Here is my continuing top seven list of “Detroit Latinas/Chicanas I’m grateful to know.” Because, as I have mentioned, if I’m the only Latina you know in Detroit then we have un asunto (Spanish for a concern, matter or issue)!
Iris Perez is an Emmy-Nominated Journalist, Freelance Reporter and Writer for Fox 2 Detroit, Neo-Soul Music enthusiast, and Southwest Detroit native who’s always up for a fascinating story.
Iris is another Puerto Rican Sister, and divine relater of news and information. Iris is one of those regal walkers. She strides – tall, upright and with grand presence. She has a comfortable way about her, engaging and inviting. She usually wants to know what you love about Detroit and naturally, you want to tell her the full story.
We were introduced by a mutual friend who rightly thought we’d have a lot in common; Iris and I share a passion for Detroit, storytelling, good music and the Caribbean. That combination doesn’t usually garner universal excitement, but this doesn’t faze Iris; instead she demonstrates the essence of those passions in her work and her life. She shows what she lives, and does it live. When VH1 Storytellers produces my life story, I hope Iris will narrate. Ha!
Sister Gloria Rivera is a Mexican-born Catholic nun affiliated with the Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (IHM) denomination in Monroe. Rivera moved to the U.S. at the age of 18 to attend school, first living in Iowa and then moving to Detroit in 1994 as a member of the IHM Sisters. Rivera served as an activist with Freedom House for 11 years, seven years as a Board member and four as the Executive Director. Rivera also served for over three years as the Executive Director of the Michigan Coalition for Human Rights (MCHR). She currently serves as co-coordinator of the Detroit chapter of the Great Lakes Bioneers (GLBD), an organization promoting restoration and healing of communities.
Sister Gloria is rapidly becoming one of the women I aspire to be. I consider her an informal mentor. In both tense and unpleasant meetings as well as lively and dynamic dialogues, she sets an example that continues to guide and inspire me. Gloria will not abandon her principles or her position, even when she is standing alone. Nor will she impose her perspective as the only rational truth. That’s an art!
I’ve never seen her avoid painful critique or make excuses to prevent bruising. She encourages dialogue, takes responsibility when it is hers to take, and acknowledges hurt feelings. But don’t let her momentous work and determined nature fool you into thinking she’s all business. Gloria is also a jokester; she’ll occasionally pretend to be more serious than she is just to crack herself up, or tell a joke she’s still laughing about from an hour ago.
One of our first interactions was in a small meeting, when I said something she didn’t agree with. She took time to process what I said, and came back to it later. She didn’t have an expectation of changing my mind or the minds of anyone in the room. She just needed to share it, and was fine with us moving on. We’ve all heard the phrase “we can disagree without being disagreeable,” right? It’s something I’ve struggled with. Well, like so much of what she does, Gloria does that with natural grace.
Marisol Teachworth taught for six years in the Bronx, NY, Hollywood, FL, and Detroit. She has taught language arts and social studies in a true inclusion-model classroom, self-contained ESL, and science.
For three years Marisol worked with Hispanic Unity, the largest non-profit organization in Broward County dedicated to serving the community’s Latino population, where she designed curriculum and enrichment activities through art, music, science, dance, and nutrition.
As a visual artist, she has led five youth groups in creating large murals in their schools and communities. In 2011, Marisol served as the Educational Track Instructor for Detroit Future Media, where she worked in collaboration with other teachers and taught education theory, digital justice principles and teaching methodology to local media artists.
She currently works with Detroit Summer as an Adult Coordinator where she supports youth in using digital media to ignite change in their communities. Marisol offers expertise in teaching, community organizing, and leadership.
I didn’t realize how many Puerto Ricans I knew in Detroit! There’s such a small Boricua population in this city, and I’m thrilled Marisol is part of that group. Like Adriana, I would see Marisol at various events and Avalon Bakery visits. It wasn’t until a common friend had a “pamper ourselves” birthday party with manicures, pedicures, comfort food, drinks and great conversation that we finally connected.
I’ve always been inspired and energized by creative youth, and the endless possibilities when we put our imagination to work. As Marisol painted my nails (brilliant metallic silver), I learned her artistry and resourcefulness started at a young age. In high school, she offered uniquely designed salon-quality manicures at inexpensive prices. I’m sure that early gig helped build the foundation for life’s later canvases.
It’s no surprise Marisol is now supporting and encouraging youth to explore life and raise up their communities through art and media, and I know I’m not the only one who values and celebrates her decision to move back to Detroit. It’s not just the nails, although that doesn’t hurt (smile).
Violeta is a Detroit native, born to a Panamanian father and African American mother. As a doctoral student, she examines racial ideologies and paradigms, as well as the impact of social media on identification processes.
She has two publications: “Exploring the Afro-Latino Presence: The Afro-Panamanian Experience in Michigan” in the journal Negritud: Revista De Estudios Afro-Latinoamericanos and “Defining and Documenting Afro-Latin America” in the journal Latin American and Caribbean Ethnic Studies.
Raising visibility of the AfroLatin@ community has always been a passion. She has found multiple ways to integrate this passion into her everyday life through academia and social media. As a freelance writer and emerging blogger, she has contributed to the Voices from Our America ™ project, volunteered with The AfroLatin@ Forum, written for vidaafrolatina.com, and runs her blog La Republica de Detroit.
I had to mention Violeta. My own understanding of Latin@ Americanos wouldn’t be as wide-ranging without her. I appreciate you, Hermana!
Front page slider photo credit (sign language): Inmagine