There is no greater devourer of the human spirit than the ticks and tallies of corporate assessment. You are not a dispensary. You are a soul, soulfully engaged with its own creative and playful spirit. — Chani Nicholas
How the Wizarding World of Harry Potter got me into an introspective funk.
I remember when each book came out. I would spend the week reading, proud of myself once I finished the last page, hungry for the next one. I was so obsessed over the story that there was one time I unknowingly downloaded a fan fiction version of Order of the Phoenix. It started out normal and seemed legit, until the point where things got really sexual up in Gryffindor tower ending with Harry and Hermionie hooking up. By that point I was over 250 pages into the damn fan fiction! I was just discovering the interwebs of BitTorrent, MiniNova and isoHunt — don’t judge high school me! (ps. Y’all fan fiction people can get really graphic and sick!)
Ok, stop. MCL, FOCUS:
When I first read the Harry Potter series, it was mainly for entertainment. I was finishing up high school — basically grew up with Harry and crew, never realizing that they were my first lessons in social justice.
As long as I can remember, every sorting hat quiz put me in Gryffindor. Even Pottermore put me in Gryffindor. I was lowkey proud of myself knowing I was in the same house as my Hogwarts crew.
I intend on recounting each priceless memory at Define American, but I’ll start here: staff photos: 2014 – 2016.
Forever grateful for each of these people. They’ve added so much to my story and helped shape what’s next.
I can fondly look back and say:
We built this.
Jose, 2013 seems so long ago. Thank you for taking a chance on me.
I wouldn’t trade this experience for the world.
note: Chris Weitz and Demián Bichir are not staff, but a welcome addition to staff photo since they were panelists at #DAFF.
Taking this break may actually be good for me.
I’ve been nonstop since 2005. During college, I worked full time while attending classes at night. Since 2010, I’ve worked in succession under two visionary leaders: one in government and the other in non-profit. As of late spring 2015, I found myself at a juncture where I no longer felt efficient in my role and by the fall, I accepted the fact I needed to do some soul searching to re-establish what I bring to the table.
Yes, my background is in social media and digital engagement, but the past two years have made me realize how much I value human connection and relationship building. There is nothing like speaking with an emerging or established leader in person. Whatever I do next needs to include human connection and genuine collaboration. I’m not even sure it needs to be in the immigration movement, because my lens will always be through immigrants.
It’s been an honor to work alongside my colleagues at Define American. I’m mentally preparing for my last day on January 29th.
I am unapologetic as I hit pause on my career and recognize that few are able to do so. I am grateful for the time and space to reconnect with the things that define me and the ability to reinvest in myself. I can’t move forward into my next role without re-centering my mind and energy.
Original Publication: UniPro Now Summit 2013 Volume III
Published: June 2013 // Amended: May 2016
I’ll start off with this: I am a Filipino New Yorker, born in Manila and raised in Queens.
I’ve worked in television, financial staffing, online advertising and now city government. I have seen angles of the world through many different lenses. Through each view, I’ve always tried finding the Filipino spin, internally cheering every time the Filipino community had a “win”. There are success stories and many model representatives, but we as a community have a serious disconnect.
I come from the school of connectivity. Working at the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs (MOIA), we’re tasked with integrating the newest New Yorkers, even if they’re “TNT” or tago nang tago (always hiding). I’ll take it a step further and say that no matter how long you’ve lived in the five boroughs, you’re still a “new New Yorker” if you’re disconnected and apathetic to your local government. Leaders in the city are making decisions about your daily lives without your presence at the table.
I’ve been at MOIA for over three years and have yet to hear my colleagues take a Filipino organization seriously (find me at the UniPro Summit and I’ll share the range of reasons). It frustrates me to no end that my own group isn’t viewed as credible in the city office that I’ve been part of for years. This needs to change, fast.
It’s been tough getting through to the seasoned Filipino groups and the larger community since there is a prevailing distrust, skepticism and misunderstanding of government. I’ll admit, I didn’t understand civic responsibility until I joined MOIA. It’s for that very reason our office exists. We’re here to demystify government and help connect New Yorkers and resources to help the communities grow. We’ve supported emerging leaders from the West African, Mexican and Bangladeshi communities. Why is the existing and prevalent Filipino community completely absent?
UniPro brings young professionals together through this summit, but we – as Filipinos and as part of the future – need to raise the bar as a group. Being in the same room is not enough. Listening to stories is not enough. Introductions are not enough. We need to understand what each of us, individually, represents. Every group has its respective goals, but as representatives of the Filipino community, we need to set the bar high, be accountable to each other and build credibility with outside entities. We need to build strength from within, because that strength, accountability and credibility is what the rest of the world will see. The more of it they see, the more elevated our community becomes.
We are a strong group of movers and shakers. We are thinkers. We are doers. We’re overdue to be recognized in the mainstream. If we come together, we’ll get there. It’s time to rise.
Stephen Colbert uses Immigrant Heritage Week 2010 graphic as the introduction to “The Word”
April 21, 2010 — “The Word — No Bueno”