Power in Vulnerability

Jun 21st, 2019 | By | Category: BLTN NextGen, Hozho'o' Hólne', Summer 2019

by Joel Zamudio

Joel Zamudio (Sierra Vista, AZ) is a full-time student at Cochise College. He enjoys listening to music and drawing in his spare time.

In my Literature of the Southwest class at Cochise College, my teacher started talking about a writing conference on the border of Arizona and New Mexico. I had never been on an out of state school trip, so I was very intrigued as to what that would be like. At the time, I didn’t think much of it–I was honestly more interested in what I might possibly do in my free time during the trip. As we got closer to the conference, however, I became worried that it was going to be all about lectures and essays.

On our way to the Hazhó’ó Hólne’ Writing Conference, I started regretting going because instead, I could be at home watching NCAA March Madness with my uncle (which is our tradition). But the night we arrived in Window Rock, I told myself that I was already there, and I should make the most of it. But I was still worried because I did not want to write essays for the whole weekend.

Then I got to the first breakout session and what really opened my eyes as to what type of conference this was going to be.

When James from Lawrence, Massachusetts asked us to get in a circle and asked us to tell the group what type of day we were feeling like, I knew this would be a different experience. From that moment on, I continued experiencing the conference with no expectations and just took in what everybody had to offer.

I mentioned to a few people at the conference that I had low expectations because I thought it was going to be a writing conference that was going to be focused on improving the skill of essay writing or writing for assignments. I was gravely mistaken. I would not trade the experience I had at the Navajo Nation for anything in the world. I never had written expressively, and I was afraid to be that vulnerable with myself. I never had a problem telling somebody how I feel, but I never sat down and wrote was I was feeling, and this was a valuable takeaway.

Being around so many creative individuals on the Navajo Nation made me feel comfortable with myself and also allowed me to be vulnerable. Seeing how much love was in the air and how empowering each and every person is to one another inspired me to get up during the first open mic and read something that I had written during one of the break out sessions. The second day, I wrote something just so I could get up in front of everybody and read it for them. Here it is:

I Am

        I am the colors of the rainbow imprinted in my being
        I am the art expressed on my body and the bright colors on my clothes
        The music of my people flows through my veins
        The strumming of the guitara
        The pounding of the tambora
        The likes of hip hop, rock, and jazz accompany them

        My kisses laced with the savory taste of frijoles and tortillas
        the sweetness of flan and arroz con leche

        The smell of a scared boy hiding behind a confident man
        The smell of tears I cried
        watching my dad drive away with his new family still lingers on my face

        The touch of soft hands and a warm heart
        I am the meandering trail of footsteps
        trying to walk through this mess we call life

Thanks to the conference, I realized it’s ok for me to be vulnerable with myself, and that the voice of the youth matters. Interacting with the individuals from NextGen really opened my eyes to how big of an impact the youth has on their communities, from bringing families together to write, to showing the importance of monumental institutions like Booker T. Washington High School in Atlanta, to strengthening the voice of the youth from the LGBTQ community. People really overlook how important it is for the voice of the youth to be heard.

The public school system should take some pointers from BLTN NextGen through introducing new programs to bring together the youth. Unfortunately, most students are so used to being ignored and not being listened to, and I think they would find it refreshing to actually be heard and be given the opportunity to make an impact in their communities. I’ve heard the phrase,”The youth are the future of this nation,” but instead of just throwing these words around, the idea of youth empowerment needs to be taken seriously.

To conclude, I cannot stress enough how grateful I am to the BLTN and the Navajo Nation for giving me the opportunity to accept vulnerability and I hope to see that same experience with new individuals who will attend in the years to come. Being able to open up, interact with everybody that attended, and make friends with people from many parts of the country is something that I will treasure for the rest of my life.

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