On Thursday, I sat in the Adams Elementary School auditorium for the sixth-grade graduation. It was hot. We were all scrunched together in the back, a line out the door with extended families and crying babies and flowers and balloons. It was bustling and excited, all of the faces beaming with pride. I was there with my second family, whose daughter was graduating. This is the family of the woman who has cleaned our house for almost five years. She and her husband came to America, the land of opportunity, searching for education for their daughter. They have endured such hardship, with both parents working two jobs just to scrape by. They are hardworking, loving and generous.
Of the student population at Adams Elementary, nearly 77 percent identify as Hispanic, and today, I sat surrounded with Latinos. At the beginning of the ceremony, we were told to salute the flag and pledge allegiance to our country. Everyone stood up. The tears welled up in my eyes as I watched the people around me — so many of whom live in fear every day and even more now under the Trump administration — stand proudly, hold their hand to their heart, and show the utmost respect for our great country that they, too, call home. We are a nation of immigrants, and we are not all given the “liberty and justice” that is deserved by all.
Spanish was the language that I was raised speaking, and it had an important role in framing my perceptions. My mother was a teacher very involved in social justice. It was important to her that her children had empathy and understood that not everyone had the opportunities that we did. I spent lots of my childhood traveling in Mexico and going to schools here in the U.S. that were heavily Latino. I’ve been exposed to people of all walks of life, and linguistically, I am able to communicate with many of them. Thanks to my mother, my cultural awareness has let me share stories, laughs, and even tears with people whose worlds I would have never been able to understand otherwise.
Although my mom, Carmen, isn’t here today, I am able to connect with her through a gift she gave me that seems to permeate every facet of my life: an open mind. Each day, I am challenged by the world I see through several lenses. Each day, I am given a new opportunity to hear somebody’s story. And each day, the language I speak prompts me to pay attention to certain features of the world that would have otherwise been invisible.
Fight hate with love, people. Love is so very powerful.