Sunday, March 4, 2012

Keynote Address: Syracause University: Without Limits~

As grateful as I am for having received the blessing and honor of speaking at Syracuse University last night. I am even more grateful for the young women and men who I got to speak with, the many that approached me, locking eyes with so many powerful people. The NEXT GENERATION! I am so very proud of them... it wasn't just Syracuse students who attended.. so many schools came out to support, students who have graduated, faculty and staff... THANK YOU SYRACUSE...AND THANK YOU STEPHANIE...

by Alicia Anabel Santos
Saturday, March 3, 2012 @ 8:30PM
Syracuse University


Women’s History Month Banquet

Syracuse University ~ Saturday, March 3, 2012

Prayer… I offer this speech to every woman I have ever met… in love and solidarity…


Good evening Syracuse University! I am so exited to be here! I am humbled, honored and so very grateful to have been chosen to deliver the keynote address at the First Annual Women’s History Month Banquet!

I am excited and proud to be standing in this room with women of all colors and with the men who support us. I am thrilled because I know that in this moment I am doing exactly what I was born to do… and that is share MY story with you…

I would like to thank the following: Stephanie Marie Puente for being my point of contact for this beautiful event… big UPS! To… MU Sigma Upsilon Sorority, DELTA Sigma Theta Sorority, Chi Upsilon Sigma Sorority, Phi Sigma Sigma Sorority. Thank you ALL for hosting and attending such an amazing event, in which we are celebrating and honoring notable women.

Because I KNOW she didn’t think that I would begin this speech without recognizing her… I would like to send a special shout out to my beautiful daughter Courtniana, who is in her second year here at Syracuse… Stand up girl!!!
So tonight is incredibly special to me!

In meditation I asked my creator to use me~ to help me find the right words to share with you today. I asked for clear messages for the women (and men) I would be standing before. I asked: what would you have me speak?

And the voice of my creator ---- sounded a lot like Snookie… from Jersey Shore…
And then messages came to me from the entire cast of Basketball Wives with a side of Sixteen and Pregnant…

All jokes aside… lets talk about WOMEN and how we see ourselves.

I started thinking about these reality shows… and the women they claim to represent… the stereotypes these womyn are living up to… I am not going to lie – I love me some BigAng from Mob Wives… yet these negative portrayals of women on reality TV and in videos are doing nothing for advancing women or gaining the respect of society.

A woman reading Playboy… feels a little like… a Jew reading a Nazi manual.” ~Gloria Steinem

Why are we celebrating in the dysfunction and breakdown of the female relationship?

These shows that focus mostly on - - how women need men, how they are nothing without men, the latest fashion and glorifying the use of drugs, sex and alcohol. Why are we enjoying seeing women hitting each other, pitted against one another and speaking poorly about women behind closed doors? Perpetuating these stereotypes of… the loud, unstable, dramatic woman… that are extremely negative and damaging to our self-image.

How do we SEE ourselves? What would your sisters say about you? How do you show up in the world? Do you lift each other or beat each other down? How do you want to be remembered? Are you supportive or are you selfish?

Women’s History Month is a month to celebrate all of the womyn who have done incredible things and who are making things happen. It is a month to celebrate the women who have done something right!

But there is still so much that is incredibly wrong.

Women are fighting for scraps… fighting for leftover crumbs at the kitchen table… we as women are consumed with a fear that if we share with our sisters our resources or our ideas… that she might get there first… that she might get there before us… that she will steal it from us… that if she has it… then we will never get it… because there isn’t enough for all of us?

This is us -- Not really -- being happy for the success of our sisters… this is us not celebrating in each others achievements… quietly wishing that she’d just trip and fall already… competing for scraps. And this thinking is destroying the Sisterhood…

This is what I like to call LIMITATION --- at its finest!

What would it look like to be UNLIMITED? What if … we really believed that we could have what we want? Women without limits! Releasing the limits that we allow society to place on us, releasing the limits that family places on us, releasing the limits that teachers, authority figures, and the media places on us –and the most deadly of all -- releasing the limitations that we as women place on our selves… and each other.

I know this subject well because I too am guilty of having held onto limited thinking… there was a moment in my life where I didn’t believe in myself and in my abilities. I constantly found myself comparing myself to different women… celebrities, famous writers … convincing myself that I would never be as good as any of them and so why bother trying? I would constantly find ways to criticize them and speak badly about myself.

This poverty thinking was preventing me from having the very thing that I wanted… SUCCESS… SISTERHOOD.. COMMUNITY… I had allowed all the doubt and all the fear from my childhood… to paralyze me… yet after I discovered my life purpose… I founded the NYC Latina Writer’s group, I began to publish articles, I became a filmmaker writing for a documentary, I wrote and directed my first play and most recently I published my first book … a memoir~

We don’t have to fear another woman’s power… we don’t have to fear -- OUR OWN ---- POWER!


LIVE WITHOUT LIMITS and at the same time… do not limit others… believe in infinite possibilities…

We must stop comparing ourselves to others… there is no one competing for the greatness that is YOU!

As long as we are jealous of other women… we will never have what is meant for us. Jealousy is really fear… we are afraid of how great we really are. Stop being afraid!
FEAR… how do we handle fear…? The minister at my church, Rodney McKenzie says, that FEAR is just a question… you are being asked… what do you believe to be the TRUTH about YOU? Fear is a challenge that asks us… What do I believe to be the truth about myself in this moment?

DO YOU BELIEVE YOU CAN DO IT? And he says, that the only answer acceptable to FEAR is YES! And I would add a hell yes… I CAN DO IT!

Fear appears to show you that you are on the right track… fearing our capacity… fearing our BIGNESS… fearing our greatness… we can choose to BREATHE… and move forward anyway.

“Solidarity breeds strength. Division breeds deficiency” author unknown~

I was having tea with a dear friend, also a writer and brilliant poet, Peggy Robles Alvarado… Author of Conversations With My Skin … I was telling her about certain friendships with women that have ended surrounding this idea of LIMITING THOUGHTS, me feeling like they were somehow keeping me from something that was meant for me … women in my life who are holding onto scraps… that if they shared with me they would be left on empty… she calls this a DEFECIT Mentality~

Women who will get to the top by any means necessary – even if that means disloyalty, betrayal and deceit… topped with –– competiveness, cattiness, jealousy and envy… Peggy reminded me that we are conditioned at birth to be competitive with one another… learning from our mothers… cuidado con ella…

Cuidao con esa / watch out for her
Cuidado con lo que tu le dice a esa / be careful what you say to her
Esa te envidia / she envies you
Esa te sela / she’s just jealous of you
Esa no es tu amiga / she’s not your friend…

We were groomed at early ages that we shouldn’t trust women because they are likely to betray us… and that women are the enemy they are our COMPETITION… what if competition is only our heads? And LIMITATION --- is precisely that… LIMITING what is in our heads…

WHY…. would we keep to ourselves --- that which could benefit others?

We must trust and know…. That …


What destroys solidarity?
Fear destroys solidarity

We must be happy for each others successes… we must encourage each others arrival… we must be supportive of each other and want the very best for one another – that’s how we will achieve our own greatness… that’s how we’ll arrive at our fullest most greatest potential.

This is how we arrive at completion… realizing our personal visions -- living our life purpose -- reaching our personal legends. A CONSTANT KNOWING - - THAT IT IS OURS!

There was a woman in my life that was a force… together it felt like we could take over the world ~ we were creative partners… however, things started changing and shifting… the work we were doing as a group seemed to be manifesting into this… “It’s all about me attitude! This…. I’ma do me… Mentality,” and so, I released her…

We parted ways… and months later we ran into each other… she wanted to know – What was up with me? Why was it so easy for me to walk away from our partnership… why was I choosing the work I was doing for the group over our friendship… and then she said something that has always stayed with me...

“I feel like you’re always trying to one up me! Like it’s a competition!”

Internally, I laughed… I wanted to say to her, “you ain’t… my competition!”

But I understood - - that she might not take it the way I had intended.

What I was feeling - - and what I know to be true …. is that I HAVE NO COMPETITION! I just don’t!

I don’t have to worry about someone else publishing a memoir before me… I am not concerned about someone else’s play getting to Broadway before mine --- or that another movie will receive an Oscar before me…

When the women in my circle… the NYCLWG… my sisters … and women in society on whole… reach any level of success - I can be crazy happy for them. I am happy for people I don’t even know. I live by the universal truth as taught to me by my mother, “lo que es para ti, nadie te lo quita!” that what is meant for you no one can take from you.

So I’m not concerned… because I KNOW that I have no competition for what I was born to do. My gifts are mine…my gifts are to be shared… my gifts are for my daughter and now my gifts are for the world. So we can let go of that POVERTY MENTALITY and get to the business of truly SUPPORTING one another and serving others.

When I was invited to speak today… I wasn’t sure what I was going to talk about… and then I received an email from Stephanie that the organizations wanted me to speak to Sisterhood and Solidarity… a subject I know all to well… in fact I have a chapter in my memoir, FINDING YOUR FORCE A JOURNEY TO LOVE, titled: Solidarity and this Idea of Sisterhood… here’s an excerpt…

I was thinking about the people in my life who are the closest to me. Who are the people in my inner circle? Who are my confidantes? Who are the people I can count on when I am in a jam? Who picks me up when I am down? Who do I trust with my life story? Who do I trust with my life? Who do I trust with you? I was at a friend’s house—a woman who is definitely in my front row. I was resting on her bed and something made me get up to read affirmations on her board… I came across this beautiful quote:

“Observe the relationships around you. Pay attention to: Which ones lift and which ones lean? Which ones encourage and which ones discourage? Which ones are on a path of growth uphill and which ones are going downhill? When you leave certain people, do you feel better or do you feel worse?” by MELANIE Kissel

How do you decide who sits in your inner circle? Who do you hold in your SISTERHOOD?

The people in my TRUE circle want nothing from me but what I am willing to share. They take me as I am. How do we pick who’s allowed in our inner circle? Who do we allow in OUR sisterhood?

I think for me there is one constant. The deciding factor is… do you come in LOVE? I am less concerned with having an EXCLUSIVE inner circle with only the SELECT few who make the cut automatically, solely because we share a bloodline. I have met people recently that I love deeply.

While I do have a small circle of people I go to FIRST. I am more inclined these days to have a circle of LOVE.

In NYC, I was searching for sisterhood and solidarity.

SOLIDARITY is a union or fellowship built from common responsibilities and shared interests between groups of people.

SISTERHOOD is an association of women for a common cause.

A COMMON CAUSE… I was looking for unity within my community of women. I wanted a sense of oneness in my connections.

Can we be in a sisterhood --- strive for solidarity and still be respected for our differences…? OR… will we be forced to be clones of one another?

In a Sisterhood, individuality should be celebrated, while maintaining this COMMON CAUSE… You certainly should be who you were meant to be… without limitations…
In a keynote, delivered by Gloria Steinem, in 2009, titled, Connecting Across the Generations, she says:

“… to learn from difference, and at the same time, in perfect balance with difference, understand that we are all human in a universal sense. We live in a world of either/or. So it is about shared humanity in perfect balance with difference.”

Shared humanity in perfect balance with difference…

When we think of our family members… are we exactly like each other…? When we consider what SOLIDARITY and SISTERHOOD looks like and feel like for us… we must acknowledge that there are in fact differences. WE ARE DIFFERENT…! Yet from our differences we have an opportunity to learn.

Creating safe places for the Sisterhood is about Expanding and Learning from one another… We spend so much time focusing and debating about how things shouldn’t be different… that we should all be the same… putting us all in these boxes: black, white, Latina, lesbian, hetero, middle-class, lower-class, male and female… we are being challenged to learn from our differences. To expand our beliefs… And be the change that we want.

WE ARE DIFFERENT!!! We come from different backgrounds, races, religions, politics, traditions and cultures… but what we do have in common is our FEMININE ESSENCE… the essence of who we are… the power of being a woman! THIS… this power that I am talking about - - is universal… we ALL have it!

Facebook Chief Operating Officer, Sheryl Sandberg says, “Woman are not making it to the top of any profession anywhere in the world, (190) heads of state NINE are women. Of all the people in parliament in the world, (13%) are women. In the corporate sector, women at the top -- C level jobs, in board seats -- tops off at 16% and the numbers haven’t moved since 2002.”

How will we change these numbers? What will we leave behind? How will the women of this generation be remembered? What do we want the world to know about who WOMEN really are? What do we care about?

I don’t know about you… but I want the world to know how strong WE are, how we don’t have to choose between career and personal life – we can have BOTH… How we survive! Living in a culture and society that still pays women less than men… where there aren’t enough women in leadership roles… Living in a culture and society that hasn’t always embraced us unless we are star baseball players from la Republica Dominicana or a Puerto Rican actress from the Bronx, unless we are celebrities in rehab, ex wives of athletes – unless we are entertaining you while humiliating and degrading ourselves!!!

While I am proud of the success of all women and all immigrants who have come to this country… I am more proud of our mothers! For it is through their eyes… their stories of survival and struggle arriving to a country that did not welcome them I have learned how to be strong and stand up for what I believe in - - to stand up for the invisible… to stand up for the silent.


Why are you here? What are you here to do?

I think in answering these questions it will move you to having a CLEAR VISION… and finally discovering what our true purpose is.. How do we do this… how do we know what that is?

I have an EXERCISE (on piece of paper) answer these questions… (1.) If I could do anything / be anything – no limits… money was not an issue… I would be? Turn paper over (2.) What would I need to do/be to get there? (this is for you… now you have a vision you can begin taking steps towards!!!)

I started thinking about what kind of woman I wanted to be and what legacy I would leave behind for women, only after 2001, on September 11th to be exact. I realized that at any moment my life could be over. And at the same time it frightened me. Not just the thought that my life could be over – the idea that my daughter Courtney, would never know me. I was frightened that she would not know the truth about me – afraid that she wouldn’t know where I've been and all I have been through. I was afraid that she wouldn't know that I am a survivor – that I am a warrior – that I come from a line of warrior women… generations of strong Latinas – women who are mixed with African, Indigenous and Spanish blood. I finally understood what my life purpose was. What I was born to be!!! I was 30 years old and knew that MY LEGACY was to document my life story for my daughter through a memoir – but that wasn’t just it.

I was being called to not just write MY story but to write OUR stories. To tell the stories of survival and tremendous contributions of our women. The likes of Haitian/Dominican activist Sonia Pierre, Mexican Activist, Dolores Huerta, and Colombian Revolutionary, La Pola… Chilean Writer, Isabel Allende, Activist and legend, Gloria Steinem, Hillary Clinton, Sonia Sotomayor, and Eva Peron… discovering my purpose has taken me all over Latin America, Mexico, Panama, Peru, Haiti, Republica Dominicana, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Colombia, Uruguay, Argentina, Honduras and Guatemala just to name a few… during my travels, I have learned that our women are screaming to be heard, women want to have a voice – and we are living in a society where we have been blessed with so many movements…. YET!!! - ---- We aren’t moving…

One of the most important lessons I can leave with you today is this… This is an opportunity for you to grow into who you were born to BE… and IT IS scary—fear is a very real emotion.. but when we can learn to let go of the old story we tell ourselves… those self-sabotaging thoughts telling us we can’t do it… or that we’re not good enough, pretty enough, white enough, strong enough, manly enough or smart enough.

When we let go of competing with each other… staying trapped in a mental deficit of limitation… when we can let go of all of this… there is an opportunity for us to make another choice… WE CAN CHOOSE to move forward anyway! In spite of fear… We must know what is at the core of us… we must believe in the truth of who we are… that we are ENTITLED to the life that we want… this is where true power lies… I AM ENTITLED TO IT!!! Repeat after me!!!! I AM ENTITLED TO IT!!! I am entitled to everything that I want… I am entitled to all that is coming for me… (ain’t no stopping us now…. we’re on the move…)

We are at the end of a cycle... We must stop playing small to make others feel comfortable. We must release limiting thoughts of what we are capable of! It’s old and its tired… It’s TIME! Call forth what you want for your life! Call forth who you really are! Call forth a Sisterhood that honors and supports you in achieving all you are meant to be! As you grow into the fullness of who you were destined to become… encourage others to grow with you… take your sisters by the hand and move forward… KEEP MOVING!

I keep wondering… Where are the movements? How do movements even happen? There was a time when women were not allowed to speak… we were not allowed to have an opinion… we did not have access to education…

THEN…. women gathered, worked together and unified for one goal.. THE ORIGINAL SISTERHOOD!!!! They gathered for the benefit of the ENTIRE group… ONE COMMON CAUSE!!! All-personal agendas aside… this is what a Sisterhood is…this is what Solidarity looks like.

IT CAN NEVER BE ABOUT YOURSELF… IT HAS TO BE ABOUT OTHERS… you have a responsibility to serve…

I attended an author reading and this was one of my favorite quotes… "The voices we need are so utterly absent, totally and completely missing… anybody who writes anything is writing a F…….’g revolution." ~ Junot Diaz

Start a F…..’g revolution! Those words have always stayed with me. The Pulitzer Prize winning writer spent two hours talking about the stories that haven’t been written and that are so very necessary. It made me look at what this silence means to me and how it has shown up in my life. Junot really inspired me to change how I see myself as a writer. I began taking self-inventory and created new ways of seeing myself as a woman and the words I put onto the page.

Junot talked about the many reasons people are silenced and about the NEED to have our stories told. He stressed that the only people who can tell our stories are YOU and I! This generation is filled with a bunch of cowards and I’m being nice here with my language—the word I’m thinking about starts with the letter “P”. No one stands up for anything. Most people are hiding behind laptops and social networking sites. Where are the demonstrations? Where are the great speakers and leaders? Where is the Sisterhood?

Where are the groups of people coming together working towards having their voices heard? Where is our generation of Freedom Riders, Mirabal Sisters, Suffragist Movements, LGBT Movements, Black Panthers, Martin Luther Kings, Harriet Tubman’s, more Oprah’s, Malcolm X’s, Young Lords, Dahli Lama’s and Mandela’s? Where are the Feminist Movements, Civil Rights Movements, Chicano Movements and Afrolatino movements of OUR time?

“The voices we need are so utterly absent and completely missing…”

At all the schools I visit I end with a talk on the “Responsibility to Serve.” I like to remind college students that YOU owe our countries, our people, society, and the world something for the education YOU receive. I must remind you of the sacrifices that our families made to get here. As you begin YOUR journey know that you have a responsibility to serve.

I have spent the majority of my life thinking about the ways my voice has been silenced? All the ways I have kept myself quiet. The many ways I have limited myself. I think you have a great opportunity over the next few years at Syracuse to FIND YOUR FORCE… to FIND YOUR VOICE… to become WOMEN WITHOUT LIMITS! You are ENTITLED TO IT! So let’s find it together! In Sisterhood & Solidarity! THANK YOU!


Alicia Ledezma said...

You are so INSPIRING! I am going to share this with all the women in my life . . . thank you for living, surviving and thriving! ~ Alicia Ledezma

Hector Marin-Arias said...

Hi Alicia, I read your speech, and the comment I have
is a quote from Lao Tzu, for I think that true leaders always reach their audience/people/public.

"Nourish them without claiming authority, Benefit them without demanding gratitude,
Do the work, then move on.
And, the fruits of your labour will last forever."

Hector Marin-Arias

Naeemah said...

I love this speech! "There is no competition for what you are meant to be". So True! It takes some people a lifetime to learn this. I also believe that it's never too late to be who you were meant to be. If more people understood this, they wouldn't feel as threatened by the success of others. I'm glad to hear another woman who believes in Sisterhood. All women are NOT out to get each other. I'm glad that I am not the only woman who came to this conclusion. In my life, I have been blessed to know and meet some amazing women who are truly sincere, kind, exciting, genuine, unique, ambitious, strong and beautiful! The stereotype that a woman can't be all of these wonderful things at the same time is absolutely wrong! I encourage anyone to really take the time to get to know a woman and find out all of what she is about.


Anonymous said...

beautiful, powerful, inspiring....the fruits of your labor will pay off...thank you for sharing your story...