Educators tell us that when children have role models and heroes who look like them it has a positive effect on them and strengthens their identity. Unfortunately, most children of color grow up without many superheroes or every-day heroes who look like them. It’s been said that those who tell the best stories shape culture. The huge success of the movie Black Panther and the lesser known but very important La Borinqueña shows the need to tell the stories of our community. “Agenda-setting” is a communication theory that in a nutshell states that the media help society determine what is important by the stories they tell. If certain stories and perspectives are not told, then they must not be as important as those that are told. Social learning theory says we learn by watching others. This explains that much of our informal learning takes place through what we observe and the stories we hear.
Dr. Stephanie Brown, a Philadelphia native, is a bilingual education and faith leader in our community. She is the director of the Student Success Center at Esperanza College of Eastern University, here in the Hunting Park area. Like many others, since our stories have not been widely told, she grew up thinking that people of color had made limited contributions to our society. She wondered, there must be more. Sure enough, she was right. There are countless of untold stories of people of color who have made and are making positive contributions to our community. She started the I am educational series to tell these stories. On her website, www.iameducationalseries.org, Dr. Brown explains that “‘I am’ is first person singular. It describes a person as significant to something. The hidden figures in Black History and Women’s History are uniquely and profoundly significant. Saying their name using, ‘I am’ celebrates them and gives them the importance they deserve”.
Throughout Black-history month and beyond, Dr. Brown and others will tell stories of Latinos, starting with Afro-Latinos, who are making a difference in our community and beyond. Some of these stories are of people who are better known, while others are of everyday heroes that many times are unseen but are important as they do things that strengthen our community. These “vidas de impacto” fill us with hope and inspire us to believe that we can also make a difference. In one of Dr. Brown’s favorite quotes, Nelson Mandela tells us that “education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world”. We hope you are inspired by these stories and if you or someone you know needs a college education, remember, Esperanza College is right here in the community, is fully accredited, has a flexible schedule, and provides scholarships to help prepare and empower you to be a hero in the community.