By Jason Fuller
As an Africana Studies double major, I have learned a great deal with regard to the overt systems of oppression, dehumanization and bondage used to disenfranchise African Americans. As a current resident of New Mexico, I am amongst people of color who too have been historically disenfranchised. However, I am not as informed of their history; this week would serve as an opportunity to become acquainted with such a history. In the midst of learning the history of Generation Justice, we would engage in heavy discussion spearheaded by Roberto Chene about internalized racism and how Generation Justice operates within our world. This discussion was special because of the level of disclosure within the room. I felt as though I was speaking to family. This sense of community was felt from everyone in the room, and as a result emotionally touching stories regarding our staffs’ upbringing were revealed. We were able to get to this level of trust thanks to Roberto and the embodying of Generation Justices 6 core values (Action, Community, Equity, Love, Multi-Culturalism and Youth Leadership & Empowerment).
This round table discussion was very moving, due to our facilitator’s initial disclosure. Roberto informed everyone of the internal battle that he had with himself as his last name left him feeling as though he was not truly a Chicano. This ultimately led to him having more opportunities due to his French last name, all while serving as a huge advocate and activist for Chicanos and Chicanas. This moment allowed me to have flashbacks to my upbringing and ways in which internalized racism blended into a part of African American culture on a subliminal level. I vividly recall during my high school days the number of young men who cut their hair in order to get their “Grown Man On”. Looking back on this, I begin to tell myself that we were trying to assimilate into a white conservative culture. We were told by the media that successful grown men do not have long hair. These messages were told to us through a secret language known as commerce, because the media tells us that to be a man is to have steady income and own property.
In addition to his personal experience, Roberto’s presence had a huge impact on the entire group as he gave a recap of New Mexico’s history. The colonizers did their best to strip away local knowledge and customs that existed prior to their arrival in 1520. Additionally, Roberto gave us greater insight with regard to People of Color and their leap around the globe from country to country due to the inequalities. For an example, the fact that free Africans traveled from Great Britain to Spain in order to escape oppression, then traveled with the Spanish over to the America’s to escape Spanish rule and discrimination, is proof of the inescapable hand of injustice. On a personal note, as an African American male, the discovery of the first free African who traveled with the Spaniards was indescribable. This was very insightful, as it was known that New Mexico was a clear Tri-Cultural state (Indigenous/Native, Mexican/Spanish and Anglo). Statements such as this promote the silence and invisible nature of African Americans in New Mexican History. Hearing this provided me with an outlook of greater clarity. It is clear that Roberto’s journey throughout the country and general mentorship for Generation Justice comes from a place of love.