Race-work, Race-love

A Final #DissertatingLatina Moment (Or the last love letter from a Dissertating Latina):

In Uncategorized on June 26, 2015 at 4:27 pm



For the past two years, I have documented my journey as a doctoral student and, more specifically, as a Latina student in the process of dissertating. I call these “Dissertating Latina” moments because I want other future dissertators, women of color and dissertators of Latin American descent, to be able to see themselves in this process. Thus, for personal and political reasons, the term ‘Dissertating Latina” represents a part of my identity that I have decided to share using a social media platform to describe my journey into the culmination of the dissertation. This journey specifically began 10 years ago, but more broadly nurtured by my father, Miguel G. Vega, an Ecuadorian immigrant to the United States who has lived in New York since 1968. My earliest memories of my father are of him taking me and my sisters to the Columbia University Campus, sitting us down on the steps that led to the Alma Mater, and telling us about how he arrived to New York, obtained a second grade education, and wished differently for his daughters. “Mija,” my father told me, “You can attend a school like this if you study and work very hard. One day, if you want to, you will be a student here.” Three rejections later, and I was accepted into Teachers College/Columbia University in the Higher and Postsecondary Education doctoral program. So my first dedication goes to my family—Miguel G. Vega, Blanca N. Vega, Janet R. Vega, Judith K. Vega Catanzaro, and Lizette N. Vega. Without these first individuals in my life, this love I have for race, education, intellectualism, Latinidad, and Ecuador would not have been nurtured.

Along this journey, amazing teachers and educators guided me. I will begin with my 5th and 8th grade teacher, Sr. Evelyn Kelly, who taught me to love a good story. Her partner in crime, Ms. Imelda Lati, made sure I attended Brooklyn Technical High School. While there, Ms. Judith Ann Cohen, who coordinated the Preparation for Undergraduate Learning through Science Enrichment Program (PULSE), taught me the value of discipline and dedication. Ms. Cohen and Ms. Marcia Solomon, former counselor at the Double Discovery Center, encouraged me to attend Brandeis University where I met Professors Dora Vasquez Older, who continues to be one of my main cheerleaders today. I also met Kim Godsoe and Lesola Morgan, who talked me through great bouts with academic self-concept and various forms of racial conflict. They listened and they guided me through many difficult moments. After Brandeis University, I entered my world as a higher education professional and met two amazing people—Daniel St. Rose, LMSW, and Mary Caldwell, LMSW. They have witnessed me grapple with many aspects of my life that have led to my current state as Doctor of Education. Along this journey through higher education administration, I met over 300 talented, intelligent, loving students. I am blessed that some of them call me “mom” today. I met these students at the Liberty Partnerships Program (LPP) at John Jay High School in Brooklyn (1998-2001) and the Higher Education Opportunity Program (2006-2014). Because of them, I was forced to articulate what it meant to be a doctoral student or, more specifically, what it meant to dissertate. This work could not have been done without three wonderful colleagues who I consider my family now: Kevin Smith, Rebecca Pinard, and Dr. Cindy Mercer. They saw my most intimate moments as both HEOP director and doctoral student and never once complained about supporting me throughout. Special acknowledgement goes to Rebecca Pinard who has taught me to be a better administrator, sister, and friend.

Toward the end of my doctoral journey and the beginning of my dissertating Latina life, several groups of people emerged and were my muscle and spirit to finish this fight. They include my dearest friends in my writing groups: Dr. Bianca J. Baldridge,
Dr. Sosanya Jones, Dr. Keisha McIntosh, Dr. Terrenda White, and Dr. Darnel Degand. This first writing group continues to provide me with support—emotional and academic—today. I crossed the finish line with my sister scholar, Dr. Keisha McIntosh, and I am grateful for the many nights and mornings we spent texting or calling each other to ensure that we were making it to the finish line. Members of my second and third writing groups include Dr. R. L’Heureux Lewis-McCoy, Dr. Marc Lamont Hill, Dr. Alex Welcome, George Gardner III, Esq, Tara Conley, Sofia Quintero, Dr. Alex Trillo, Aja Burrell Wood, and Melissa Valle. Special thanks to Dr. R. L’Heureux Lewis-McCoy and Dr. Kenny Nienhusser, who have provided me with the tools to make it through these last two years. These two professors embody the spirit of true scholar activists—scholars who are deeply invested in the uplift of the community around them. I hold deep gratitude to them for showing me what mentorship is supposed to look and feel like. And finally my dissertation committee: the official members, Dr. Ernest Morrell, Dr. Felicia Moore Mensah, Vice President Janice Robinson (my dissertation fairy godmother!), have provided me with amazing guidance toward finishing this dissertation, as did my unofficial committee members, Dr. Anna Neumann and Dr. Yolanda Sealey Ruiz. This group of faculty nurtured my love for race scholarship and never once dissuaded me from doing this important work. BEV3

The end of this Dissertating Latina journey has slowly transitioned into Latino Love moments. By that, I mean two things: friends who have provided me with the tools necessary to endure personal battles with love such as friends who have been there for me before I even began my dissertating Latina journey like Joanne Joseph Hudson and Yasmin Regalado. Additionally, I have met an Afro-Costa Rican-Brooklyn family introduced to me by Marco A. Sanchez Cunningham, who are now helping me to adjust into my new identity—from being Dissertating Latina to becoming Doctora Latina and right back to being Liz (my family name), again. I expected to walk this journey alone but have instead found someone with whom I can walk this path—and for that I am truly grateful.

I would like to end this dedication, this love letter from a Dissertating Latina, to future Dissertating Latinas. This identity is a shared one—I don’t claim to own it, but I do claim to have some knowledge of what this process feels like and my hope is to inspire and motivate others into this journey and let them know that I will be there to support them in any way that I can. To whom much is given, much is expected, and I certainly am no different. I am excited to witness how the hashtag #dissertatinglatina evolves as I know several newly admitted doctoral Latina students who have inquired “What will happen to the dissertating latina?” – Easy! The baton has now been passed to you – future and present dissertating Latinas.

I can now move on to a different part of the journey – as Doctora Latina.

En la lucha siempre!

Dr. Blanca E. Vega


2014 in review – Un Million de Gracias – Thank you!!

In Uncategorized on December 29, 2014 at 8:34 pm

I began writing for my blog four years ago. These little moments mean so much to me. Thank you for reading, retweeting, posting my pieces on your Facebook pages, and sharing your thoughts with me. I really am truly grateful.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 12,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 4 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

The Protest That Wasn’t: Lessons From an Exchange with a Cop

In Uncategorized on December 5, 2014 at 3:35 pm

pic4Breathing While Brown. Alive While Black.

There was a protest on Wednesday night, December 3rd, 2014 on 116th and Amsterdam. My partner and I were in a cab and we were stuck – cop cars everywhere, helicopters humming above us. Our cab driver was quickly asked to stop. My partner looked over at me and said, “It’s a protest.”

It was the evening we found out that there will be no indictment against Eric Garner’s murderer, Officer Daniel Pantaleo. It was a week after we heard that Mike Brown’s murderer will get away also. Same response: no indictment against Officer Darren Wilson.

It was the evening we were recovering from a small argument. “Baby,” he said. “I just want a hug”. A six foot one Brooklyn Man, former champion wrestler turned educator with a Master’s degree, a son of a nurse who believes in the power of love, but who couldn’t protect her son against police brutality, an evil he faced many times over in his lifetime.

“Be careful with each other, so you can be dangerous together.”Pic1


We were in the cab after having settled our small argument when we realized we had run right into a protest. He turned to me and said “What do you think?” We just got done enjoying a slice of pizza after having confronted a white man who delivered several racial microaggressions to me and the Asian American man next to us.

There is no rest for the racially weary….

At that moment, I knew what he was thinking. I knew we had to join. “Let’s go”, I said. We left the cab and attempted to join the protest. We didn’t get very far – police men and women were everywhere, none looked happy, none looked sympathetic to the protesters who weren’t even angry, just worried. Worried about our future, worried about their children’s futures….

We weren’t allowed to join the protestors. Why, we wondered aloud. Policemen and women surrounded the region the protesters gathered, a small region, but they covered the corners of 114th and Amsterdam Avenue. Anyone who wanted to join were told to turn around. Finally, my partner asked the cop nearest us “We want to join. How do we get in? How do we join them?” Several cops said, “You can’t”. Finally, one said, “You have to go around if you want to get in”. We marched to Morningside Avenue and back to Amsterdam. There were more cops. That’s when we realized that police surrounded the protesters and enclosed them and the area.

“We want to join them” my partner said again to another cop. With a big old smirk, the cop said “You can’t go in, turn around.”

“Why can’t I go in? We are peacefully protesting, so are they. Why can’t we go through?”

The cop said, “Turn around. Do us a favor, if you’re not going to turn around, move up the block”.

My partner responded, “Will I get arrested if I join?”

“Yes”, said the cop but this time he was laughing.

This stopped me cold. This man knows how to instill fear in people. This man knows how to trigger people. This man doesn’t know that we know our rights.


“Then arrest us”, Marco said. At this point, we already made quick plans as to what we would do if he got arrested, if I got arrested, or if we both got arrested. But we both knew we were in this together. No matter what.

The cop laughed again. He said, “From one gentleman to another please step away from the protesters. You can stand by that building but you can’t join.”

At this point, I began to video the conversation. I wanted a reason for a possible arrest. “What’s the logic behind that? Why can’t we join? I don’t understand.”

That’s when another cop said, “Let them through.” After seeing countless potential protesters being turned away, we were allowed to go through their barricade, which really was a human chain of officers. We thought an arrest was certain even though we weren’t quite clear as to a reason for one… how powerful a cop is when he threatens arrest… even against two highly educated Latinos, we still felt the power of that threat.

The cop who threatened us reluctantly said, “Fine.”

We walked through. We joined the protesters. But we saw how the group was diminished having faced first hand a tactic used by the police – threatening arrest if we were going to join a peaceful protest. Although the group was small, the police were there full force. A wall of angry faces lined 114th and Amsterdam Avenue, Black and Brown faces that mirrored my own except they were protecting Police Brutality. We were not.


On Thursday, December 4, 2014, thousands of people, including my students, marched against police brutality. According to the New York Times article, more than 200 people were arrested that evening. It was clear from various posts on social media that police continued to use tactics such as the one I described in my brief experience on Wednesday. It is clear from the reactions and the protests occurring  across the nation that a change is going to come. A racial reconstitution of policing must happen… But that Wednesday night I was afraid. I wasn’t fearful of protestors. I became afraid of the police for yet another reason – it was clear to me that police departments have been charged to ensure that change won’t come peacefully. Bearing witness to a stunted protest on Wednesday night opened my eyes to what the next steps will look like. My thoughts go to lessons learned from Ferguson, for our people there gave us a glimpse into the fire we may expect from our police, those who are supposed to protect and serve us. My heart goes out to the people in Ferguson for what I believe will be occuring in NYC very soon.

“We revolt simply because, for many reasons, we can no longer breathe.”
– Frantz Fanon


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,801 other followers

%d bloggers like this: