There’s a quote I heard a long time ago by Mark Twain that didn’t really resonate with me until recently: “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” January 17th, 2017, was the day I found out why.
Growing up, I always felt outnumbered. I think, and probably was, the only 12-year-old kid in North Philadelphia that knew word per word the lyrics to “Pour Some Sugar On Me” by Def Leppard. Although I was crazy about Hip-Hop and the R&B I was growing up around, I couldn’t deny the love I had for “dad music” and the fashion that came along with it. As a result, my father was the only person I could really bond with over this type of music. My peers looked at me as if I were an alien when I brought up anything that had to do with Classic Rock or music that they weren’t aware of. I was dismissed when I had hopes that they would approach the conversation with an open mind. Instead, I was categorized as “white” because of the music I listened to.
It was during this time that I attended my first social protests with my father, the first protest was in reference to the Puerto Rican island Vieques, and the United States Navy’s use of the land to test its bombing range. I’m not Puerto Rican, nor did I live there but my dad made it clear that we had a social responsibility to fight for our brothers and sisters and our neighbor island. I also went to many immigration protests, everyone in my family are legal immigrants, they did everything right, but it was understood, that many undocumented immigrants were running away from similar political and economic structures as my family, they were in search for economic freedom and opportunity and I empathize with that. Simply put, most of the time it was never for a social issue that affected me personally.
Too “White” for Dominicans, Too “Dominican” for White People
My family moved to North-East Philadelphia back in 2005. I had mixed feelings about moving, I was happy to finally move into a house after spending most of my life living in the apartment above my parent’s grocery store, but I was nervous to start high school at a school that had no diversity. Out of an estimated 600 girls, there were only 10 women of color – it was a predominantly white all-girl Catholic high school and I honestly wanted no parts. The first time I heard comments like “illegal immigrants are taking all of our jobs, what do you think about that?” or ” My stepmother thinks your so pretty for a black girl”.
Let’s just say I was pretty outnumbered when it came down to current event issues as well *shrugs*.
When we first moved I was opposed to getting to know the neighborhoods own culture because I felt I didn’t fit in. I felt unwelcomed in certain areas and truthfully I wanted to live in an environment that had people that looked like me. I’m grateful we made that move, it was in those years that I truly analyzed culture, race, and ideology. I became more considerate about experience. I would wonder “Why am I democrat?”, ” Why is she a Republican” and “why is this 16-year-old from the city talking about immigrants taking ”their” jobs ” – to which I would reply to her ” I had no idea you wanted to scrub toilets for a living?” I didn’t realize it then, but I was blessed with an opportunity not many get – to attempt to culturally comprehend the other side while educating them on topics they weren’t aware of.
I must say, this past election was CRAY. I was totally in for Bernie, but my poor grandpa didn’t make it. So, the Democratic nominee was Hilary- not my first choice. The months in which they campaigned was a high school movie. But, election night I was nervous, boy was I nervous. I knew what my future could look like and I knew it wasn’t pretty. Donald J. Trump was going to be the 45th president of the United States. I wanted to have hope but I had none. My peers in Philly were confident in Hilary, but I knew what we were up against.
While traveling to rural areas, all I saw were Trump signs. Philadelphia, New York, and L.A – we aren’t all of America and we were reminded that night.
I can’t recall a moment, ever, in my life in which I felt unsure about my well being in this country and most importantly this angry. No one in my family came to this country illegally, but I was empathetic towards those that had no other choice. I was upset with the platform he used, I was upset with fellow peers who ignored the anti-immigrant bashings because they were “one policy” voters.
I was mad, soo mad. This man ran a campaign with a nationalist tone I hadn’t witnessed in my young 26 years of life. I became obsessed with watching political commentary – from both sides. If I watched commentary and news coming from leftist views, I’ll hop on over to see what folks on the right were saying.
Prior to the election, I was excited to further my education at Temple University. I wanted to be on TV. That’s all I cared about. I wanted to be famous and live a glammed-up life, hosting award shows and entertainment segments.
The day of my orientation, as I spoke to the advisor about my future goals, I just kept thinking about this “voice” I had – I’ll get to that in a little. Granted, I loved being on camera and working behind the camera as well, but I just knew at that moment I wasn’t going to pursue my studies as a Media and Production Major or a Communication Studies Major. My eyes kept scanning through the Journalism booklet.
As a daughter of immigrants, who grew up in a low-income community to then move to a more privileged community I experienced a lot. I analyze things from different viewpoints and possibilities. More importantly, I write for people like me, people who come from marginalized communities, who have felt unrepresented in the media, people who enjoy politics and social issues and who have been told their hair should be straightened in order to get a job or look beautiful. I have a way of expressing myself that different people can relate too. That’s my voice. I want to share my bi-cultural experiences and views but also showcase how other factors and influences take part in this.
This is my calling. If it wasn’t for the past election, I wouldn’t have self-evaluated my life purpose. I found out January 17th, 2017, that was my second important day. I am a Broadcast Journalism major- yes couldn’t fully let go of the camera – walking in May, ready to fulfill my purpose.
– Jenny Mota