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 Saint Avenue
Part 3 of what is now a 4 Part Series on young, Black entrepreneurs. Walked away from this one feeling motivated and ready to manifest whatever is next. Thank you to LaStar for sharing his experiences and wisdom.
Brown Girl Talks to Mike Neal
This is Part 2 of a 3 Part series on young, Black entrepreneurs. On this episode, I have a chat with former Green Bay Packer, Michael Neal. Mike talks to us about his experience leading up to the NFL through his retirement from the Pack. Take a listen for an inside look of life in the league and beyond.
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!
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.”
I am the Sun
Every year I get the Birthday Blues. It never fails. I know some people get so hype and litty every year when their birthdays roll around, but me I get the birthday blues. It’s a combination of anxiety and nervousness of having everyone LOOKING at me and engaging with me that gives me a dread that I can only describe as such, the ol’ Birthday Blues.
Over the years I think I narrowed the reason why birthdays get me down: a new year for me always marks looking back on the year before and constantly comparing myself to, myself. What did I do? What did I accomplish? Am I where I wanted to be? Did I achieve the goals I set out for myself last year? Normally, the answer is no or not quite. And every year, like clock work, I have to re-set those goals, re-evaluate why I didn’t get to where I wanted to be and come face to face with some failures–eesh even writing that sentence gave me anxiety… Then, just like I always do, I set some new goals, re-set some old ones and try to remind myself I’m not a complete waste of space for having to re-set the old ones I didn’t accomplish. A constant comparison with myself and everyone else who has ever turned my age before me. So yeah, I guess it’s safe to say I get the Birthday Blues.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I love birthdays, my best friends’, my family members’, my partner’s-I love to celebrate them. Even preparing for mine is fun it’s just THAT day, the day of reckoning or celebration (as some may call it), the day of the party, the actual day when all the attention is on me, is overwhelming. But, this year I didn’t quite get the same feelings of dread. Maybe because I was too busy doing 1 million other things, but I didn’t feel that same “oh god I have to sit down and look at all my failures again,” feeling and for once the only thing that gave me anxiety was that I was going to be 31 and how I hoped that no one would make the restaurant staff sing to me at dinner this week…
I realized that all these years I’ve been constantly competing with myself. Every year I set the bar higher, do more, do better, be more efficient, work, volunteer, write, research, find my passion, pay off my debts, let go of the weights in my past, love harder, be kinder but remain steadfast. It’s like me and my goals are flying around in space rotating around the perfect “BGT” trying to get sucked into her gravitational pull to find some kind of order… So, naturally every year, I let myself down when I don’t achieve all of these crazy benchmarks, and me and my crazy goals are spiraling out of control in space, but not this year.
See this year, I realized I’m the Sun. Me, this BGT is the Sun, and I’m not waiting to join anyone’s imaginary gravitational pull, because it turns out, I am the pull. This year I am praising myself for every single accomplishment and failure and I’m equally proud of them all. I am happy to be in love with someone who only expects love in return. I am lucky to have dog that’s 11 but is confused for 5. I am privileged to have a family that loves and supports me despite my flaws. This year, I am walking into 31 leaving behind a past that I thought would have it’s grasp on me forever. I feel lighter than any goal weight I’ve ever set for myself. I found my voice and wasn’t embarrassed to share it with anyone and everyone who was willing (or not) to listen or read it. I am working everyday to find my passion and enjoying some laughs along the way. I am using new found time at home to write and research more and I’ve never felt more invigorated to work towards change of all kinds. Every day, I’m trying really, really hard to be kinder while maintaining my passion and steadfastness and hey I have a little less debt than last year too… I guess that’s what happens when you turn 31 and realize you are the Sun. 🙂