What do you do at LINC?
I'm currently LINC's Deputy Director, though I’ve held several other positions in LINC. In this role, I help to drive the growth of the organization through the improvement, measurement, and implementation of LINC’s Community Literacy Model and the coalitions it leads. My main goal is to achieve the greatest impact for our families and children across NYC.
How did you get involved in early literacy?
Early literacy became an obsession of mine after becoming a mother. I wanted to surround my Uma Naima with stories, opportunities, and experiences that nurtured her growth and development AND uplifted her bicultural, biracial, and bilingual identity. Knowledge is power. I knew that a strong early literacy foundation would empower her to counter the negative effects of racism and other "isms." It became evident that finding children's books in Spanish, Quechua, Aymara, particularly those written by BIPOC in the original language, rather than a translation of an English book, was no easy task. I started a passion project to distribute and hold readings of hard-to-find children's books so that BIPOC kids and families could feel seen, heard, and validated. When I found LINC, I knew right away it was a place for me.
So many of my life experiences have connected me to literacy, books, and art. As a child growing up in Bolivia, I had two picture books. They were my go-to when I was feeling sad. I would snuggle in a corner with my tiny dog and read those two books over and over again. Then as a tween, I connected with Ms. Fiorilo, a local cultural organizer, who made poetry/theater classes available for kids. Her program AND poetry became my life-changing refuge. Although she didn't have the resources to buy books, she found creative ways to get us copies of poems. I grew up memorizing and reading the poetry of Gabriela Mistral, José Martí, Pepita Peralta Soruco, Pablo Neruda—some of the greatest Latin American poets. Poetry and theater helped to shape the world I envisioned for myself and my community.
Once I moved to the U.S., my mother and I learned English by reading books to my little brothers. She would translate the English children's books into Spanish the old-fashioned way. No Google translate back then! Also, despite my limited English, my first job was at the Milton Children's Library in Massachusetts. Plus, I found love through books!!! My partner in life, "Nate the Great," is an avid reader and writer, who can't help but to buy books and more books. I met him at a cultural gallery I founded in East Harlem on the night he read his poetry and shared the books that he was reading that week.
My little family is surrounded by a love and passion for storytelling and the written word. My life purpose is to ensure ALL children are surrounded by this love and benefit from it.
How does being an organization run by women inform LINC's approach to educational justice?
The women at LINC bring their whole selves to work. We are Mothers. Sisters. Daughters. Grandmothers. Immigrants. Children of Immigrants. All of us joined together by our love. Our love for children, for our communities, and for access to education and justice. Education, formal or informal, accessed or not, has played a critical in who we are and what we bring with us to work every day at LINC. The women at LINC are empowering families to raise lifelong readers who become leaders.