Dismantling from within my/self.
Recognizing, processing and moving through the institutionalized educational system(s) I was raised in.
I am part of the Puerto Rican diaspora arriving to NYC in the late 80s; one of the last decades when the majority of Latinx in the city were of Puerto Rican ancestry. Florida was just starting to become the epicenter for the PR diaspora.
My entry to NYC was the South Bronx. El Frio and population growth contrasted the beaches and small pueblo norm of where I was born. I spent my elementary school days living on the periphery of gentrification and Park Slope privilege. Today, I understand the educational process of assimilation and how it affects the identity development of students because of my own experiences growing up in NYC. I spent my elementary school days attending religious private school in Brooklyn. It was in this environment that my name became anglicized, contributing to a loss of my Puertoriqñx identity. Attending that school was perceived as a better place to obtain an education and safer than the local public schools.
Spanish became English and English became Spanish; I never quite learned enough about either. Listening in Spanish and replying in English; other times mixing both to fill in the words I didn't have in either language. I remember being pulled out of general ed instruction and placed in front of a computer- in one of the only air conditioned rooms-n as part of the ESL program. Both languages fused and became other coded forms of access and exclusion depending on the environment I was in. This became an entry into my research interests as an undergrad; framing my philosophy and inquiry about spaces of learning and sites of knowledge production.
Novelas were a nightly heartbeat of Puerto Rico at home, in Brooklyn.
My entry into public schools was during Junior high, after moving to Queens. The school was a short walk from home, in Brooklyn and closer to tíos place. This school was much farther than the private elementary school I attended which was across the street from our apartment building.
My identity as a Boricua emerged during my teenage years. I attended a specialized public high school in Manhattan; I was now taking the train on my own exploring the concrete jungle con la bendición de mami. I began to meet Puerto Ricans from other parts of the city, contributing to a deeper connection and complex understanding of who Puerto Ricans are and the intersections of my re/emerging Puertoriqñx identity.
It feels like I reclaimed my Puertoriqñx identity through CUNY.
My entry into college was as a youth worker. As I earned credits, I found myself pursuing and building a foundation in ethnic studies, technology and bilingual education. My experience as an undergraduate at Brooklyn College was my entry to Puerto Rico, and Puerto Rican history beyond what I was raised in. It was at this point in my trajectory within public schooling that I was immersed in a transformative understanding of my/self in relation to what is learned and produced, as knowledge.
My training and teaching experiences within the fields of Puerto Rican-ethnic studies and k-12 bilingual education inform my understanding and positionality as a researcher. My identity as a Puerto Rican scholar and Scholar of Puerto Rican studies is enriched and activated through community-based and intergenerational engagement with collective movements and organizations focused on education equity. As a teenager I joined an out-of-school time program in Harlem, empowering youth through journalism, access to technology, and opportunities for leadership. The program is my foundation for understanding the impact of student generated and centered possibilities towards transforming the way education is done, achieved and valued. As a young professional I’ve immersed myself as an active member contributing to a more than fifty year movement aimed at sustaining and developing Puerto Rican history, culture and empowerment through education.
My journey within urban education is mobilized by an investigation about the purpose, role and process of what it means to obtain an education within a framework of learning, particularly when liberated from the system of schooling. How does one obtain an education; Is it limited to institutional and economically driven products and symbols, such as stamped diplomas and transcripts?
Education is desired around the world and is an intergenerational objective for children. Although it can emerge in many different ways the most common form of education is obtained within schools. Other forms of education reveal themselves on the streets of our neighborhoods appearing as conversations or protests; as books, and movies; and activated by our roles as peers, family, and glocal neighbors. What can these, alternative spaces of knowledge acquisition, tell us about the purpose of education?
My praxis as educator, researcher and writer is based on a Freirean pedagogical philosophy concerned with critical, liberatory and wellness driven theories. Discussion and multimodal methods of study facilitate my own acquisition of knowledge. Puerto Rican-Ethnic Studies is my entry into both the praxis of liberation and interrogation of schooling and the field of education. Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed and Critical Race Theory confront my own perspectives, enabling me to think critically and analytically- recognizing and disrupting my own lived and learned biases.
Written at the culmination of my First Year as a Cohort XX member