IL Humanities: Odyssey Project 2nd Year Class Graduation Speech 2023

Published on 2 July 2023 at 23:50

National Museum of Mexican Fine Arts, Chicago, IL May 13, 2023 

Hello, my name is Dulce Maria Diaz.

On March 6, 1983, I was born in a house in the small town of Tumbiscatio de Ruiz in Michoacan Mexico. I was born into a family that knew how to live off the land, and my father, whose first job was a hole digger, dug holes in the ground to plant avocado trees. He was paid per pothole, not by the hour and certainly not an annual salary. My father did not know his mother, my grandmother Victoria. He taught himself how to play music, then later studied it. In paying attention to his surroundings, he saw that there was more money in entertainment with music gigs vs. being a hole-trigger. He was responsible, humble, charming, and talented. He picked up gigs all over Mexico, then eventually traveled out to the states, to Detroit and Chicago, which is where we later migrated to as a family. I was five when we crossed the border, I was five years old holding my mother’s hand. I wore a red and white polk-a-dot dress and I remember seeing my older siblings run ahead of us. I remember the first time I saw city lights, the first time I experienced being in a bathroom with doors that locked. I remember crying, not knowing how to unlock and exit a door. I remember crying not knowing the new language, feeling that I never would. I also remember the peaceful magic felt the first time I saw snow.

I have known since very early on that life would not be an easy navigation, I also knew since very early on that I had a very special relationship with a higher source that I did not fully understand. I sometimes feared it. I remember talking to my father and asking him about this feeling that I had, I remember being no older than 8, walking with him and saying that I knew God was real, but I could not understand where he was or how he was everywhere. My father taught me that God is energy, and that energy is everywhere, and I realized then that we are all a little bit of God, and that God was born out of a holy spirit, and that holy spirit is good. And so, then it became quite simple and clear,

“If it’s of good, then it is of God.” – that became my navigation tool.

Life is a journey full of turns, waves and sometimes zigzags, life is a journey. My journey led me to the Odyssey Project. My journey led me to study amongst peers who had stories to tell, teachers who had the patience and compassion to reach us in a way that the rest of my earlier college classes could not. The Odyssey Project for me was a safe place, a place where many others felt like me. Many of us lacked financial resources to advance our education. I began to study with the Illinois Humanities’ Odyssey Project during 2020 when we were all facing a fearful time, a fear and uncertainty that we all faced together and together in those zoom classes, I had the chance to face fears with my peers. And we did. I will not forget my first few classes, they felt “too good to be true”, could this world of compassion really exist? It did. Illinois Humanities got it right. We were building community each time we met and soon enough I realized that I was a part of this community far outside of the classroom.

Today, I stand here as a second-year graduate. I am a different person than I was when I started. My life changed, my journey took me out of a paralegal corporate world and placed me where I needed to be, amongst my community. Illinois Humanities has helped me to be where I need to be, where I could be most affective.

During our second year, we were no longer on a zoom screen, we were now at the Illinois Humanities building, downtown, meeting in person. We focused on the study of kinship. Kinship, something so important to immigrant families, kinship – something that we learned is not limited to blood-family units. Each day we have an opportunity to build community, through kindness, compassion, and gratitude. Each day we have an opportunity to extend those opportunities.  I don’t remember much of my life while we lived in Mexico, I do not remember when we survived El Gran Terremoto de Mexico de 1985, but I will never forget the day my family and I crossed the border; I will never forget the first time I saw snow. I will never forget the day I entered the halls at Jungman Elementary School here in Pilsen. I will never forget the day my brother and my sister joined a military US force. I will never forget September 11, 2001. I will never forget May 25, 2020. I will never forget the power of the people.

In our kinship studies we read Parable of the Sower, a book by author, Octavia Butler. Wherein she states:

“Create no images of God.

Accept the images that God has provided.

They are everywhere, in everything.

God is change –

Seed to tree

Tree to Forest

Rain to river,

River to Sea

Grubs to bees

Bees to Swarm

From one, many

From many, one

Forever uniting, growing, dissolving—

Forever changing.

The universe

Is God’s self-portrait”

She said that “God is change, and in the end, God does prevail. But we have something to say about the whens and whys of that end.” I want to thank all our teachers, Hillary and Bill, our peers, everyone who makes up the great team at IH, especially thanks to Becky, who has defined kinship within projecto odisea. There is much we learned from each other, mostly that we matter, and that every single ONE person makes a difference, one by one and TOGETHER we CAN prosper. I thought back to my younger child self, walking with my father curious about my communion with God, reaching that epiphany moment of enlightened what felt like wisdom, to know that God is energy. We are energy, and together we are all but ONE.

As ONE we cannot fall, understanding that everything that WE do, is in co-creation with God. Illinois Humanities is a door for hope and with that in mind, I leave you with words of wisdom from Nelson Mandela:

“No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”

May God prevail. May Love Prevail. May WE prevail.

Thank you.

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