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Published On: Thu, Dec 13th, 2018

Fighting For More Than Just Me…

Disclaimer: I’ve partnered with Modelo – a brand committed to honoring those who demonstrate The Fighting Spirit – to share my unique story on behalf of the Modelo Fighting Chance Project; however, all opinions are my own. Through a three-year partnership with the International Rescue Committee (IRC) – a cause near to my own heart – the brand is donating $1 million to help provide refugees, immigrants and Americans in need the financial tools to achieve their own vision of the American Dream. It doesn’t matter where you came from, it matters what you’re made of. This is something we can all stand behind.

You can learn more about this project, here: https://bit.ly/2A3yp94 . #For21+

IMG_8431Six weeks after Hurricane Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico in 2017, I found myself in a small shanty house on the side of a mountain. Some college buddies and I had decided to go to Puerto Rico to provide humanitarian aid in remote regions of the island. Our contribution included delivering meals, provisions, medical and mental health services.

In a full circle moment, I walked out of an elderly woman’s home and was met with a warm drizzle of rain while the sun beat down on my face… “Se casa una Bruja” (meaning in English “a witch is getting married”) as my late grandmother would always say. In our culture, the phrase is a reference to a clash of weather patterns, but in that very moment it dawned on me that I was continuing to build on the legacy my grandmother set forth for herself and her family.

My grandmother and the woman who raised me, Gloria Delrio, had just passed away a few months prior to the hurricane. When I was in her native home of Puerto Rico, I was proud to be doing the work she dedicated over 30 years of her life to: caring for those who can’t care for themselves.

I inherited her Fighting Spirit through the power of oral history, a storytelling medium that is native to the Taino Indian part of our heritage. My grandmother was an amazing social worker and community activist that dedicated her life to serving the community of North Brooklyn, New York City.

She came to the United States mainland in the early ‘50s as a young, single mom with my own mother in her arms. She did not speak any English and barely finished high school. Unable to secure steady employment at first, she worked several odd jobs and attended night school until she was able to both master English as a second language and secure a job in social work that paid a livable wage. She elevated her family from living in a subsidized housing project to living in a comfortable house with a spacious backyard (for New York standards).

Flash forward to my own childhood, when I lived with her and would spend many days listening to her storytelling. I always remember her talking about how important a strong foundation was to be able to survive adversity.

Like many Latina women, she was the master of her cocina. One day I marveled at the exquisite taste of her food and asked how she learned to cook so well, to which she simply replied, “Everything I cook, I cook with love. That is all you need, Papi. Love and sofrito.”

I had the privilege of not only learning from her stories but also stories from the folks in the nursing home where I would sometimes volunteer and play checkers and dominoes. Everyone who came in contact with my grandmother described her as a “Guerrera” – a warrior for the community.

All these different interactions taught me lessons that still guide me to this day.

* Self Determination – do everything you can to help yourself succeed in life – you can’t always count on help from others!

* Be Your Personal Best – you can be anything you want, so do it to the best of your ability. Show up and deliver!

* Share Everything – and share it with no expectations. Food, shelter, clothes and resources. Connect those in need to what they need.

* Be a Gift – always be kind. Everyone appreciates kindness in life. It costs nothing.

* Don’t Live with Regret – Never let fear stand in your way of discovering your own Fighting Spirit.

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Sofrito for Your Soul (and other cultural properties I have co-developed) highlights the stories of people of color and is a bridge for how I create business opportunities for all cultures using social media as an equalizer. This is a space where all individuals can tell their own Fighting Spirit stories to empower others. Today my website stands as the living tribute to my grandmother through her life-long ritual of making Sofrito – a cooking base used in many popular Puerto Rican dishes. I’ve used the Sofrito analogy on my platform to build up the Latino community and help them understand their cultural heritage and legacy, as well as document the contributions we’ve made to America.

Whether it’s a blog, spoken word, live cultural events, publishing books, developing social good campaigns or building communities, I am focused on cultivating the best of what we have to offer.

I do not want to live with regret. I have designed my life to be bold, take risks and continue my grandmother’s work.

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These days I take it a step further by going back to Puerto Rico to help with the recovery by solving the issues of food/water insecurity and clean sustainable energy. This effort is a long-term solution that requires policy change, innovation, natural resources, and relentless community building. I am a part of a movement that grows.

 

Remember that full circle moment? It is here.

#ModeloFightingChanceProject #ad

 

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Fighting For More Than Just Me…