Author Archive for genlara

What can I accomplish during a summer?

What can I accomplish during a summer?

The question of what is possible to accomplish during a summer is a complicated question. I think considering the personal and communal relations most have with our projects, it is expected that we might have some overambitious goals for this summer. For example, one of my goals is to between forty to sixty oral history interviews. However, that might not be possible given the time constraints of summer and the different communal sectors that I am trying to bring together for this project. The different sectors of this project is also further complicated due to my distance from Miami at that moment.

I want to plan as much as possible before arriving to Miami this summer, specifically in deciding what the student’s final project will be. On the one hand this means planning and outlining the final project of this summer, but I also want to leave creative space for students and community partner to come together to decide what the final iteration of this project shall be. So more than what can I accomplish during the summer, I think that the question to be asked, what should be accomplished this summer? What is ethically responsible and where should avenues be left open for intuition and spontaneity.

This is of course one of the intricacies of doing this kind of work. On the one hand, we have we to plan both for professional and personal outcomes. On the other hand, building relationships and organic growth and collaboration are things that cannot be measured and accouted for. Attempting to find this balance is one of the goals of this project.

Why am I here?

Four simple words that form such a difficult and profound question. As I finish my second year of graduate school, the question of why am I here and why I choose to remain here have slowly begun to haunt me. Coursework is finishing and I’ll slowly start entering a more open stage of my graduate career. In applying for fellowships during Fall quarter, I looked over my graduate school application materials. In those applications I spoke of wanting to uncover histories that have been forgotten, of wanting to work with communities that have been marginalized, of wanting to bring these two spaces together, in an active and real way.

If I’m taking full stock of my life these past two years, I don’t think I have achieved much of what I wrote in those statements. And while our needs change as time passes, I believe what I wrote in those statements. I’ve realized lately that I’ve been very unhappy with myself in graduate school and that is in part because I haven’t done many of the things I set out wanting to do. This the last reading stuck with me. My undergrad professors and mentors were scholars of scholars, particularly women of color. These are women that are activists. That championed causes and why I believed that I could the same in my career. It’s why I signed up for this program, because I wanted to go back to my beginnings. I’ve always been community driven, family driven. I loved my research but it didn’t completely hold my heart. My work outside of the classroom did.

I think since I got to graduate school, I’ve been trying to be the good student, to finish requirements to get to the stage where I could have more freedom to do what I want. It is what I was advised to do. But that concept has taken a toll on my spiritually, emotionally and mentally. So I’ve been working on finding balance and participating in this project has been one way of doing that. I haven’t been this excited about something in a while. And every time I speak with the teachers at the high school I’ll be working with, their excitement means humbles me.

Reading the readings for this week was a stark reminder though that these internal conflicts that have been eating me up inside, that have made me question my role as a graduate student, if I’m succeeding or failing, in relation to my responsibility to my community, are not conflicts of academia. They are the concerns that particularly as a women of color, I cannot escape. So why am I here? Because I am looking for an answer.

Does Liberatory Education Exist Within the University?

This weeks’ readings were focused on the promise of Third World Liberation movements and water-downed promise of that movement reflected through university implementation of ethnic studies programs. More centrally, the readings centered on the question posed in the Okazawa-Ray reading: is it possible to teach and combat systems of oppression when we teach in universities that uphold those tenets.

The readings echoed scholars and themes that have already been addressed in our readings. For example, Audre Lorde’s quote “The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.” Words like these push us to question the real impact of our work and our role within academia. This is a common conversation, particularly among scholars of color and/or scholars of ethnic studies education. Are we truly practicing the practices that we preach?

As I read these works I couldn’t help but think about the ongoing battle to save ethnic studies education in the Tucson Unified School District in Tucson, Arizona. The Mexican American Studies program among other success, tremendously aided in reducing the high school dropout rate among Mexican American youth in TUSD. The program was eliminated by the Arizona government in 2012. Last week, the teachers and students that filed a complaint against the illegality of the state’s removal of the program received their court date.

I was reminded about this court case because the readings we read offered a necessary critique of ethnic studies education. The programs that universities implemented were not the programs that activist in the sixties and seventies were demanding. What we teach in the university obviously has its limits. But I think programs like those in Tucson, our my own experiences as a student and educator in ethnic studies, and I cannot the transformative power of education that I have witnessed. This dichotomy, I believe begs for a restructuring or definition of the question of what we are fighting for. Are we fighting for radical and liberatory education and if we are, how should we fight this struggle? This type of education and ethnic studies education are not necessarily the same thing.

In many regards, what we read this week focused on how ethnic studies educators dealt with the contradictions of teaching ethnic studies within the university. But I think a larger question and focus should be how do we take this type of education outside of the walls of academia. How can we push this into the larger community, as well as in the university?

The Nebulous In Between


Thinking about the readings for the week in relation to my project, made me think critically of the role of archives. Its noteworthy to me that both Newman and Guzman referenced Michel Rolph-Trouillot’s classic piece Silencing the Past. Especially because a running theme through the readings is this question of power and privilege and how and who creates the archive. Mainly, what is my position within the formation of the archive?

Guzman’s pieces particularly spoke to me because of the similarity between his project and mine. One of the principal reasons for why I wanted to work with the Public Scholars program was because I wanted to do a project that involved high school students in Miami. Every place is a reflection of its history, but there are certain places, like Miami where the violence, trauma and hope of past, present and future are perfectly crystallized. As Guzman wrote, immigration stories are those that are often lost and hard to locate. In short, it is an archive that is mostly non-exist in official histories. Miami is a place that has been formed and re-shaped through immigration, but it’s a story that is hidden or manipulated to conform to the Cuban exile narrative. This has created a silenced archive of immigration that is often in contradiction with a politically controlled historical narrative of the Cold War and the U.S. supposed victorious role in the affair.

The archive of Miami is both a reflection of the politics surrounding the archive as explained by Trouillot, but also its silences. It is also a city that is meant to represent the future, as the recent election cycle demonstrated. But trapped between all these narratives is a generation that lives in between these silences and state narratives. It is the voice that in some ways, is not considered by our readings Ferguson and Newman. Of course, as a scholar, I will always question the role of the archive and the university’s role in its creation and enforcement.

But the reason why Miami always grabs at my heart is because it is a place where I can see how vividly people, in their every day, live side by side with this space between a lived history that often, in its trauma, is silenced by state-sponsored, archived supported, messages of the past. This is where I return to immigration. So many of Miami’s recent immigrations arrived in the city surviving revolutions and armed struggles in the Caribbean and Latin America. Yet when I think about my generation of first generation and second generation children of Miami’s recent immigrants, most of us have very little knowledge of our families’ stories of escape and survival. We live in the in between. And that nebulous space is one that I hope my students and our community leaders can try to define and unravel this summer. I also hope to question if sometimes not including our stories is the archive is not itself a form of resistance? Is it more powerful to keep some stories and narratives hidden?