The topics that make the heart of Latinos pulse every day, and the progress of issues that matter to you, your family and your community.

civil rights movement

5 Unsung Civil Rights Movement’s women activists you should know 

This year on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, we want to celebrate some of the incredible but unsung women activists of the Civil Rights Movement. 

The contributions and efforts of women in the Civil Rights Movement have often been overlooked and overshadowed by men. Even today, the mainstream historical narrative of the Civil Rights Movement primarily focuses on the efforts of men in the movement and minimizes the contributions of women. 

Within mainstream narratives, women such as Rosa Parks have been “reduced to limited images of obedient femininity, or “accidental” matriarchs.” The typical story most children learn in school about Rosa Parks is that she refused to give up her seat to a white man on a bus. The narrative often depicts Rosa Parks as a random woman who simply decided to do this one day. In reality, Rosa Parks was an activist and member of the NAACP for many years prior. 

Like Rosa Parks, the portrayals of women in the Civil Rights Movement as “accidental” matriarchs work to diminish the impact of their activism. Instead of being seen as active participants, the mainstream historical narrative reduced the efforts of Black women as “passive and unassuming.” 

However, Black women were certainly not passive participants. They played active critical roles throughout the Civil Rights Movement, from leading local civil rights organizations to serving as lawyers on school segregation lawsuits. African American women operated as local leaders in many areas, bridging the gap between national and local grassroots organizations. 

Women of the Civil Rights Movement 

Coretta Scott King 

Activist Coretta Scott King, 1964. (Source: Wiki Commons)

Coretta Scott King is most famously known as Martin Luther King Jr.’s wife. However, her activism began long before her marriage and extended beyond her husband’s death. In her activism, she also voiced her experiences with sexism within the Civil Rights Movement stating, 

“Not enough attention has been focused on the roles played by women in the struggle. By and large, men have formed the leadership in the civil rights struggle but there have been many women in leading roles and many women in the background. Women have been the backbone of the whole civil rights movement…Women have been the ones who have made it possible for the movement to be a mass movement…”

Additionally, we would not have this day to celebrate if it weren’t for the consistent efforts by Coretta who lobbied for 15 years to help establish Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a federal holiday. 

Without Coretta, the iconic Montgomery bus boycott likely would not have happened. After the King’s home was bombed in 1956, the family pleaded with Coretta to leave Montgomery. She refused, choosing to remain by her husband’s side. If Coretta had left, her husband said he would have followed, and the Montgomery bus boycott may never have happened. 

Dorothy Cotton 

Activist Dorothy Cotton. (Source: Dorothy Cotton Institute)

Dorothy Cotton was a leader and activist who was recruited by King to work at the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in Atlanta. She originally planned to stay for only three months, but ended up staying for 23 years.

She went on to serve as the conference’s national director of education and was the only female member of the executive staff. As the SCLC’s Educational Director, she was arguably the highest ranked female member of the organization. While working with the conference, she helped train activists in nonviolent action.

One of her biggest achievements within the movement was establishing the Citizen Education Program, a program to help blacks register to vote. The program also helped teach community and individual empowerment. 

In her autobiography, she wrote, “our work with SCLC was not just a job, it was a life commitment.”

Dorothy has also been credited with typing the famous “I Have a Dream” speech in a hotel room in Washington. 

Jo Ann Robinson 

Civil Rights Activist and teacher, Jo Ann Robinson. (Source: Wiki Commons)

Jo Ann Robinson was a college professor and the first person in her family to graduate from college. She is known and remembered as the woman who orchestrated the famous Montgomery bus boycott after she was degraded by a bus driver for sitting in the “whites only” section. 

Later, she became president of the Women’s Political Council in Montgomery and made it a priority to desegregate the city’s buses. She led the Montgomery bus boycott becoming a key player behind the scenes and faced arrest, violence, and intimidation for her activism. 

Later, in her memoir, she reflected on the bus boycott and wrote, “An oppressed but brave people, whose pride and dignity rose to the occasion, conquered fear, and faced whatever perils had to be confronted. The boycott was the most beautiful memory that all of us who participated will carry to our final resting place”

King also praised her work in his own memoir stating, “Apparently indefatigable, she, perhaps more than any other person, was active on every level of the protest.”

Gwendolyn Zoharah Simmons 

Civil Rights leader, Gwendolyn Zoharah Simmons. (Source:

Gwendolyn “Gwen” Zoharah Simmons first became involved with the Civil Rights Movement when she joined the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) after hearing a speech by Dr. King. She was later one of three women chosen to be a field director for the Mississippi Freedom Summer Project, which aimed to establish “Freedom Schools” and increase black voter registration.  

Through her work within the organization, she organized twenty-three volunteers who built Freedom Schools and a library, conducted a literacy program and mock voter registration project, and rallied for integration of local restaurants and schools. 

Like many other women in the Civil Rights Movement, Gwen was also vocal about gender inequality and fought for women’s rights as well. Sharing her experiences with gender inequality as a woman leader she said, 

“I often had to struggle around issues related to a woman being a project director.  We had to fight for the resources, you know.  We had to fight to get a good car because the guys would get first dibs on everything, and that wasn’t fair…it was a struggle to be taken seriously by the leadership, as well as by your male colleagues.”

Dorothy I. Height 

Activist and leader, Dorothy I. Height. (Source:

Dorothy I. Height’s political activism began in high school when she began participating in anti-lynching campaigns. When she was set to begin college, Dorothy was met with roadblocks due to her race. She was accepted to Barnard College in New York, however, the college later changed its mind and refused to admit her, stating that they had met their “quota” for black female students. 

These early experiences with racism motivated her activism. She later attended New York University where she earned two degrees in four years, a Bachelor’s in education and a Master’s in psychology. 

Dorothy’s achievements only continued as she ascended to the presidency of the National Council for Negro Women, a position she held from 1957-1998. As an activist within the Civil Rights Movement, one of her crowning achievements was the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963. Dorothy helped organize the march and stood close to King as he delivered his memorable “I Have a Dream” speech. However, the experience was an eye-opener for Dorothy in which she saw how women’s contributions were brushed aside. Despite her skills as a speaker and leader, she was not given the opportunity to speak that day. 

Of the experience she said, her male counterparts “were happy to include women in the human family, but there was no question as to who headed the household.” 

Despite the lack of recognition, Dorothy continued her activism and went on to serve as a leader in various organizations such as the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA), serving as their National Interracial Education Secretary in the 1940s and the first director of its Center of Racial Justice in 1955. Dorothy also helped found the National Women’s Political Caucus and has received many honors for her contributions such as the Presidential Medal of Freedom which was awarded to her in 1994 by President Bill Clinton. 

woman migrant workers

Migrants Day 2021: How the pandemic disproportionately impacted women migrant workers 

International Migrant Day was established in 2000 by the UN General Assembly (UNGA. Taking into account the large and increasing number of migrants in the world, 18 December was proclaimed International Migrants Day. 

The day was selected to mark the anniversary of the 1990 adoption by UNGA of the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families.

This day is seen as an opportunity to recognize the contributions made by millions of migrants, such as their work for the economies of their home countries and host. It is also a day to promote and advocate for migrant human rights.

The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated many of the critical issues facing migrant workers and women migrant workers have been disproportionately affected.  The latest data estimates the number of international migrant workers is 169 million, 70 million of whom are women. 

“COVID-19-related border closures and the attendant economic crisis have led to extensive job losses for migrant workers globally, with a disproportionate impact on women, who have even more limited income security and social protection and who continue to face wage discrimination,” said António Vitorino, Director-General of the International Organization for Migration and Coordinator of the UN Network on Migration.

According to a report by the International Labor Organization, many women migrant workers have even more limited income security and social protection than the average worker. This is due to various factors including: the persistent gender wage gap and because women migrant workers disproportionately work in more precarious, insecure and informal employment. Women are also more likely to experience violence at the workplace, the report states. 

This year’s International Migrant Day centers around the theme of “Harnessing the Potential of Human Mobility.” 

The UN writes: 

Migrants contribute with their knowledge, networks, and skills to build stronger, more resilient communities. The global social and economic landscape can be shaped through impactful decisions to address the challenges and opportunities presented by global mobility and people on the move.

The Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM) offers the opportunity and guidance to actualize human mobility and seize the opportunities it presents.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) has assisted millions of migrants since it emerged 70 years ago to assist the vast number of Europeans displaced by the Second World War and continues to lead the way in promoting a humane and orderly management of migration for the benefit of all, including the communities of origin, transit and destination.

With this year’s theme, the UN is sharing stories from migrant workers to amplify their voices. While there is much work to be done to address and rectify the issues facing migrant women workers, sharing their stories and advocating for their rights is a first step toward advancing the cause. 

Evelyn Padin

Evelyn Padin’s nomination to the U.S. District Court Judge in NJ is “a victory for our community”

President Biden has nominated Evelyn Padin, the former president of the New Jersey State Bar Association (NJSBA), to serve as a U.S. District Court Judge in New Jersey. This pick continues Biden’s pledge to appoint more diverse individuals to high level positions. 

During the 2020 election, he promised to nominate “the most diverse Cabinet in history,” stressing that he wanted leaders that look like America. 

“It’s a cabinet that looks like America, taps into the best of America, and opens doors and includes the full range of talents we have in this nation,” Biden said. 

Evelyn Padin is a Seton Hall Law Alumnus, Class of ’92, a former social worker, and a trustee of the Hispanic Bar Association. Additionally, she is a successful entrepreneur who runs her own family law and civil litigation practice in Jersey City.

Continuing a line of historic strides forward for women of color in government positions, Padin is the second Latina to be nominated to this esteemed bench since the Honorable Esther Salas, U.S.D.J., former HBA-NJ President, was nominated over a decade ago. In 2019, Padin also became the first Puerto Rican and Latina to be sworn in as NJSBA President in the history of the association, which dates back to 1888.  

In a press release, the Hispanic Bar Association of New Jersey (“HBA-NJ”) issued a statement congratulating Trustee and friend, Evelyn Padin, on her nomination to the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey.  

The President of the Hispanic Bar Association of New Jersey, Tabatha L. Castro, had this to say about this momentous nomination:

“To hear that Evelyn Padin has been nominated for the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey is a victory for our community. I have known Evelyn for many years, from being part of the Board of the Hispanic Bar Association of New Jersey to President of the New Jersey State Bar Association and everything in between. She serves New Jersey with zeal, passion and integrity and will be a great asset to the District Court, which is why our JPAC Committee endorsed her. We will continue to promote and support the ascension of qualified Latino members of our community to the bench and other important leadership roles in New Jersey.”

Evelyn Padin

Evelyn Padin is the second Latina to be nominated to the esteemed position of U.S. District Court Judge in New Jersey. (Image Source)

Padin brings over 30 years of legal experience to her role, if confirmed. Throughout her career she has supported groups and organizations that empower underserved communities. She has been a member of the New Jersey State Bar Association, New Jersey Family Law Executive Committee (since 2007), and she serves as Vice President and Founder of the Carevel Foundation, whose mission is to educate and empower underrepresented members in the community.

Over the years the Foundation has partnered with organizations such as NJ Women Rising, The Boys & Girls Club, Community Food Bank of New Jersey, and Autism Awareness of Jersey City. Most recently, fundraising efforts have focused on supporting victims of the COVID-19 pandemic and Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. 

As a frequent lecturer, Padin has actively served as a speaker on behalf of the National Council of State Bar Presidents, the New Jersey State Bar Association, and the New Jersey Institute for Continuing Legal Education. She is also a former Trustee of the Hispanic Bar Association of New Jersey and previously served on the board of New Jersey Women Lawyers. 

For Latinas everywhere, Padin’s confirmation to the esteemed position of U.S. District Court Judge in New Jersey would signal a great step forward in the movement for greater diversity and representation in government. 

You might be interested: The strides toward diversity in politics continue in historic firsts for women of color 

women of color in politics

The strides toward diversity in politics continue in historic firsts for women of color

In recent years, we have seen a rise in women of color elected into office. This rise is a step forward for minority women in politics, who have historically been underrepresented in elected office. 

According to research from Rutgers’ Center for American Women and Politics (CAMP), “of the 144 women serving in the 117th U.S. Congress, 50, or 34.7%, are women of color. Women of color constitute 9.2% of the total 535 members of Congress. The record high for women of color serving in Congress was 52, set between January 3, 2021, and January 18, 2021.” 

Additionally, of the women serving in statewide elective executive offices, 19.1%, are women of color and women of color constitute 5.8% of the total 310 statewide elective executives. In positions of state legislators, women of color makeup 26.5% of the 2,290 women state legislators serving nationwide and constitute 8.2% of the total 7,383 state legislators.

Last year’s election saw a big, historic first for women of color, with Kamala Harris becoming the first woman of color, the first Black person, and the first South Asian person elected to the position of Vice President. 

Other firsts include Cori Bush, who won her general election race, making her the first Black woman to represent Missouri in Congress and Marilyn Strickland, who won her race in Washington’s 10th Congressional District Making her the first African American member of the Washington state delegation and the first African American from the Pacific Northwest in Congress. 

This year, the stride toward greater diversity continued with more historic firsts for women of color in politics. 

The historic firsts continue for women of color 

In Boston, Michelle Wu became the first woman and the first Asian American elected as the city’s mayor. Prior to Wu, Boston had only elected white, male leaders. Her win is a progressive step forward for diversity and representation in politics. 

women of color in politics,

Michelle Wu becomes first woman and Asian American mayor of Boston. (Image via Instagram)

In the city of Durham, N.C., another woman was elected as mayor in a historic first. In her victory speech, Elain O’Neal told supporters, “Together you have given me the honor and trust of being your next mayor — the first Black woman mayor of Durham. This is a dream that I never had, but it’s now my reality.”

New York City also saw Shahana Hanif become the first Muslim woman elected to City Council. 

“We deserve a city that protects its most vulnerable, a city that has equitable education, a city invested in climate solutions that are local and driven by communities, a city where our immigrant neighbors feel at home and heard and safe. This work requires all of us to keep showing up even though the election is over,” she said in a statement Tuesday. 

You might be interested: Alma and Colin Powell’s lasting American promise to the nation’s youth 

Finally, Republican Winsome Sears became the first woman elected to the office of lieutenant governor in Virginia. 

“It’s a historic night — yes, it is — but I didn’t run to make history. I just wanted to leave it better than I found it,” Sears said in a speech Wednesday morning. “I’m telling you that what you are looking at is the American Dream.”

New Jersey Governor

New Jersey Governor Phill Murphy projected winner of second term, first in 44 years to be re-elected

Gov. Phil Murphy , a former executive at Goldman Sachs, became the projected winner of the governor’s race in New Jersey. He is the first Democrat to win reelection in the Garden State in 44 years. The last to do so was Brendan Byrne, in 1977. Jack Ciattarelli, a Republican and former assembly member, has not conceded yet.

For a while, Murphy was ahead in polls by double-digits, and while those numbers dwindled recently, most surveys continued to show Murphy up anywhere from 4 to 11 percentage points. Many were not expecting the close race we were seeing as results continued to come in. 

NJ residents divided over state issues and pandemic response

Throughout the campaign, popular issues of focus were the pandemic, taxation, and the state’s economy. Republican residents have pushed back against Murphy’s increasingly liberal policies, with the governor losing the favor of many residents during the pandemic for his strict mandates. 

As the race continued, the response to COVID-19 became the defining issue. Throughout the pandemic, Gov. Murphy was adamant about stopping the spread of the virus in the state. He was one of the last governors to repeal the mask mandate for the state and among the first to require teachers to be vaccinated or submit to regular testing, The New York Times reported. 

With the virus also disrupting the state’s economy and impacting small businesses, The Murphy Administration put programs and resources in place to help businesses recover financially. 

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy, right, watches as Maritza Beniquez, RN, reacts after receiving a vaccination for COVID-19 at University Hospital in Newark, NJ. Beniquez was the first person in New Jersey to receive the vaccination. (Photo credit Kirsten Luce for The New York Times)

Ciattarelli, however, disagreed with Murphy’s pandemic response. Gaining the support of anti-vax voters, Ciattarelli opposed the COVID-19 vaccine mandate and mandatory masking in schools. Additionally he believed early lockdown orders were responsible for hurting the state’s small businesses. 

Ciattarelli was able to win over four counties that had previously voted for Murphy: Atlantic, Cumberland, Gloucester and Somerset.

However, Murphy continued to carry cities and counties with larger urban populations, as his liberal policies throughout his first term worked to benefit urban and minority communities. Additionally, the number of registered Democrats currently outnumber Republicans by more than 1 million in New Jersey, giving Murphy another advantage. 

Still, the divisive issues made this election an unexpectedly close race.

You might be interested: Excluded New Jerseyans Fund to provide pandemic-related financial aid to undocumented individuals

As it became clear that results would not be in last night, both candidates made their speeches to their supporters. 

“We’re gonna have to wait a little while longer than we hoped,” said Murphy, speaking at the Asbury Park Convention Hall, just after midnight. “We’re gonna wait for every vote to be counted. That’s how our democracy works.”

“We’re all sorry that tonight could not yet be the celebration that we wanted it to be,” Murphy continued. “But as I said: When every vote is counted — and every vote will be counted — we hope to have a celebration again.”


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A post shared by Jack Ciattarelli (@jack4nj)

In Bridgewater, Ciattarelli addressed his gathered supporters. “I wanted to come out here tonight because I prepared one hell of a victory speech,” he said. “I wanted to come out here tonight because we won. But I’m here to tell you that we’re winning.”

Phil Murphy built his campaign around progressive measures he signed into law, such as an increase to $15 an hour minimum wage, paid sick leave along with taxes on the wealthy, access to child care for all, and the multiple subsidies to small businesses that suffered during the Covid-29 pandemic. He also brought on Democratic allies, including Senator Bernie Sanders, to campaign for him.

Día de los Muertos: Celebrating Mexican culture and honoring ancestors through art

Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) is a two-day festival characterized by traditional costumes, parades, food, music and dance. The holiday originated from Mesoamerican roots and later came to incorporate European religion and Spanish culture. Celebrated throughout the Latino community with strong ties to Mexican culture, Día de los Muertos is a time where families celebrate their deceased relatives and honor their memories. 

According to tradition, it is believed that from October 31 – November 2, the border between the spirit world and the real world dissolves allowing the souls of the dead to awaken and return to the living world to feast, drink, dance and play music with their loved ones. Family members treat the deceased as honored guests, leaving offerings such as food at gravesites or on ofrendas in the family’s home. 

The holiday is often known for its colorful displays and iconic symbols, such as the calacas (skeletons) and calaveras (skulls). 

Calavera de la Catrina (Skull of the Female Dandy), from the portfolio 36 Grabados: José Guadalupe Posada, published by Arsacio Vanegas, Mexico City, c. 1910, zinc etching, 34.5 x 23 cm. (Source:

The most well-known symbol of the holiday is perhaps, La Calavera Catrina, or Elegant Skull. Created by 20th century printer and cartoonist, José Guadalupe Posada, the image features a female skeleton adorned with makeup and dressed in fancy clothes. Originally created as a statement about Mexicans adopting European fashions over their own heritage and traditions, La Calavera Catrina was later adopted as one of the most popular Día de los Muertos symbols.

Art and culture weave together to celebrate and honor the dead 

Art has been a tool to express and celebrate culture and identity for centuries. For many Latina artists, it is a way to share their unique experiences, explore themes of identity, protest against injustice, and honor traditions. 

Carina Yepez is a Mexican-American artist and educator who works with photography and textiles to explore themes on migration, honoring ancestors and identity. Native to Chicago, Illinois with roots from Guanajuato, Mexico she is dedicated to exploring the patterns of matriarchy and the experience of Chicago migrants. 

cariiyepz: 🌺 florals to the city (Image via Instagram

Carina’s textile work honors generations of women who taught her how to sew. From a rural small town in Mexico to the bustling city of Chicago, she learned the craft from the women in her life. She learned sewing techniques first from her grandmother and mother. Then, while working at a fabric ship and participating in a local sewing co-op, Puntadas del Alma (Stitches of the Soul), Carina continued to strengthen her craft. 

Her creative practice weaves together mediums such as  photography, quilting, writing, art education, storytelling and archiving to create stunning and thought-provoking pieces of art that celebrate and honor her Mexican-American identity. 

Part of the National Mexican art Museum of Chicago’s Day of the Dead exhibit, this quilt celebrates the life of Ofelia Lara.

Recently, Carina made a quilt to celebrate the life of a good friend who passed away. The quilt is part of the National Mexican Art Museum of Chicago’s Day of the Dead exhibit, which honors and remembers COVID-19 victims. 

The quilt is an homage to Ofelia Lara, whose family could not grieve together during the pandemic. Carina, along with Ofelia’s daughter, Maria Herrera  made the quilt together to celebrate Ofelia’s life. 

In an article by ABC 7 Chicago, Carina said she hopes the exhibit will be a comfort to all who see it. 

“I want them to feel a big hug, a big hug that our ancestors are with us,” she said. “The legacy that has passed on to us continues through the stories we share.”

The beautiful and vibrant art piece is a perfect representation of Día de los Muertos. Surrounded by colorful flowers, Carina’s friend shines. This quilt  is a reminder of life, celebration, remembrance, and all the qualities of today’s holiday. 

Día de los Muertos celebrates rather than mourns. It is a time honoring and remembering the lives of those we loved. The holiday attracts attention for its vibrant and colorful symbols and art. For many, art is another way to honor and celebrate the dead. Pieces like Carina’s quilt to her friend bring joy to viewers and reminds us of the love and life of those who have passed on in our own lives. 

The art exhibit, Día de Muertos – A Time to Grieve & Remember, will run from now to Sunday, December 12, 2021.

To see more of Carina Yepez’s art visit

Colin Powell

Alma and Colin Powell’s lasting American promise to the nation’s youth 

Colin Powell was a trailblazer and role model for Americans. A veteran of the Vietnam War, Powell spent 35 years in the Army and rose to the rank of four-star general before serving as the country’s first Black national security adviser, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and secretary of state. 

Powell passed away on Monday after complications of Covid-19, his family said in a statement on Facebook. Powell had been vaccinated, however he was being treated for myeloma, a blood cancer that impairs the body’s ability to fight infection; this compromised his immune system and the effectiveness of the vaccine, The Associated Press reported. 

“We have lost a remarkable and loving husband, father, grandfather and a great American,” the family said. 

Honoring America’s Promise to the nation’s youth through life of service

Born in Harlem to Jamaican immigrant parents, Powell grew up in the South Bronx. His childhood was marked by financial struggle and hardship. In his 1995 autobiography, My American Journey, Powell wrote, “Mine is the story of a black kid of no early promise from an immigrant family of limited means who was raised in the South Bronx.” From these humble beginnings, he rose through the ranks, becoming a prominent public figure in America and breaking barriers. 

Speaking on how Powell’s early years influenced his actions in life, President Biden said, “He believed in the promise of America because he lived it. And he devoted much of his life to making that promise a reality for so many others.”

Alma Powell, author, advocate, speaker and Chair Emeritus, America’s Promise Alliance. (Photo Source)

After retiring from the military in 1993, Powell began dedicating more time to fulfilling that promise. In 1997, Powell became the Founding Chairman of “America’s Promise – The Alliance for Youth”, a non-profit organization dedicated to improving the lives of children in America. Together with his wife, Alma, they worked to advocate for and improve the lives of children and youth by ensuring that Five Promises are fulfilled in their lives. 

Alma Powell later wrote the children’s book, “America’s Promise” as a way to teach and exemplify America’s Five Promises to children.

In the playful picture book, Alma Powell introduces young readers to the basic principles of America’s Promise — caring adults, safe places, a healthy start, marketable skills, and opportunities to serve.

“Our mission is to mobilize people from every sector of American life to build the character and competence of our nation’s youth by fulfilling five promises for young people,” Alma wrote

The Five Promises ask Americans to step up and create a world where the nation’s children can thrive and achieve adult success: 

  1. Caring Adults in Every Child’s Life – Develop relationships with parents, tutors, mentors, coaches, and other adults with an interest in the child’s well-being.
  2. A Safe Place After School – Create locations with structured activities during non-school hours.
  3. A Healthy Start -Provide good nutrition, protective immunizations, and sound dental care and hygiene.
  4. Marketable Skills – Offer effective education and practical experiences for career development.
  5. Opportunities to Give Back – Encourage community service – so that the cycle continues.

Throughout his life, Colin Powell exemplified these values as a youth advocate, public servant, parent, and leader. His accomplishments and historic firsts as a person of color also made him an inspiration and role model to many young Black Americans. 

Colin Powell

Colin Powell was a trailblazer and role model for Americans, inspiring many through his work, Kamala Harris shares. 

“Every step of the way, when he filled those roles, he was by everything that he did and the way he did it, inspiring so many people,” said Vice President Kamala Harris, speaking on his influence. “Young servicemembers and others not only within the military, but in our nation and around the globe, took notice of what his accomplishments meant as a reflection of who we are as a nation.”

You might be interested: Teaching leadership: Helping children become leaders and develop strong communication skills

By the time Powell retired from the military, he was known as one of the most popular public figures in America, “owing to his straightforwardness, his leadership qualities and his ability to speak in blunt tones that Americans appreciated.” (The New York Times) 

“He was a great public servant, starting with his time as a soldier during Vietnam,” said George W. Bush in a statement Monday. “Many presidents relied on General Powell’s counsel and experience. He was such a favorite of presidents that he earned the Presidential Medal of Freedom — twice. He was highly respected at home and abroad. And most important, Colin was a family man and a friend.”

Colin Powell lived a life of service and achieved great accomplishments through his merits. He leaves behind a legacy as trailblazer and role model who broke racial barriers in our nation. As an inspiration to many, his work will continue on, with his lasting American promise to make the world a better place for our youth.

Why words matter: The negative impacts of racial microaggressions

Iloradanon Efimoff, Ph.D. Candidate of Social and Personality Psychology at University of Manitoba, discusses the impact of racial microaggressions on Indigenous and other racialized people. 

“Don’t you go to school for free?”, “You don’t pay taxes!”, “Do you live in a teepee?” are things Indigenous students have heard.

In some cases, there is widespread agreement on what racism is. For example, most people would agree that restricting a racial group’s right to vote in a federal election is racist. (Indigenous people were the last to gain full voting rights in Canada in 1960.)

But in other cases, the agreement is scant — the quotes at the top of this page represent some of those cases. They are examples of racial microaggressions. Racial microaggressions are often considered “minor.”

What are racial microaggressions?

Racial microaggressions are incessant, subtle forms of racism that can be verbal, behavioural or environmental. Racial microaggressions have been described as “racial indignities.”

As a mixed-race Haida woman, I’ve been routinely told I “don’t look Indigenous” or I’m “not like other Indigenous people” because I was born with my mother’s skin tone instead of my father’s. This is an example of a racial microaggression.

Microaggressions may seem small or “micro,” but as incessant forms of racism, they can have big impacts on mental health, physical health and social life.

One study of university students found that non-Indigenous university students regularly asked Indigenous university students if they lived in teepees. Another study found that Indigenous students were stereotyped by others as drunks, addicts or on welfare.

Daily hassles

One way of looking at the impact of racial microaggressions could be to look at daily hassles. Daily hassles are defined as “relatively minor, everyday problems such as commuting problems, family arguments or household repairs.”

The cumulative impact of daily hassles is linked to chronic health conditions like digestive problems, mental health conditions like depression and anxiety and even death. Some researchers have even found that daily hassles have a larger impact on health than major life events given their relentless nature.

The concept of daily hassles show that small things can have big impacts.

Racial microagressions and health

Researchers have shown that racial microaggressions are associated with depression in Latino community members, in university students of Asian descent and create PTSD symptoms in Black participants. Microaggressions are also related to physical health outcomes. Experiencing racial microaggressions during the COVID-19 pandemic was related to physical health issues and sleep troubles for Asians and Asian Americans.

They’re also associated with a whole host of other negative outcomes like substance use, anxiety, stress and even suicidal thoughts in many racialized groups.

Although there is little quantitative research on the impacts of microaggressions on Indigenous people, qualitative research has indicated that Indigenous people feel disrespected, degraded, uncomfortable or like they have to hide their Indigenous identity after experiencing microaggressions.

Microaggressions aren’t just based on race

Microaggressions can be based on many factors. Researchers have identified microaggressions based on gender, LGBTQ identity and ability.

Experiencing microaggressions based on these other factors can have similar effects as racial microaggressions: for example, experiences of disability-related microaggressions were related to higher levels of anxiety in Canadian university students.

Photo by Monstera from Pexels

A person can experience multiple types of microaggressions, due to the intersectionality of their identities.

For example, an Indigenous woman who identifies as bisexual might experience race, gender and sexual orientation-related microaggressions all in one day. Based on research on the impact of microaggressions and daily hassles, it is likely these combined experiences have negative impacts.

What to do about them?

What can people do about microaggressions? Freelance writer Hahna Yoon wrote a piece in the New York Times on how the targets of microaggressions might respond. These discussions are important because microaggressions exist and targets of them must have coping mechanisms. For example, people who experience microaggressions might share their experiences with others who have common experiences as a way to cope.

However, focusing on the target’s response misplaces the burden. A more equitable approach would be to put the onus of addressing microaggressions onto the perpetrators of the microaggressions. But there is relatively little research on this.

One study found that white participants said they were less likely to engage in microaggressions after a day-long workshop on race, racism and racial microaggressions. The study provides hope to those who do this work, but more information is needed.

Microaggressions cause harm. More research needs to be done to understand how best to prevent them. Thinking about how words matter might be a good place to start.The Conversation

Iloradanon Efimoff, Ph.D. Candidate, Social and Personality Psychology, University of Manitoba

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

women in charge

Internships in Congress overwhelmingly go to white students

James R. Jones, professor at Rutgers University – Newark , examines data surrounding the racial disparities in paid congressional internships. The Research Brief is a short take about interesting academic work.

The big idea

When it comes to paid congressional internships, white students get more than their fair share, but Black and Latino students don’t get enough.

That is the key finding of a new report I co-authored with Tiffany Win and Carlos Mark Vera for Pay Our Interns, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit that is pushing to increase the number of paid internships in various sectors.

These racial disparities come despite 2018 legislation that provides House and Senate offices with allowances exclusively for paid internships. I investigated whom congressional offices hired with these allowances during the first year that this funding was available in 2019.

I found that while white students make up only 56% of undergraduate college students nationwide, they accounted for 76% of paid interns in Congress. In contrast, Black and Latino students make up 14% and 19% of all undergraduates, respectively, but accounted for only 6.7% and 7.9% of paid congressional interns, respectively.

Why it matters

Racial representation among paid congressional internships is important because internships often lead to paid staff positions. In a 2020 study of congressional staff, over 50% indicated that they started their careers on Capitol Hill as interns. Accordingly, if people of color are underrepresented among paid congressional interns, they will similarly be underrepresented among legislative staff.

That matters because congressional staff are important behind-the-scenes actors in making American law. They provide critical advice, guidance and analysis to lawmakers. Congressional staffers are also involved in nearly all dimensions of legislative work, from coming up with ideas to providing services for constituents to the oversight of the federal government and day-to-day operations of the legislature.


Photo by August de Richelieu from Pexels

If the only staffers in the room advising members of Congress on policymaking decisions are white, then the policies this nation makes may not be as richly informed as they would otherwise be.

In addition, congressional employment provides a stepping stone to elected office. Today, the highest-ranking women in government, Vice President Kamala Harris and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, both began their political careers as congressional interns.

When people get firsthand experience with how American democracy works, it better enables them to see themselves as leaders and public servants.

What still isn’t known

While our report examines the racial makeup of paid congressional interns, Congress does not collect or publish data on unpaid interns. To this end, it’s not known how many unpaid interns there are or the racial makeup of this group. Some congressional offices may pay their interns with funding beyond the allowances they get for interns, but we don’t believe many do.

What’s next

There are still a lot of unknowns about who works in Congress. My future research will continue to examine racial representation among congressional staff and the mechanisms that lead to racial inequities on Capitol Hill. I also plan to continue to urge Congress to adopt more transparent hiring practices so that this problem can be better understood.

You might be interested: So-called ‘good’ suburban schools often require trade-offs for Latino students

How we do our work

We analyzed congressional payroll data, which provides the names of every paid intern. From the list of people who interned in Congress between April and September 2019, Pay Our Interns researchers conducted an online search for photographs, social backgrounds and past employment data of all interns. We obtained data from a variety of sources, including Linkedin, Facebook and Twitter. We collected racial demographic data for 96% of Senate interns and 95% of House interns.The Conversation

James R. Jones, Assistant Professor of African American and African Studies, Rutgers University – Newark

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.