Dear Baby Warrior Spirit,
Today, you get to learn about another incredible Mujer Poderosa, Jessica Flores-Davis.
I met Jessica when I was just 15 years old and a sophomore. At the time, she was my Social Studies teacher at Science High School (Newark, NJ).
It’s pretty amusing to travel back to that time, in my head, and remember the obnoxious teenager I must have been.
My first memory of Jessica (or as I called her, then, Ms. Flores) is of her standing in the front of the classroom wearing green khakis and a black quarter-sleeve shirt. Her bare forearm revealed a tattoo with a fire symbol on it. Her hair was long and tied back at her neck. Her face adorned with black thick-framed eyeglasses.
We opened up our books, and she began to teach United States History from a completely different place than I had ever been exposed to before. Ms. Flores along with Mr. Christian O’neal (RIP) absolutely laid the foreground for the scholar that I am, today, and for my love of the social sciences and research in general.
So, back to the class – It had been my experience prior to attending Science High that history was just BORING. I thought it was a giant snooze fest. Why? Because it had nothing to do with me or my experiences. All I had ever read about were a bunch of dead Europeans and how they “conquered” (read: colonized) the world.
Almost all of the history lessons I ever received, including in most high schools and colleges, is about the supposed greatness of the U.S. and Europe. I learned nothing about Latin America, Puerto Rico or the Caribbean. I learned even less about the Middle East, Asia, and Eastern Europe.
The only time I learned about non-Euro-American peoples, as a student, was when they became the “enemy” of the “Allied” Forces.
But, Ms. Flores’ class was different. She began our very first class, not in Europe, but in Native America.
This was a radical shift from everything I had been exposed to, and for the second time in my life, I wanted to learn history. (The first time was during Mr. O’neal’s World History class my freshman year of high school.)
I absorbed her lessons and began to do my own research.
She went beyond the standard, “In 1898, Puerto Rico became a commonwealth of the United States,” and actually explained how that had occurred.
Even more profoundly, it was because of Ms. Flores that I learned about the Young Lords Party – a revolutionary Puerto Rican organization – that would become the focus of my undergraduate research.
Ms. Flores’ lessons helped to include people of color into the fabric of American history.
She, unlike many of her current and prior colleagues, has dedicated her life to ensuring that students of color in her classes learn their histories.
Beyond the classroom, she was a constant mentor and helped me decide on what to pursue as a college student. She was often there for me during my high school years to support my intellectual journey and mediate my personal difficulties.
She continued to be a mentor while I was in college, and, even now, she remains a friend and colleague.
Ms. Flores epitomizes the essence of a great teacher, and I remember her most for her spirit.
J-Flo, as I later came to call her, always looked like she was ready to go to war – intellectually and literally, and that is what makes her una Mujer Poderosa.
Dedicated to Your Future Always,
Mami Loves You
About this Series:
In honor of Latino Heritage Month, I will write 30 letters for 30 days to my beautiful daughter. This series is entitled, Mami Loves You. In these letters, I will tell her about the world around her, and reflect on her development.
Each Tuesday and Thursday, I will honor a Latina woman that I believe is a great role model for my daughter to admire. Through these letters, I pay homage to my role as a mother, and I will teach my daughter about one of the cultures that has birthed her.
To Subscribe to the series Mami Loves You, follow the link: http://mamilovesyou.com/ and fill out the form.