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Community Involvement Activity: Yo Soy Latina

I attended the theater production of Yo Soy Latina on Friday, February 17th at 8pm. The performance was held at the New Theatre in the theatre district of downtown New Brunswick. The performance was just under three hours long with no intermission.

Yo Soy Latina, is a story based on six Latina women who meet while attending a workshop on "What it is to be Latina". These women are each from a different cultural background: Nuyorican, Mexican-American, Colombian, Panamanian, Dominican, and Cuban. The story takes place in a park where the six women are waiting for the workshop's facilitator to arrive. As the women continue to wait for the facilitator to show up they begin talking to one another and sharing stories about their childhood, cultures, and other experiences based on their ethnicity. Eventually the women realize that facilitator isn't going to show up and begin discussing the topic of "What is Latina" amongst them. During there discussion they talk about what it means to be Latina from an individual perspective, and the hardships they've had to endure because they are Latina. For example one of the women was an actress who couldn't land roles playing a Latina because her skin was "too light", or another woman whose family became prejudice against her for marrying interracially. The discussion also leads the women to realize the own racists views about each others culture as one of the women has to defend being Latina because she is part Irish. In the end the women found the one thing they all had in common, which was their abeulitas, and the source of strength they provided for them.

. I didn't know what to expect before going to see this show, I had never heard of it before, and only attended because it was a class requirement. However I really enjoyed Yo Soy Latina, and was surprised by how it made me think about society and race. The play touched on many different aspects of racism experienced by these women due to their Latina heritage. One of the things that interested me the most about the play was the inner-racism among the Latina community. As the women discussed different aspects about their respective cultures the stereotypical beliefs they held about one another surfaced. Being white I realized that I had never experienced racism from other members of my race. That isn't to say that I haven't been made fun of or discriminated in some way, but it has never been because I white. I never really thought about the fact that some minorities not only experience discrimination from other races, but also from within their own. Imagining how difficult that has to be, made feel privileged to be white and not having to fear discrimination from within my own race.

Yo soy Latina also made me think about how large of a role racism plays in today's society. Throughout the performance the women recalled their experiences in society of being Latina and how much it affects their lives. It seemed that racism affected all aspects of their lives whether it was their families, jobs, or social lives. Prior to seeing this performance I never really thought about racism on the personal level, but always son the larger level. I would think about things such as affirmative action, slavery, immigration, and other larger levels of racism. I always thought that personal incidents of racism were isolated events that rarely happened, never thinking how it affects people every single day of their life. Especially from the people one would never expect such as their families and member of the community.

Yo Soy Latina made me reconsider my views about racism much like our class discussions on racism. In both instances racism was shown from the personnel level, and while listening to the stories being told I found myself questioning my own views and beliefs. This performance also made me think about white privilege and how I never realized how so many simple things are easier for me because of my race. I do not have to worry about discrimination from my own race, or whether or not I will get a job based in the color of my skin. Both this play and our class have opened my eyes to the extent that certain social factors such as classism, sexism, and racism play such large role in society.

Community Involvement Activity: Swim Lessons

As part of our community involvement activity, I helped organize and direct a free swimming lesson at the Brigantine Aquatic Center, in Brigantine, NJ on April 8th 2006. The entire program last for approximately four hours. I decided to organize this event for several reasons. I have been a lifeguard and taught swim lessons for the past eight summers and it's something that I look forward to every year. Teaching swim lessons every summer I noticed a lot of the kids didn't swim over the winter, and therefore had to repeat the same class as last summer. It's hard to put a kid in a remedial swim lesson and than hear their friends tease them for not moving up with them. Because of this and the fact that many kids go on vacation over spring break, I decided to hold a "refresher" swim lesson for the kids the weekend before spring break.

I got the idea to hold this event right after returning from my own spring break vacation. While I was away in Acapulco I noticed a lot of people either couldn't swim or didn't seem to be comfortable in the water. This made me think of swim lessons, and how grateful I am that I know how to swim. When I got home that weekend I called my lieutenant and presented him with the idea and took it from there. I contacted the Aquatic Center and fortunately there were no events scheduled for that Saturday after twelve. From there we decided that since a lot of the families had kids in separate lessons that we would offer four, forty five minute lessons for each class. This way proved to be the most convenient, as we would have four classes being held at once, each at a different skill level. After making the schedule we than called each parent from last summers roster and informed them about the program. Since Brigantine is such a small island and this wasn't an official beach patrol event, we decided that this was sufficient and advertising in the local paper wasn't necessary. We honestly didn't really expect much of a turn out, and thought we'd spend most of the day catching up, rather than teaching.

When April 8th arrived I found myself unusually nervous. I was anxious for it to be twelve to see if anyone was actually going to attend. To my surprise we had almost one hundred kids show up

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