Shedding happy tears
In 2016, as the New London Board of Education looked to approve the 2016-2017 school year calendar, I brought up the idea of changing Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples Day. It wasn’t a unique idea. Seattle had begun this shift in 2014, but this is Connecticut. We are a bit traditional. The board approved the proposal.
On Wednesday, I stood in the former Columbus Circle and watched a drumming, dancing, ritualistic celebration of Indigenous People. As a former school board member, and someone who has attended numerous public celebrations, this was the first to cause tears to freely roll down my checks into my handmade mask. My 11-year-old son asked me if they were happy tears.
They are happy tears because I felt recognized; I felt the Nahuas of El Salvador recognized. I felt solidarity and companionship with the young Ecuadorian couple with native roots that admired the festivities, but who afterwards asked me what the celebration was for. They were also sad tears because of the pain associated with the invisibility that we are breaking through.
My first term on the Board of Education I served with Rob Funk. He told me that in order to have integrity as an elected official, it was important to recognize how we benefited from the honor of serving. This recognition can allow us to truly serve the community. Perhaps part of what I selfishly got from serving our community was a chance to make tiny breaks in the hold of oppression that I myself feel beneath the surface. So much oppression exists in our public systems!
Today I am thankful for those who continue to serve to develop opportunities for the truths and traditions of our communities.
Mirna Martinez is a former president of the New London Board of Education and now serves as chair of the Education Committee for New London's Long Term Recovery Committee.
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