Culture

22 #Immigrad Graduation Caps That No Dummy Can Ignore

@mig_sanc / Instagram

Dreamers and Latinx students are graduating college, and graduate programs all across the country this month y la raza is celebrating them. They have something to say about their experience in this America, and we’re here to see how they transform our society and achieve their dreams!

Oh, and they know how to design graduation caps. Mirálo and hear their stories.

1. “Hija de Immigrants”

CREDIT: @roxannatorres / Instagram

Caption: “The violence. The negligence. The alcohol addiction. the school drop outs. Incarceration. Deportation. The sadness. The cycle ENDS here. I did it. WE did it mommy and sibs. My mother was the first to invest in me and my siblings, and for that, I will forever be thankful.”


2. “Job Stealing Mexican.”

CREDIT: @wokevegana / Instagram

Latino enrollment in college is at the highest it’s ever been, and while cost still remains an obstacle for many Latinos, we’re still stealing the show.

3. “I drink and I know things.”

CREDIT: @Tobi_GCJ / Twitter

Some grads decided to tell it like it is on their caps. Y’know, I believe him. I definitely hit the books and bottles equally as hard when I was a college student.

4. “Por ustedes. Para ustedes.”

CREDIT: @talkingtrashley / Instagram

Others used their caps as a way to pay tribute to their community and the people who came before them.

Translation: (Because of) you. For you.

5. For my mother, who crossed borders so that I can be here!

CREDIT: @mig_sanc / Instagram

Caption: “Proud son of immigrants, proud immigrant myself. In only 6 days I will be graduating with the highest honors distinction at Western Oregon University (Summa Cum Laude) with a GPA of 3.92. This has been an adventure full of barriers but after 5 years, I will be able to obtain two degrees (B.S and B.A) with a full ride scholarship that has allowed me to graduate debt free.”

6. “We were born to defeat and not to be defeated.”

CREDIT: @_miichdelriio_ / Instagram

Caption: “One of the parts of my identity that I am most proud of is that I am a 1st generation immigrant. When I came here 20 years ago, my teachers & classmates thought I was mute because for the 1st 6 months of being in the U.S. I refused to speak to anyone unless it was in Spanish. There was a kid that used to tease me for not knowing the language & in very Michelle fashion, some of my 1st words in english were used to defend myself & call him a chicken?

On May 19th, I will graduate with 2 bachelor’s degrees from Southern Methodist University, one of which will be in English, with distinction?✨

This is for my parents. Everything I have accomplished & everything I will continue to accomplish in the future is because of the sacrifices, courage, support, & hard work they have done on behalf of my brothers & I. Who they are & all they do for us is the definition of love.

This is for my people & for all of the oppressed. I will use the opportunities I have been given to fight for us & to create spaces that include and cater to us, especially in the field of mental health as a clinical psychologist.

Congratulations to all graduates of 2018, especially the p.o.c., especially the 1st gens & the children of immigrants. Nacimos para vencer y no para ser vencidos-we were born to defeat & not to be defeated✊???? #latinxgrad#latinxgradcaps”

7. “Paciencia y Fe” plus, un dibujo of her abuelxs :’)

CREDIT: @jmoreyyyno / Instagram

Caption: “5 Years. From being denied in-state tuition, to being a part time student and full time employee + theatre, to being granted in-state tuition and finally attending VCU and learning from one of the top undergrad costume design programs in the country, and finally graduating and attending grad school in the fall. I am thankful for my friends and family, and abuelxs that have always looked over me and encouraged me to continue in my studies. Just 9 more days until graduation. Paciencia y Fe.”

8. Some quoted John Lennon.

CREDIT: @pinchefemenista / Instagram

That line didn’t pack as big a punch as this cap and it’s drawing does though. Just think of all the generational labor it took for every single Latino in the U.S. to be here. And then to graduate college. We owe all this to our antepasados.

9. “Immigrad #HeretoSLAY”

CREDIT: @defineamerican / Instagram

You know how all immigrants are #heretostay? Well these beauty school graduates will also be slaying. Thanks you for making America beautiful again.

10. I would pay MAGA people to have a chat with these wise grads.

CREDIT: @mrsbennifield / Instagram

Here are the rules though:

  1. No yelling.
  2. Use full sentences only.
  3. Don’t be rude.

11. “Before they forget us, we will make history.”

CREDIT: @cristi_0092

And while much of our country is made on the backs of undocumented immigrants, Latinos are finally at the writing table of history. We have to keep supporting our Dreamers, because it looks like there’s still a fight ahead. #Drumpf

12. Of course, la caida de Edgar got a nod on graduation day.

CREDIT: @lazeallday / instagram

Caption: “Had to honor the childhood video that captured my undergrad experience, gracias Edgar ? #LatinxGradCaps”

13. “First my daughters, and now me.”

CREDIT: @natvxo / Instagram

Let’s not forget our less traditional grads. If I had a hat, I’d throw it in air for you, for being a shining example to your daughters and daughters everywhere. ?

14. Many grads were the first in their family to earn a college degree.

CREDIT: @ii.d.a.l.ii_.a / Instagram

Caption: “Master’s degree ✔ Para mis padres. Literally poured my ❤ into this cap. #latinxgrad #latinxgradcaps#primerageneracion #firstgeneration#educatedwoman”

15. And where there is fight, todavía, we find beauty.

CREDIT: @ninashandcrafted / Instagram

Caption: “There’s always beauty in the fight. Thank you to my parents and my loved ones.”

16. “I don’t study to know more, but to ignore less.”

CREDIT: @michiquitatmf / Instagram

Yo no estudio para saber más, sino para ignorar menos. THIS. THIS. THIS. ??

17. Then, there are los mujeres who live to stick it to The Man.

CREDIT: @marianaajimenezz / Instagram

?? WE ?? ARE ?? HERE ?? FOR ?? IT!!

18. Y’know, she asks a very valid question.

CREDIT: @calendow / Instagram

Caption: “To all the #Dreamers, #undocugrads, and #immigrads; to all the children of mixed status families who have crossed borders and are now crossing the stage this weekend, you are what makes this country strong. Your resilience and hard work is resistance. We see you.”

19. “The first, but not the last.”

CREDIT: @workbyav / Instagram

Try to find a grad cap that doesn’t thank their parents. They raised us so well.

… but also, my God, THANK YOU for being the best.

20. “For my parents’ smile, which is worth a million.”

CREDIT: @alems07_ / Twitter

Fun fact: in the last Presidential campaign of which we care not to speak of, Latinos polled education as their #1 special interest.

21. For some, the quinceañera dream never dies.

CREDIT: @salixjade / Twitter

You know her mom whipped out the bedazzle gun in the back of the craft closet for this high school grad. Dream big, girl, get that tiara!

22. We tip our non-grad caps to all the 2018 graduates this year!

CREDIT: @Carofrialine / Twitter

Are you graduating this year? Well, primera, congratulations! We’re here for you and support you and all your wildest dreams. If one of them is to be featured on mitú, we’ll support that too. ??‍♀️

Send us your cap @wearemitu or hashtag #LatinxGradCaps! Buena suerte!

Here’s How You Can Support Your Incarcerated Family Members If You Don’t Know How

Things That Matter

Here’s How You Can Support Your Incarcerated Family Members If You Don’t Know How

Hédi Benyounes / Unsplash

Talking about our primos in prison is taboo. If you ever had a family member in prison, you may avoid talking about it outside your family circle. The incarcerated family member then becomes a ghost, a cautionary tale, or a source of shame. We forget how they arrived in this situation and hesitate to offer support. Looking closely at issues that contribute to mass incarceration in this country can offer insights into the matter. It’s time we take a new approach to incarcerated family, and offer help in ways the correctional system refuses. It’s time to humanize our imprisoned primos and primas, showing love and empathy that we would want to see if we were behind bars.

Considering the U.S. census shows Hispanics make up 18.3 percent of the population, it is bewildering how they come to make up 32 percent of the Federal inmate population.

However, looking at social issues that plague the Latinx community, it is no surprise that low levels of education, poverty, and structural discrimination lead to incarceration. With the latest instances of aggression toward the Latinx community at the presidential level, it will be no surprise if acts of discrimination and targeting of Latinos continues to rise.

What other factors contribute to the incarceration of Latinos?

Credit: Bill Oxford / Unsplash

The Pew Research Center reports that in 1991, 60 percent of Latinos were sentenced in federal court for drug-related offenses, and 20 percent for immigration crimes. Yet, these figures changed dramatically, with 48 percent of sentences for immigration crimes, and 37 percent of sentences for drug-related crimes in 2007.

The incarceration of Latinos is feeding into the conversation around the school to prison pipeline.

Credit: @LatinoPPF / Twitter

What is the prison experience really like? Netflix series like Ava DuVernay’s “When They See Us,” and “Orange is the New Black” help pull back the curtain on the harsh realities of prison life. More than just TV shows, these depictions exposed micro and macro ways the U.S., home to the largest prison population in the world, focuses not on prisoner rehabilitation, but recidivism instead.

When we think about our family members in prison, we need to remember that they could be facing sexual violence, lack of access to mental health services, solitary confinement, and denial of their reproductive rights.

Credit: Mitch Lensink / Unsplash

It may be the case that an incarcerated family member’s situation is shrouded in mystery and whispers, but this need not be the case. It is not only time to confront these matters at the family level, but to address them at the social level as well. The first step may begin with actually accepting that inmate call. Ask what your family member is going through and share that with the family if he or she permits. You may feel a sense of hopelessness, but there is so much you can do to help not only your own family members but the greater incarcerated Latino community too.

Moving beyond thoughts and prayers—although they’re good too—here are substantive ways you can help incarcerated family members.

Credit: @Art4JusticeFund / Twitter
  • Visit if you can. Even if it is only a few times a year, the impact of human contact cannot be overstated. Ensure you are on the approved visitor’s list before you go. Bring identification and arrive early. Be a good listener and most importantly, show that family love.
  • The experience of visiting prison can be inconvenient or even traumatic, so if you feel you cannot commit this fully then try a virtual visit. Apps like JPay offer inmate services like email, video visitation, and secure payment transfers. Send pictures of the family or a video of a holiday gathering.
  • If apps prove to be intimidating, try sending a letter. Have picture printed out—old school style—and include them in your letters. Families are full of births, marriages, and so many other beautiful life events. Share them with your primos and primas who can’t be there with you. If you feel like you simply don’t want to communicate with your incarcerated family member, but you still want to contribute to the cause in some way, join a prison pen pal organization and bring a sense of human connection to others.
  • Another way to help the family behind bars is to send books. The organization, NYC books through bars, understands how much books can help with the rehabilitation and the education process in prison.
  • With vulnerable peoples such as the trans community,  women in prison, those with mental health needs, simply raising awareness on their behalf can be a radical act of kindness.
  • Another act of solidarity with your incarcerated family member is to donate to the ACLU Prisons Project. “Through litigation, advocacy, and public education, we work to ensure that conditions of confinement are consistent with health, safety, and human dignity and that prisoners retain all rights of free persons that are not inconsistent with incarceration.”

If you have a family member in prison, it is important to their own recovery and reformation to know they have people who love and support them.

Credit: aclu_nationwide / Instagram

With an array of opportunities to help our family members in prison, it is important to note that reintroduction to society can pose a major challenge for former inmates. These are areas where you can help too. Our imprisoned family members may have been victims of the system, they may have survived the only way they know how, or maybe they just made a mistake. Whatever the circumstance, the key is to remember they are human, and most importantly, they are familia. So ask yourself, for their sake and the sake of our community, what can you do to help?

READ: Cyntoia Brown Was Finally Released From Prison After 15 Years– This Is What Resistance Looks Like

Every Time I Go Back To The Dominican Republic, I Remember The Person I Am And Want To Be

Culture

Every Time I Go Back To The Dominican Republic, I Remember The Person I Am And Want To Be

aruni_y_photography / Instagram

Anyone traveling to the Dominican Republic this summer has likely been met with the cautionary warning; “Don’t drink anything from the minibar.” Eleven tourist deaths on the island in 2019, ranging from natural causes to counterfeit alcohol consumption, have spurred FBI and State Department investigations. Though news of flight and hotel cancellations abounded, I missed my family and refused to let fear stop me from seeing them. Since I lived to tell the tale, here are a few things I learned about my father, about myself, and about the precarious paradise that keeps calling me back.

Billy Joel and Nas have interpreted the “New York state of mind,” and if you have ever visited the Dominican Republic beyond the purpose of tourism, you’ll know that there exists a Dominican state of mind too.

Credit: Dan Gold / Unsplash

Whenever I exit Las Americas or Puerto Plata airports, humidity slaps me in the face, and my Dominican mindset is immediately activated. On this island, electricity does not run 24/7. When the electricity goes, or as we say “se fue la luz,” water doesn’t run from the tap either. All that is left to do is swap your sneakers for flip-flops, and exorcise your need for immediate gratification. It takes practice, and I re-learn this lesson with each visit.

The Dominican Republic is changing fast. 

Credit: zonacolonialrd / Instagram

There is new construction everywhere you look. I sit on the balcony chatting with my father and stare across the street trying to remember how it looked before the apartment building was constructed in that space. I can see from an open doorway on the ground level that wooden boxes are being stacked, and hauled out in front of a business. I tune out my father’s voice as I focus on the shape and size of the boxes. My Spanish needs work, and I ask my father, “Papi, what does ataúd mean?” The business slogan translates to “Quality Coffins.” I think about magic realism traditions in Latin American literature, and I am reminded that so often a country like this juxtaposes disparate images and experiences in such a casual manner. I don’t think I would be able to live across the street from a constant reminder of death anywhere else but on this incongruous island.

We drive to the countryside of El Seibo for a few days.

Credit: fedoacurd/ Instagram

My father syncs his playlist and he directs my sister what song to play next. The first song is by Boy George. I watch my father sing along, and I can’t help but think about the Dominican Republic’s homophobic culture steeped in hyper-masculinity. Same-sex marriage is not recognized on the island, and members of the LGBTQ community continue to face discrimination and violence. I talk to my sister about this later that night, and she tells me small changes are coming to the island. The city of Santo Domingo hosts inclusive events like Draguéalo, where you can even sign up for a Vogue class.

Credit: Draguelao / Facebook

My father’s playlist continues and I’m struck by his selections ranging from Taylor Swift to A.I.E. (A Mwana), a song by a 1970s group called Black Blood, featuring lyrics in Swahili.

I watched this Dominican dad jam across continents, decades, cultures, languages, and race. I realize there is so much I don’t know about him, and so often we shortchange our parents’ knowledge and experience, reducing them to stereotypes and gendered tropes.

My next lesson is on staying sexy.

                                                           Unsplash/Photo by Ardian Lumi 

After a few days in the countryside, my sister and I rent a hotel room in La Zona Colonial. We ready for a night out when she looks at my outfit and asks me, “Um, is that what you’re wearing tonight?” I thought my yellow jumpsuit was poppin’. My sister pulls out a little black dress from her overnight bag and kindly suggests I wear it. The dress is tiny. It’s skimpy. It’s super short. It’s absolutely perfect. I channel my inner Chapiadora, Goddess of Sex Appeal and Free Drinks, and dance all night. 

Growing up in the 90s, I styled myself in oversized men’s clothing. It wasn’t until that one magical summer in the Dominican Republic when the heat was too oppressive to wear jeans, so I wore—gasp—a skirt. That was the first time I felt sexy, and learned the power of sex appeal. Though I wielded that power throughout my twenties, it fell away in my thirties. Wearing my sister’s LBD I realize I still have “it,” and in the Dominican Republic, sex appeal is ageless. Be careful when you come here. You may fall in love with a local, or you may just fall in love with yourself again.

The island leaves me with one last lesson.

It comes late one night, sharing a few bottles of wine with my father and sister. No hay peor ciego que el que no quiere ver—the worst blind person is the one who refuses to see. I could say the current political landscape in the U.S. reflects this willful ignorance, a refusal to see; yet it is the same human experience felt across space and time.

I come away wondering about my own blind spots.

                                                            Instagram/@rensamayoa

I board my return flight thinking up ways to combat willful ignorance at home, thinking about maintaining that flexible DR state of mind and thinking about buying a little black dress. As tourism in the Dominican Republic picks up again, and unfavorable headlines drop out of the news cycle, this changing island stands in its own plurality welcoming visitors, and offering endless opportunities to teach us something new.

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