Archive for February, 2008
Check out the Body Warrior Pledge below to win a free, signed copy of Hijas. Just a few more days to get your name into the drawing.
And, now, a look back at one of my favorite Super Bowl commericals of all time (from 2006, with the rich, beautiful voice of Layah Jane belting out one of my favorite songs ever)…
What I love about being Latina: Our food, our celebrations, our traditions, our way of thinking outside the box not because we need too but because we have been taught to do that by our continued struggles in America.
What I love about being Americana: I have been all around the world and no country as beautiful or exotic as it may be gives their people the opportunities that we as Americans have. The educational opportunities and the ability to live your dream is achievable in America. I am living the dream. I have a successful career, a beautiful home, great family and friends I love and they love me and I AM FREE. What else is there in life? If there is anything else, I am sure I will find it only in America.
My biggest challenge in growing up Latina in America: The biggest challenge I face and continue to face as a Latina Women is that if you find yourself wanting a career, you also have to be a super star at home. Family and friends expect you to still be able to make good tamales even if you are driving a Benz.
A report in today’s Charlotte Observer has undone me. Almost 1500 high school students in the Charlotte Mecklenburg School system (the school system where I used to teach and whose district I still live in) completed a survey last year on their risk behavior. Here are some of the findings, broken down by ethnic demographics:
Reported binge drinking in the last 30 days- 27% white, 5% black, and 21% Hispanic
Used any form of cocaine: 11% white, 3% black, 12% Hispanic
Have had sexual intercourse: 35% white, 56% black, 59% Hispanic
Had intercourse before 13: 3% white, 14% black, 13% Hispanic
Had intercourse with for or more people in their lifetime: 8% white, 20% black, 20% Hispanic
Said parents rarely discuss how they are doing in school: 10% white, 18% black, 21% Hispanic
Attempted suicide in the last twelve months: 12% white, 12% black, 18% Hispanic
You can read the whole article here.
My heart hurts, almost literally. There is a knot in my chest right now. I’ve shared my love of teaching and young people with you in past posts, and that they are hurting this badly in just one city in America means that our young people are hurting this badly everywhere. We owe them so much more than this. I hope you’ll join me in finding a way to reach out. Perhaps it is mentoring or volunteering at a school, teen health center, community center or volunteer program. Maybe it is offering financial support. A few weeks ago, I told you about starting a giving circle to raise scholarship funds for Latina girls. We’ve met with lawyers and started the non-profit process to get it launched. I hope you’ll consider joining the Circle de Luz Giving Network, an innovative approach to reach young Latinas and positively impact their futures with a scholarship program. You can learn more about it the program and how to join the effort here.
There are never easy answers to complex problems, and there is certainly no easy answer for how to help our young people live more fulfilling, less dangerous lives. I know that cocaine and alcohol and sex at the age of 13 are choices that are being made from a world of hurt. I plan to continue sharing with you how we can tackle that hurt, help to heal those wounds. Here’s hoping that a world of hope is enough salve for this suffering.
Since I don’t have A Body Warrior to Meet for the week (want to be a Body Warrior?), we’ll all have to be today’s Body Warrior(s)! Below I’ve started a Body Warrior pledge, and I want you to sign it—and offer any of your own mantras. You can sign off on it by hitting the comment bar and adding your name (feel free to sign off with your web-name, too). If you have any mantras you want to add to the pledge, just put it your comment box with your signed name. On March 3, I’ll enter each pledge participant’s name into a drawing for an autographed copy of Hijas (for you or someone you love). Feel free to send the pledge on to your loved ones!
The Body Warrior Pledge
Because I understand that my love and respect for my body are metaphors of my love and respect for my self and soul, I pledge to do the following:
To stop berating my body and to begin celebrating the vessel that I have been given. I will remember the amazing things my body has given me: the ability to experience the world with a breadth of senses, the ability to perceive and express love, the ability to comfort and soothe, and the ability to fight, provide, and care for humanity.
To understand that my body is an opportunity not a scapegoat.
To be the primary source of my confidence. I will not rely on or wait for others to define my worth.
To let envy dissipate and allow admiration to be a source of compassion by offering compliments to others.
To gently but firmly stand up for myself when someone says to me (or I say to myself) something harmful.
To change the inner-monologue in my head to one that sees possibility not problems, potential not shortcomings, blessings not imperfections.
To give my body the things that it needs to do its work well: plenty of water, ample movement, stretches, rest, and good nutrition, and to limit or eliminate the things that do not nurture my body.
To see exercise as a way to improve my internal health and strength instead of a way to fight or control my body.
To understand that my weight is not good or bad. It is just a number, and I am only good.
To love my body and my self today. I do not have to weigh ten pounds less, have longer hair, or to have my degree in my hand to have worth. I have worth just as I am, and I embrace that power.
To recognize my body’s strengths.
To no longer put off the things that I wish to experience because I am waiting to do them in a different body.
To understand that a body, just like a personality, is like a fingerprint: a wonderful embodiment of my uniqueness.
This week is Eating Disorders Awareness Week. I am honored to be spending the next few days in Amherst, Massachusetts where I will be hosted by the Five College Eating Disorder Awareness Committee. Here’s some information about what I’ll be doing while I am there. Next week I’ll head to the University of Texas at El Paso where I will be hosted by the Women’s Resource Center in honor of Eating Disorder Awareness Week and Women’s History Month. I love speaking with and learning from college students and am really looking forward to these visits.
Now, on to the issue at hand. Unfortunately, the rate of eating disorders are going up– including among girls between the ages of 7-11 and women over 50. Some experts believe that as many as 10 million women and 1 million men in the United States are battling eating disorders. We need to improve our education about these issues, and we need to have deliberate conversations with one another about these issues. You can gain the courage to start those conversations by learning more. Here are a couple links to help you do that.
On Wednesday, I traveled to Guilford College in Greensboro, North Carolina to give a talk on some of the things that I learned while writing Hijas Americanas. It is always good to be back on a college campus, engaging in thoughtful discussion with young people who really understand that if they engage their bright, vibrant minds, the possibilities are endless. My favorite question of the night came from a young man who asked ‘what can we– as men– do’? Even right now, as I am writing this, I am tearing up in memory of his earnestness. If we remain vigilant, we can do so much in creating a better world– not just in terms of body image but in terms of justice and peace and progress. Anyway, being on campus and watching young lives walk to class, sprint across the lacrosse field, sit whispering to one another under a tree, I was reminded of a poem that I wrote when I was in college and feeling protective of the women around me. It is the poem– the concept– that inspired the Note to Self category on this blog. I pulled it out today and let my lips form around these words of clarity, defiance, confidence. Now, I look at it, almost startled at how my life has evolved– that I wrote these words more than ten years ago, wanting to help the women around me– and me– understand that we did not have to exist in some box of someone else’s making. These words were an anthem to me then, grounding me. Today, they are my offering.
Note to Self
Register that it doesn’t matter
whether or not you weigh a buck ten
whether or not he says “I Love You”
whether or not you hear his voice immediately,
eventually, or to hell with ever seeing him again.
Forget about your dress from three years ago–
your finest silver sheath
whose straps he fingered lightly
on its way off of you– collecting dust,
teasing you to squeeze into it for one last fling.
Shrug at the last fling you had in it
and how you came up for air
not from satisfaction
It ate at your soul–
a sickening, shaking, deep hunger–
for weeks afterwards
though you stuffed yourself
with the usual offerings–
eyeing the women on Diego Rivera’s canvases
each so pure
it made you forget that he was a bastard
for days in order to purge the experience.
Surrender yourself from these games–
white flag crisp and clear.
What I love about being Latina: Our diverse cultural background and our rich history.
What I love about being Americana: The freedom to make my own choices and live life as I see fit.
My biggest challenge in growing up Latina in America: Fighting the stereotypes.
My biggest support in growing up Latina in America: My paternal grandmother.
Why I am beautiful: I’m beautiful because I am intelligent and well educated.
So do other people, and it’s about time you started to think that, too. Just in case you need the message drilled into your head, here’s a little video for you. Call it a little viral love (and give a shout out to Dove for their spot on read of the situation).
When I speak, people are always really interested in the process of writing a book and the writing business. I talk about it a lot on the road but not a lot here. If you want to learn a little more about how Hijas came to fruition, go check out this interview I did at KC’s Write 4 U blog. And if you have any questions about the writing business, Hijas, etc, please send them to me. I am more than happy to answer them!
What I love about myself: That I am passionate about life, love, and making the world a better place.
My biggest challenge in accepting my body and beauty: Society – Somehow I keep telling myself that if I just had a flat stomach I’d be beautiful, but I know that even if that day came, I still wouldn’t be accepting. I need to find it elsewhere and WITH my big round tummy.
My biggest support in learning to appreciate myself: My daughter who looks just like me when I was a kid. Seeing and knowing how beautiful she is makes it harder for me to put myself down. Also, the way she looks at me makes me realize that I am worthy of unconditional love.
Beauty is: laughing with friends.
Why I am strong: Because I come from a long line of women who had to be strong…it’s in my blood.
Why I am beautiful: Because I love and care about this world and everyone in it.
What women must know: That we are in this together – This world, this insanity, this fight. It is not us against men, but just us. If we were to stop fighting each other, life would be so much easier and then we could focus on the real crap like ending war, poverty, and greed. Women will end gender roles and free men to be human beings and not macho automatons who hide their tears from us.