Organic Melinda

healthy living with a Latin twist

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Day 5 – Mujeres Poderosas – Jessica Flores-Davis

Dear Baby Warrior Spirit,

Today, you get to learn about another incredible Mujer Poderosa, Jessica Flores-Davis.

Jessica Flores-Davis

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: and fill out the form.

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Cooking with My Fore-Mothers

I never envisioned that putting this cookbook together would bring me closer to my family, but it has become a reason to sit together, share stories of my grandmother and my great-grandmother, discuss ingredients, and think about our futures.

This week, I traveled to Latino supermarkets with my sister where she taught me her wonderful recipes for vegan, Puerto Rican pasteles.  We talked about how to twist them up a little bit and adding different flavor combinations.  We joked around about our childhood as we read weird warning labels on packages of quenepas.

On Thursday, my entire family – mother, sister, brother, Artemis, and I – all ventured to the Farmers’ Market.  They were so excited to see fresh ingredients, save money, and connect with the local farmers.  My mom talked politics and promoted her upcoming jewelry line – Artemis D Fly Jewelry, which was inspired by my daughter’s birth.  My brother got to help us pick ingredients and learn some botany, and, of course, he got the privilege of lifting all of the heavy bags all the way back to the car.

Then, we all sat in the kitchen together.  My mother constantly critiquing this nuevo version of pasteles that my sister and I had concocted, repeating over and over, again, “THAT’S NOT THE PUERTO RICAN WAY!”

My sister and I, look at her side-ways, “We know, mami. We know.”

It was so hard for my mother to sit on the side-lines in her kitchen watching my sister and I re-create a recipe that she had made for us on so many of our holidays as children.

Then, it was time for my mother to finally teach me how to make my favorite dish of all, a dish that was passed on to her by her mother and grandmother.  She shared so many stories as we peeled the green bananas and threw them in a hi-speed blender – a long way from the hand mashing of our childhoods.

She recalled my grandmother, who passed away a few years ago, and her great-grandmother, who was so essential to creating the vulnerable parts of my mother’s personality.

There, I was, in the kitchen, becoming part of the legacy of the women who made my life possible, and it was a rich experience, indeed.

How lucky, I felt, and how lucky I am to share with the world the dishes of my fore-mothers while building memories with mine.

my mother and her bollitas

my mother and her bollitas