Your scholarship tells a story…


At the second annual Sisters In Conference, I facilitated “Your Scholarship Tells A Story”, but with the myriad of women in the room we decided to discuss the methods of emerging as a wholly authentic woman of color whose identity informs her professional and academic story. We honed in on mentorship and transparency as keys to emerging as a confident and capable leader of our own communities. While also purging ourselves of insecurities rooted in imposter syndrome and institutional oppression which hinders our ability to embrace our stories. 
We tell the stories of our communities. 

We are who we’ve been waiting for. 

We learn through love and live through pain. 

We plant the seeds of systerhood to grow the tree of dreams envisioned by our ancestors. 

We are “bulletproof” magical beings who live through wars and manifest our worldly womanity for all to witness. 

Never be afraid. Never fear your power. Always be vulnerable and capable… learn from your systers, your elders and hold up the younger generation of women who are following your footsteps or walking alone in a new path. 
#sistersinconference #proudsister #selflove #collectivehealing #latinasinacademia 

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Lessons from my Syster

My #syster taught me how to dance… I went to house parties (& college parties… & clubs before my time) and earned the rite of passage of killin’ dance battles and percolating. I remember always hearing her in the background yelling, “that’s my little syster!”
My syster taught me how to be a big sys… she showed me how to be tough but still love my younger syster through thick and thin. (And I thank her for giving me style in middle and high school because I borrowed–okay stole–her clothes everyday and, in turn, my little sys did the same to me.) 😩😂
My syster taught me how to be smart… she showed me that working smart beat working hard any day. She showed me how to make systems that weren’t meant for me actually work for me. She created pathways that made it easier for me to walk through, simply because she had shown me what was on the other side.
My syster taught me how to fight… I mean, literally and figuratively. She was small and tough and never backed down from her biggest enemies. (Like seriously, you would never want to fight her) I remember her standing up for me against bullies and showing me to always have courage to defend myself and protect my family. But internally, I fight to the finish in all I do because of her tenacity. 
My syster taught me how to love… with all of my heart. I admired her constant loyalty and desire to remain connected. I knew her limits in love deeply because they were the same as mine and I appreciated her will to remain as well as walk away from whatever wasn’t serving her anymore. Even when her heart felt tired, I knew the day would come when she would free herself. I never doubted her trust in herself. 
But my syster taught me so much more than this… like how to sneak out of the house as a teen, how to get As and skip class, how to get into college, sage my house, deal with difficult family, and even model on a runway. 

I even held the same jobs in high school she held, and turned down other universities to go to Penn State like she had. While I always wanted to be like her, my syster gave me the gana to be better and to always be myself above all else. 
I’m thankful for her for always being the person I can call when I’m in need since I was a little girl–from what to do with my kids to what to do with my job. I am grateful for truly being a role model in life to me, a woman I could aspire to become. Love you syster and thanks for a lifetime of lessons and #memories. 

Happy birthday 🎁🎂#happybirthdays #love #family #systerhood #friendship 

That Forever Kinda Love 

I cried yesterday. I mean, I sobbed like a baby. My babies were watching, concerned but smiling, trying to figure out why Mommy was in tears but not upset. Trying to figure out why Daddy was kneeling right in front of her holding her, but not moving. I had just turned to look for a non-existent gift under the tree and when I turned around that’s when it hit me… that feeling, that never went away that’s always moved me, inspired me and kept me strong and sometimes weak.

 That realization that hit me was accompanied by the fact that it’s been almost 15 years of “firsts” and “finallys” and “forevers.” It knocked the wind out of me so much because I had just been reconciling the thought in my head that some things don’t happen in certain ways and that it’s okay, especially on a day like today. I decided to be grateful for what I have instead of being unhappy with what I didn’t have yet. 

The days of this past year have been long and trying, some months were rough, but something kept us going… an amazing support system who knew that while raising children takes a village so does supporting love. Our commitment to our children. Our understanding that 15 years of perfection, progress, periods of growing pains and rough patches means a different kinda love. But whatever it was, we “finally” feel like we made it. And that feeling that hit me of overwhelming love and relief and joy and dreams coming true all culminated when he gave me the gift of true everlasting love, asking me to be his partner for life, his wife. This is a re-do, an attempt to turn back time, a quiet whisper of commitment, a giant leap into the sky as we soar together into our future. 

This year we almost didn’t make it, but it was a year like this that we needed to realize this is a forever kinda love. There were “moments” but time has shown us that even in our worst moments we’ve learned to still love and uphold each other, something we didn’t always practice nor understand. Growing up in love has been challenging and many saw us epically fail over the years even though we had good intent in our hearts for one another. But since I was 15 years old I knew he was my soul mate, and that I was his. I have love letters I wrote to him detailing every aspect of our dream wedding, envisioning the day we finally say “I do…” I was okay with how life continuously threw wrenches in our vision, changing the course of our lives. Many times I thought we were saying our last forever good bye but we always found our ways back to each other’s lives, remaining indelibly stamped on each other’s hearts. This isn’t the beginning of our love, it’s the continuation of our life journey that we’re sharing together.

So it meant everything that our sons August and Mehky witnessed this moment this time, quiet and intimate by the Christmas tree. Little Augy in all his delight smiling up in between both of us with my tears dripping on his forehead. Then Mehky consoling me saying “it’s okay Mom.” He then proclaimed “whoa” as he saw his Daddy slid my ring on, then ending with a relieved “Thank you Dad!” Like if he knew something I’ve never told him. Like if he knew my insecurities would drift away once this proposal was accepted–by all parties involved 🙂 Because we fought for this “finally” because he is my first. Because we did this for our love, because of love… that forever kinda love…  

 IX XXIX MMII 

LYA 

Soulrise 

Let your soul rise… With the giggles of tiny humans, and the love from their smiles. From Mother Nature’s caresses and her breaths through your body. 

Let your soul rise… 

From the success of your systers and fellowship with your friends. With the vision of your future and the dreams that never end.

Let your soul rise… 

From that feeling of emblazoned passion burning in your conscience, sifting through remnants of “what coulda beens” because they are now what will be. 

Let your soul rise… 

Above the infiltration of our society’s condemnation of your individuality. 

Let your soul rise… 

To ascend our earthly existence and transcend life into “actually” living. 

Let your soul rise… 

With the laughter~dance~ancient songs of our grandmothers who died for us to live here and now will never be again. 

Let your soul rise… 

To the vibrancy of voices of systers who’ve made choices fully and fearlessly forever. 

Let your soul rise… 

To your pleasure with your partner, put aside as secondary, when really this intimacy is necessary for your survival. 

Let your soul rise… 

To the blazing sun and the moon’s crescent shadow, to the goddeses whispering in your spirit. 

Let your soul rise… 

Let her soul rise… 

Her soul rides. 

Soulrise. 

The [Un]Apologetic Academic Mother

I’m sorry that I’m a mother and an academic.

I’m sorry that my academic life is balanced with my family.

I’m sorry that I enjoyed my pregnancy while teaching.

I’m sorry that I get sprinkled with kisses and hugs while writing my work.

I’m sorry that my children are the center of my life.

I’m sorry that I can’t make it to every meeting or for drinks after events.

I’m sorry that my life doesn’t revolve around the department or university.

I’m sorry that I get my work done. And more…

I’m sorry that society doesn’t see the value in motherhood & family is not a priority.

I’m sorry that I’m a regular mom doing normal things with her children but seen as extraordinary because of extraordinary institutional prejudice and discrimination.

I’m sorry that my motherhood makes you uncomfortable or that you only feel comfortable asking me about my motherhood.

I’m sorry that you feel better asking me questions about my pregnant body or how my children are being raised rather than the academic work I am engaging in.

I’m sorry that you feel more comfortable with my role as a mother than with my pursuit of life in academia.

I’m sorry that I did not give up my life for your prestige and reputation.

I’m sorry that this mother unashamedly carries her baggage into your “All Boys Club.”

I’m sorry that I did not choose one or the other as you wish I would.

I’m sorry that I chose both, being an academic and being a younger mother.

I’m sorry that I did not wait.

motherhoodacademe

Yet…

I am [un]apologetic about my miraculous and magical motherhood, I am [un]apologetic about my presence in your halls, classrooms and other spaces that you claim.

I am [un]apologetic about my crying, affectionate, hungry, picky, breastfeeding, laughing, potty-trained or diapered, joyous and learning, quickly growing children.

I am [un]apologetic about my life outside the ivory tower in my own chaotic castle.

I am apologizing to myself for every “sorry” I ever said in reference to my motherhood and my [struggling] success.

I am apologizing to myself for ever thinking that it could not possibly have been this way; for letting their prejudice and discomfort cloud my mind.

I’m not sorry anymore.

Sincerely,

The [Un]Apologetic Academic Mother

“Is it unfair for academic mothers to have to work so hard? Yes. Is it worth wasting the time to complain? No. Should we all do whatever it takes to change the system for future academic women? Absolutely.” -Miglena Sternadori

Read more about overcoming the STIGMA of Academic Motherhood:

https://chroniclevitae.com/news/738-the-no-matter-what-rule-of-academic-motherhood#sthash.10fEddoL.dpuf

https://www.timeshighereducation.com/features/mothers-work-life-balance-in-the-academy/2006036.article

Warrior Wounds

These are warrior wounds from my warrior womb. My radical motherhood permanently etched on my torso and hips. I cannot deny that I don’t sometimes look at my skin and wonder how it could’ve been… 
My skin stretched to the farthest lengths to carry these human beings inside of me and all I can do is worry about my warrior wounds? 
Then I look down at these little baby boys who will in the blink of an eye become men towering above me. I gave them life and I sustained them. 
The marks of motherhood run deeper than skin; 

It runs through our breasts as they ache at their hunger pangs. 

It runs through our veins to move the hormones that connect us to them. 

It runs through our minds as we become hardwired to respond to their cries. 

It runs through our hearts where it skips a beat when we check if they are happily asleep and still breathing. 
Dear womyn, you see, when our children grow old these marks remind us of the power our bodies had and how we will always be mothers. These are the roots of our trees of life. The remnants of our transformative souls seeping through our skin, begging to be seen. 
We should be proud and not ashamed, we survived the most human pain and did the closest thing to a God that a human can do. Even those who have bore life and loss have these scars to prove they are mothers too. 
Warrior goddesses are walking this Earth everyday; fertile and fierce in our womanity with love in our hearts, pride in our bodies and nurturing in our souls. 

  
Art credit: Atlanta graphic designer Britt Davis

The Goddess In Her…

Time had made her wiser, but her heart was always soft at possibilities. She remembers a mentor once scolding her about her “bleeding heart.” Thinking to herself to always believe in the good nature of other humans, men and women. Forgetting periodically their propensity to obliterate this trust of hers. She needed to check herself. “You know the potential end, you know what could happen.” But it was too late, she was enthralled and captured. Her imagination began to wander to distant places, ideas sprung to life and danced in her mind. She listened, believed and swallowed up every ounce of what that mouth had told her. She created a plan, in an attempt to mindfully execute the extreme possibility; she was no optimist, just a perfectionist by nature. 
And so it began, more words poured through her body, her imagination was running wild and it was becoming a dire need for her to turn back or keep going. She hated areas of gray, and because she didn’t understand it she studied it and dissected it until she could mark every swirl of black and white into that color. The middle wasn’t for her, she needed the top or nothing at all. 
The urge was getting stronger, and her artfully painted picture intensified it. This is how it happens until someone drops the ball, then she picks up hers while she drags the other. She then coasted to the gray area for safety, protection; knowing its fallacy. “It doesn’t matter, I won’t feel some type of way.” But she often forgets that her fear of potential rejection is stronger than her need for perfection. You can’t fix what ain’t broken, if it never was. The truest fallacy is in believing something without any basic principles of verisimilitude. 
She took a detour and ran through the red lights. She loved to speed with caution, if this doesn’t exist it does in her mind. The slurred words blurred her vision. The eyes saw right through her chest and squeezed the blood out of her little bleeding heart. It rushed to other parts to make her warm. Her head felt like it might explode from the Picasso painting drowning in blood. Sensitivity returned and instead of understanding her state of fight or flight, she confused it for right. 
Then from that very mouth came the soft caress from the little pillows on his face, the swirl of his tongue that went deeper inside her and consumed all the energy she needed to ensure her survival. She melted into his cage, through the bars she fell apart in a liquefied mess. She couldn’t pick herself back up again. She returned to the possibilities and believed them more than ever before. It was all she had left. His hands wouldn’t let her go, she belonged to him in all his glory. He wrapped her around his ego and was cloaked in her beauty, donning it as a prize he was sure to claim. His victory was established. She had fallen… apart. And under the impression that this swooning would cause him to rescue her. 
She was carried, but he wasn’t rescuing her. Her body was being conquered, it was the field where both minds battled to obtain dominance. But her troops had retreated, fighting a war she didn’t believe in. “Who wants the perfect love story anyway?” She did. But while in his possession she lied to herself so that he didn’t have to. She genuinely believed in his words because his compliments reassured her confidence in herself; the problem was in using his observations to establish trust when these were things she already knew. 

The seduction was the least complicated, it was when she was divorced from her bad cerebral and coronary influences. She was primal and devouring. In this state she would consume just as much and use her body the way it was made to work. She re-established some power, however arbitrary, she needed to reclaim some of what she lost in the war. By fully engaging in the pleasure she had anticipated she took back her goddess gift. She knew that her weakness was her mind, but her strength was her intimate womanity, whereas this man and any man’s weakness was the very thing that made him masculine. He attempted to dominate her but her pleasure principle made her smile throughout this encounter. She made him bow down to a goddess. He had to walk away and not care, forced to follow the codes of masculinity that restrict him from loving and valuing such a beautifully complicated creature. She saw it in his eyes every time she flashed a smile that he was hurting from not being by her side. Under the guise of being a guy, he suffered at her heavenly sight. Her recovery was slow and her heart was still sore, but after squeezing out the last bit of liquid that made her his prey, she realized she was the one who broke his heart that day. 

   
 

Amazing Latina Pinup Portraits by Derek Santiago