2017 GlobeMed Summit Senior Speeches
by Bella Chavez, graduating senior at Indiana University
Wow! Just wow! What a journey it’s been. I joined GlobeMed my freshman year, have attended now three Summits, and one Leadership Institute and GlobeMed continues to surprise me with how much new and rewarding information they share at each event. The people I meet at these events never cease to amaze me with their remarkable stories. This weekend has been unforgettable and I am sure each and every one of us will have a lot to talk about for the coming days, weeks, and years.
The first time I attended Summit was two years ago. I remember the Story Slam I attended and being moved by the volunteers who shared their stories with us. I remember the speakers that shared their obstacles with us. That first Summit, I went to lunch with one of the speakers and a couple of GlobeMed friends and we came across this mural with the words “La voz es poder.” My entire car ride home I kept thinking about that quote “voice is power” and thinking about the power of stories.
Often times in mainstream media, we see the stories of only a certain type of people being displayed, the opinions of a certain kind of people being told and perpetuated. This dynamic contributes greatly to the oppression of those who are marginalized. I am Mexican and the story of my people and our struggles has often been silenced. Our stories are far less heard and our voices are not represented. I have seen personally how this has hurt us. So today I want to share with you my story and my people’s story.
I was born in the Southside of Chicago to two amazing, hard-working Mexican immigrants. The community where I grew up was full of loving, communal Mexican Americans. The community I grew up in was not the best but I didn’t realize it until later in life. Gang members posted up on the corners on my way to school. Shootings around the neighborhood was common. The doctors in the neighborhood were few and the police were not our friends. When I was 10 my dad got a job promotion and decided to relocate our family to a small town in north central Indiana. In our new neighborhood, the doctors here were plenty and the police seemed to be friendly. As I grew older and reflected on my past, I realized that there was one huge difference between the two neighborhoods: the neighborhood in Chicago was predominantly Mexican and this new one was White.
I joined GlobeMed freshman year because they were a student group that discussed issues of social justice affecting people’s health, and that was something that I never really discussed before. When I started sharing my story during ghU discussion, many of my middle class White peers at Indiana University were surprised at what I had lived through. When I started hearing other stories that were similar to mine, I began to realize that my experiences were more than just things that happened to me, that my experiences were tied to systematic oppression. Through Summit and Leadership Institute, I continued to learn about how systems in place in this country have continued to perpetuate the marginalization of underrepresented peoples. Underrepresented. People like me. My entire life growing up I was systematically oppressed and didn’t even realize it. But why are we considered underrepresented, why do these systems continue to bury us? Because of the lack of voice.
Growing up in Chicago, I was close to my uncle, my dad’s brother. I would have never imagined that his life would end in the way it did. On June 24, 2016 my uncle was shot and killed by the police in Oklahoma City. I got the phone call when I was doing research on campus and I was in shock. My family travelled to Oklahoma City immediately upon hearing the news, but the police did my family no justice. They gave us vague answers and told us that the officers had to do what they had to do, but we were not convinced. I was on the forefront of the battle to try to talk to news outlets, to get the police to show us videos, to give us concrete details of what happened. But eventually, the media gave the cops version of my uncle’s story. You cannot imagine the pain the anger I felt hearing the comments and lies from the media, including the Latino news networks, painting a picture of my uncle as this criminal. I tried everything in my power to bring justice to his name but my voice was silenced.
If it was this easy for the media and for the police to silence my family, how many more families are they silencing?
Often times, the voices of the marginalized are silenced by the system to keep those with power at the top and this is hurting us greatly. I started to realize this through conversations I had in GlobeMed and now I see it everywhere. I see stories untold in films, books, women’s health issues, mental health issues, and much more.
I found my voice through GlobeMed. GlobeMed has continued to provide spaces and platforms like ghU discussions, story slams, and countless summit discussions to share my experiences with others and tonight I want to thank GlobeMed so much for giving me the chance to stand in front of all of you to share my story one more time. It’s not every day that I get to stand and speak to a room full of people who are passionate about wanting to create positive change in this world. Storytelling is a major part of my Latino culture. It is a powerful tool for change. I encourage you all to continue to share your experiences and continue to listen to the experiences of others. We have the tools needed to lead bravely through finding strength in diversity. La voz es poder. Thank you.
by Juliana Madzia, graduating senior at the University of Cincinnati
~what is now will soon be past, by Yrsa Daley-Ward
Just because you do it doesn’t mean you always will. Whether you’re dancing dust or breathing light, you’re never exactly the same twice.
GlobeMed is quite literally the only constant that has been in my life since day one of college. Throughout the past four years, so much else in my life has changed – I’ve become a student athlete, I’ve come out to the world as a queer woman, I’ve diverged from my initial path toward becoming a neurosurgeon. It was the GlobeMed community that gave me the confidence to grow in each of these ways, and it was the GlobeMed community that was there along the way to encourage and support me when I felt like everything else was falling apart. The fact that my identity in GlobeMed is about to change from active member to alum is a sharp reminder that even the most reliable things in life, the things that keep me rooted to my core values and my very being, will always be transforming into new, as yet unknown, experiences.
Growing up in a small, conservative town on the Ohio-West Virginia border, I had been embarrassed by my family’s ultraliberal politics that they made no effort to hide. I knew that I agreed with them, but I also knew that it made me different from my peers. I quickly learned that talking about our country’s need for universal health care was fine to do around the dinner table, but to mention those words at school – that would have meant immediate social death. Therefore, I didn’t talk about politics with my friends. I didn’t talk about the fact that my mom enrolled me in a private sex ed class because of my school’s complete lack of sex education, and I most definitely didn’t talk about my own sexuality.
When I went to my first GlobeMed meeting at the University of Cincinnati, though, I heard people saying what I had known to be true, but had been too afraid to say aloud, for as long as I could remember – that health care was a human right. We talked about the fact that racism exists and that it is a pervasive cause of health disparity in America and worldwide. One guy in the group made a casual reference to his boyfriend, and nobody blinked an eye. In that one 90 minute meeting, I knew that GlobeMed was different. I knew that I had found my home.
Throughout my four years in GlobeMed, I’ve been a ghU coordinator, a Co-President for two years, and a GROW intern. My chapter experienced enormous growth but also faced significant hurdles along the way – for example, the times when, due to the unreliable internet at our partner’s headquarters, we would go months in a row without having a Skype call. Working through these challenges, I developed deep relationships with my fellow chapter members – relationships that didn’t end just because the GlobeMed meeting was over. In my GlobeMed family, I found the freedom to be fully and unashamedly myself. I don’t think it’s an accident that the most foundational relationships of my time in college were built in GlobeMed. In all the work that we do, we are seeking to create spaces where every human being has the right and the opportunity to become exactly the version of themselves that they want to be, where they are free to express themselves as they desire without fear of violence or retribution.
Nothing could have solidified this idea more than going on GROW last summer, where I spent five weeks in Mae Sot, Thailand working with our partner, Social Action for Women. We learned that ATL, our translator, had the opportunity to go to college to study anything he wanted, and that he was choosing to study social work so that he could go back to his village in Burma and help children find ways to go to Thailand and obtain a high school education, as he had done several years earlier. We learned that Dr. Htin Zaw, who spoke here at Summit last year and currently has offers at both Johns Hopkins and UCLA, got just 4 hours of sleep every night because he knew that his patients needed him for the other 20 hours of the day. The staff of Social Action for Women work as hard as they do because they want more than anything to build a community in which Burmese migrants, who have been uprooted from their family, their country, everything that was familiar to them, can feel at home once again.
Once I understood this, I began to reflect on my own commitment to my community in Cincinnati. What was I doing to deconstruct the structural racism that can be seen in everything from the public school system to the way that neighborhoods are designed to the chosen locations of grocery stores? How could I do more to push back against the oppressive systems that exist right in my own home? I realized that social injustices abroad were connected to the ones at home – they are maintained by the same forces that oppress people everywhere. Through this realization, I’ve decided to stay in Cincinnati to do an MD/PhD program, where I will do a PhD in Sociology with a focus on understanding access, and lack thereof, to reproductive health care for women of color in high-prevalence HIV neighborhoods. If you had told me two years ago that I would soon be choosing, willingly, to live in Cincinnati for another 8 years after college I wouldn’t have believed you. But I realize now how much I have been allowed to grow and bloom there, and I want to work throughout my education to make that freedom to thrive and to grow accessible to people for whom it currently is not.
Being involved with GlobeMed has made me believe that I can do something about the health disparities that exist throughout the world and the oppressive systems that perpetuate these disparities. It’s made me believe that no amount of progress is too small, that no person is too powerless to make a change in their community if that is what they are committed to doing. For all of this I would like to say thank you. Thank you to my chapter at the University of Cincinnati for giving me permission to be my true and complete self. Thank you to SAW for showing me what it means to be dedicated to the roots from which I have come. And thank you to the network – the family – of GlobeMed as a whole for teaching me what it means to be a compassionate, radical citizen of the world, and for making me believe that even as change occurs, you will always be a home to me.