Creating a Community Project for Ourselves

A guest blog from Ada Vilageliu Díaz

When we were in the middle of developing the foundations of the Latinx Student Association at the University of the District of Columbia, we knew we wanted to support our community but we didn’t know exactly how and where to start. When the pandemic started, we realized that Latinx families with small children would need help with accessing books and supporting their children’s education. Our chapter in Anti-Racist Community Engagement: Principles and Practices, entitled, “By and for Latinx Community Members: Mi Libro Mi Espejo Story Time as Anti-racist Case Study,” hopes to illustrate the importance of planning and developing projects by and for our own communities. 

At that time, all bookstores and libraries were closed, and we didn’t know how long we would be in isolation. We were also directly impacted because we had children or siblings who needed to be homeschooled, and we knew that most books did not reflect our stories and cultural values. 

The more we researched children’s books, the more we realized that most books featured white children or animals instead of reflecting the diversity of our Latinx community. We became certain that our project needed to tackle access to children’s books that reflected Latinx narratives. 

One of us was a psychology student, another was an art student, and the faculty advisor was a literature and writing professor. It was the perfect combination to come up with a virtual event series that met every Wednesday with the children of a local elementary school. 

This adventure included hosting Latinx authors from around the country (one also joined from Spain), supporting a local bilingual school, organizing a book drive, teaching children about the importance of opening events with land acknowledgements, developing art activities to go with each book, learning how to use social media, and creating posters in order to develop a Latinx-led experience for Latinx and non-Latinx children. This set a strong foundation for future community partnerships characterized by anti-racist coalition-building creating equal partnerships that we are still practicing in the DC area. 

What we learned was that we already had the tools to help our community: the right team with the right types of skills and the willingness to learn new skills. Even though creating a new program was challenging, we knew that we had the responsibility to do it for our children and we were able to pull it off by supporting each other. 

Read the full experience of “By and for Latinx Community Members: Mi Libro Mi Espejo Story Time as Anti-racist Case Study” by ordering your copy of Anti-Racist Community Engagement today!

Guest author

Ada Vilageliu Díaz

Assistant Professor, English in the Division of Arts and Humanities in the College of Arts and Sciences, University of the District of Columbia