A short 5’2’’ girl towed along a pink, two-inch binder that was bursting with worksheets that detailed the chemical pathways of glycolysis, the Kreb’s cycle, and the Calvin cycle. Everyday after class, she spent hours memorizing the enzymes that would catalyze these reactions and memorized the different functions of ribosomes, the endoplasmic reticulum, and microtubules. These long hours of grueling work earned her a purple T-shirt with the words, “I want your myosin head to power stroke my actin filament” emblazoned on the back.
A long picket line formed outside the Congress Hotel in downtown Chicago. There were always people stationed outside the hotel, but this particular day was especially important because it marked the nine-year anniversary of the day when hotel workers began their strike. Organizations from across the city gathered on this one strip of Michigan Avenue to protest the hotel’s poor labor practices. With such a long picket line, it was hard to keep the entire group shouting along to the slogans and small pockets of silence inevitably formed. One girl found this unacceptable and began leading the chants.
“WHAT DO WE WANT?”
“WHEN DO WE WANT THEM?”
She didn’t need a bullhorn. She was the bullhorn.
Can you guess which girl I am?
I began my studies at Yale with the heart of a science nerd set on being a Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology major following a pre-med track. Then I got more involved with MEChA and my perspective dramatically changed. I had always been very passionate about issues revolving around human rights, immigrant rights, and women’s rights, but I had never formed a part of an organization that actively tried to change these issues. I was very shy in high school and not very outspoken. I shied away from situations that put me in the spotlight because I was afraid of doing or saying something that was wrong. However, that began to change when I met the Mechistas here at Yale. I saw that same passion I possessed in the members of the organization. The difference was that they voiced their passion. There wasn’t a day that passed that I didn’t hear Diana speak about the grave consequences of the drug wars in Mexico or Alejandro rant about the system of oppressions that are built into our society. I slowly began losing my fear and became more actively involved in projects. I helped put together a panel, I canvassed during this past election, and now I am attempting to put on a large-scale project that will bring to light the issue of wage theft in New Haven.
Activism helped me find the voice that I had been trying to find for a very long time. I thought I had found it in the research programs I had participated in during high school. However, I realized that wasn’t it at all. My internship this past summer at a worker’s rights organization showed me what it was that I had loved about those experiences. I loved talking to people, learning from people. While doing clinical research at the University of Chicago, my favorite part of the day was talking to patients. The highlight of that summer was listening to Mr. Biggs’ story of surviving cancer not learning to use STATA statistical software. My favorite part of this summer was being able to talk to workers, community leaders, and faith leaders. All of these conversations and joint collaborations would lead to a change that actually mattered. I’ve always been a listener and these experiences gave me the opportunity to listen to the community’s real needs. Now it is time to act. What good is it if I can listen but do nothing to enact change?
I will continue listening to empower not only myself but also those others around me. My mission is to effectively foster change. Together we will build a future where systems of oppression are not the norm and equality is expected.
As us Mechistas love to say,
La lucha sigue