My Life Experience and Struggles
I am an Afro-Colombian woman living in the UK since 2013. I had my first baby the year after arriving and my second baby in 2017; I was inspired, happy and blessed to have my children. After a few years, I experienced and faced difficult times where I was learning to survive emotionally, psychologically and spiritually. I found myself lost in a bubble where I thought things were okay, normalising aggression and micro-aggression in my life.
My awakening had me looking through the windows and asking myself who I was. I had lost my identity. The internal fight within my mind hit me hard, and to start my journey looking for support, I met through my GP an organisation called PACT (Parents And Community Together). The Spanish Latin American group, Espacio Mama, opened the door for my children and myself, welcoming us as another member of their family. It felt amazing to be supported and loved from day one.
They encouraged me to believe in myself and to care about my well-being and mental health. I did a lot of the training they offered for mothers, participating in taking action and leading campaigns. I learned my value, reconnected with the part I thought had been lost and appreciated my voice.
In the meantime, my children were always with me because PACT helps mothers train their children by facilitating that space. Also, I had the chance to exercise with Citizens UK, Climate change and to volunteer, among others.
I did a leadership course with another mother working on nutritional well-being for children in Southwark with St. Thomas's hospital. We were preparing healthy meals and teaching mothers and their kids to cook recipes we could enjoy together, whilst eating healthily. From this, I learned that I love to be in, and there for, a community. Sharing our life experiences and being together help me to be part of something meaningful.
I started my journey as a community researcher (CR) three years ago through a project manager who was an angel for me. She believed in me and guided me to join this path that, so far, has made me grow and be more involved in the process of community engagement. I also entered university at that time.
I finalised that course to continue my degree in fashion. The university put me in touch with the right people who believed in me and showed me appreciation, commitment, plus caring for others. I did things with authenticity and motivation which led to massive changes.
When I joined Centric, I had the vision and mission this was not a job, it was a purpose.
The purpose of evolving as a human being and being part of something great. I found the language barrier a problem due to my native language being Spanish, but I decided to learn more, work hard and make the commitment to ensure that I could support others. Actions are made from the heart which is the international language of caring. We might not speak or communicate in the same language but, non-verbal communication helps to comprehend what are we trying to say and do.
Besides, being a Spanish speaker living in London showed me the big Latino-American community. For that reason and facing specific issues, I saw others had similar experiences and I am more engaged in finding solutions with Centric's support.
Our Mission in Dominican Republic
A week ago, I started a journey with my colleague and the founder of Centric, Dr Shaun Danquah, to the Dominican Republic. This journey began in London. Many emotions emerged, such as connecting with my roots as an Afro Latino American woman. Going back home made me realise there are not so many differences among African culture and heritage with the power, energy, charisma and creativity to keep going in life despite our differences in circumstances and struggles.
The Dominican Republic is a welcoming country with the strength of its remarkable people who have the heart to connect with others. Also, I want to share this fantastic experience with my Centric team. And, others too around the world who come from marginalised, downgraded and alienated communities because regardless of colour or doctrine, we are all one.
I came to the Dominican Republic with Dr Danquah to develop the foundation for this initiative. I have a lifelong passion about building the capacity and capability of Afro-Latino communities. It's straightforward. And, I don't mean this as an offence to anybody but, this particular Black group, this African group, has been forgotten across the urban locale in London, almost now seeming to be a minority within a minority.
Therefore, this trip is not about swimming pools, Jacuzzis, palm trees; it’s about establishing a presence in a Latino country and instituting Centric but, also taking that energy and that learning back to the UK to build up my people. I have met some of the most unique, honest, appreciative and gifted people I've ever met, who have a strong understanding and reasoning with the ethos of Centric.
However, this trip did not start quickly, even from Frankfurt, because we had to stop off. I could feel the discrimination and the racism begin to bubble and surface, seeing certain behaviours against Afro Latinos. And again, on the plane and coming off the plane, I realised that colonialism was not part of the history lesson. It was still present today.
I met with the many French people in the French quarters during the French and Moroccan games. I learnt about the World Bank from the city. We all enjoyed our time with Julio Canario, the Co-Founder & President at ISAMT (Instituto de Salud Mental y Telepsicología), an organisation in the Dominican Republic. Julio has broad experience in the fields of public health, the design of behavioural and health interventions, the study of psychosocial issues with important human rights implications (gender-based violence, violence against children, HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, COVID-19, reproductive, maternal, newborn, child, and adolescent health). He’s also well versed in the ethics of the research implemented with vulnerable populations in low and middle-income countries. We can work together, along with various other people, until we can embed a research hub to build up the people giving them the skills to own the narrative, the research and create job opportunities. All across this amazing Latino-American Island.
I also met one of my Latino brothers from New York, Rene Cordero, from Brown University in the Dominican Republic, an expert in Latin American social movements and politics during the Cold War, racial consciousness, anti-imperialism and historical revisionism. He is also the coordinator, under the directorship of Professor James Green, of the Dominican section of ‘opening the archives’, an online archive housed at the Brown Library documenting U.S./Dominican relations during the Cold War. He will soon begin a new role at Harvard University in the Afro social department.
Every step of my journey felt like there was more and more reason to be here. And more and more connections and connectors came out of the blue to guide me.
Our Purpose In Life
We should follow our spirit, mind and hearts. And think about our purpose in life away from consumers of materialism and make an effort to seek the truth and tell the truth. Because I believe after this trip happiness doesn't lie in who you are and what you've got. Instead, it’s what you do and what you think. As Jim Rohn says, "The question on the job is not to ask what I am getting. The question on the job is to ask, who am I becoming?"
Yeah, we've come here and we've registered the company. We've borrowed that office space which has been given to us based upon the belief in Centric. They believe in our philosophy about empowering the people, liberating the people and freeing the people. This is what has lifted people.
“In our first days In Dominican Republic, they thought we were just some tourists. Then they changed in their posture and expression when we started talking about what Centric does, and we were then taken very seriously. We have been meeting people in beach jobs that should be in lecture theatres.”
You know, I never realised when I was struggling, looking after my children and finding it hard to go to university how much pain it caused me. I never realised that experience was going to give me the forever certification to help others struggling much more than myself. I could see how the blessings in my learning and how to survive during that time, plus coming across the globe, can assist others who look like me but didn't have the same opportunities as myself. I realised how we really arrived at this mission to rethink research.
Primarily, one of the things that academia fails or struggles with is lived experience. So, you get many technocrats and people with qualifications talking about things from the point of theory but, they don't have the lived experience. And I'd like to start telling this story using my lived experience. I felt proud today because it made me realise it wasn’t about coming here. It made me realise how far I’d come. Yeah, for where I was, to where I was going. And as Dr Danquah always says, “Don't ask me what ideal brought you, ask me where I've been. I'll excite you.”
To conclude this wonderful experience, we wanted to announce that Dr Danquah and myself, alongside Julio Canario, created Centriko in the Dominican Republic. This will become a global hub for Afro communities in South America.
References and External Sources
Dec 22nd 2022
DR SHAUN DANQUAH & DANNA MICHELLY QUINONES RODRIGUEZ -Read More
Dec 22nd 2022
Shaun Danquah -Read More
Dec 22nd 2022
DR SHAUN DANQUAH - DIRECTORRead More