A continuous journey
In September of 2016, I sat on the stage at the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian, with Carmen, Chema, and Carlos (Program Leaders at Unlocking Silent Histories (USH), a nonprofit I founded in 2013). Sitting on this stage, I reflected fondly on the 12 years leading up to this moment. My journey has not been a smooth one. I had experienced marginalization for challenging the accepted models of education, particularly for underrepresented youth. I had found myself struggling in the midst of the theory or practice dilemma, fighting for both to exist in harmony. I searched for a place in academia where innovation and vision were celebrated above conformity and complacency. During this time, I was feeling increasingly drawn toward working in the field with youth, and I took a leap. Approximately 4 years ago, I applied for a leave from my tenure track position, let go of nearly all my belongings, and moved to Guatemala. It was a risk, but one well worth it. It was there that USH was born, an outgrowth not only coming from the voices of Carmen, Chema, and Carlos, but also from all the youth and the community members directly or peripherally connected to its emerging vision.
Recaptured by the testimonies of Carmen, Chema, and Carlos, I was brought back to the moment. The ways in which each of these youth responded to the questions of the audience, illustrated a vivid testament to powerful results of Critical Pedagogy and Transformative Praxis. Each of them, expressed how they were part of creating USH, how they made it their own, and why the work was (and is) important for their indigenous communities. These academic concepts were no longer simply theoretical wonderings; they were practical realities. I knew what we were doing at Unlocking Silent Histories was unique and would one day be recognized for its novel pedagogical and youth-driven model. It had not occurred to me when I left academia for two years to place my focus on creating this model alongside youth, that we would be so quickly be sitting on this global stage sharing our work. What was more, I could not have been more emotionally touched by what happened on this stage, I spoke very little and instead sat and observed how Carmen, Chema, and Carlos had taken ownership of USH and had truly developed their unique voices.
I have returned to academia, bringing Unlocking Silent Histories with me. I am finding ways for my theoretical and practical self to intersect. The work of opening spaces where different views and different experiences exist simultaneous is a continuous journey. Every journey comes with rewards and challenges. In academia, this is particularly true given the ever-present gravitational forces that pull us into familiar roles and structures of living and learning. This model, the foundational principles of Unlocking Silent Histories works to defy gravity, and instead create spaces where multiple perspectives, definitions, ideas, and voices are valued and welcome. And when they do, the exciting results is a kaleidoscope of colors and textures that enrich the way that we see the world. The beauty emerges as we commit to learning with and from each other. More to come!