Fierce

A Man At A Literary Convention Admitted To Assuming He Thought An Award-Winning Mexican Author Was ‘Waitstaff’

Reyna Grande is the author of the bestselling memoir, The Distance Between Usfor which she received several accolades but earlier this week she opened up about the racism she recently faced at a literary gala. She was in awe of the company she was in among the author lineup that included famed writers Barbara Kingsolver, Joyce Carol Oates, and U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, which left her feeling grateful to be invited. While taking in the grandeur of her surroundings, she touched her name tag as a reminder that she belonged there but then she was reminded why she felt so out of place to begin with. 

“As I made my way into the crowd, a white man stopped me. ‘Excuse me, where are the restrooms?’ he asked. ‘I don’t know,’ I said. He looked confused. Then he noticed my name tag — just like the one he wore — and apologized. ‘I’m sorry, I thought you were…’ His voice trailed off. He had assumed I was one of the waitstaff,” she wrote in an op-ed on The Lily

She shared how upon entering the author gala held at the Library of Congress earlier this year, she felt “inadequate” but it was that encounter that only reinforced that feeling of being Other.

“I’m an author, too, I wanted to say. I belong here, too, but there was still a part of me that wondered if I did,” she wrote. 

She opens up about the Impostor Syndrome that still plagues her despite her success, a feeling she says many Latinx can relate to because of the current political climate. 

Trump’s strict immigration policies targeting undocumented immigrants is only one example of how his presidency has affected the Latinx community but for Grande it’s personal. 

In her memoir, she wrote about her life before and after she arrived in the United States from Mexico as an undocumented child immigrant. 

She was born  in Iguala, Guerrero, Mexico and when she was two years old her father left for the U.S. to find work and two years later her mother left to join him. She and her siblings stayed with their grandmother until 1985, when Grande was nine and she made the trek up north to “el otro lado” as she calls it in the book. In the 2018 followup  A Dream Called Homeshe shares the experience of becoming the first in her family to go to university and what that meant for her. 

She recalls her father insisting that a higher education “was the only way to succeed in this country” but even now, as a successful writer she finds that success isn’t enough. 

Grande has received an American Book Award, the El Premio Aztlán Literary Award, and the International Latino Book Award among others but for some like the white man she encountered at the gala, she was a person of color and that meant she was more likely to be working the event than attending it. 

Overall, the publishing industry is 79 percent white and the editorial department of publishing houses are 82 percent are white while Latinx only make up 6 percent of the industry overall. 

Grande recalls searching the crowd for someone who might be Latinx yet of the 144 authors.

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Aquí con la fabulosa Julia Alvarez!

A post shared by Reyna Grande (@writerreynagrande) on

She counted about 13 Latinxs in the festival lineup — including accomplished writers Julia Alvarez and Valeria Luiselli. This lack of representation is common among all industries —  a recent study found only 3 percent of movies featured Latinx actors in lead roles from 2007 through 2018 in the 100 top-grossing films. 

The study also found that 28 percent of the top-billed Latinx actors participated in illegal activities in violent and non-violent crimes while only 4 percent of jobs held by Latinx characters were in STEM careers.

The stereotype of Latinx as criminals, uneducated, and poor in Hollywood only perpetuates that idea in the real world and as Latinx now has to defend themselves when the president condones these stereotypes, it only reinforces how representation is crucial to making progress. 

Julián Castro is currently the only Latinx presidential nominee, U.S. Representative AOC continues to call out injustices, and Sonia Sotomayor is the first Latinx Supreme Court justice — but that’s not enough. 

There are 59 million Latinx in the U.S. making up 18 percent of the population and 11 states currently have more than a million Latinx residents. However, there are only 36 Latinxs in the House and four in the Senate indicating that before progress can be made,  there needs to be more diversity among those in power that better represents the U.S. population. 

When Latin American foods and fashion are consumed by people of all races but the cultures behind them aren’t recognized or respected, it means situations like Grande’s aren’t isolated. 

But Grande’s experience ended on a somewhat uplifting note when she realized the dinner at the gala that night was tacos, which originated in her homeland.  “As I watched the tacos being enjoyed by all the distinguished guests — all of us under the fancy ceiling of the library — I realized that if tacos belong at the Library of Congress, so do I,” she wrote.    

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At 78-Years-Old, This Oaxacan Woman Learned To Read And Write And Even Authored An Award-Winning New Book

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At 78-Years-Old, This Oaxacan Woman Learned To Read And Write And Even Authored An Award-Winning New Book

It’s never too late to follow your dreams. It may sound cliche but one Indigenous woman from the Mexican state of Oaxaca is showing just how true that sentiment really is.

Although growing up knowing how to speak her native language of Náhuatl, she was never able to read or write it – let alone Spanish. Now after years of studying and being too embarrassed to attend classes, this 78-year-old woman can say that she achieved her dream and is now an award-winning author.

Despite being illiterate for years, Justina Rojas has finally finished primary school.

Justina Rojas Flores, a resident of the Oaxacan community of San Miguel Espejo, learned to read and write at 76. She remembers that at first she was embarrassed to attend her classes, but with the support of her teachers sh was motivated to learn the alphabet and words and communication.

In fact, she became so motivated that she’s recently authored a handmade book that earned her a national award. She recently told El Sol de Puebla, that “I was already cracking under pressure because I was cheating a lot, but the teachers told me ‘yes you can, Justina’, so I continued taking classes and it was thanks to them that I learned. After two years, I wrote La Mazorca, which is dedicated to the community of San Miguel Espejo.”

In her Indigenous language of Náhuatl, Rojas shared the history of La Mazorca, which emphasizes the value of appreciating all things – especially that which the land gives us.

“I beg you, if you see me lying on the ground, pick me up, don’t step on me. Just as you take care of me, I will take care of you,” is part of the story in the book that was awarded in 2019 by the State Institute for Adult Education (IEEA), an achievement with which Rojas feels accomplished, and with which motivates other people to enter the competition.

Rojas is proving that it’s never too late to learn something new.

Now, at 78-years-old, Rojas is able to celebrate her achievements. Though she admits that many in her community continue to doubt her real motivation. It’s common to hear people ask ‘Why do I learn if I’m old?’, ‘What use is it going to do?’, and ‘I’m on my way out so it doesn’t matter.’

But many of the people who ask these questions are the same people who don’t have the same opportunities, since they can’t read or write. According to figures from the National Council for the Evaluation of Social Development Policy (Coneval) in Rojas’ community, there are around 2,267 inhabitants, and the majority are living in poverty, a factor that significantly influences educational access. Many, from a very young age, leave school to work to support their families and take jobs working in the fields or construction.

Finally, Rojas wants everyone to know that they should not limit themselves and to embrace knowledge regardless of age. “If you don’t know how to read and write, or if you know someone like that, I invite you to go where they teach, so that those who know more can share their knowledge with us.”

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A Black Woman Says She Was Refused Service At A Baltimore Restaurant

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A Black Woman Says She Was Refused Service At A Baltimore Restaurant

Baltimore-based restaurant Ouzo Bay is being slammed for racism after a video of a Black woman and her 9-year-old son being denied service circulated online. The restaurant is being accused of denying service to a boy who had been dressed similarly to a white boy who was served despite the restaurant’s applied standard.

In a post to her Facebook page, Marcia Grant and her son were denied service in an incident that was hard to watch her son endure.

Posted by Marcia Grant on Monday, June 22, 2020

In a post to her Facebook page, Grant shared two videos and several still images of the incident to Facebook. “Ouzo Bay would not let Dallas eat at there restaurant sighting that athletic wear was not allowed!” Grant wrote in her post. “I pointed out to them that there was a white child that also had on athletic wear just getting up from dinning there, they still would not let my son eat there! I have faced racism time and time again, but it’s hard AF, when you have to see your child (9yo) upset because he knows he’s being treated different that a white child!!!”

The disturbance occurred at Ouzo Bay, a restaurant owned by the Atlas Restaurant Group, located in Maryland.

In the videos shared by Grant a white manager, who has yet to be identified, tells Grant that she and her son cannot be seated in the restaurant because of how her son is dressed. Grant’s son can be seen wearing sneakers, an Air Jordan T-shirt, and athletic shorts.

“Unfortunately, we do have a dress code,” the manager tells Grant in the video. In response, Grant points out a white boy at the restaurant who is dressed in athletic clothing. The white boy not only seems to be dressed almost exactly the same as Grant’s son but also leaving the restaurant with his family after he had been served.

In response to the incident, Atlas Restaurant Group apologized to Grant and her son in a statement.

“This should never have happened, the manager seen in the video has been placed on indefinite leave,” the statement says in part. “We are sickened by this incident. We sincerely apologize to Marcia Grant, her son and everyone impacted by this painful incident.”

The group said its dress codes are the “result of ongoing input from customers,” and “in no way are they intended to be discriminatory.”

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“Today, we learned of an incredibly disturbing incident that occurred at one of our restaurants in Baltimore, Ouzo Bay. We sincerely apologize to Marcia Grant, her son & everyone impacted by this painful incident. This situation does not represent who or what Atlas stands for,” the group said in a statement shared to Facebook

Atlas said it was immediately changing its policy so that children the age of 12 and under won’t be subjected to the dress code.

According to the comments section of the post and a report by The Associated Press, this is not the first time the chain has been slammed for its dress code. Last September, Atlas came under fire for their dress code when its restaurant Choptank in Fells Point banned “baggy clothing, sunglasses after dark and bandannas.” After complaints of discrimination from customers the restaurant modified the dress code.

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