So lucky to have been given the opportunity to have a sit down with a REAL Chingona, Samara Mejia Hernandez. Chingona Ventures is a venture capitalist firm that invests in companies that may not look like your typical investment. This firm is helping change the way the we see VCs and what investing in founders looks like. Please take some time to listen to all of the gems Samara had to share and remember when all else fails just ask yourself, “What would a white, privileged man do?”
The power of a choice
As I sit on the eve of what is my 3rd miscarriage this year I can’t help but ask myself-is this my punishment? Is there truly some omnipotent presence that is punishing me for my choices to not become a parent earlier in life?
Did choosing my youth and my career lead me on this path of heartbreak and tragedy? Am I being shunned for having chosen myself? Will this be for evermore?
It’s not lost on me that I am privileged to have had the choice to end my pregnancies safely and with dignity – a choice so many women no longer have.
While I’m vehemently against women re-living their trauma to justify why affording them basic healthcare is the right thing to do, I offer this as a preemptive explanation of my indifference. My piece de resistance articulating why I am no longer entertaining niceties. My line in the sand explaining that I will no longer tolerate my own dehumanization in the name of maintaining appearances.
Like so many political topics/smoke bombs/“are we really going to let this end our friendship arguments” this isn’t political, it’s a personal reality. It is a tangible consequence that will and has changed the course of women’s lives forever, based solely on their geographical location–as it has mine.
Choice is not a made up concept–like a theoretical tax break that can grow an easily manipulated economy and stock market. It’s not an abstract goal that some day may apply to you.
My choices allowed me to finish high school, graduate college, graduate law school and pass the bar all while not having to be a parent too. My choices allowed me to establish an exemplary career. My choices afforded me the opportunity to choose myself 100 times over with absolutely no regret, not even after this marred journey.
My choices allowed me to finish my miscarriage in a reputible medical facility when the medication didn’t work. It allowed me to miscarry the second time with dignity, in the comfort of my home and with the support of my husband. Knowing each time I could seek out medical care at any moment if I felt unsafe, without the fear of legal repercussions. A decision, riddled in tears and heartbreak but made privateIy with my supportive medical provider.
My State protects my ability to seek out further fertility treatments and provides me the opportunity to test embryos before implantation. A step that helps reduce miscarriage by over 70% in those with recurrent losses. A nuance that is so often lost in this debate. A choice to start a healthy family, limited by a zip-code.
My choices have changed the trajectory of my life, for the rest of my life. And the best thing about these choices is you’d never know I made them unless you’re reading this. There was no change to your tax bracket, your ability to be gainfully employed or your decision to create your own family. Yet somehow, many of you put all of those things ahead of my ability to have a choice.
After every unsuccessful pregnancy I struggle with the “why” that I then immediately have to reconcile with the tremendous amount of gratitude I feel. I’m lucky enough to know I have options that are readily available without having to drive to another state or be fearful of criminal consequences. While, I’m aware I don’t speak for all women, I can confidently say I speak for the smart ones, the independent thinkers, the ones who aren’t afraid to stand up for their convictions. The dissenters, I ask you to read on.
If you’ve ever said you support the right to choose but (enter qualifying statement here), you’re not pro-choice. If you say you’re pro-choice but also voted for X candidate who didn’t support a federally protected right to choose you are not pro-choice. You are not supporting your friends who deserve an undeniable right to choose, who have exercised their right to choose and you are promoting healthcare disparity. If you abstained from the race or conversation you too bear responsibility for this decision. The good news is, you too have a choice and you can make the right one.
I know if at the end of this road, my choices only bring me my husband and this life I’ve created—they will have been the most worthy choices I ever made. My family, my friendships, my career, my advocacy will all have been worth the heartbreak. My entire life as it exists today was made possible because I was privileged enough to have something as simple as a choice.
The only way to change this is to push those in power to do what is right. Those 70% of you who claimed to support a woman’s choice, don’t always vote that way. So the next time your friends say they support the right to choose but their voting record doesn’t reflect that, don’t sit idly by. The next time YOU visit a voting booth make sure your vote matches what you claim to support.
If you really want to be pro-choice, see below for links to funds, donations to key races, etc.
Brown Girl Talks to MO
On my FINAL episode of young, Black entrepreneurs I finally get a chance to talk the founders of Master of Original! We talk about all things creative and how to take an idea and transform it into a brand. I truly can’t wait to see what’s next for Charles and Kenny, I know their unwavering positivity will only continue to bring the best things to them.
Brown Girl Talks to Asia
This is Part 1 of a 3 Part series of young, Black, entrepreneurs. On this episode, I talk with Asia Carter of Planting Seeds Childcare in Carmel, Indiana. Asia runs more than a daycare, she offers an immersive education to children from ages 2-5 and tells us why this type of education is so important to all children. Thank you to Asia for taking time out of your busy schedule to chat with me!
Brown Girl Talks to Jen
On this episode I talk to Jen Dean, Co-Deputy Director of Chicago Votes. For those of you non-WOC Jen, is an excellent example of how you use your privilege to actually be an ally for POC. We recorded this episode before the Illinois Primary LAST March but I think it’s just as timely TODAY, given the general election is weeks away. If you take anything away from this episode it’s that you MUST VOTE for your issues, even if you don’t love the candidates. It’s the ISSUES that matter and despite the outcome, the issues do not die. So get involved, stay involved and VOTE.
Brown Girl Talks to Black RN
On today’s timely episode, we talk to a Black RN. We talked back in March where he walks us through his new nursing assignment to an ICU Covid floor. I’m happy to report that since recording and posting this episode, him and his entire family remain Covid Free. Thanks to our special guest, for joining us and giving us a first-person account of what’s it’s like to be an essential, healthcare worker during a pandemic. Stay Safe and remember Masks Work!
Brown Girl Talks to Charlie
Charlie talks to us about her experiences being a Queer Black Woman in the health and wellness field, and the work she does, AND SHOULD BE DONE, to show appreciation rather than appropriation.
Women are to be heard
In the last week, there has been an uproar of people opining on what is acceptable for women to: wear, dance and tear up paper in public. This isn’t a new phenomenon but it’s definitely become more brazen in the current climate.
Last weekend there was a huge sporting event on TV. For many it was a historical event, seeing their team win a championship after 50 years. For many others, it was an excuse to eat and drink to their heart’s delight on a Sunday. If you’re anything like me, that game part was the opener for a show with two incredible performers I’ve grown up watching. The first representations in mainstream entertainment of women who looked like me, spoke like me and danced to music I heard pumping through my house growing up. One of which I’ve been compared to in what was supposed to be in an insult. Joke’s on him now I suppose, considering Jenny from the Block just headlined the Super Bowl.
The following Tuesday the State of the Union was on and a few Congresswomen decided to sit it out. At least one Congressman walked out during it, and one Speaker of the House in suffragette-white ripped up the transcript. All while the chamber clapped for the impeached president who twisted facts and lied straight to everyone’s face.
Now on Tuesday, the pubic was still reeling from the indecent, over-sexualized half time show. The countless comments I saw riddled with racism and sexism hidden in what can only be described as a “pearl clutch,” were not surprising. But, considering we saw two women in their 40’s and 50’s put on a 15 minute show which was intertwined with political statements and messages of embracing who you are and where you’re from, the issue people were stuck on was what they were wearing and the languages they were singing. The two women were dressed “scantily, ” “provocatively” dancing and singing in Spanish on national TV for what was supposed to be a family-friendly show. The Karens’ general responses were “how dare they!”
I’ll start by saying, I’m not sure why in 2020 we still think it’s OK to police what anyone wears and then proceed to judge them by it but it’s clear that this outrage doesn’t apply to everyone equally. This uproar didn’t exist when Adam Levine took his shirt off last year–and we saw BOTH his nipples–or when Lady Gaga dropped into the stadium in what was effectively her bra and underwear. I can’t recall seeing one instance on how either of those performances weren’t “wholesome.” There seems to be a few common denominators here though and you don’t have to be a genius to see them.
Now comes Nancy…she extends a hand to a man she’s lead a successful impeachment campaign against–more than most of us would do in her position–and is snubbed. She then sits and listens to him twist facts, like claiming that there are less people on government aid, which although true but only because his administration’s new regulations have kicked a historic amount of people off of them not because people have progressed enough to no longer need them. Sorry just to clarify here; yes, the poor, disabled and least capable of our society were kicked off of benefits which he touted as a win for his administration at the SOTU. So, she did what no Republican senator or congressperson has had the balls to do through this administration, she sent a message of resistance, reminding this country yet again that this is not normal.
Next we have AOC (Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez) who immediately following the SOTU takes to Instagram live to explain her absence and answer any questions people (not just her constituents) may have had following the SOTU. Again, actively taking a step of resistance and repeating to whomever was tuning in that this administration is not normal. All while comments were flying in insulting her looks and intelligence.
But, what did people take from these things? Well if you take the time to watch any sort of media coverage or social media postings, you’ll see the criticism is centered around around how these women look or plain and simple, calling them dumb. I’m all for having an opinion but to criticize someone based on appearance and intellect (for which there is no foundation) does not an opinion make.
Personally, I see these comments come mostly from men, and of course the compliant women and it makes me wonder, who made you believe that you’re opinion matters or that anyone besides you needs to hear it? Frankly, I want to know why and honestly come back with that amount of blind confidence in my next life.
One thing is for sure, there is a group of embolden people who are loud and crass and finally feel like they can say and do what they want with no consequences. This is why we see men (and women) openly mocking Sunday’s performers and our representatives using only insults based on opinions that are irrelevant to the issues at hand and based purely on conjecture.
Whether someone’s looks tickle your fancy has no bearing on their ability to do their job competently and effectively, but we have lowered the bar so much as to what are acceptable, valid arguments that now insults pass as facts. So much so, that representatives themselves have taken to using insults as viable arguments too. Just watch a certain news source and every time the broadcaster states an opinion as fact, take a shot–kidding! Alcohol poisoning is real yall!! But yes, watch it–in no more than 10 minute increments or else you’ll actually be driven to drink–and pay attention to the facts, you’ll be baffled by the little amount you actually hear.
I for one no longer engage. I don’t warrant it with a response and if I am in a situation where I have to engage with someone who thinks insults can be used in an argument, I raise the bar. I call out opinions being used as facts and I press people for why they hold those opinions in the first place. Why do two Latina women dancing to the music of their culture in outfits of their choosing matter to you at all? Why do you think it’s bad? Is it because your afraid that your kids who were watching will want to grow up to have rhythm? I suppose THAT can be a scary concept…
Why does it bother you when representatives who were voted into their positions to represent their constituents do what is best for those people? Why does relying on facts instead of opinions seem like such an impossible task? Why do personal insults only get whirled against a person when it’s a women?
I’ve boiled it down to this. They like to SEE women. No, they LOVE to see women. They love it so much that they’ll sometimes pay them to be in their presence. They love when women fit the mold that we have in our heads as “good.” But the moment a woman steps out of that mold, there is a sudden sense of betrayal because the power structure they have grown so accustomed to is being threatened.
So the truth is, they love to SEE women and be with women as long as they have the upper hand, but the moment women step out of line they must immediately be reminded who’s in charge. And how do they do that? Well they criticize a woman’s appearance and intelligence because the truth of the matter is when someone feels threatened they take low blows, because frankly, there’s nothing of quality to criticize or argue with.
As a woman I know you’d rather we’d just be seen and not heard. But it’s impossible for me. See, I was once told I have a Jenny from the Block attitude that I needed to grow out of, which as you can see has only gotten worse–better? Then, I saw Jenny from the Block headline a show with Shakira at the Super Bowl last week. Then I saw Speaker Pelosi display a BIG MOOD on national TV. Later on I heard AOC continue to remind us this is not normal all while being called dumb and ugly on Instagram live. So, we can’t just be seen anymore, and it would behoove you to catch up before we move the bar so high that no amount of low blows could help you.
The Real Truth About Loss
Let me preface this, I don’t know the WHOLE truth about loss. Frankly, I’m not even entirely sure what MY truth about loss is but I’ve been spending the last few weeks really trying to figure it out. On June 21st, 2019, I lost something that was so much a part of me that I’m pretty sure a part of me left with him and since then, time has flown by but seemingly stood still. I’ve drafted so many different explanations and justifications for what I was feeling and how I was coping so that my friends, my family and everyone else could understand me. But, despite all these drafts, I haven’t finished any of them. The thing is I haven’t been able to get to the ending. I haven’t been able to write the conclusion, to tie it up in a nice little bow, and although I’ve heard it doesn’t always have to end that way, I can’t figure out how to stop writing without it.
Let me start at the beginning and throw it back to about eleven years ago. I was a few weeks from 21, living on the 4th floor of a Chicago flat with three of my college girlfriends and I decided I was getting a dog. Our lease specifically said “no dogs,” but I got him anyway. See, from the moment I saw the goofy brindle puppy that wasn’t quick enough to keep up with his brothers and sisters, tripping over his own paws and wanted nothing to do with me, I was hooked. What can I say? Me gusta la mala vida. I knew the clumsy, not into people, would rather be alone, pup was made for me. And if there’s one thing I know the real truth about
–it’s that he was in fact made for me, by science, evolution or whatever God you believe in, me and him were meant to find each other.
Through undergrad, law school, the bar and my first years of practice he remained my loyal constant. One house and 5 apartments later, he didn’t care if it was acres of grass to run freely or an apartment with no air conditioning, he was with me as long as I was with him.
He listened faithfully to my early 20’s drama and my late 20’s fears and constant second-guessing. He never walked away or chose someone else and always met me excitedly when I got home. I had no idea what I was doing and made most things up as we went, but he trusted I’d figure it out–and if he ever doubted me, he never let on.
I taught him to nap like your life depended on it, and he reminded me to get up, get some fresh air and have a meal and some water. He inherited my hate for the cold and the rain and refused to leave the house if there was even a threat of precipitation, I admired his commitment. He taught me patience and the importance of finding the ray of sun shining through the curtains even on the rainiest of days, and I tried to remember to embrace that point of view. I showed him the importance of a warm bath and a good towel dry, he made the shower his favorite spot when he needed some alone time. I moved, he came with. I was scared to jump, he reminded me I wasn’t alone. I was nervous about moving to a new neighborhood–5 different times–he never let me walk alone. I told him all of my secrets and he saw all of my mistakes and short-comings and chose me anyway. I wasn’t sure if my boyfriend would fit in with our life, he showed me you’re never too old to make a new friend. I was always afraid I’d end up alone, he stayed with me until he made sure I wasn’t. He got sick and we tried to get him better, really hard. He showed me he couldn’t do it and about 2 months ago, we all said goodbye.
I don’t know the truth about loss, but I know that losing him was the rock bottom of a place I haven’t seen in a while. I’m not sure what your truth about loss is, but I know mine makes everything a shade of grey, sounds like Charlie Brown’s teacher and feels numb and outrageously heavy all at the same time. I know mine makes it hard for me to feel anything that doesn’t drag me down and I know that I’ve never gotten through mine without my buddy by my side.
I know that this time it feels heavier, darker and more hopeless than before. I know that it feels scary and unsteady and makes me question every thought and decision. I know that it feels terribly lonely when I open the door, walk to my bed or remember there’s no one at home waiting for a walk. I know that I work more, drag out my days and avoid being home alone as much as I can. I know I feel cheated and lonely that I can’t share my day with my friend. I know that no matter how many examples I write or stories I tell, that no one will ever understand the emptiness I feel. I don’t know about you, but the truth about my loss is that it’s still very much here.
I know he was more than a companion or a friend. I know he was more than a pet and I his owner. I know now that I don’t have to justify this undefinable connection to anyone. I know the truth about him was, that I’d do it all over again. I know that he was the only decision 21 year-old me made that 31 year-old me doesn’t regret.
I don’t know the truth about your loss, and I guess I don’t know the real truth about loss either. I know my truth. I know it’s heavy and dark and sometimes feels like quicksand if I let myself be still for too long. I know I’ll always expect to hear your paws when I open a door. I’ll expect to see you staring back at me from across the room. I’ll always expect to see you sitting patiently waiting for your food. I’ll always anticipate you jumping up between my legs to find the perfect spot like you were still 10 weeks old. I know I’ll miss the one that taught me to be selfless, the one who taught me what true, unconditional love was, the one that always found the ray of sunshine peaking through everyday.
As you can see, I have been getting to know the truth about my loss pretty well. I know it was hidden in 70 pounds of brindle fur, a line of chalk on the wet pavement that was his forehead to his nose, a hearty dash of patience for kids, a sprinkle of protectiveness, a healthy scoop of love of a warm shower and equal amounts addiction to the filet your dog dad would make for dinner. My loss manifested when the one who always followed me to bed, never walked too far ahead and never missed a Saturday Snooze suddenly up and left.
I’m not sure what the truth about loss is. I don’t know how long it lasts, if it gets better, easier, more forgettable, less painful, brighter, less numb, more open, lighter, less suffocating, more smiley, and less randomly cry-y. I know it’s made me question a million times over if I made the right decision at the right time. I know I’m not sure if you appreciated or hated the effort in the end and I can’t stop asking myself if you heard all of the things I was thanking you for in my head when I held you as you passed.
Truthfully, I only know things about MY loss. The truth is I’m not sure if I’ll ever find the place to put the perfectly tied bow to wrap up your story. But I think that’s fitting, because your life will live on in me because without you, I wouldn’t be 31 year-old me. As I told you for 11 years, “If there’s a life after this one, I promise I will find you there too,” because the truth about my loss is that my heart will always look for you and hanging on to that piece of hope is going to have to be the perfectly, tied bow.
My Dad is NOT a Feminist
My dad is not a feminist. His sole use for a stove is to light his cigarettes. He only uses our microwave to warm his coffee. Other than that, unless it involves fixing them, he wants nothing to do with either. He recently learned how to use the coffeemaker but regularly forgets to change the grounds when making a new pot. He calls grown women “girl” in English but “señorita” in Spanish—it’s probably a translation thing, but the truth is my dad could care less about the difference because in his own words, he is not a feminist. He once told me I wasn’t ready to get married because I made a pasta dish that tasted awful. He ate it anyway, but see, he’s not a feminist. He won’t eat his meals unless it’s served for him, warm not hot, with a napkin, a drink, room for his toothpick and the necessary utensils. He won’t make himself a sandwich and doesn’t do laundry because, well, he is not a feminist. When my mom and I went to Europe for two weeks he went to my Grandma’s house every evening for dinner and had my uncle order him lunch every day at work—he did make his own coffee—but don’t be confused, he’s still not a feminist.
My first job was as his assistant mechanic, handing him tools and letting the air out of tires. My wage was 2 dollars a day and lunch. He taught me how to hold the flashlight at the perfect angle, the name of all the tools—in Spanish—and how to use them. He let me get dirty at the shop and pretended I was helping instead of getting in the way. All through my childhood he wouldn’t leave my brother and I home alone or with a baby sitter on Saturdays. He made us go to work with him and my mom so we could at the very least be together in the same place for a full day. But way back then even, he was never a feminist.
He pulled me out of ESL classes and made me bring my math book home on Fridays so he could teach me the lessons ahead of time. See according to him, math was important especially for a girl, but he wouldn’t say this kind of thinking was feminist. I hope he never sees me try to split a bill without a calculator though, he’d shake his head at all the house he spent with me at our kitchen table 😉 He never insisted I learned to clean the house with my mom and grandma’s attention to detail. He never made me stay in the kitchen and learn my mom’s secret to making the perfect rice and salsa. He never kicked me out of the living room when he was watching sports to help the ladies in the kitchen, but don’t be confused, this does not make him a feminist.
He pushed me to focus solely on school and to learn as much as possible from elementary through the bar exam. He never suggested I trade my books for pans and a broom. Although after some failed dinner attempts and a college and law school diet made up of 75% pepperoni pizzas, he probably wishes he had—however, he would never call his failure to domesticate me, feminism.
He taught me how to change a tire, check my air pressure and never miss an oil change. He showed me how to find a stud, use a drill, patch drywall, build furniture without directions and how to go back and fix it when I failed without them…He taught me calluses from work are a good thing and I always feel a little proud whenever I get one on my hand. But…I still wouldn’t say he’s a feminist.
He made me watch the news every night at 9 p.m. to discuss politics and societal issues. He could never understand how women–who make up half of this country’s population–couldn’t seem to unite and stop voting against their own interests since feminism exists. He always said and still says, “how come women don’t realize how powerful they really are?” but he’d never call that kind of ideology feminist.
In high school we had one of many serious conversations telling me he’d rather take me himself to get an abortion than see me give up on my future aspirations. He constantly reminded me how much bigger and better life could be compared to the life I was living then–which was pretty great on its own–and if I just gave myself an opportunity I could go anywhere. He told me how birth control was necessary and effective, but how pregnancy was the least scariest risk of having unprotected sex. He assured me that an abortion is not killing a baby or a sin against “God,” that my future and my life were the most important things to consider. He made it clear, if I ever had to make that decision but didn’t want to tell him that that was ok too, but that he’d always support my, and every woman’s right to choose. He never could quite understand how men thought they could have any say in legislation over a woman’s body. He finds it laughable when lawmakers insist sex is only for procreation and insists that type of thinking might be part of their problem. But even with all of that, I still don’t think he’d call himself a feminist.
He taught me to treat everyone the same from a janitor to a celebrity regardless of race, gender or orientation, that alone though, doesn’t make him a feminist. He explained to me that turning to crime may not always be right but there’s a disproportionate lack of opportunity that plagues black and brown communities, and how that was unfair. So, I should never judge or feel superior because I didn’t have to take that path, but he has never considered himself a feminist or even an activist.
He showed me how to always be aware of your surroundings and keep a car length distance from the car in front of you in case something pops off you always have enough room to make a move. He drilled into my brother and I to keep our hands on the steering wheel if you get pulled over and don’t move without permission. See he always understood we aren’t perceived the same as other people who get pulled over. But I think he would refer to this as survivalism as oppose to anything else.
When my long-term relationship began to fall apart he mostly kept silent. Then one dark night, he held my face and said “this is not love and ending it is not failure, it’s a small price to pay in the long run you’ll see.” And with those words I called off my engagement for good, and he never said a negative thing about it. He probably wouldn’t say he’s a feminist because of that though. He and my mom helped me and Chopper move and furnish the solo apartments that followed and assured me that my new life would be just as happy as the one I left behind, even when it didn’t always look that way. That was no surprise because my mom is indeed a feminist. But, he told me time and time again, that my value wasn’t dictated by a relationship or finding “the one,” but I bet he doesn’t consider that sort of thinking feminist.
He reminded me that anyone can get married but not everyone can finish college and law school and pass the bar and find a job…and raise a 75+ pound pitbull with a bad-itude. He repeated to me that my value is calculated by who I am not who I’m with. He never let me forget that my happiness was dependent on me alone. He never urged me to marry young (or at all), have children or become more domestic. He always encouraged me to take some time to enjoy my life. He always reminded me that time will pass no matter what we do, but enjoying it is what’s important. And see, here is the thing, he taught my brother all those same exact things too.
So yes, my old school, Mexican-accent, toothpick having, atheist believing, refusing to learn how to cook or wash clothes Dad is absolutely without a doubt, not a feminist, and truthfully, at times, he doesn’t even fully grasp racism or sexism. But somewhere in his upbringing he decided to not be a misogynist or a sexist either and because of that he and his wifey/my mom made ME A FEMINIST.
I guess that just goes to show, you don’t have to be a part of the movement to respect it and you certainly don’t have to commit to oppose it simply because you don’t understand it. You can fall sweetly in the middle and still support its cause and goals simply by committing to be a good person.
Note: I wrote letters to my mom and dad as a kid when I felt like I couldn’t express what I wanted to say in person, as I got older when my dad could tell I couldn’t get my words out, he’d ask me to write it to him. It’s been a while since I wrote to him, but I let him read this piece before I posted it–I’ve had some issues in the past in posting things (my thoughts or experiences) without getting the other person(s)’ involved permission–so, I asked if it was OK for me to share. His response was a simple string of texts from my mom’s phone, “of course you can post it, it’s your truth and you always write beautiful words to me, you don’t have to ask for my permission to write about what you feel, by the way this is ur dad.”