Dando la mano

To my brother,

We’ve been made to feel neglected, tossed aside, and told we aren’t good enough. We’ve attended schools that have made us suffer more than thrive. Places were teachers and administrators didn’t believe in us, our communities, or our values. Through every segment of our educational journeys we’ve had to remove obstacles, jump hurdles, and be excellent just to prove we are equals.

I write this to you, and those marginalized by our schooling systems.

Through schooling you’ve faced a greater burden than I. You had to attend three elementary schools, two junior highs, and four high schools. It wasn’t just the instability of different classrooms. But the variation of people and policies in these schools and how they treated you, a person of color. From attending a zero-tolerance school that tried to expel you on false accusations. To transferring from one school to another and them not acknowledging your IEP for nearly a year. Your educational experience has been off putting. You’ve been made to feel as a failure. But the truth is, you’ve participate in a system that was not meant for you. A system that was designed to fail brown boys.

Don’t let a system that wants created from define who and what you are.

Now you find yourself in community college. Balancing work, family, and classes. You’ve shared your stories: counseling that leaves your more confused than when you walked in, a teacher that doesn’t want to teach, and being placed in remediation when there are no courses available for a first year student to advance.

Being ten years apart, I looked from afar as most of this happen. I think of what blame should be placed on me. I moved out for college when you were seven, I focused on my studies. I missed out on your formative years. Chasing my dreams, I wasn’t the big brother I hoped to be. I might have failed you, maybe I still do. It’s a burden I carry; especially knowing that I’ve worked in college outreach and admissions, but I couldn’t help you.

It’s important to acknowledge this and use it as motivation to do better.

Writing this reminds me of our Grandma and church on sundays. How we would end the morning with “dando la mano y extendiendo la paz,” which roughly translating to reaching out your hand and extending peace. Although it seems like we’ve encountered more people who have used that hand extension to push us back and keep us away from educational promise, it’s important we still extend and help uplift.

We must be the optimists, those hoping to see change and transformation in our schools and communities. If not for us, but for our community, or future sons and daughters.

I’d like to think that everything I do is for my family. I’d like to think that my research, in any way possible, can help you. That the work I do, can help our community push against systems, structures, and institutions that weren’t for us. To create anew; something that validates us rather than pushing us to the margins. As I face tougher milestones in my program I dedicate this journey to you. At the same time, I rededicated myself to being researcher who advocates for people like us and communities like ours facing educational injustices. I commit myself to this work in hopes to reach out and uplift.

–Eric Felix (Your Brother)

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