“If we mix races, we’ll all be the same. If God wanted us the same, he would of made us that way”… I don’t know where my friend @WillyDope got this from but I found it intriguing…
I remember my first semester at SUNY Plattsburgh (Fall 2005), I became friends with a Hermana of Sigma Lambda Upsilon/Senoritas Latinas Unidas Sorority, Inc. I always saw myself a part of Alpha Kappa Alpha or Zeta Phi Beta, never once did I think of pledging for a Hispanic organization. I had grew up knowing that I was a mix of African-American and Cuban but because I never knew my father nor anyone on that side of the tree, I didn’t accept my Spanish side. If someone was to ask me what was my nationality, I’d say Black; if I’d fill out a questionaire and it didn’t have the option of “two or more races”, I’d always say Black. Hey, if you look at me, the first thing YOU’D say is: BLACK! I took much pride in my African-American side, embracing the fact that the entire month of February was dedicated to us. My Africana courses in college made me one of those strong fists in the air Black people. I never encompassed the other part of me until I became friends with Alysia Velez.
Alysia and her Hermanas didn’t force their organization on me; they were just my friends. I myself fell in love with Sigma Lambda Upsilon and from there pushed myself harder and harder every semester, not only to make my transcript look good of course come graduation time, but to be a part of this Hermandad that these women valued and deeply treasured.
During the Spring 2007 semester I pledged and after my long 8 weeks and 6 days, I became a Hermana of that sorority I longed to be a part of. I came out more humbled and strong-minded. I loved myself more as a woman through the lessons my sisters taught me and definitely learned to accept the flaws I couldn’t change while learning to change the things that would be a downfall in my life. Most importantly, I discovered the Latina in me.
For some strange reason, the smell of plantanos, the taste of mangu (introduced to me by my linesister Dania), and the thought of a Cuban sandwich excited me. Whenever I’d go into a bodega around the corner from my house, I’d find myself dancing in the tiny store isles to Bachata. I was finally proud of who I was and from here I began my search to self-discovery, hoping I was making my dad proud too…..
When I got home that summer, I had met up with a few friends who had pledged for black sororities. Many of them congratulated me and we shared stories on becoming interests to finally sisters of the orgs we adored; while others… they questioned me and drilled me for days, asking me how could I, a rough black girl from Mount Vernon pledge for a Latina sorority. When they saw pics of me, I looked “out of place” and many wondered how I got through the process if “I didn’t know any Spanish”. When I explained that I was half-Cuban, they just looked at me and smiled, stating “Oh”. I took that “Oh” for “Yeah right…” My hair wasn’t straight enough, my complexion, light enough. I took their smile as plain ol’ ignorance. What more could I say or do…..
I happened to run across a former high school classmate who was Cuban herself and she asked me sternly, “Since when did you become Cuban?” It hurt me that instead of congratulating me and being happy for me, she just shut me down and shut me out. Nevertheless, I remained strong and didn’t let anyone’s ignorant and inexperienced comments affect me.
Albert Einstein said it best… “Our task must be to free ourselves… by widening out circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature and its beauty”. When I saw one of the comments made by a Neo of my org ask if she could participate in the upcoming Dominican Day Parade although she herself was not Dominican, I thought of all these past experiences. One of my Hermanas responded back saying that she wanted to participate and support just because her linesister and Dean is… and my only thing is, how come the rest of the world can’t have that sort of mentality?
Accept and embrace. It’s sad that even after the election of our 44th President Barack Obama, racism still exists. It’s like the history classes aren’t enough, the documentaries aren’t sufficient, the appointments of minorities like Sonia Sotomayor are absolutely nothing. And it’s 2009?!?
Truly loving another means letting go of all expections. It means full expectations. It means full accpetance, even celebration of another’s personhood….
(BTW, I ♥ ΣΛΥ)