By Briahnna Brown
Prisca Dorcas, founder of online activism platform Latina Rebels, has not always been a “woke brown girl.”
During her keynote address for the 2018 Latinx Heritage Celebration on Monday night, Ms. Dorcas told the George Washington University students in Dorothy Betts Marvin Theatre that her journey involved unlearning much of the self-hatred she grew up with. She became radicalized after experiencing racism as a graduate student in Nashville, Tenn., a culture shock from her upbringing in Miami where she was surrounded by Latinx people like her.
She read some of her written pieces that dealt with her learning from these experiences, many of which were published in the Huffington Post Latino Voices, including a piece she wrote to herself called Reminders.
“Some days whiteness will make you forget that you are beautiful, and you're capable of anything, because of the barrio that you come from and the clothes that you wear,” she read.
“Some days whiteness will make you forget that you are smart and that you deserve to be in these institutions, because you might stutter when you have to speak English in front of a room of people whose English is their first language.”
The Latinx Heritage Celebration, sponsored by the Multicultural Student Services Center (MSSC), promotes the values and traditions of South and Central America, the Caribbean and Spanish cultures. It is celebrated nationally from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15.
MSSC Director Michael Tapscott said that the university has been working hard to foster diversity and inclusion. The diversity of the students in the audience, he said, reflected those efforts.
“The Latinx community in America is working hard and thriving everywhere,” Mr. Tapscott said. “At GW, we're proud to share our commitment to diversity, and to those in the Latinx community, by celebrating the largest Latino class in our history.”
The theme of this year’s Latinx Heritage Celebration is RESIST: Es Nuestro Momento. Carolina Fuentes, co-president of the Organization of Latino American Students at GW, said that “es nuestro momento,” or “our time is now,” to register to vote, write letters to representatives, become involved in local communities and participate in education initiatives that encourage minority student success.
“As we celebrate our culture, our languages and our backgrounds, remember ways that we can give back to our community and also empower it,” Ms. Fuentes said.
Ms. Dorcas said that the only bridge-building she does is to get back to her roots during her journey of unlearning and learning about her identity. She does not believe in meeting “oppressors” in the middle, and her methodology does not involve both parties working toward mutual understanding.
"I'm of the school of thought that thinks true allies will be and need to be uncomfortable,” Ms. Dorcas said. “Allyship doesn't exist if I need to build a bridge to get to where you're at."
Ms. Dorcas also shared her piece Dear Woke Brown Girl, which went viral in 2016 when Huffington Post published it. She said she began learning and recognizing the power of her own voice when the piece resonated with other radicalized people in the Latinx community.
“Don’t let them take away your passion because this entire society of white supremacy is meant to keep you down,” Ms. Dorcas read. “But remember that without passion you will extinguish, and if for some reason you do and you might…make sure that you've surrounded yourself with other woke brown girls who will be there to pick you and light you back up again.
“Because, woke brown girls, we need each other.”