Commemorating Martin Luther King Jr. in Middle/High Schools

Hot Topics

This Friday, I was frustrated when my school’s cancellation of this year’s MLK assembly was replaced by Oprah’s Golden Globes speech. The purpose, we were told, was to show how Oprah credits Dr. King as an instrumental part of her success. While Oprah’s speech was undoubtedly moving, it felt like a last-minute substitution for our MLK assembly. To be blunt, it had nothing to do with Martin Luther King Jr.
We are forgetting his diagnosis of America’s sickness and immediate call for action. This systemic sickness further marginalizes poor people, people of color,  immigrants, the list goes on.


While scrolling through my Instagram feed, I came across a post advocating the Poor People’s Campaign in honor of MLK day. The basic premise of the PPC is to call for equal rights among poor people by uniting Americans, regardless of race, religion, political belief, etc. It was started in 1968 by MLK and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference during the 2nd half of the Civil Rights Movement. (I don’t want to oversimplify. To read more on the PPC, click here.)
What frustrates me is that we aren’t taught this at my school— I know my school isn’t the only one misrepresenting MLK.

While it’s often easier to skirt along MLK’s basic message of peaceful protest or post an Instagram picture of him with a quote, we are failing to educate future generations when we neglect to discuss MLK in a school setting.
Let us uphold MLK’s legacy in school by:
1. Educating students about MLK’s work with the PPC and SCLC and his specific methods of protest.

2. Teaching students how to effectively engage in difficult dialogue on race/economic inequity

3. Teaching students how to practice methods of peaceful protest.

4. Providing information about community resources that support PoC (through visual art, workshops, rallies, etc)

5. Inviting modern civil rights leaders to speak about MLK and how their work has been impacted by his legacy.
MLK’s voice started a movement that continues to be more prevalent than ever— we can do better to educate young people on how to use their voice for the breakdown of institutional oppression.


Here’s another link, which discusses MLK’s forward-thinking views on the link between war spending and systemic racism: MLK’s views on Vietnam War

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Just a Quick Note: Self-Esteem

Musings

Today, I am at peace with who I am and am proud of myself. I say this not about achievements, grades, or external procurements (although I value those things as well), but more about my internal acceptance.

For years, I’ve struggled with my self-esteem and confidence. Much of it was due to pressure: pressure that I put on myself, pressure that my environment put on me, and this internal nagging that whatever I did, I was never going to end up feeling truly happy with myself. I hope to create an article about this one day that really goes in-depth, because I know I’m not alone in this ongoing journey of self-acceptance.

To anyone who has ever felt that they aren’t good enough, that they won’t be happy, or anything else like that: just know you are not alone and that you are WORTHY and CAPABLE of living the life you want. You are capable of success, whatever that word means to you. You are capable of creating, and you get to define what is worthwhile.

I have a couple videos from two YouTubers who really helped me start my journey:

  1. Marie Forleo: How to Stay MotivatedFeeling Behind in Your Life? Watch This
  2. Mimi Ikonn: Message to My Younger SelfHow to Deal With Negativity

I love all of their videos, but these were a few of my favorite 🙂

Again, amidst the college apps and all the craziness of wrapping 2017, this is all I have time to post for now. I hope in the coming months I can share more on this subject, and hopefully it helps anyone who also struggles with self-esteem. Upon reflection from January 2017 to the present, I have found that becoming your own best friend is a constant journey, and one that I believe is worthwhile.

I’ll see you in 2018!

Love,

Luisa Rodriguez

The Restaurant Metaphor

Hot Topics, Musings

I always lived with the belief that if you want something, you have to live with the attitude that will bring your desired outcome.

I like to think about a restaurant as a metaphor for life.


 You are the chef of this restaurant and you create all the meals. If you believe your dishes will be delicious, then you will put in extra effort to make sure the lobster bisque turns out just right. On the other hand, if you believe your meals will taste like garbage, then of COURSE you’re going to add too much salt or burn the soup. (Speaking of which, is the latter even possible?!)


I’ll come back to this metaphor later.

 I truly believe that what you put out into the world is what you get back. If you give love and positivity, those good things will come back to you.

However, in my AP Literature class, while we read Kafka’s Metamorphosis, which portrays existentialist traits of randomness and injustice in society, I began to question my initial beliefs. Look around at all the sickness, tragedies, and violence. Is the world really fair?

We were prompted to write a few sentences about our ideal city. My city included improved, free resources for dealing with mental health and abuse and ran completely on clean energy. I also described it as celebratory of all religions and the LGBTQ community. We were then asked to share. Unsurprisingly, my classmates answered with similar views: no violence, no poverty, the list goes on.

My teacher then asked us the following questions: Can we end poverty and sickness? Do you think it’s possible to end all war and violence? 

Personally, I’m not sure. I became skeptical about there being some “larger truth” of the universe. Maybe the world really is just a random, meaningless place, I thought.

Philosophers like Plato and Buddha dedicated their entire lives searching for the meaning of life… then hundreds of years later, Nietzche, Kierkegaard, and Sartre lay some major objection bombs and send the general public into a vat of existential crises. (Just kidding, listen to your humanities/history teacher for the real facts.)

While no one knows for certain if there is some higher truth about the world, I believe it’s important to not just give up and say, “Hey! You know what? Life is meaningless so I am just not going to care about anything!”

Instead, I got to thinking: can I do something to better the life of another human being? To which I immediately said (literally out loud): “yes.” For me, life about taking action and practicing what you preach (oh yes, I went there with the cliché).

Going back to the restaurant metaphor, I forgot to mention that you are not only the chef, but SURPRISE! You own the restaurant. This means that you are not only responsible for cooking delicious meals for yourself, but you also must be able to feed your customers and make sure there are enough seats to accommodate more than yourself.


To put it simply, the customers are the people around you who cannot afford to cook their own meals.

The ability to brainstorm a perfect world is a luxury. For many of my peers (myself included), we can dream endlessly of a perfect world and still have a life with—at the very minimum—our basic needs met. But simply thinking and planning are not enough. 

Life isn’t always fair. There is so much poverty, sickness, and violence around the world. Often, people in those situations are defenseless or have difficulty acquiring necessary resources. It is up to people with platforms and voices—the chefs— to be proactive in helping others.  


When I say, “if you put goodness into the world, you will get it back,” I mean: if you have the ability to influence a situation in your life, then take action. And if you are in a position to help others, spread that goodness around by taking action so more people can sit at the table. 

blog pic 5

Will we end poverty? Or war? Such broad statements are hard to answer. But can we bring more chairs to the table so more people can eat? Absolutely.

The world is not always fair, but we can make it safer, more welcoming, and happier if we use what is given to us to help others.


I challenge you to do something this holiday season, even if you want to start small, to help another person…And don’t forget to take time for yourself too 🙂 


Put your goal into writing and comment below!

All rights reserved (c) 2017 Luisa Rodriguez.


My current project/ inspiration behind this post:

I’m currently working on a school-wide fundraiser for YouthCare, a nonprofit (local to WA, U.S.) whose mission is to end teen homelessness in the Seattle area. As a school, our goal is to raise $4,000 and other needed supplies. If you wish to donate to YouthCare, please feel free to donate at this link (if you are affiliated with International Community School, please put “ICS fundraiser” in the comments of the donation link so we can track your donation to our goal!)

 For more information about YouthCare, visit http://www.youthcare.org/

 

 

Reflections on Growing Up Biracial in 2017 // Part 2: At the Dinner Table

poetry

At the Dinner Table

When we sit down at the table

in my home

My mom can make arroz con habichuelas as well as my dad

And crispy tostones to rival his, too.

 

My dad turns on Ismael Rivera’s “Negro Bembon”

Which was a favorite song of mine when I was a little girl.

I feel the rhythm in my head

And I smile,

My hips subconsciously moving to the beat

Although my feet do not know the steps.

 

My dad says I remind him of his mama

Who died when he was 11.

Carmen Gloria:

She was a fighter and fierce.

He says I look like her

And I smile and agree

But in my head I know I am not a fighter.

We talk about how lucky he was to come to Seattle.

This is my home, filled with the music, the aromas, the taste of pegao.

 

 

When we sit down at the table

In my Oma and Opa’s house

My Oma sets dishes of gado-gado, croupouc and Telur Bumbu Bali on the little mismatched trivets

And spicy peanut sauce to accompany the sticky yellow rice.

 

We listen to my Opa talk about growing up in World War II during the Japanese occupation

And how he biked an hour each way from his house to see my Oma

And how Japanese soldiers were quartered in his family’s small home as a boy.

He talks about getting a visa to come to the US and how he was so afraid

With just my Oma and his little children— all 7, 5, and 3 years old—

And giving up everything

(His home, his mother, his three sisters, his job as a doctor)

To come here.

He talks about the first time he had a hot dog

He didn’t know what a credit card was when he went to Sears for the first time either.

I smile

But inside my heart yearns for something out of reach;

I’m not sure what.

 

 

I’ve been to Puerto Rico four times in my life

I’ve never been to Indonesia or China

I don’t speak Spanish

I don’t speak Indonesian or Mandarin

 

Yet all these things don’t count

 

Because when I sit at the table

I am simply Luisa.

 

Copyright Luisa C. Rodriguez September 27th, 2017. All rights reserved.

 

Reflections on Growing Up Biracial: “Imposter”

poetry

Imposter

Sometimes

I feel far

Far far away

From Puerto Rico

From Latino heritage

From 1/2 of myself.

I don’t “look” Hispanic. I don’t fit

The stereotyped image of what a Latina looks like.

What “looks” Latina? Who has the right to claim that “look”?

The lighter-skinned hispanics, whose ancestors were colonized from Spain?

The indigenous Latinos?

The Afro-Latinos?

All these names swirl in my head

And my label doesn’t fit one.

 

My dad says we’re mostly white because of the colonization of Spain

And his dad came from that lineage.

But my dad’s mom— mi abuela— had a mother of Taíno blood.

What am I?

 

Half is what I am,

It is all I am.

It is all I will ever be.

 

Because the other half is entirely different:

Chinese Indonesian.

In Indonesia, my family wasn’t allowed to be Chinese.

It was dangerous to be Chinese.

That is why they left the island of Java.

They dropped their Chinese names in America.

My mom, aunt, and uncle were so little when they came to America— my mom, being the eldest, was no more than 7 years old.

 

My grandparents don’t speak Chinese,

Though they have Chinese names.

 

They speak what they were taught in school: Indonesian and Dutch.

I call my grandparents Oma and Opa… the Dutch way.

I am not Dutch.

 

My mother doesn’t recall too many memories about her childhood in Indonesia

But when at the dinner table with my Oma and Opa, they tell stories of living in Indonesia during Japanese occupation in World War II

And my heart aches for the gap between their experiences and mine own to be filled. Filled with what?

With Indonesian culture? With its rich language?

Why does it feel like there is a gap?

 

Am I Chinese?

Am I Indonesian?

My grandparents don’t say they’re Chinese, and they weren’t fully accepted by Indonesian culture either.

 

Who am I?

 

I stare quietly into the mirror and a thousand questions and accusations fly off of me…

Back at me.

What is your right to claim you are half Latina? You were born thousands of miles away from Puerto Rico and don’t speak Spanish.

How dare you? 

Remember, you are only half. What does that even mean?

And the other half? Chinese Indonesian?

You don’t speak Chinese or Indonesian, you’ve been to neither country, you certainly don’t look full Chinese or Indonesian.

 

But when someone asks me, “what is your background?”

All I respond with is:

“I am Chinese Indonesian and Puerto Rican… China Latina.”

 

 

 

 

Note: Although the original poem contains names of her family members, the author has omitted their names for sake of privacy.

Copyright Luisa C. Rodriguez September 27th, 2017. All rights reserved.

What is Patriotism?

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Happy fourth! 
During my humanities class this past year, we discussed patriotism and its role in literature. We read articles of various viewpoints on what patriotism means to different people (from 18th century farmers to a Stanford professor). As I reflect on this, I have been led to question: 
What does patriotism mean to me?

To me, patriotism isn’t boasting how great our country is over others. It isn’t a way to say, “America is the greatest, it is the best!” 

America is great in many ways, but we should not use such broad statements. America also has its fair share of flaws, and to me, patriotism means working on these flaws to create a more equitable country for ALL its citizens. To me, patriotism means that we recognize our great power; and we must also show sympathy for countries who are not in our same position.

“With great power comes great responsibility.”** 

I believe that our responsibility as Americans is not to turn a blind eye. Not to be ignorant or apathetic to those who have less than us. With current political leaders who do not represent these sets of beliefs I (and many others) hold, it is our job as the people of this country to clearly redefine the true meaning of patriotism.

This means speaking up for black lives, Muslims, LGBTQ, and other marginalized groups. 

This means not letting America get away with things that leave lasting damage on people in other countries (such as the chemical attacks in Syria). 

This means that healthcare is a RIGHT not a PRIVILEGE. 

To me, patriotism means that we can celebrate this nation while at the same time recognizing its flaws. America is beautiful, and I am proud to be American. However, we have a lot of work to do to create a more equitable, aware country. 

I implore you to think about how you can practice mindful patriotism.

What does patriotism mean to you?

(**note: I looked up various sources to find the author of this quote, but was unable to find this person. Some credit Voltaire, others say it was Spider-Man comics. Please comment below if you know the author. Do not quote me on this, it is not mine.$

Perpetual, Imperfect, Intersectional Feminism: Carrying Feminism in our Daily Lives

Musings

People wearing red, walking out/striking/protesting, changing their Facebook profile picture to the Women’s March rectangle: all of these actions have been taken for today, March 8th, A Day Without Woman (aka International Woman’s Day).

But what does this all mean? 

Today we have come together to celebrate feminism. Specifically, today we voice what feminism means to us and why we need it.

A year ago, however, this day meant something a little different for me: it was a day to be proud of being a woman. While I still believe 100% in the beauty of all women, I also have come to realize that “feminist” is not just a title, but a constant state of being. A movement that has life and breath. 

Feminism is a call to change. It is something we must carry in our lives not just today, but every single day. We have to voice our belief in equal rights. We must practice intersectionality. And we must be willing to make mistakes AND LEARN from them.

I guess a good way to put it is “perpetual, imperfect feminist.”

Perpetual: continuously, not stopping

Imperfect: not perfect, never perfect, yet always striving for improvement. 

Feminist: the belief in equitability, the practice of equitability, and a part of a movement bigger than myself.

Here are some everyday ways that can help us carry the Feminist force beyond today:

Be kind. Celebrate fellow women and their accomplishments. Gossip is poisonous and a cheap way to make conversation. If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say it. Giving kindness is a small gift that leaves a big impact. 

Eliminate derogatory terms from your vocabulary: Slut. B*tch. Whore. Many people use this word as a “joke” with friends, but is it really funny to call your friend something that has historically been used by men to degrade women? 

Know when to speak up- and when to listen. We are all born under varying circumstances and have different experiences, from race to gender to sexuality to mental/physical disability to economic status (etc.) check your privilege and be active on causes that not only affect you, but others as well (see point #4)

Follow organizations such as ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union), change.org, and Women’s March on social media to stay informed about current events. A personal favorite website of mine is called http://everydayfeminism.com, which features so many amazing articles, videos, and comics on social issues. 
Of course, there are so many more things we can do to help one another, but these are just a few ways that helped get me started on my personal journey with feminism- maybe they will help you too! 

I vow to speak up more and be a better listener for issues that don’t directly affect me, but largely impact marginalized groups.

I vow to not apologize/humble myself for my accomplishments, my opinions, and my rights as a woman.

I vow to learn more about my Chinese-Puerto Rican heritage and love being biracial.

We will never be perfect, but that doesn’t mean we can’t strive to become a more accepting, empowered, and equitable human race. ❤ 

Thank You Note

Musings

To all the wonderful people in my life- this is for you ❤

Dearest friend:

I am blessed.
I am blessed
By your beauty,
Your strength, 
Love and support.

I am graced with your glowing smiles…
Your laughter, your hugs.
I am fortunate
Because of the richest warmth
I find in your friendship.
For that I am grateful–

For that I know love;
And I am home.

Copyright November 26, 2016 Luisa Rodriguez 

Letting Go of It

Musings


Why is it that we hold on to the things we no longer want?

Is it because we hold sentiment and carry memories with it?

Do we actually really want it? 

I’ll let you interpret what “it” is, maybe something going on in your life.

Maybe we’re afraid we won’t find something better. Maybe we think we’d better hold on because something this great won’t ever come by again.

But the truth is, you can never find what might be better, more suited to you, more rare, if you only search and cling on to what you know.

Never settle for anything that doesn’t bring you joy or excite you about life.

I hope that one day you will find the spectacular, miraculous “it”.

I know you will.