Mariana Garcia Martinez
Role: Research coordinator, McNair Scholars Program at Sonoma State University’s Office of Undergraduate Research and Creative Experiences; lecturer, SSU’s Department of Chicano and Latino Studies.
Why she is an emerging leader: I see myself more like a transformative agent. I am deeply engaged in transforming educational institutions so that there is more access to equitable schools and culturally relevant curriculum that meets the needs of a changing demographic.
I realized that change and transformation needed to occur at higher levels, or better yet, in different spaces, including institutions of higher education. As such, I pursued a Ph.D. in Education Policy, Organization and Leadership, that I successfully defended in March and will be conferred this May.
As a Ph.D., I am now part of the less than 1 percent of Latinas and Latinos in the country to hold the highest level of educational attainment, something I see as both a privilege and a great responsibility.
I’ve learned firsthand successful strategies to navigate a sometimes unwelcoming space - the academy as we often call it - and came out on the other end with a degree in hand. I see my role as a mover, as someone that guides and supports children and young adults onto the next step of their educational journey. Through my training as a researcher, I am a stronger advocate for educational equity, in particular for the Latino community.
Next year, I am working with the Department of Chicano and Latino Studies to establish a center for research and resources, and to continue to increase the number of Latina and Latino students graduating college.
Role model: The person I look up to the most is my mother, Martha. She risked everything by moving to the U.S., with limited English, and no secured employment. Twenty years or so later and she has accomplished a lot. She argues that she does not speak English well, yet she managed to buy a home and owns her own car. She has taught me that neither my gender nor race/ethnicity will dictate my future. Yes, there are multiple obstacles and challenges that I have and will continue to face, but I should not let being a woman nor a Latina stop me from overcoming them. This type of mentality on her end is what gives me drive.
Favorite quote: “I write to record what others erase when I speak, to rewrite the stories others have miswritten about me, about you.” - Gloria Anzalúa.
Role: Founder and executive director at Raizes Collective, a nonprofit that seeks to empower people through art, culture and environmental education.
Why she is an emerging leader: We are living in a time where the fight for equity in all areas of life for disadvantaged people is still at the forefront of many communities. It is especially true in California, which, according to the latest Census Bureau report, is both the wealthiest state and has the highest poverty rate in the country.
That statistic is felt right here in Sonoma County, the place I grew up, where the income gap continues to grow. I see more and more working people suffering from stress and anxiety over having a roof over their heads, a living wage, quality education for children. These are factors we think about every day and even though I found allies and began working with organizations to create change in our community I still find myself escaping to cultural hubs in Sacramento or the Bay Area to heal the stress and anxiety of the inequities we are living in.
I began to reason why I sought out art, culture and activism, and came to the conclusion that this is the way I became aware of the injustices in our communities. It was within these spaces created for self expression that I was able to feel the sense of connectedness with others. So I thought to myself, “Why not build it here, in Santa Rosa, for all those people that feel like aliens in their own community?”
I was able to bring a vision of creating Raizes Collective to reality, an organization to mobilize and heal community the way the Royal Chicano Art Front mobilized their community in the ‘70s and ‘80s and the way Sol Collective in Sacramento is mobilizing their community now, through art, culture and activism. One of the goals for Raizes in 2016 is to provide even more platforms for underrepresented artists, poets, yoga instructors, dancers, MC’s or whatever artistic avenue one wishes to explore.
Role model: One of my role models is Estela Sanchez, founder and executive director of Sol Collective because she was my blueprint. Because of her work I was able to see what I could be and the impact that I could have in my community. Every time I attend workshops and events at Sol Collective I become re-energized with love and a renewed sense of purpose.