Tuesday, November 19, 2013

I'm learning...

Sometimes it doesn't all need to make sense.

Or be comfortable.

Sometimes it's enough that we can be happy with what is happening and where we are and just feeling everything around you in a moment where it's more important that you are and can be alive than really... anything else.

Friday, October 11, 2013

And in the collection of answers I will probably omit when someone asks me what I do "for fun..."

I started reading an informal history of New York's criminal organizations around the 19th and early 20th centuries and while I've been reading I am plugging points and important streets into the maps, looking for (and definitely noticing) trends.

It's especially interesting to see how some of the sites, the old five points area, have been reclaimed by the "justice system" to carry out their services in the city. Some of the old streets that housed the public squares where all the "action took place" have been renamed, done over and left to be forgotten. But the Paradise Square lay out is still there underneath it all.

Fascinating. I'm going to explore it and see where things are still nicely present and/or weeded out by new city development. It's especially interesting to read old guidebooks describe the secret "glimpses" of old pubs and housing that exist under new, more modern buildings and establishments...

Or the ones that were reclaimed by different groups moving all the way into the 1980s...

In case you're curious, go check some of this out. (Alternative tourism at its finest)

Wednesday, September 25, 2013


“Once social change begins, it cannot be

reversed. You cannot un-educate the 

person who has 

learned to read. You cannot humiliate

the person who feels pride. You cannot 

oppress the people

who are not afraid anymore.” -

Cesar Chavez

Streetlights and perspective.

Some decisions come to me like someone sneaking up behind you. You can hear the nylon of their jacket rubbing together, getting closer and closer to you until you turn around. There is no violence. Just that moment where you are staring at each other, too close for comfort. And you let go.

And in that way, I am letting go on my 4 month project. It was full of love and passion when it was just me and Tiff. When it was exactly what every TEDx project should be: a learning experience, interesting new conversations and hope. The relationship lost that beautiful, promising glow when it was bogged down in partnerships, stalled relationships and too much time taken for things other than working with our speakers.

As I find peace in letting go of this project, just when it was clearly not where I am supposed to be right now, I reread and remember:

"If you look straight ahead at nighttime, the brightest things you see are the streetlight, or the porch light, or the car light. Because of the curious urban phenomenon of light pollution, these appear to be the only lights around. But step outside the city and then look up—and you see the fires that have forever made mankind dream. Stars.

In the dim haze of city lights, we can lose sight of the things above us. As a result, it’s easy to settle for the things directly in front of us. It’s easy to settle for the streetlight or the porch light or the car light; that is, it’s easy to settle for the things practically being handed to us after graduating from this place: creature comfort, a good reputation, a cozy paycheck. I don’t mean to say these things are bad—streetlights are good, especially in New Haven—but the difficulty always lies not so much in separating the bad from the good, but the good from the best. The dim haze of the merely good can crowd out the truly high, bright, and beautiful. And we guard against this—because a streetlight, as it were, can’t hold a candle to stars.

So you and I—let’s continue to look up. Let’s seek out the things bright enough to live for: a world of wonder, the world through which the life found looking in will walk alongside the lives found looking out. "

--- all credit to:
Yena Lee
Yale 2012
Princeton Ph.D Candidate

Saturday, August 24, 2013


The wandering has begun. I finished my time with the TED content team, and now I'm in Boston for a few days working on some research and finishing a project proposal to launch next week before I head to London and Turkey to connect with some interesting people and new projects.

I have never been very good at the "relaxed" vacation... I think part of it is that I remember days based on the cool things I was working on at the time. It's a celebration of time, as I see it.

This is my plan to actually sort of relax and make the most out of my vacation time until I start working at Locus. The goals go as follows:

1) Make time to write. Every single day.
Even if this means just for myself in the privacy of the notebooks that I sketch out ideas for articles and blog posts next to my grocery lists or my hardbound journal, I need to do more of it. It's centering and helps me think through things that might be floating in bits and pieces around other parts of my mind. I also need to spend a little more time blogging because... well I've missed it.

2) Reading Books. Not just articles and blogs and emails and everything else I read on a daily basis.
I love the fast information and touches into different things I can get through articles, but it will never replace the longer mental conversations that we have with characters in books when we really sit down and engage with the author. I honestly do think that my writing has improved because I read as much as I do for fun. (Not just because I have to!) Plus, it's really the sign of a vacation for me when I can close my laptop for a while and just read something unrelated to my research because I want to.

3) Go for long walks just to see things in New York => Boston => London => Istanbul => Bodrum.
I think this ties in a bit with the hypothetical love child of the "solo" trip I took in the woods for a few short hours my freshman year of high school and my desire to fill a notebook with ideas, vignettes of narratives I'm thinking about, and weird research thoughts. The solo trip was one where my high school planted us together in the woods for two weeks, and we had an option to be dropped off alone somewhere in the woods for series of hours and entertain ourselves. As someone who falls between the Introvert and the Extrovert on that scale (speaking of which, interesting thoughts), this was wonderful and terrible at the same time. I love the energy of being around people, but often crave alone time to draw out my thoughts into tangible language. I had a notebook and all the time in the world.

4) Take the train to every corner of Manhattan (then I will move on to Brooklyn)
(Fairly straightforward, but promises some interesting experiences)

5) Go back to my creative projects.
Though most people don't know this, I do some work in jewelry design on the side. I need to go back through my boxes and do some work with the beads and other materials that I have been saving for some time... good time for me to get back in touch with some people I've sold to before and make some extra cash!


6) Work on TEDx. All day every day. (Which always makes me happy!)

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Why We Write Letters.

I read an article recently that talked about the merits of writing letters as part of building your narrative on specific chapters of life. (It was especially pleasant to think about it that way after listening to talks like this about internet tattoos and all of the recent scandals about leaked emails etc.) Yes, my life and activities are being recorded to some extent through facebook and twitter, online purchases, credit cards, online bank transactions... All of these mediums.

But I also have the option to hand write letters that will fade with time, lose their meaning to anyone except the recipient... but they are beautiful because they make time seem more tangible. Instead of forever, we have the chance to make something that will fade with memories.

Society might be pushing towards immortality -- how will I be remembered? What can I leave behind to keep people thinking about me?

But I crave something tangible. Something with a real time line.

And for me, that is a letter. So intimate, you can imagine the brush that someone's hand has over the paper as they write.

For me, it means I have a box of letters sitting in the corner of my apartment that was waiting for an address until yesterday.

Letters suddenly mean a lot more when they become the only option. The life line to a friend so far away. And right now, they are. So my days are poured into words that clunk and don't fit as well as the experience itself, but we make the effort to recreate and remember these chapters, these moments, to share them when it matters most.

And as I send them all off tomorrow, I'm sending a piece of my memories as I lived them, to someone who matters most.

In defense, here is a TED talk!

Friday, July 26, 2013

How do I talk about race?

How do I talk about race?

Much of my life has been a racial identity crisis. I was born in Mexico and came to this country as an immigrant. I am also mixed race, so my nearly “blond” hair blends in better in the United States than it ever did in Mexico City. I grew up in the Boston area, surrounded by people who accepted my two completely different last names, and perhaps identities, without question. It didn’t matter where I had come from, just that I was there.
I was only vaguely aware of how easy it was for me to walk into almost any place in Boston and feel at home. When my parents were working really late and needed me to find somewhere to entertain myself until they were ready to go home, I could walk into a hotel and sit in the lobby reading for hours without being bothered. “Just walk in and act like you are supposed to be there,” my dad told me once. And it worked — because I blend in easily. This is not a reality for a lot of people.
While my parents encouraged me to speak up in class, be vocal and defend my opinions politically and socially, many other immigrant students lived quietly in limbo with seemingly fewer options as they got older. I was comfortable sharing my story as an immigrant, despite all the layers that came with it. But I never experienced the sting of rejection or judgement. Around my American classmates, they looked at me and saw someone that they recognized as another generic looking “American.”
What does it mean to “blend in?” Sometimes it’s the unspoken but necessary factor in making your case when you meet strangers. Can they connect with you? Can they imagine you being a daughter, a neighbor, a sister or girlfriend or friend?
Sometimes, whether we acknowledge it or not, we stop listening when the story is too far beyond anything that we can imagine happening in our own lives, right?
In the eyes of the public, and even my community, I am white. My race only comes up at certain times: When a friend has had too much to drink and asks me why I still identify as a Mexican even though I haven’t lived there for years and look just like “everyone else here.” It comes up whenever I correct the pronunciation of my name – Dee-ah-nah… not Die-ann or Die-ann-uh.
It came up when I visited friends who look more stereotypically Mexican than I do. Society sees them as Latino, the kind of Latino that politicians flash on the screen during their speeches in Miami Dade, Bridgeport, Connecticut or Texan political rallies.
It came up when I went shopping with a friend and the saleswoman followed him around with her eyes, looking uncomfortable, but let me wander around on my own without more than a nod of her head in acknowledgement.
The definition that society uses for “Diana” is not the same one I would choose. But it is a definition that has fundamentally shaped my experience as a Latina in this country. It is unique to me and cannot be used to generalize the “Latino experience” in the United States. While there were some experiences that I share with other Latinos, I will never completely understand the experience that other students, who look more stereotypically Latino, face on a regular basis.
There are days when people will listen to my story and my reasons for fighting for immigration reform and it will mean something to them. And there are other days I go to other communities who look at me and don’t see themselves in my face and my skin and my story. Race is a factor in our experiences, whether at home or away.
I notice it most when it comes to politics. When I am trying to address a room full of people who all have a different concept of what the “American experience” really feels like. As an activist, I am constantly struggling to find the right language to get my message across. I’m working on finding that balance between my personal experiences and a more inclusive message.
Original copy posted on Interrupt Mag