I don't even know where to really begin to sum up the conference. To say it was empowering is an understatement. I had intended to write up the notes I took but I'm distracted, behind, and just want to touch on a couple of points. I know I'm not doing it justice but I also don't want to burn out my ideas considering I still have to write the paper.
The theme for the weekend was Indigenous Voices: Witnessing the Wisdom of our "Elders". The elders on the panel included Joe Ponterotto, Jean Lau Chin, Teresa LaFromboise, Thomas Parham, Joseph Trimble, and Melba Vasquez. All of them quite literally made me cry at several different points. Looking back, I think what made me so emotionally connected to the speakers was the fact that they are all minorities who overcame their struggles despite the odds.
There's a mantra I follow which Dr. Parham brought up: we must contextualize our struggle. The fact that stuff happens is inevitable, but it's how we look at it that makes the difference.
I haven't had the easiest life. Compared to many, I had barriers growing up with few privilleges. But it could have been worse. I'm known within my circle for being the "outspoken feminist" though I can't say I believe the label. I'm blunt, independent, and not afraid to speak my mind when they try to step on my toes. But I always force myself to put my situation into perspective.
I've made it quite far, thanks to my mom. And every panel member declared their mother as the protagonist in their stories. Mothers who advocated for education, for independence. Despite the difficulties I had with mine during my teenage stint, I've always looked at her with the same admiration. I don't remember much of my life before the age of seven but I vividly recall her always telling me to do the same: get an education, be independent.
My roundabout point is to remember roots- both family and chronicled histories. Because we are nothing without our pasts no matter how hard we try to fight it.
Melba Vasquez closed with, "we're here for you to stand on our shoulders just as we stood on the shoulders before us and for the next generation to stand on yours." Thank you.