“You must do the thing you think you cannot do…” – Eleanor Roosevelt
Before I became a full time Journalist and Author, I graduated from four tough leadership programs. They all taught me the same thing in different ways – a leader must always be taking on new and challenging adventures.
I’m stepping outside of my comfort zone again in these coming weeks with my trip to all three of my “hometowns” – NYC where I grew up, Richmond, Virginia where I became a trained leader and D.C., where it all comes together (that scrappy girl from the South Bronx, mixed with the former corporate exec!), as I visit members of Congress while advocating for Puerto Rico and Net Neutrality.
Along the way, I will be documenting my experiences and all that I see as a Photojournalist contributor for USA Today’s website. I’ll chronicle the event where I’m the featured Author at La Casa Azul Bookstore in Spanish Harlem, my visit with my adult children (where I feel most centered and in balance) and, my meeting with the Congressman of Puerto Rico’s staff, where I’ll once again advocate for equal voting rights for the island’s residents.
In the middle of this very cold and uncomfortable Winter, it’d be more comfortable just staying home under my blanket until Spring arrives. But alas, there is just too much work that needs to be done to try and make this world a better place. So, instead, I’m heading out to do those things I never thought I could do; knowing now that I must, at least, try. NEWYORICANGIRL
Photo Stories by Julia’s Portfolio:
Photography has remained my best friend throughout my life – a passion I still rely on to inspire me, soothe me and constantly challenge me to live outside my comfort zone.
These days, I’m especially proud of my collaboration with USA Today’s website (the “Your Take” link) which features my work frequently.
I hope you’ll take a look at my most recent visual portfolio (link above!); highlighting some of my best work. I’d love to know which images speak to you and would be grateful for your support.
Please also consider signing up for my PHOTO STORIES site on Facebook, where I engage a worldwide community frequently.
It’s my sincerest wish that you, too, have found a passion in your life that sustains you. NEWYORICANGIRL
It’s been 6 months since I’ve posted on my Blog here. Back then, I found myself so frustrated with both President Obama and my broader Hispanic community in their lack of concern or leadership on issues related to Puerto Rico that I thought it best to step back for awhile.
Last month (November 2014), when Obama announced his very controversial immigration reform intentions – in part, offering relief and hope to my Mexican brothers and sisters – I found myself resentful because he continued to ignore the injustices committed against his legal American citizens living in Puerto Rico.
I almost posted here about my reaction then, but decided that my post from last June was still exactly how I felt and that I knew that I’d already upset my fellow Hispanics enough. It’s not that I’m not empathetic to their plight. It’s just that I’m offended by their lack of sympathy for ours.
Now, our President has shocked the Latin community with his news today regarding changes to our foreign relations policies with Cuba. He issued a highly visible statement today at 12noon that said – and I quote – “Let us leave behind the history of colonization.”
Seriously, Mr. President? If you really believe your own rhetoric, then I ask you WHEN will it be Puerto Rico’s turn for you and our Congress to finally set our island free – free from our colonial relationship with the United States? All I’m asking you for is EQUAL voting, just like was granted to Washington, D.C. via the 23rd Amendment. Hasn’t Puerto Rico earned the same respect from you and Congress? Can’t you at least debate a 28th Amendment for my people?
When, Mr. Obama, will you make it your highest priority to demand equal voting rights and representation for your more than 3 million legal American citizens living in Puerto Rico who remain marginalized? Please do not forget my People. We’re watching you, now more than ever. NEWYORICANGIRL
Dear Hispanic community, I hate to say I told you so, but I did. Politico is reporting today that immigration reform is dead.
I continue to say that if Congress can continue to treat Puerto Rico (it’s legal Hispanic American citizens) so badly, what makes you think that your community will be treated any differently? To believe this is getting you no where. Rather, isn’t it time you encouraged your organizations to advocate for Puerto Rico – America’s most egregiously marginalized Hispanics?
The payoff here for you is that – with just a Constitution in your hand – there’s a strong argument to be made that Congress is, in fact, obligated to improve it’s treatment of it’s own (already legal) citizens. With so many of our elected officials concerned about securing our nation’s Hispanic voting block, imagine how quickly they’d uplift Puerto Rico if they believed it essential to secure the Latino vote.
You continue to ignore us and you’re getting nowhere. That’s the cold, hard truth. Here’s a link to Politico’s accounting of how immigration reform fell apart…
NEWYORICANGIRL continues her petition efforts for equal voting rights for Puerto Rico; interviewing U.S. Senator Mark Warner (D-VA) who states he’d be willing to consider this idea…
NEWYORICANGIRL Travelogue: Puerto Rico 2014
Tears of joy, tears of frustration and tears of sadness filled my eyes during the week I spent on the island of my ancestors recently. I’ve tried to soothe myself by producing this travelogue video.
I was ecstatic to return to the healing waters of Puerto Rico – which I crave constantly because they rejuvenate me in a way no other H2O can.
It broke my heart to be reminded of the beautiful and gracious souls of my people who continue to politely serve the United States without full and equal voting rights and/or representation.
I didn’t want to leave the island when it came time to board the airplane headed back to the mainland. I wanted to stay and fight for what my people have earned and deserve.
The call to return is a resounding coqui sound in my head that I cannot ignore. NEWYORICANGIRL
On May 13th, I arrived in Old San Juan carrying my petition comprised of 2,800 signatures; representing people form all around the world who agree that residents of Puerto Rico should be granted equal voting rights as American citizens. It took me less than one year to garner that amount of support (and then a couple of months to plan my trip!). Imagine what we could accomplish if we’d stop obsessing about only the status question for Puerto Rico.
I believe there’s room for those of us who are are passionate about empowering our fellow Boricuas via a campaign to demand that Congress debate a 28th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Just like the 23rd Amendment added in the early 1960s for the benefit of non-state residents living in the District of Columbia, I believe the time has come to grant all the same rights and privileges to the legal American citizens claiming residency in Puerto Rico.
Their right to vote for their own Commander in Chief should not have ANYTHING to do with whether or not they pay federal taxes (as SO many ignorant people use as the #1 argument). It is estimated that 47% of U.S. citizens also DON’T pay their federal taxes but are not penalized by being banned from participating in our nations presidential election every four years. So, should we start mandating that a citizen cannot vote for President if they don’t pay their federal taxes?
Why then continue to disenfranchise the 2 million registered voters on the island – especially as the country now accepts that Hispanics are it’s largest minority group? I’ll tell you why. Because the U.S. Congress is afraid of the significant shift in power that would occur when Puerto Rico (if admitted as a state) would add 2 additional Senators and 4-6 Representatives.
Thus, I say, let’s take advantage of their fear and launch a two-prong approach to empowering the people of Puerto Rico. Let’s simultaneously advocate for equal voting rights at the SAME TIME that we continue to debate the status question. I ask you, what do we have to lose? Seriously, at this point – when Puerto Ricans have been treated as second class citizens for close to 100 years – let’s at least expand the discussion to include other strategies that can empower our people. NEWYORICANGIRL