Calling the Circle

February 14, 2008

A year ago, I was completing a book on Latina body image, overwhelmed by what I had learned about the many challenges that young Latinas face in pursuing education.

As a former teacher, I know all my students faced many challenges, and I certainly do not mean to suggest one group’s challenges are more important than another’s.

What I have seen in the research and in my travels across the country to promote Hijas Americanas, however, is that Latinas are falling the furthest behind.

The numbers and stories have stayed with me, and I want to do something about it.

So what to do? As a writer about social justice and philanthropy issues, as a former collegiate director of community services, as a first generation Latina and a first generation college student who worried endlessly about paying for my education, there was bound to be a synergistic blending of my experiences in the solution that I envisioned.

Ultimately, I focused on one of the hot trends in philanthropy — giving circles.

Throughout history, women have gathered together — in homes and churches, town squares and bodegas — to heal their communities.

Galvanizing our inherent sisterhood, we bring children to life, nurture the sick or weak, and love in unrelenting measure.

We change the world despite, or perhaps because of, our understanding that the world has sometimes ostracized us.

Perhaps it is no coincidence that when we gather as women, we gather in a circle. We sit or stand, palm to palm, shoulder to shoulder, each of us equal and able to see not just the eyes of those across from us but into the soul for which those eyes serve as doorways.

It is how we come together, certainly, and it is how we heal. It is how we stay strong.

It is in that circle that we collect ourselves, each other, our stories, and our purpose. It is in that circle that we nourish, encourage, and empower. It is in that circle that we celebrate and grow.

And so it is only fitting when the news of the day is not good, when it steals our breath like a dimming force, that we issue the call to the circle, return to the space that holds, heals and helps, and use that space as a tool to change the news.