Itzpapalolt came to me during a break: on academia

I still remember the day I re-read my first co-written academic manuscript, Dr. Sonya Aleman and I powerfully stated,  “We understood this creation-process as Lara does, when she writes that woman can be “pregnant with a child, an idea for a book, the spark of an artwork, the will to politically organize, or any other way we as humans across sexes and genders can embody maternity as a positionality from which we create and not only biologically procreate.” 

I also remember the moment it clicked with the work I was doing. I was sitting in a programming meeting, deconstructing with facilitators best practices for facilitating workshops with young, underrepresented girls in our community initiative. 

One of my supervisees said, “I just feel so bad when they don’t know how to express themselves. I feel like I need to teach them the words they need because no one has taught them. I also don’t want to dumb down what they need to know in order to be here where I am.” 

I felt so uncomfortable, it felt deeply personal. 

I literally got flashbacks to my own education journey. 

Consequently, I thought, you’re her supervisor, check yourself. 

Two seconds later my flesh spoke for me, I felt my mouth open and say, “I’m sorry but I don’t agree with you on that one, I feel uncomfortable with the concept that you feel that you are dumbing something down because you are articulating it in a different language”, or a different way of expressing one’s knowing.  

Going one step back, our discussion centered on the acknowledgement of student of color knowledge, specifically 6th to 12th grade female identifying student of color knowledge.
More specifically how we could create a space for young women of color to express themselves, to nourish their creativity and to connect them with the skills they needed to accomplish their many goals.

Our facilitator for the meeting, an undergraduate woman of color, passed around an article that referenced several helpful tips on being a great facilitator. One of her examples pointed to her perception of the interaction that had occurred at her previous session. This incident happened to reference the facilitator mentioned above. She expressed she had learned that they needed to work on relating more to the demographic of young women they were working with by possibly aligning with their language, her exact words were “their lingo.” She felt as facilitators, everyone should learn the language of the girls they were working with. Her co-facilitator explained she did not like the concept of dumbing down the lesson and not expecting the best from their girls. 

I share this to highlight the assumption that translating does not equate “dumbing down” and when I finished writing that article with my mentor, I realized she understood this concept and that she had done a beautiful job of acknowledging I had all the answers, I understood all the concepts and she taught me the language I needed to use in order to succeed on my academic journey.  


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