The Black Panther Party & Black Power

The Black Panther Party & Black Power

Picture a sunny day in Oakland, California during the decade of peace and love. For white people, the city is a place that embodies the hippie, free love movement of the 1960’s. For people of color, it was nothing but blatant harassment and violence from the police department that sought to target black people in Oakland with excessive consistency. From this violence comes a surge of resistance from empowered black people in Oakland who have had enough of the violence and band together to protect themselves. This group is known as the Black Panther Party and they became one of the most notorious black power movements in American history.

When forming an organization like the Black Panther Party, a sense of structure was necessary to get their message of resistance out to as many people as possible. The Panther’s outlined a 10-point program which served as a guideline for members and citizens alike to understand what members code of ethics, morals and overall mission was. The formation of the Panther’s was a direct response to the violence and harassment that black people have been dealing with in Oakland forever. Many of the demands were simple and basic human rights such as equal employment and the end to police brutality among the black community.

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The Panther’s 10-point program list of demands from the white public

But it wouldn’t be the Black Panther’s without a bit of radical thrown into the mix. Alongside the more reasonable demands in the program were outlandish requests for control of all modern technology, the release of all black people from imprisonment and for black men to be exempt from military service. Regardless, the ten-point program served as an example of the many ways black people had been denied basic human and civil rights.

Another way the Panther’s sought to reach out to black communities in Oakland and across the country was through the medium of a newsletter, The Black Panther, distributed to members of the black community. Just as any newsletter, the goal was to raise awareness to issues going on in their community. A quote in the newsletter explains a lot about the rhetoric used among the Panthers that posed a threat to the police and anyone else that threatened their freedom and equality.

“BLACK MEN!!! It is your duty to your women and children, to your mothers and sisters, to investigate the program of the PARTY. There is no other way. We have tried everything else. This is the movement in history when Black People have no choice but to move and move rapidly to gain their freedom, justice and all other ingredients of civilized living that have been denied to us. This is where it is at. Check it out, Black Brothers and Sister! This is our Day!!!!!”

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When seeing this rhetoric and understanding the climate towards black people, especially black men, during the time it was printed, it’s understandable why the Panther’s raised eyebrows from regular Oakland citizens to the FBI. These “radical” declarations in their newsletters and in the ten-point program were seen as a violent and aggressive response to the decades of oppression black people in America have endured. The group was declared the “greatest threat to the internal security of the country” by FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover in 1969.

In reality, the organization coined the greatest “threat” to national security were running outreach programs from Oakland to Chicago to provide what had been historically denied from their black communities.  From food pantries, free clothing and food drives, after school tutoring, health clinics to legal workshops– the Black Panthers did all they could to improve the lives of their black brothers and sisters.

For me, that is such a telling sign of the way many black power organizations in America are viewed throughout history. Community enrichment and empowerment are at the core of (most) of these organizations but all people want remember are the black berets and guns slinging from leather jackets.


We see the same national resistance toward the Black Lives Matter movement whose central goal is to gain freedom, justice and equality for black people. It would be wrong for me to say there weren’t legitimate instances where both organizations, the Panthers and BLM, have rightfully been criticized for certain actions or language in their fight for equality. But we have to ask ourselves, what would we do if we were in their position?

Black Americans have had to deal with decades of systematic oppression and institutional racism in every area of life. From red lining to  A seemingly never ending struggle for basic human rights in a country that claims all men are created equal. How far would you be willing to fight for the right to live where you want; have access to equal health care and educational opportunities; to not be followed every time you enter a grocery store; or to not fear for your life at a routine traffic stop?

The Chicago Campaign and Northern Racism

The Chicago Campaign and Northern Racism

An unprecedented amount of riots in urban cities throughout the country defined the summer of 1965 and the way forward for the Civil Rights Movement. The notion of peace through non-violence hadn’t broken past the South. From Los Angeles to Chicago, black Americans living in metropolitan cities felt they had met their breaking point from the persistence of police brutality, housing inequalities, and scarce job opportunities. Seeing the turmoil in the North, civil rights organizations began to shift their attention to urban regions of the country where racism was saturated in every aspect of society.

At the start of the new year in 1966, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) sought to move their campaign for equality to Chicago, Illinois, where grassroots mobilization had begun to fight against poverty and housing discrimination in one of America’s largest and most segregated cities. At the time, Chicago was home to over a million black Americans who for decades had migrated from the South looking for the American dream. In a document known as the Chicago Plan, the SCLC outlined the importance of mobilizing a larger movement in Chicago where economic corruption had affected every aspect of life for black citizens. “The Chicago problem is simply a matter of economic exploitation. Every condition exists simply because someone profits by its existence.”

One of the major industries being exploited was the housing market. Racist housing policies excluding black families from buying or renting a livable apartments or house forced them into neighborhoods that didn’t receive comparable care and services for the amount of rent paid.  In Chicago, black people were living in slums with no prospect of moving ahead to areas where their white peers lived. With these transparent racist policies in mind, the SCLC decided to join a coalition of civil rights groups in the city under the name the Chicago Freedom Movement. Even with the best intentions, their transition into the North was met with resistance from Chicago Mayor, Richard Daley, who was reluctant to believe the city was in need of intervention from the SCLC. In his view, Chicago didn’t have racist policies written in the law like in Montgomery or Albany with Jim Crow. Because it wasn’t on paper, it must not be happening.

What Chicago had instead, were a set of cultural customs that replaced explicit laws to discriminate against black Americans. The Federal Housing Administration, outlined areas in cities where banks should feel comfortable lending mortgage loans based on property value and resident population. Neighborhoods with predominately black residents were outlined in red, meaning banks should be cautious of lending loans to residents in the area. This meant black residents were forced into the slums with slumlords who would charge higher rent, require more money upfront and would purposely allow the property to deteriorate so they wouldn’t have to pay more in property taxes (Reader, 295). For Dr. King and the SCLC, Chicago needed to mobilize citizens against these discriminatory practices that affected over a million black Americans living in the city.

In July of 1966, Dr. King led a massive march from Solider Field to the steps of City Hall demanding action from state, federal and local authorities to allow black Chicagoans the chance to escape from the economic and societal trap they have been put into from political, financial and housing institutions (Reader, 300).  With the housing inequality being one of the biggest issues that mobilized people, they planned marches into white neighborhoods that had systematically kept black families in the slums of the inner city. In neighborhoods like Gage Park, marchers came face to face with some of the most violet and egregious white protestors embellished with Swastikas and handmade explosives. Veteran Southern activists were shocked at what they experienced in Gage Park. In the south, protesters were driven by a mob mentality but in Chicago it was women and children and families who came out with bricks and homemade bombs.

The march into Gage Park was the first time Dr. King had led a march that ended in violence. While he was shaken and upset that nonviolence hadn’t prevailed, citizens of Chicago were ready, now more than ever, to continue the march into white neighborhoods. In Chicago, the neighborhood of Cicero was famous for its racial hostility and became the next destination for marchers. Clory Bryant, a resident of Chicago in 1966, she explained in the PBS documentary Eyes on The Prize how much a march into Cicero would mean a lot for the black community. “You don’t know what Cicero meant to people in Chicago. You don’t go into the viaduct, honey, because if you do, you may not get back. Cicero was on the other side of the viaduct. And you didn’t walk through Cicero alone. You didn’t let your car break down in Cicero and get out to change a tire,” Bryant said.

Dr. King was opposed to the march after he was able to negotiate a Fair Housing agreement with Mayor Bevel and the City of Chicago to make strides toward housing equality for black residents. But many saw this agreement as words on paper without any accountability for it to be enforced by state or local agencies. In defiance of Dr. King’s ultimate wishes, the march into Cicero was organized and led by the Congress on Racial Equality (CORE) on September 4th 1966. What set the Cicero march apart was how marchers began to fight back when bricks, eggs and rocks were thrown at them. They returned the violence.


It was during the march into Cicero that the Civil Rights Movement, centered and created around the notion of non-violence, had to come to terms with the changing mentality among black Americans away from non-violence and toward a more aggressive approach to achieving racial equality. The Chicago campaign also allowed Dr. King and leaders in the SCLC to see how different the role racism played in the fabric of society in North versus the South. Different tactics were needed depending on the region and culture of racist practices. In the South, racist policies were written into law in the form of Jim Crow, which can be argued is easier to combat because laws can be changed just as they were made. Whereas Northern racism manifested itself in institutions that systematically chose to discriminate against black people. They were able to play the ignorance card and say these policies didn’t outright discriminate against black people and were applied to everyone. But when black people aren’t being hired for skilled jobs, can’t get a loan to buy a house so they are forced to live in neighborhoods with very few resources or an good schools for their children – it’s clear to see that the North was no different than the South. Explicit or not, the outcome was always for black people living in America.

On paper, the Chicago Plan was a failure for the SCLC. They hadn’t been able to negotiate solid demands with Mayor Daley, for the first time Dr. King had led a march that ended in violence and in Cicero marchers resorted to violence. They left Chicago no better than when they entered and some could argue even more divisive. But looking deeper into the larger effect the Chicago campaign played in the role of the greater Civil Rights Movement, it allowed our country to see how vital racial equality was for the security of our democracy. Racism wasn’t a Southern issue but an American issue that effected every community across the country.

Being an Ally for People from Diverse Groups and Backgrounds

Being an Ally for People from Diverse Groups and Backgrounds

For many in my generation, we’re living through our first period of social uprisings as adults. But unlike our parents and grandparents, most of our community organizing takes place behind a glowing screen.

As a millennial, my peers and I are often known for being apart of the social media generation. Scoffs and sighs from our elders about being on our phones too much go unnoticed because most of us aren’t playing Farmville on our phones (I’m looking at you 50-year old man on Facebook.) Instead,we’re starting social revolutions with hashtags, retweets and viral videos.

It’s our generation who helped push the #NeverAgain movement into the national spotlight. It’s our generation that forces people to see viral videos of black men being  subjected to use of excessive force by law enforcement and demand things change. It’s our generation who, for the first time in history, have unprecedented access to people from around the world to engage in honest conversations about race, gender and sexuality on Twitter.

But with all of the good that comes from living with everything at the click of a button, it’s our responsibility to dig deeper into the motives, meanings and message behind being an ally to people from diverse backgrounds and groups. Because retweeting, sharing and liking isn’t enough.

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The Community Tool Box, a free, online resource for those working to build healthier communities and bring about social change, has great resources for those looking to build on becoming an ally. In the tool box “Learning to be an Ally for People from Diverse Groups and Backgrounds,” they give amazing tips for people looking to dissect through the right and wrong ways to be an ally.

“If you are not a member of a particular cultural group, you have a role to play that is different from the members of that group. You may be able to intervene and be effective in supporting the group in ways that the group members may not.”

Well, what is an ally according to the Community Tool Box? An ally is any person who supports, empowers, or stands up for another person or a group of people. Basically, everyone has needed an ally in their life before. When you break it down, it’s needing someone to help you when you were unfairly blamed, targeted or left without resources.

It is in our own self-interest to be an ally. In the long-run, each of our own struggles is tied to everyone else’s. In order to live in the kind of communities we hope for, in order to build real unity, and in order to reach our goals of building strong communities, we need to understand that we are all affected when any one person or group is not getting a fair deal or is not able to live a normal decent life. Second, being an ally is simply the right to do. If we want to live in communities that have a high moral standard, we ourselves need to start the ball rolling by doing what is right. – Community Tool Kit 

Before diving in the deep end and resorting to playing savior to every marginalized group, it’s important to do a self-audit to see where you are coming from and examine your own biases.  I am a straight, white-passing female from a middle class background. I do not know the experiences of those from marginalized races, sexualities or economic classes. And it is not my place to speak on behalf of anyone in these communities.

But my privilege and place in these majority groups doesn’t mean I am disqualified from having a voice in the fight for equality. It’s the way I use my voice that matters.

MTV Decoded did an amazing job explaining this concept in a video called “White People Whitesplain Whitesplaining,” where they discuss the importance of allowing people from minority groups speak for themselves.

“Whitesplaining — to explain or comment on something in a condescending, overconfident, and often inaccurate or oversimplified manner, from the perspective of the group one identifies with, thereby clearly exhibiting their own bias,” wrote Jade Green, Huffington Post columnist.

It’s through the process of whitesplaining and all the various forms it can be used that being an “ally” can actually do more harm than good in the long run.  Even with the best intentions, the act of speaking on behalf of someone in a marginalized community perpetuates privilege and amplifies your voice instead of those who are directly affected by discrimination.

We must resign to the notion that we don’t know what we don’t know. If you haven’t experienced discrimination about your sexuality – don’t tell someone in the LGBT community how to react if they are harassed on the street for holding their partners hand. If you haven’t grown up fearful of law enforcement and the use of excessive force because of your race –don’t compartmentalize someone who has as “disrespectful” for being unbecoming to the police.

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Why shouldn’t you become an ally? (Community Tool Kit: Section 5. Learning to be an Ally for People from Diverse Groups and Backgrounds”)

Being an ally isn’t to boost your ego or to relieve guilt you may feel about being in a privileged group. And it’s definitely not about playing the savior to all marginalized groups. As allies, we need to look deeper at the historical context of a groups oppression, come to terms with how our privileged groups may have led to their societal discrimination and at the baseline be an ally for the good of morality of our communities. Just as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said ““Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”


A Lesson on Intersectionality from The Radical Lesbians

A Lesson on Intersectionality from The Radical Lesbians

If you were to think back to the major feminist movements in American history, what images of women come to mind? Do you think of women of color from various gender, sexuality and class backgrounds? Or is your initial image of middle to upper class, straight, white women? If your answer was the latter, don’t feel bad.

You’re right.

The Women’s Rights Movement of the 1970s  saw primarily white, straight middle class women at the forefront of the movement.

Throughout all of the Women’s Rights Movements in American there has been a noticeable lack of diversity among the women. For the most part, the issues brought fourth by the marches affected primarily whitestraight, upper-class women and excluded issues affecting women of color, lesbian women and women from lower economic classes.

While all women should be commended for standing up for their rights in the face of injustice – we need to remember that many of the women involved in the leadership of the Women’s Rights Movements in the 1920s and 1970s used the same tactics as their male oppressors to silence the voices of their fellow marginalized women.

The January 21st 2017 Women’s March on Washington

And that was their biggest mistake. Silencing the voices of women across gender, sexuality and economic backgrounds led to the movements problem with inclusivity that follows the movement today. It’s the voices of the collective woman who will propel  us forward toward equality for all women.

While researching this topic, I was interested to hear the complaints  from the women who were silenced and hear their perspective on the issue of diversity within the movement. And that led me straight to the Radical Lesbians.

In 1970, a group called The Radical Lesbians distributed a letter “The Woman Identified Woman” to declare how angry they were about lesbian speakers being excluded from the Congress to Unite Women in New York City and the social structure of lesbians and people of color from being excluded from a movement that directly affected them.

The “Woman Identified Woman” pamphlet distributed by the Radical Lesbians in 1970

The letter came out in the years following the civil rights movement when women were empowered by the social and political change they had seen happen for the African American community. But at the time, the voice of the women’s movement didn’t include women of color or women from various sexual and gender identities. And the  Radical Lesbians had enough. 

“It should first be understood that lesbianism, like male homosexuality, is a category of behavior possible only in a sexist society characterized by rigid sex roles and dominated by male supremacy,” the letter read.

The letter was a call to arms for women to stop excluding lesbians and people of color from the movement and to break down the barriers men created to tear apart women because lesbians weren’t seen as “real women.”

“For women, especially those in the movement, to perceive their lesbian sisters through this male grid of role definitions is to accept this male cultural conditioning and to oppress their sisters much as they themselves have been oppressed by men.”

Reading the letter forced many feminists re-evaluate their intentions and the broader role of their mission – to make major changes to society that sought to oppress all women. One could argue that this is the exact reason the Radical Lesbians chose their name because they believed that the feminist movement would not be successful if they played by the rules and continued to exclude women from the mission.

“It is the primacy of women relating to women, of women creating a new consciousness of and with each other, which is at the heart of women’s liberation, and the basis for the cultural revolution.”

Just as the Radical Lesbians said,  women relating to women and coming together to be a voice for change is the heart and soul of the women’s liberation movement. It is my hope that in the years to come, when we see more women’s rights movements popping up around the county that women from all backgrounds choose to empower the voices of their sisters who have historically been silenced by men and women alike.



Reflecting on Black History Month

Reflecting on Black History Month

As Black History Month comes to an end, our acknowledgement toward the struggles of African Americans should not. We must continue to appreciate and honor those in the African American community who have fought and continue to fight tirelessly for the basic rights of personhood within our societal fences of white supremacy. It’s my personal belief that we need to learn from black voices not just during this month but all year long.

In that spirit, I’ve compiled a list of 12 stories, one for every month of the year, from African Americans, past and present, whose achievements I’d like to acknowledge for their unabashed commitment to civil rights. Many of their accomplishments have gone underreported in the media. We have a lot to learn from the black experience in America and these are just a few of their stories.

1. Claudette Colvin – The First Rosa Parks


Colvin, 15, refused to give up her seat to a white passenger on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama nine months before Rosa Parks did the same. On March 2, 1955, Colvin was taking the bus home from high school when the driver ordered her to give up her seat, according to NPR.  Colvin refused, saying she paid her fare and it was her constitutional right, but was then arrested by two police officers. Colvin later became the main witness in the federal lawsuit Browder v. Gayle, which ended segregation on public transportation in Alabama. 

(Original biography Marie Claire). 

2. Ella Baker – The woman who propelled MLK into the national spotlight


Baker was a civil rights activist who worked for a number of civil rights organizations throughout her lifetime. In 1957, she was asked to help organize Martin Luther King Jr.’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference and also helped form the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, SNCC, which became one of the biggest human rights advocates in the country. “You didn’t see me on television, you didn’t see news stories about me,” Baker said of her role in the civil rights movement, the Times reports. “The kind of role that I tried to play was to pick up pieces or put together pieces out of which I hoped organization might come.”

(Original biography Marie Claire). 

3. Miss Mary Hamilton – The Honorific Leader


In the Supreme Court Case, Hamilton v. Alabama,  the court held that an African-American woman, Mary Hamilton, was entitled to the same courteous forms of address customarily reserved solely to whites in the South and that calling a black person by his or her first name in a formal context was a form of racial discrimination. Miss Hamilton was the spearhead for the way our court system was to use honorifics for all persons.

(Original Biography Wikipedia.)

4. SIDNEY POITIER – The Award Goes To…


Born to poor farmers in the Bahamas but later moving to New York, Sidney Poitier came from nothing, but achieved the unimaginable for black actors of his day he became a leading man in Hollywood. Sidney was determined to make opportunities for African-Americans and did so by performing outstandingly as an actor, gaining a respected reputation. Eventually he went on to become the first black actor to win an Oscar for a leading role in “Lilies of the Field.”

(Original Biography).

5. Daisy Bates – The Little Rock Nine + Ms. Bates


Bates became president of the Arkansas chapter of the NAACP and played a crucial role in the fight against segregation. In 1957, she helped nine African American students to become the first to attend the all-white Central High School in Little Rock, who became known as the Little Rock Nine. The group first tried to go to the school on September 4. A group of angry whites jeered at them as they arrived. The governor, Orval Faubus, opposed school integration and sent members of the Arkansas National Guard to prevent the students from entering the school. Despite the enormous amount of animosity they faced from white residents of the city, the students were undeterred from their mission to attend the school.

6. TA-NEHISI COATES – The 21st Century Leader


Ta-Nehisi Paul Coates is an American author, journalist, comic book writer, and educator. Coates is a national correspondent for The Atlantic, where he writes about cultural, social and political issues, particularly regarding African Americans. His raw and engaging essays about the black experience in America sets him up to be a James Baldwin in the making.

7.  JAMES BALDWIN – The Writer

Baldwin, an acclaimed writer and novelist, broke literary ground with the exploration of racial and social issues in his works. He was known for his essays on the black experience. As a child, he cast about for a way to escape his circumstances. As he recalls, “I knew I was black, of course, but I also knew I was smart. I didn’t know how I would use my mind, or even if I could, but that was the only thing I had to use.” By the time he was fourteen, Baldwin was spending much of his time in libraries and had found his passion for writing.

(Original Biography).

8.  SHIRLEY CHISHOLM – The Congress of the United States of Shirley

9. Fannie Lou Hamer – The Summer of Ms. Fannnie Lou Hamer 


Fannie Lou Hamer was a civil rights activist whose passionate depiction of her own suffering in a racist society helped focus attention on the plight of African-Americans throughout the South. In 1964, working with the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), Hamer helped organize the 1964 Freedom Summer African-American voter registration drive in her native Mississippi. At the Democratic National Convention later that year, she was part of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, an integrated group of activists who openly challenged the legality of Mississippi’s all-white, segregated delegation.

(Original Biography).

10. THURGOOD MARSHALL – The HonorablE Judge Marshall


Thurgood Marshall  was an American lawyer who was appointed as an associate justice of the Supreme Court in 1967. He was the first African-American to hold the position and served for 24 years, until 1991. Marshall studied law at Howard University. As counsel to the NAACP, he utilized the judiciary to champion equality for African Americans. In 1954, he won the Brown v. Board of Education case, in which the Supreme Court ended racial segregation in public schools.

(Original Biography).

11. JESSE OWENS – The One Who Humiliated Hitler 

Jesse Owens also known as “The Buckeye Bullet,” was an American track and field athlete who won four gold medals and broke two world records at the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin. When Owens finished competing, the African-American son of a sharecropper and the grandson of slaves had single-handedly crushed Hitler’s myth of Aryan supremacy.

(Original Biography)

12. RICHARD PRYOR – The Comedic Relief 


Pryor was an American stand-up comedian, actor, and social critic. Pryor was known for uncompromising examinations of racism and topical contemporary issues, which employed vulgarities and profanity, as well as racial epithets. He reached a broad audience with his trenchant observations and storytelling style and is widely regarded as one of the greatest and most influential stand-up comedians of all time.

(Original Biography).

The Cultural Importance of K-Pop

The Cultural Importance of K-Pop

Warning: I’m about to geek out really hard on this post about my love for K-Pop.

For the last year or so I’ve been listening to music, watching Youtube videos and consuming media in a language I don’t understand – and I love every second of it.

I’ve always loved branching out in all areas of my life and consuming media outside of my cultural bubble here in the Midwest. I had heard about K-Pop through acts like PSY and his record-breaking song “Gangamn Style” in 2012. But it wasn’t until one day when I was watching a Buzzfeed video where people were reacting to Korean Pop, commonly referred to as K-Pop, music videos that I began to fully understand the enormous impact Korean music has around the world.

In the video,  “Call me Baby” by EXO was one of the featured songs people were reacting to. And I was completely enthralled. If you’ve never seen a K-Pop music video you are in for the ride of your life.

The amount of time, money and synchronized choreography was something I’ve have yet to seen in Western music. The video was a collection of what seemed like a million beautiful, well-dressed Korean men dancing their hearts out to a song I genuinely enjoyed. I played that song on rotation for weeks and it was the entrance into my journey into the world of K-Pop.

These past few months I’ve been obsessed with the K-Pop band BTS who have broken records as one of the most successful K-Pop groups to break America.

BTS, a seven-member group of Korean men in their mid-twenties, were the first K-Pop group to win a Billboard Music award in 2017 beating out acts like Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez and were the most tweeted-about artist of 2017 on social media.

BTS: J-Hope, Jin, RM, V, Jungkook, Jimin and Suga

That is unprecedented.

So, this begs the question: How does a K-Pop group like BTS that has only one member who speaks English, tap into the hearts of fans around the world?

One word: Their ARMY.

That is what their fans are called. Online they live up to their name with millions of dedicated fans who help translate their music videos, lyrics, interviews and tweets so fans around the world can enjoy their music.

My love for this genre of music has made me reflect on the importance of music to allow fans to get a outlook on a culture and country they may not have otherwise been interested in learning about. The cliche that music has no language is incredibly pertinent in the world of K-Pop.

It’s not uncommon for their fans to learn Korean, educate themselves on the culture and Korean way of life in an effort to better understand the members of their favorite band. It’s something you didn’t see many fans doing when other popular boybands like One Direction were at the height of their popularity.

Maybe it’s because the customs and culture of the U.K are more prevalent around the world. Regardless, international fans have been introduced to much more than the music of Korea – they are educating themselves about the culture and customs of a population that is wildly different than their own.

And thats a good thing. Branching outside of our cultural bubble is something we all need to do in order to expand our worldview and become more empathetic and understanding of people who are different than us. If listening to music in a different language is the entry point into an expansion of ones cultural awareness – I’m all for it.



What does “Latinx” Mean?

What does “Latinx” Mean?

Hola! Last night I had the honor of attending an event on the University of Iowa’s campus discussing Latinx identity. Panelists were a mix of students and faculty and were asked a series of questions pertaining to their own struggles coming to terms with what it means to be Latinx.

Latinx is relatively new term so lets dive in a little bit about what it means before we go any further. It’s a gender neutral term used for those who identity with their Latin American heritage. It denotes the “o” and “a” traditionally used at the end of “Latina” and “Latino” to signify a persons gender in an effort to be more inclusive to those outside of the gender binary.

From Refinery 29’s article:  This Is Where the Word “Latinx” Comes From”

In 2017, NBC News did a report on the term and showed that there is mixed feelings among the Hispanic community whether or not to use the term. Quoted in the article, Roy Pérez, an associate professor of English and American Ethnic Studies at Willamette University said that the resistance to inclusivity is what turns people off from using LATINX.

“‘The underlying gender critique is what fuels hatred towards Latinx,” he said. “But why should we only have one word to describe ourselves? Latinx is just one solution to the complexity and slipperiness of labelling Latinos. And it doesn’t have to supplant other words.”

Make sure to check out the NBC article mentioned above – they do a great job of explaining the new term and getting the full scope of mixed feelings among the Hispanic community.

Now, back to the panel I attended last night. As a woman who identifies as Latina, it really opened my eyes to the diversity and mix of identities within the Hispanic community. There are so many ways to be apart of this community and not one way is the “right” way. A panelist, Danielle Martinez, used the term “imposter syndrome” to describe how she feels about her Latinx identity because she isn’t a fluent spanish speaker and said that there is a shame and guilt associated with trying to fit into a mold of what traditionally is considered Latina/o.

“There is a  shame and guilt that comes with who is and isn’t Latinx,”

When she used the term “imposter syndrome” a lightbulb went off above my head. It was the perfect term to what I had been struggling with my whole life. I identify as a Latina woman but I don’t have dark skin, my father is white so I took his last name and I don’t speak Spanish. I always felt the need to prove myself or give people a whole monologue about my Hispanic roots when the topic was brought up. I even felt embarrassed saying I was a Latina in front of people I perceived as more Hispanic than I am.

But the truth is I grew up in a very strong maternal Mexican household with the values, culture and history being passed down to me from my Mom and Grandma. My cousins may have a different experience than my sister and I because we were the only ones who lived near Grandma and Great Aunts growing up (still do) in a city with a rich Hispanic population and were exposed to our Hispanic roots more.

I can’t even begin to tell you all the parties we went to with mariachi bands or the amount of times people would tell me how proud I should be to come from the Rocha family who did so much for the Hispanic community where I grew up. I wrote a bit about my grandpa being one of the founding members of the League of Latin American Citizens in a post awhile ago which gives you more insight to where my advocacy roots come from.

What I’m trying to say is I carry my Latinx identity with me everywhere I go and this panel gave me the strength to me embrace my identity and not have to feel as if I have to prove anything to anyone.

I am a Latina woman – nobody can take that away from me.

If you want to check out some highlights from the panel – I was live instagramming it so here are some of the best moments.