Former U.S. Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera brought a dose of humanity to the recent Latino Student Success High School Conference.
“Kindness in our actions, expressing ourselves with our voice and expanding our idea of who we are to include more and more people and new ideas,” Herrera told approximately 700 Latino students from the Clovis Unified School District at the March 29 conference.
“Kindness is like the engine of everything. Kindness moves us to be human beings, and wanting to be a human being is caring for others and everything,” said Herrera, a poet, writer, performer, cartoonist, teacher and activist. “And voices expressing who we are and where we came from and presenting ourselves, no hiding and making things happen with our voice.”
“Mind and thinking has to do with putting everything together. And coming up with actually new ideas, working with others to put together new ideas for society, for our community, for the world,” Herrera said of the three concepts he wanted student to take home from him as the conference’s keynote speaker.
Herrera, who was born in Fowler, is the son of migrant farmworkers, living in trailers or tents along the roads of the San Joaquín Valley.
Herrera spoke to students from Buchanan, Clovis High, Clovis East, Clovis North, Clovis West and Gateway high schools on March 29 at the Clovis North Educational Center. He also presented a cultural workshop.
The conference aims to provide Latino students with the opportunity to meet exceptional mentors, key community members and role models as well as to motive students and help them realize their own potential
Herrera said the conference also gives Latino students a sense of unity.
“It gives a sense of unity, and at a time like this it helps us heal,” Herrera said of the current rhetoric about Latinos. “It’s a rhetomatic time for Latinos. Every day we hear something new regarding families being deported and children being deported.”
“The issue of family separation, still a big issue. ICE and border patrol, still are big issues in our communities throughout United States active a this moment,” Herrera said. “So that is very traumatic. We might not be aware of it, but young people feel everything. And other people began to see us in that matter too, that we are deportable, illegal and aliens.”
“So this event today, kind of washes that away. That is a good thing. And we get support and we get to meet others and we to see people that gives the young people a model of what they can also do,” said Herrera who began drawing cartoons while in middle school and by high school he was playing folk music. “They can get up there and speak, express themselves and feel good about themselves and to be unafraid and to be bold.”
As Herrera spoke to students, a slide show of famous Latinos was shown on the background.
Herrera said many don’t realize how many famous Latinos exist in different professions and careers throughout the world because “we don’t see those images.”
“They are not available. They are not presented, they are not in the media, they are not in the newspapers,” he added. “And the images we see, are images of suffering many at time.
“So it’s good to have our stories, our words, our relationship with others, our sense for who we are and our images of abuelos and abuelas up, you know, instead of not be, not wanting to talk about our families,” said Herrera, a leading voice on the Mexican American and indigenous experience. “We want to do, you know, bring ourselves up. This is a long, long project and still we are not at were we want to be. We’ve been pushed back.”
“So it was good to see the images, one more positivos,” Herrera said.