(My Utica speech from earlier tonight)
Wow! Thank you so much. I have to admit I am a little nervous right now. This is the first time I am really speaking in front of a crowd like this and getting paid for it! I want to that Anthony De La Rosa for contacting me and making this happen. I would also like to thank the Latin American Student Union for bringing me here.
What I want to talk about tonight, is small and meaningful impacts that we make in life and particularly when it comes to Latino Heritage Month.
First I want to say that I met Anthony last May during a event at Syracuse University. You see, I fill many roles over at SU, but my main role an event planner, so anything major that happens within the student center, chances are that either I know about it or I have had a part in planning it. I also serve as an adviser for two Latino student organizations. One is called La LUCHA, which is an undergraduate organization (much like the Latin Student Union) that tries to empower and educate student on issues involving the Latino community. The other organization is Lambda Sigma Upsilon Latino Fraternity Incorporated.
Anthony is a member of LSU and we met at a fashion show/concert (featuring Fabolous) that was co-sponsored by them and another student organization. One of my former students that I am very close with named Melissa (we call her Meli), introduced me to him at this event. At the time, the whole immigration in Arizona issue regarding senate bill 1070 was just beginning to bubble over and I felt that I really wanted to do something that would make a small but meaningful impact.
Which brings me to what I do when I am not working. I am a blogger/poet/activist. I do not claim to be an expert in either of these three and I use them sparingly. I created the current incarnation of my blog in 2009 called, Inside My Head, as a way to release my creative energies. Any writer will tell you that they feel lost if they do not write and there was a period in my life where writing became non existent.
During my thought process of what the blog could possibly be about, I thought about some of the masters courses that I took at SU that had an impact on me. These course focused on the modern education system and how people of color operated within a system that included institutional racism, segregation, and socio economic issues. So in taking these course I ran into an area of study that I really wanted to focus on and that was Afro Latinos. I found this to be a subject very hard to research because there are simply not many people who write about it. In fact, I think I can count one one hand the amount of people that have published educational literature on Afro Latinos.
So I started thinking that if I wanted to make my impact on the world, it needs to it start here. I chose a suitable name that I came across while researching a paper. Latinegro, one word. Not to be confused with Latin-Negro. I am not sure about the rest of you, but when it comes to choosing a screen name, I want it to be unique. I don’t want to have some ambiguous name with numbers at the end of it and may or may not signify something. I don’t want to be called something like blacktino_2010.
Anyway, my blog is about me, of course, and the experiences I have encountered in my life. I very much aspire to be a novelist and I am actually working on one currently. More importantly, I wanted people to be aware of the plight of the afro-latino in this world. We are not just baseball players. I am certainly no Robinson Canoe nor am I Jose Reyes. I wanted to make an impact with my words. I want to educate people that latinos come in different shades despite that fact that we are invisible in place like Univison.
Getting back to how I met Anthony. I wanted to take a picture of Me and Meli with a sign that said. “Do I look Illegal?” I had seen other people on Facebook and Twitter do this. I wasn’t trying to start a revolution, I just wanted to make a small statement, to make a small impact on how people saw the immigration issue. Just because Mexicans in Arizona were going through this did not mean it did not effect Puerto Ricans or Dominicans in New York. I was going to post this on my blog and talk about Racism and Latinos. Previously, I wrote a letter to Arizona on my blog protesting this whole ridiculousness. So what ends up happening is that Meli Anthony and another LSU member Josh all get in front of a camera and we take several pictures. I thought is was great. I was going to post it and be all proud of myself. Needless to say, I am still waiting for those pictures. (Josh? -_-) However, I did take one of myself that I ultimately posted.
But, something happened after that. Josh went back to his campus at Morrisville. Anthony went back to this campus and on facebook about a week later…I start seeing all these videos and of people from these different campuses taking these photos! It turned out the Josh and Anthony decided to do something about it! I was in awe because I could not even get my own students to do this! I could not beleive I made an impact with two people that I did not know very well. (but we are facebook friends and I follow them on twitter too..)
That was my point. I made a small impact that turned out to be something bigger than me. Now, again, I am not going to sit here and take credit for the whole idea that is not mine. I am just glad I made people think because after I saw what they did…I posted their video on my facebook and on my tumblr…just to get exposure. Guess what happened? Other people within my scope of facebook friends were posting these types of pics on their profile. Impact. This is the type of impact we need to make for Latino Heritage Month every year. Most people may not notice it all that much but it does make a difference to those who do notice.
This year I made my impact when I sent out a challenge to all bloggers on September 14th. A Latino Blog Challenge. 30 Days. 30 Topics. To celebrate Latino Heritage Month…and yes I do say Latino Heritage Month not Hispanic Heritage Month. We do not live in Spain. We are Latinos in America.
Once again I am trying to make a small impact just on my readers and it turns into this thing where 5-6 fellow bloggers joined in on this challenge. Some of which I never met or know until now. They took my challenge and during the height of it, were posting right along side of me. So anyone can read what each one of us had to say about each given topic.For the sake of time I will not list all 30 topics but here were some that made things very interesting.
Day 1 – What I love most about being Latino
Day 3 – Favorite Spanish food (which is Maduros…are they on tonight’s menu?)
Day 6 – A Poem (original or quoted)
Day 8 – Latino Racism
Day 12 – Do I speak Spanish? (uhh…no)
Day 13 – Afro Latinos you see everyday
Day 16 – What I know about indigenous cultures (i.e.Tainos)
Day 20 – Latino Stereotypes I wish I could change
Day 23 – Hispanic or Latino..What do you prefer?
Day 24 – Should Puerto Rico be a State?
Now, those were the top ten that I enjoyed writing the most. The funny thing is that at the end of the 30 Day Latino Blog Challenge, I learned that Latino Heritage month was indeed 31 days. (whomp whomp). What still gets to me the most, is that I feel Latino Heritage Month received attention outside of academia. While not everyone finished…I think that attempt was made which satisfied me and ultimately justified my reasoning for creating this blog challenge to begin with, but let’s face it, It is REALLY hard to write for 30 days straight.
So, What does this mean to you? Very simple. Be sure to set your goals in life on what you want to do. Being Latino is simply not good enough. When you try to make an a small meaningful impact in whatever you are passionate about…you will witness how that impact becomes like a snow ball rolled from on top of a mountain that gets larger with momentum as it reaches its ultimate point of impact.
I would like to leave you all tonight with a poem that I wrote on Day 6. I call it:
Yo soy Latino
related to Taino
bred from parents
whose blood line
Inca. African. Spanish. Taino.
ingrained in history
a beacon into the past
rolled into a man.
taking the best
parts of four
dividing it by two
and passing it down
a product of my people
with all parts equal
My Name is Anthony Otero…latinegro you can find me on twitter and on blogspot. Thank you!