Last week, I headed to Southwest Detroit to meet a cohort of Latinx youth that I would be working with for the remainder of the summer. Our first group activity was an icebreaker: Two Truths and A Lie. While all the teens partnered with each other, I found myself staring at a older Latina woman with spiky, short hair, arm tattoos, and large, bright glasses. We ended up partnering with each other for the activity, and I eventually got her name: Maria Salinas.
I was immediately intrigued by Maria when she told me that her lie was that she didn’t always abide by the rules. “You know why I don’t follow the rules? Because they weren’t made for me”; the words shocked and resonated within me. Her logic was that successful, educated Latinx are a rising minority group of people in our society- with Latinas being even more rare. Therefore, how were we expected to abide by rules and protocols made when we weren’t present to be heard in their creation? We went on to converse about the revolution of Latinas receiving a higher education, and how a great number of these Latinas-including herself-go on to hold positions of authority in their communities. Listening intently, I learned that Maria worked for the School of Social Work here at the University of Michigan before founding, and becoming the Executive Director of Congress of Communities, a community empowerment institution based in Southwest.
I found myself having to snap out of conversation with Maria to finish facilitating the icebreaker with the other youth. I was inspired by Maria and her commitment to the Detroit community, as well as our similarities in identities. In a way, it felt like I was meeting an older, accomplished version of myself. We finished our activity with our pair share, and she winked at me subtly before saying “We’re gonna have some history; I feel it”.