What you’re supposed to be doing

Apr 23, 2012
Saturday was a very full day.  
It began with a quick visit to Adelante Mujer Latina at PCC.  2,000 young women – with mentors, mothers, and role models learning about or sharing the value of higher education.  It’s the eighteenth year of the conference.  It was brought back from the edge by dedicated work by folks like Sandra Gutierrez, and Pasadena Youth Center E.D. Stella Murga, and a committee of women who are dedicated to this. 
This was one of the few years I’ve not been on the committee nor been able to present at the conference.  Instead I was at the Autry at a conference presented by the Historical Society of Southern California,  “Latino Los Angeles – New insights in Urban History, the Arts and Education”.  I’m prepping for a talk I’ll be giving at the end of June and am strengthening my historian muscles. 
It felt good to be in a setting where folks share the same deep passion about history.  I wished there were more of us at this conference.  But I kept remembering a stat that Stella had shared at Adelante.  Only 4% of Latinos reach the educational attainment of a MA: PhD. much less.  An increase from when I was in grad school and yet such a very, very small percentage.  It’s a stat that can be somewhat disheartening.  It’s so easy to let that stat feel like a lot of work has gone on with little progress.
Thank goodness for moment like the one that took place when the gentleman standing made his presence known. He is a re-entry student who is 42.  Lots of questions could be asked about the how and the why he’s returned to school, but I think the most important thing to share was that he received the greatest spontaneous applause at the conference.  
The question that always comes to my mind when I attend such conferences is what are ways to increase that number?  There was a brilliant panel focused on Education that spoke to that question in some very pragmatic and non esoteric terms.  I hope to write about them in the future.
Instead this morning I write about the members of the panel who focused on visual and spoken arts and may have answered my unasked question most succinctly.  They spoke of the need to value a variety of ways of looking at the world and by extension the merits of one’s own talents.  To look at the experiece and expression within their community and their chosen art form.  To document and review their community’s history because others may not.  To absorb, as Jose Luis Valenzuela put it – ” everybody’s description of the world resulting in a new cultural capital that is rich in individual histories and shared commonalities”.
Denise Blasor (l) and Yolanda Gonzalez (c) shared similar points.  Yolanda shared the idea that one needs to find “what you are supposed to be doing.  There is an art in discovering that”.  That seems clear.  
It also seems clear gathering together young women and role models together or applauding a fellow on his new road in academia are a couple of concrete ways of helping folks as the make their personal  journey of discovery.

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