Empowerment Congress sees impressive youth in our DescolonizArte program participants. We prioritize creating a space to allow these future leaders and organizers to develop their voice and leadership. This month we would like to highlight one of these fantastic young people. She has shown many great qualities of a leader and is all about empowering other young women.
Joceline Roque is 17 years old and lives in Anthony, New Mexico. She is a daughter of immigrant parents and is proud of her Mexican heritage. She is interested in learning about social justice and likes to share and educate others about these topics. Joceline has been in the DescolonizArte program since the summer of 2020. Joceline said she decided to join the program after hearing about the story of Vanessa Guillen. She realized that Vanessa Guillen and herself shared a lot of the same intersectionalities. Joceline could see and understand that both shared many of the same struggles, like being young women of color. Vanessa Guillen’s story caused a sense of urgency in Joceline to do more and bring awareness into her communities. Joceline was introduced to the previous youth coordinator of DescolonizArte, and during this time, they worked with Jose Montoya (program’s lead artist) to create paintings in honor of Vanessa Guillen. They showcased the paintings in Anthony, New Mexico, and now Joceline says her artwork is currently residing at the La Casa south valley office.
For Joceline, one of the biggest impacts of the program was the introduction to social justice ideas. Since joining the program, Joceline has learned about many different topics like colorism, feminism, and income inequality. Many of these concepts and subjects were new to Joceline and were neither taught in her school classrooms nor discussed at home.
“Here in my community, there’s a lot of Mexican people, and a lot of us Mexican’s don’t get educated on these things. Maybe we do care, but maybe we don’t know where to get the information from, so I was really happy to be able to share this information with other people.” After learning about the different social justice topics, she shared this knowledge with her family and her peers. Joceline said that family members sometimes ask her questions about the activities in the program, and Joceline enjoys teaching and having these new discussions with them. And despite her family, in particular her grandparents being “more traditional,” they engage in these conversations with her.
However, not everyone has embraced Joceline’s newly developed consciousness and one of the challenges she has faced is having others not understanding her point of view. Joceline has had people ask her why she wants to learn about social justice or what she could even benefit from the program. Some have even told her it was pointless. She also knows this is made even more complicated because she’s a young woman, and many times young women aren’t taken seriously. Despite this negativity, Joceline said she still feels powerful as a young woman in her community because she has the power of knowledge. And she has realized that once you educate someone, they can see how these issues have been affecting them and they can begin to move towards change and improvement. The work of social justice takes a lot of patience and perseverance, and Joceline understands that although you can’t win them all, this work needs to be done for our collective liberation.
Joseline participated in the 2020 fall session of DescolonizArte that produced a full-scale public mural on the back wall of La Casa, Inc.’s office building in Anthony, NM. The mural titled “ARTE de la Comunidad” features different environmental elements of the area as well as photos of significant local historical figures and most importantly it features photos of the youth participants themselves. Having her face on La Casa’s mural has also helped her feel more powerful because it’s something tangible, that is proof of the hard work she and other DescolonizArte participants have done to empower and improve their community. Joceline likes the idea of having something to share with others and remind people that these often forgotten communities are here, and “we are strong people who will advocate for ourselves and our needs.” Joceline stated. Since Joceline has found her power and strength, she has been inspired to become a leader in her community. “I wanna learn more about it and maybe later be a part of an organization where I can be the one bringing youth into it (a youth program). It would be so cool to do that.” Joceline knows that she still has a lot of growing and learning to do but believes that she will get there one day. Joceline also wants to study criminal justice to understand how the justice and legal systems work so as to advocate for those who are mistreated by the systems, and find ways to bring positive change.
Joceline had some encouraging words for other young people who might be thinking about joining DescoloinzArte or a program like it. “Go for it, not everybody is going to be open-minded like you, and you should be proud of yourself that you want to learn more about social justice issues and your community, and that you want to make a difference in the world. They’ll tell you that you’re too young, well you’re not too young. People will make you feel like you’re just one little human on this big planet, and you won’t make a change, but you can, and it does start small, and you might feel like you’re not making a change, but the first step is to get informed, get educated.” Joceline also encourages young women to continue educating themselves, speak up, use their voice, always stand their ground, and that their thoughts and feelings matter. She also wants people to embrace growing out of situations, people, and thoughts. Joceline wants people to know that this is okay and natural, and people shouldn’t be scared or ashamed of it as long as they continue to grow and do better.
The team at Empowerment Congress is so happy to be able to work with outstanding, bright young people like Joceline in the DescolonizArte program. We hope that we can continue doing fantastic work with the youth from our communities. If you or someone you know would like to join the DescolonizArte youth program, contact our Youth Coordinator Martine Esquivel at firstname.lastname@example.org.