives me strength – to see the examples of others in history. Not just examples in history. Fore example, I am a very religious person and the examples in the bible and all that happened, those are the things that give me strength, as well as God. I am a very religious person. I am a Jehovah’s Witness, and I feel if I wasn’t a part of that, I’d be somewhere else. In a very distant place and my ideas would be so much different than what they are today. I wouldn’t have as much vulnerability as I have.

Me: What makes you weak for feel weak?

Student: To know there are bad people that can control me. Or there are people who control more than they should. Excessive power. Despotism.

Me: What do you hope?

Student: What do I hope. I desire peace . . . for me. To do something that brings me peace. And to feel peace in the environment.

*Post-Interview: What I fear the most are nightmares that destroy my dreams.

Me: When are you most visible? When do you feel the most visible – that people can see you?

Student: Art (laughs)

Me: When do you feel the most invisible?

Student: When I speak. Because when I use art, I don’t use words, I don’t think, I just play, or I just paint, or I write, but it’s not my voice. It’s more easier to let my feeling go out than when I’m speaking. With my voice, that’s super hard for me because when I think, I just hold (motions with two closed fists toward her heart), I can’t do something. I have to say it and it’s more difficult to translate my feeling in words. Language is . . . it could be beautiful, but if you don’t use it properly, you don’t get the same response.

Michelle3

Me: Are there any other questions you would have liked for me to ask?

Student: Maybe in the future. Maybe when I realize . . . Thank you.

Me: Thank you. If you think about anything else you would have liked for me to ask, let me know.

Student: Can you send me the interview in my e-mail?

Me: Yes. I think it’s very powerful to listen to yourself speak.

Student needed to leave to her next class.  I thanked her for her courage to speak, for her honesty, and most of all, for the honor of allowing me to see a little bit of her heart and soul.

 

Jameelah

Jameelah3

You came into this world

like a ray of sunlight

invading darkness.

Pushing your way through bars

created to keep God out.

 

 

While folks around you

buried themselves under layers

of fear, concrete-heavy,

you allowed your petals to unfold,

bravely showing the world

the essence of your soul.

 

Your love was too great to keep

restrained within a bud.

Despite the perils of winter,

you bloomed, magnificently, under

pewter skies.

 

What some may deem a weed,

is a flower with grit, refusing

to be conquered by her environment.

 

Like a Field Daisy, you root

yourself in the soil of hope,

expanding your rhizomes

like arms reaching for dreams.

 

You are a Queen,

wrapped in an ebony robe,

glittering with star dust

created millions of years ago

as a vision of you.

 

You look deep within the corners

of your flaws, within the crevasses

of your wounds and somehow, every time,

you find the star dust that glitters on your robe.

Remembering you were made radiantly perfect!

 

You shined your way and broke darkness.

You shined your way and exposed day.

Oh, my beautiful Jameelah, you have never

diminished against the fray!

 

Jameelah

 

Ramona’s Dream

A short screenplay based on conversations I have had with students in the past month.  As I continue to explore the importance of reclaiming our past, connecting to our ancestors, learning our heritage, and actively participating in passing these components of identity to future generations, I am also paying deep attention to the subversive ways in which colonization, racism, and poverty continue to devastate our children.

Int. Public School Classroom (K-8) – Any given school day

A dated resource classroom with brown linoleum floor and yellowing

perforated ceiling tiles with some water stains. 

Some pseudo motivational posters with messages like: “The Difference Between Losers and Winners is Attitude” and “Learning is an Adventure.”

Classroom furnished with five round tables with four chairs at each table. The classroom serves for small group instruction for students with IEPs (Individual Education Plans).

Resource books, instructional strategies written on posters, and some computers line one side of the room.

Three students are in the classroom with their support teacher who is helping them write their history essay which is already past due. The essay topic: Segregation in the South.

Two of the students, Jesus and Alberto, 8th graders, are giggling and murmuring to each other, searching through their back-pack for their work. They don’t seem interested in doing the assignment.

Ramona, the third student, also an 8th grader, is sitting across from them, to the right of the teacher, Mrs. Malo. Her head is bent over her textbook, and she stares intently at its cover, a photograph of the Statue of Liberty with a backdrop of the flag of the United States. Her hands are grasping the chair by the side of her thighs, as she drags her feet back and forth.

Ramona wears brown lackluster eyes, brown skin of a heritage indigenous to the central coast of Mexico, and long flowing hair that fall like Raven feathers along her arms.

Jesus has more pronounced indigenous features with hair that covers his head like a thick knitted cap.

 

Mrs. Malo

(Sternly and compassionately speaking to the boys)

 

Guys, come on, get your work out. We have to get started.

 

 

Jesus and Alberto

                  (giggling as they are pulling out their work)

 

Ramona

                  (bewildered)

What are we supposed to write about?

 

Mrs. Malo

                  (matter of fact)

You’re writing your essay for history. You have to write about segregation in the South.

 

Alberto

                  (inquisitively)

What’s segregation?

 

Mrs. Malo

It’s when Blacks were not allowed to live alongside Whites. They had to use separate bathrooms, sit in different sections of a bus or restaurant, attend separate schools, and were treated as having less value than Whites.

 

Ramona

                  (appalled)

That’s racist!

 

Mrs. Malo

                  (in agreement)

Yeah. So if we work on this essay, it will help you to learn more about how segregation caused a lot of suffering for Blacks who lived in the South. And actually, there have been many different groups of people that have suffered segregation in this country.

 

Students listening intently to Mrs. Malo

 

Mrs. Malo

                  (Cont)

Mexicans also had to deal with segregation, but most of the segregation Mexicans experienced happened in places like California, Texas, and Arizona.

 

Alberto

                  (confused)

Who made segregation?

 

Mrs. Malo

Segregation laws were put in place by White people.

 

Alberto

                  (even more confused)

But why?

 

Mrs. Malo

Many reasons. Hate, fear, control, power, and also this idea called White supremacy.

 

Alberto

                  (confused)

What’s White supremacy?

 

Mrs. Malo

It’s this idea that Whites are better than the other races, and should have control of those races. But this same idea exists in many countries, not just the United States. For example, in Mexico you see that many of the people who hold power and wealth are disproportionately White.

 

Ramona

                  (enthusiastically)

My dream is to marry a white guy!

 

Mrs. Malo turns to Ramona in shock. Mrs. Malo instinctively assumes Ramona wants to marry a White guy because she has learned to see her brown skin as inferior and it would give her more accessibility into a world of more privilege, but quickly catches herself, so as to not criticize or judge what Ramona has just stated. Instead probes Ramona to understand Ramona’s perspective.

 

After Ramona’s comment, Jesus bends his head toward his textbook with his hands in the pockets of his hoodie.

 

Mrs. Malo

                  (probing, trying to hide her disappointment)

Why is that your dream?

 

Ramona

                  (enthusiastically)

Because, they are so cute and they have money, so they can take care of me.

 

Mrs. Malo

                  (trying desperately not to sound judgmental)

 

What about just saying, “My dream is to find a guy that is caring and understanding who will support me with my dreams?”

 

Ramona looks down on her essay, takes her thumb and rubs it on her paper, as if she is erasing something with it.

 

Mrs. Malo

                  (Redirecting the conversation)

What’s your dream for your life?

 

Ramona looks at her with a blank stare.

 

Mrs. Malo

                  (Cont)

What do you see yourself doing when you graduate high school? I know that’s a few years away, so you may not know exactly what you will be doing, but do you have an idea?

 

Alberto

                  (mocking Ramona)

She’s not going to graduate. She’s failing all her classes.

 

Ramona, withdrawn, begins to rub her thumb on her paper again, as if she is erasing something with it.

 

Mrs. Malo

                  (sympathetically)

Ramona is having a challenging time with her assignments, but she can and will improve her grade; that’s why she is here getting extra support.   We all have times in our lives where we go through challenges, but it doesn’t mean we can’t bounce back.

 

Alberto

(becomes pensive and then jolts out)

 

She failed all her classes last year too!

 

Mrs. Malo

                  (still trying to be sympathetic, probes Ramona about her relationship with her parents)

Ramona, what do your parents say about how you are doing in school?

 

 

Ramona

                  (exhaling gently in a resigned manner)

Yeah, they always punish me. I’m used to it now. But that doesn’t really do anything for me.

 

Mrs. Malo

                  (still probing)

What about all your parents have had to go through in leaving their home and sacrificing themselves in an unknown country for a better future for you? Doesn’t that push you to want to do better?

 

Ramona

                  (a bit aggravated)

This work is too boring. I don’t get it. If I could go back to Mexico, I’d rather study there.

 

Mrs. Malo

Did you do good in school there?

 

Ramona

I never went to school there. But maybe the teachers there would understand me better. I don’t know.

 

Mrs. Malo

                  (probing)

Well, what do you see yourself doing once you graduate? Sometimes that helps us figure out how to get there.

 

Ramona

                  (slouching to the side a bit)

I’ll just work in a hotel like my aunts. They make good money. And since I have papers, I will get paid more. Plus it’s easy to start working there since my aunts work there already.

 

Mrs. Malo

                  (disappointed at Ramona’s response)

MMmmmmhh? What would you do?

 

Ramona

                  (with a confused look)

I would do housekeeping. They make like $25 an hour if they have papers.

 

Mrs. Malo

                  (disappointed at Ramona’s response)

 

Is that all you aspire to? Cleaning after people for the rest of your life.

 

Ramona

                  (counteracting)

What’s wrong with cleaning rooms. My aunt’s do it. They make good money.

 

Mrs. Malo shifts in her chair, uncomfortable with Ramona’s question. A bit embarrassed that Ramona might feel that she is degrading the work that her aunts do.

 

Mrs. Malo

                  (still trying to make her point)

Are they happy?

 

Ramona

                  Yeah.

 

Mrs. Malo

                  (trying not to sound judgmental)

All I’m saying is, wouldn’t you rather pick the journey of your life based on your passion instead of what is easy? Many Mexican women, including my mother, have worked as housekeepers in this country because they had very few other options. But you have more opportunities. Yes, maybe you’ll make good money as a housekeeper, but why not make money doing something that you love so much, it doesn’t even feel life work?

 

Ramona

                  ( unconvinced)

The good jobs are for the white people.

 

Mrs. Malo

                  (persuasively)

That’s not true. I’m a teacher – I graduated from college. Your principal is Mexican.

 

Ramona

                  (dismayed)

He’s not even nice to Mexican people. You should see the way he treats my mom. He’s always rude to her, and tells her she needs to pay attention to us.

 

Mrs. Malo

                  (with a stronger tone a bit more animated)

 

Okay, but what about all the people I know? Many of my friends who are Mexican are professionals. I have a friend who is a cop, another friend who is a lawyer, a bank manager, a veterinarian, some own their own businesses. Just cuz you are Mexican, doesn’t mean you can’t be anything you want to be.

 

I had a baby at 18, but made a choice that I would not give up on my journey and went on to graduate from college. But it’s not about graduating from college; it’s about believing in your dream and that you deserve to have that dream.

 

Alberto

                  (animated, jumping forward on his chair)

Oh yeah! Like that guy who is running for mayor. He is Mexican. I saw in the news he would be the first one in San Diego!

 

Ramona cracks a brief cynical smile, looks down on her essay, staying quiet for a few seconds.

 

Ramona

                  (trying to sound convincing)

I’m still going to work in housekeeping. I have papers and I will get paid more than the women who are illegal.

 

Mrs. Malo gives Ramona a thwarted smile, asks the students to open their textbook, and begins to guide them on how to structure the next paragraph of their essay.