Our former colleague, Cassandra Staff, created incredible momentum around Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. This blog is a continuation of that momentum, a new initiative by Miller Center for our team to tell their personal and diverse stories, encouraging ourselves to bring our whole self to work. But this is only a small part of the whole picture. Our internal work continues to bring DEI into our daily lives — implementing policy change, exploring our data in more meaningful ways, and carving out a space for diverse voices to be heard.
Our Brave Space conversations were launched in February and provide an outlet for storytelling with a DEI lens. The following prompts help Miller Center team members shape their own stories in preparation for sharing with the group.
- “I identify as ____.”
- What was one of the most significant experiences of your youth, and how did that shape you?
- “I got where I am today because I ____.”
- What is your personal brand? (Outside of work, what defines you?)
- What is something surprising that we don’t know about you?
- What can Miller Center do to help you bring your whole self to work?
Here is my story.
“Yo soy Chicano, tengo color, Puro Chicano, hermano con honor. Cuando me dicen que hay revolución, Defiendo a mi raza con mucho valor.” —YO SOY CHICANO LOS ALVARADOS (MANUEL, EMILIA, AND RAMÓN ALVARADO) From El Movimiento Chicano, LP, 1973.
I’m fortunate to have been raised by a family that placed Chicano culture as a pillar in our household. What is a Chicano you ask? “Chicano culture is a complex web of sub-cultures and movements. It is the Chicano Civil Rights Movement. It is the Chicano lowrider community. It is the Chicano art community. It is Chicano fashion. It is Chicano tattoos. It is pachuco sub-culture.” —Brandon Loran Maxwell. It’s this, much more, and everything in between. Cheech Marin has a really great breakdown of what it means to be Chicano.
But more importantly, I’ve realized over the years that this pillar sat on an incredibly strong foundation. A foundation that holds fast to the legacy of the Chicano movement, and stronger still, embedded in our rich family ancestry in Mexico. This foundation is what has allowed me to be unapologetically Chicano and accept everything that comes along with it. In retrospect, this foundation has permeated every pathway of my meandering journey.
Now that I am older, I am more clearly able to realize the sacrifices of my grandparents. Their perseverance through harsh cultural insensitivities as Mexican immigrants has granted me the freedom to be who I am without fear of judgment. And regardless of the obstacles they faced, they made it a point to give back to their community. From serving in World War II to creating social change marching alongside Cesar Chavez, I have much to be proud of and still push forward to create my own lasting impact in the spirit of giving back.
Outside of work, well it’s not that much different while I’m at work. I am a creator, artist, dad, and archivist of Chicano media. Having graduated from Santa Clara University with a degree in art hugely influenced my artistic practice. It is where I discovered my voice and expression of my cultural identity through various media. Fast forward, I am now able to give my creative perspective and skill back to SCU as an employee supporting the great work that Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship does. As a Chicano artist, not only is it imperative that I continue to create culturally relevant work, but I have a personal drive to engage the community and preserve my heritage. To this end, I have embarked on a creative journey working with San Jose youth and adults exploring topics of lowrider history, New Media artists from diverse backgrounds, principles of engineering, technology, and art, and mixing all of this together to create sound reactive artworks. You can learn more at 408art.com.
In addition, I have started to digitally archive Chicano and lowrider print media in the name of open access so that future generations can easily access, explore, and learn about the rich history of the lowrider culture.
Taking on DEI work is a layer of my job I never expected, but I am forever grateful to be a part of an amazing team that embraces change and that seeks to carve out important spaces for our voices to be heard. Thank you for taking the time to read this blog, and stay tuned for more of these over the coming newsletters.