Diversity Statement

A community that learns and loves understands the justice in eating.

Throughout my teaching history, because I taught in border towns and have always taught multilingual and multicultural students, translanguaging has been fundamental in my instruction in order to be inclusive and supportive of all learners and to acknowledge the power and necessity of our linguistic resources, which include all languages, home dialects, code-switching, code-mixing, and more (Cenoz & Gorter, 2020).  My commitment to serving diverse populations is framed around Vygotsky’s Sociocultural Theory, which states that community plays an important role in shaping learner processes (VanPatton & Williams, 2015).

we who share stringed sounds of meaning  

soothing inflections that sing ancestral songs 

tell legends of family lore y La Lechuza   

we follow intonations of aromas to heated comal  

to fresh homemade corn tortillas wrapped around salt   

y chocolate con canela stirred thick into earthen mugs

I am a sixth generation Texan brought up in a home and community where Spanish and English flowed together. As a young girl, I didn’t realize that there was a distinction between the two languages. As an extended family unit, we made important connections to our past through food, music, storytelling, and farming traditions. Preparing and eating meals together gave us an opportunity to learn about our history, in particular, our lineage, to Nacimiento, México, where land was reserved for escaped slaves and Kikapu. Fear and survival forced our ancestors to assimilate through marriage, to shed any history that could connect them to danger related to the past and their identities. 

In my teaching, Funds of Knowledge are taken into consideration in order to access a learner’s full breadth of abilities and experiences (Moll et al., 1992). This information is integrated into interesting, meaningful, and motivating learning activities and led to the establishment of a large urban agricultural project in San Antonio, Texas called CIELO Gardens which serves over 200 people directly. It was founded in 2011 from a need to connect recently arriving refugees to an agricultural lifestyle left behind in their homes of origin. We incorporated cooking, food sharing, and crafting, creating important social and cultural connections for our learning community, and language lessons were built around these activities (Hornberger & McKay, 2010). In terms of sociolinguistics, another valuable aspect of our model was interaction. Our activities fostered cooperation and communication between students who did not share a language, and many activities were also intergenerational in design. So, a grandmother, an adult child, and young grandchildren could share experiences such as storytelling, crafting, and gardening. Many of our communities acted as large extended families, so this was beneficial to our learners’ processes. This is also an example discussed with interactional sociolinguistics (Schiffrin, 1996).

sounds undulate  highs and lows   

roll off the tongues and tease    

as Familia plays Lotería

“corre y se va corriendo”

takes on new meaning

In 1976, first grade was a damaging and traumatizing period in my life. My teacher discriminated against, humiliated, and denigrated any child who spoke a language other than English. I fell victim to a hateful regime inspired by my teacher. 

I am silent   

I question words I am told not to say   

words not spoken in English   

I question the words of my mother   

the prayers   the lullabies   consejos

I question the songs of my father   

the songs he sings at weddings   

at quinceañera celebrations

even the music he composes with acordión 

at school we are shamed and ridiculed for our accents 

as Spanish loses its home on our tongues  

I am driven and committed to enhancing diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging in all areas of my life, especially as an educator and community activist. Linguistic diversity, in particular, is important to me because languages connect us to our identities as individuals and to our communities (Wardhaugh & Fuller, 2014). It is crucial to advocate for inclusivity and act against negative positions within a society where language is often weaponized, politicized and used to implement exclusion, discrimination, and violence (Alaniz, 2020). 

our mothers feel the sting of rejection 

as accents disappear   as we move on toward becoming

“other”  Children with different ondas   

Children navigating new identities   new names   

Children told to abandon language and cultura  

Children who will grow up   and eventually

find their way

back home (Alaniz, 2020).

References

Alaniz, J. (2020) 1976: We, Who Go Home, in Cisneros, S., Cervantes, L. D., & Catacalos, R. (ed.) Puro Chicanx writers of the 21st century. A collaboration of Cutthroat, a journal of the arts and The Black Earth Institute. 

Alaniz, J. (2021, May, 21). Language as a Political Act: Poet Carmen Tafolla and Dissolving Borders. Ibero Aztlan, 2021 May Edition. https://iberoaztlan.com/reviews/language-as-a-political-act-carmen-tafolla-and-dissolving-borders/

Cenoz, J., & Gorter, D. (2020). Teaching English through pedagogical translanguaging. World Englishes, 39(2), 300–311. https://doi.org/10.1111/weng.12462 

Hornberger, N. H., & McKay, S. (2015). Sociolinguistics and language education. Routledge. 

Moll, L. C., Amanti, C., Neff, D., & Gonzalez, N. (1992). Funds of knowledge for teaching: Using a qualitative approach to connect homes and classrooms. Theory Into Practice, 31(2), 132–141. https://doi.org/10.1080/00405849209543534 

Schiffrin, D. (1996). Interactional Sociolinguistics 

VanPatten, B., & Williams, J. (2015). Theories in second language acquisition an introduction. Routledge. 

Wardhaugh, R., & Fuller, M.J. (2014)  An Introduction to Sociolinguistics. John Wiley & Sons, Incorporated. ProQuest Ebook Central, https://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/utsa/detail.action?docID=1811431.


“A community that learns and loves understands the justice of eating.”

Jen

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