New Member of the Team!
Hello everyone! I am excited to be joining The Futures Initiative as a fellow and CUNY Peer Leaders Facilitator. I hope your semester is off to a great start and I am very excited to be part of the FI team. I hope to learn as much as I can from my colleagues and in turn, help share what I can in my leadership and research.
I began my path to graduate school during the beginning of the pandemic in August 2020. Starting graduate school in quarantine was definitely not what I expected. I missed being in a physical classroom setting with my fellow peers and being part of organizations that created meaningful change. Being part of The Futures Initiative this year has been a great way to reignite my love and passion for academia, decolonization, and social transformation.
I was raised in Miami, Florida to immigrant parents from Mexico, Japan, and Guatemala, who are indigenous Zapotec and Quich’e Maya. Being raised in the Latin American & Caribbean cultural hub of Miami is a constant reminder of your ethnic and racial identity. However, in Miami, we are raised to be proud of our parents’ home countries and nationalities. The question of where I am from has never been static. I take a moment to pause every time I am asked. Where I was born has no significance to me, but rather the connections I have to the places my family has been raised. I often think about how my multi-cultural identities might help me navigate the world.
I am a Ph.D. student here at CUNY Graduate pursuing my degree in Ethnomusicology. One of the initial scholars in the field defines Ethnomusicology as “music in culture”. I usually like to extend this definition to “music in culture and culture in music. As well as understanding sound in every capacity”. I received my Bachelor of Arts degree at Furman University in Greenville, South Carolina in Sociology and Education. It was during that time that I participated in the Furman University Orchestra and received private lessons on the violin. I have been playing violin since I was 9 years old and have considered music an integral part of my identity and career. When I was 10 years old, the Miami Dade County school board slashed arts funding and many students like me could not afford private music lessons but wanted to continue to learn. Having been introduced to the El Sistema Orchestra Program in Venezuela, my mother, I, and various community members banded together to create a non-profit music organization called Miami Music Project. I was one of the 15 founding members to participate in this music program aimed at providing an educational resource from which our school board failed to. With these very early grass-root ideas, I became a better musician and advocated for accessible music education in all schools. I stayed with Miami Music Project until I left Miami for college, but continue to guest lecture, speak, and develop classes on social change through music. At some point, I hope to run my own non-profit organization with similar aims.
During the summer of my junior year as an undergrad, I participated in the Moore Undergraduate Research Apprenticeship Program at UNC-Chapel Hill. It was during these 10 weeks of intensive research and mentorship that I was partnered with Ethnomusicology professor Michael Figueroa. Under his guidance, we were able to connect my music and academic experiences to the field of Ethnomusicology. I realized I wanted to continue the past of pursuing a doctorate degree so I could help research the way students and scholars experience music from different cultures and identities. For me, it was all about being able to teach music in a way that creates social and dynamic change in the lives of listeners. At MURAP I presented at our annual conference on research I conducted with a non-profit music organization called KidzNotes. This is an El Sistema-inspired music organization that aims to provide free music and instrumental supplemental education to students that cannot afford private lessons or where local school boards have cut arts funding. My research dived into ideas of social class difference, music as a tool for community music building, and a site for immigrant parents to network and share resources.
During my undergraduate school years, I was very much inspired to be a social justice activist and warrior. Attending a predominantly white institution in upstate South Carolina became a learning lesson on patience for social change and also gave me the space to reflect deeply on ideas of collective care. Classmates and I ran eight diverse organizations that represented the very small student body composed of Black, Indigenous, and People of color (BIPOC). These four years were vital in my pursuit of understanding systematic racism and what social transformation looked like in a college setting. I am grateful for the lessons I learned, the professors that mentored me, and the friends that stood by me during very difficult and stressful times. Our organizations were instrumental in developing lectures, seminars, and events that engaged our student body with conversations about cultural appropriation, tokenism, racism, and immigration during a polarizing time in the United States.
My research currently dives into ideas of indigenous identity, decolonial theory, and critical listening as I work with the Zapotec people of Oaxaca, Mexico. My mother is Zapotec and never had a chance to our indigenous language. It is my goal to learn our indigenous tongue and make connections to the ways the Zapotec people in Oaxaca are using music and poetry as a form of language preservation. At the same time, raising awareness of the tumultuous relationships indigenous communities have in terms of citizen recognition in my home countries of Mexico and Guatemala.
I have also recently published my first poetry book called The Sociology of a Miami Girl. Poetry was a powerful tool that helped me navigate my emotions and cultural identities during my college years. My poems are lessons that I have gathered from the social interactions I make with friends, family, and even strangers that continue to teach us. I reflect on ideas on what it means to be a daughter of immigrants in the United States. I deconstruct ideas of what the “American Dream” might mean for first-generation college students. Lastly, I explore ideas of Pierre Bourdieu’s Habitus in understanding social and cultural capital as children of immigrants navigating an interesting world.
I am very excited once again to be part of the FI team! And working with Lauren Melendez and our current cohort of CUNY Peer Leaders!