Creciendo Juntos

Creciendo Juntos

LEARNING, LEADING AND GROWING TOGETHER.

Let’s begin with an introduction of yourself starting with
your name, age, where you are from, and where you go to school!

My name is Johanna Moncada Sosa, I use she/her pronouns and I’m 21 years old from Hilton Head Island, South Carolina but my family is from Honduras. I am a Third Year student at the University of Virginia double majoring in Political & Social Thought and Foreign Affairs with a minor in Sociology.

I know you’re involved with DREAMers on Ground, PLUMAS
(Political Latinx United for Movement and Action in Society), and CAFÉ
(Central American for Empowerment at UVA), could you tell us a little
more about them and how you got involved? What are some struggles in
balancing your involvement as well as academics?

Central Americans for Empowerment at UVA (CAFÉ) is a new organization and the first chapter to be on the East Coast and outside of California. It was founded in mid-October as a reaction of the lack of coverage from organizations at UVA to the migrant caravans approaching the U.S.-Mexico border. I am the President and Founder of the organization, but my position would be non-existent if it weren’t for the incredible Executive Board and committed general body members whom helped put the organization into fruition. The purpose of the organization is to center Central American voices within the larger discourse of Latin America to increase visibility and representation of the diversity within Latinx communities. We aim to gain a collective voice and foster empowerment through direct action, advocacy and political, social and cultural education while building solidarity with other marginalized communities.

I joined the DREAMers on Grounds Executive Board this past year as an UndocuAlly Coordinator. In my role, I give 1-2 hour allyship presentations for faculty and students to enhance their working knowledge regarding DACAmented/undocumented people at the University of Virginia, Greater Charlottesville Area and beyond. The allyship trainings review U.S. immigration policy and law, statuses with a heavy focus on DACA recipients, crimmigation, the implications and consequences being undocumented while navigating the world with other marginalized identities and methods in being an active ally. The allyship trainings are meant to foster safe and welcoming spaces for DACAmented/undocumented people at the University and beyond. As a whole, DREAMers on Grounds aims to create a more inclusive environment through education and advocacy with a commitment to having strong ties with administrations, staffs, faculties and student bodies.

The main struggle I have is time management between my schoolwork and my involvement particularly when the work the organizations I am apart of require more time to successively execute, which inherently takes away time from studying and doing homework. At times I’m more motivated to do work for my involvement of than my homework, which eventually comes back to haunt me. Consequently, I frequently need to be reminded to allot my time better to be able to dedicate enough time to both without sacrificing quality. Furthermore, I am historically guilty of not practicing self-care and allowing what I do (such as schoolwork, personal and family life, work and the organizations I am apart of) take a toll on me, which I am learning how to manage and practice.

Editor Notes: Johanna chose not to speak on behalf of PLUMAS as her active involvement has been more recently. PLUMAS has been notable in their movement against the nazi rallies and several white supremacy institutions that are currently targeting undocumented immigrants that are residing in Charlottesville-city and Albemarle-county.

What has helped you move forward and been a support on your
path to becoming a community leader?

Getting involved in this type of work can be exhausting, especially when in combination with the pressures of school, personal/family life and the overall labor of operating as a functional human being. Although the work can be tiring and draining, I always refer to my baseline: the people I surround myself with and reflecting on my personal experiences. My passion for my involvements stems from personal ties of frequent injustices and a deep desire to uplift marginalized voices, so when this is mixed with passionate people with a similar deep desire to improve the community, it makes the work not feel like work at all. Additionally, I learn from those around me and commit myself to doing the intellectual work, direct action and engagement within the community. The genuine people I have met so far pushed me to become a better “leader” (I prefer to say team member).

As you immerse yourself more in action and activism, what
needs do you see in the community?

I see a need of better communication, exchange of resources, collaboration and bridging the gap between UVA and the Greater Charlottesville area. There are so many efforts and initiatives that can be better and stronger if forces combined between UVA and the Great Charlottesville community, which is something I am attempting to do through my own involvements. There’s strength in numbers!

Could you tell us about your interests and passions both in
working with the Latinx community of Charlottesville and anything else
you enjoy doing?

My involvement in working with the Latinx community of Charlottesville is rooted in an enjoyment of getting to know new people and making Charlottesville feel more and more like a home for myself. Aside from my involvement, I enjoy creating art, traveling, napping, dancing, and being a food fanatic.

How has being Latinx impacted you?

Being born and raised in South Carolina offered a variety of challenges while being a Latinx woman. High exposure levels to racist attitudes, behaviors, comments and stereotypes lead to an ultimate internationalization of them, often affecting my self-esteem. However, doing the work to literally decolonize my mind, body and spirit has been revolutionary to my personal development. Additionally, as I am in the process of decolonizing myself, I realize the issues within the Latinx community, such as how mestizaje/Latinidad are rooted in anti-Blackness and anti-Indigeneity. Consequently, I dedicate myself to undo these structures and dismantle white supremacy in every way it manifests itself as a means to not only liberate myself, but others. Growing up in a predominately white, rich town of South Carolina lead me to undervalue and underestimate myself as a person and student. But I didn’t realize this until I left my hometown and came to college, which exposed me to different types of people and knowledge. I aim to undo that lifelong influence. Although I am a victim of racist attitudes, behaviors, comments and subject to stereotypes, none of that takes away my agency from navigating and operating in the world. If anything, my identity as a Latinx woman has helped mold what my position is in the strive for social justice thereby directing what I need to do to help. Being Latinx is a source of empowerment, cultural enrichment and overall, ambition and compassion for my own community and others.

Has there been any challenge on UVA grounds in regard of your
Latinx identity? If so, how did you handle it?

The main challenges have consistently been the only Latinx woman of color in classes, which unfortunately occurs too frequently, and hearing microaggressions/being surrounded by hate, particularly after August 11th and August 12th [the anniversary dates of the nazi rallys on UVA grounds]. I mitigate this by surrounding myself the people I feel the safest and most welcomed by: People of Color and white allies (although I don’t have too many). Having that support system makes everything bad about UVA more bearable and opens opportunities for action.

For young Latinxs, what resources do you recommend (or think
are missing) for the youth of our community?

Anything surrounding mental health should be utilized whether it’s community support groups or individualized counseling – both of which can be found for free courtesy of great organizations in Charlottesville. Unfortunately, mental health is so stigmatized within the Latinx community that it often stops people from investing in themselves. A culture narrative shift needs to occur. Don’t feel ashamed whatsoever. Additionally, I’d recommend becoming acquainted and involved with other marginalized communities to build solidarity. Solidarity amongst all marginalized communities is the best and only way towards liberation. Everyone’s liberation struggles are interconnected and possessing an intersectional perspective will help achieve that.

What are other ways you would like to be involved in your community?

Mentoring those younger than me, becoming a mentee under those older than me and becoming best friends and a source of support with/for anyone I meet in the community. Any extension of what I am able to do is always up to share with others whether it’s sharing my knowledge of English, college resources, or teaching folx how to draw/paint/take photos, etc.

What are some other goals you have?

In terms of goals post-UVA, it’s a little up in the air but in general I would like to continue academia, particularly law school to practice immigration law. As a whole, however, my goal is to make my family proud and support them in the best capacity I can. I aspire to uplift my family and became an example of success for my little nieces and nephews. I want my family to feel like their sacrifices were worth making while also acknowledging, respecting and loving myself unconditionally. Happiness and vitality are the end goal.

What message would you like to share with other Latinx people
your age (or younger)?

I have multiple messages:
Your identity as Latinx is not a determinant of your success! Although much easier said than done, internalizing negative messages about yourself can take a toll on you and subject you to stereotype threat—do your best to keep it pushing! You are just as deserving, intelligent and worthy as others. Being Latinx doesn’t affect that all, regardless of what anyone says.
Open your mind before your mouth – this has been a lifelong motto for me, which has consistently improved my way of thinking, my interactions with people and my comprehension of the world around me. People around all of us are valuable in every way and listening to what they say and engaging with an open is critical in growing as a thinker, student and overall person. Unfortunately, a lot of people speak without knowing what they’re saying—don’t be that person, it’s not cute.
Be kind and sincere. To yourself and to other people. Life is short.
Be patient with yourself and your surroundings—good things are coming!

Click here to read May 2019 Newsletter.

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