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UPLIFTT | January 24, 2018

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Pieces of The Dream by Jason Rivera

Pieces of The Dream by Jason Rivera

I haven’t written prose in a very long time. But, I had something on my mind of late and I had to get it out. I have to say, César and Jacia, you both came to mind as I wrote this! I have no title — it’s more of a stream of consciousness…but, I hope it moves people beyond complacent consumerism.

Pieces of The Dream

It’s in my bloodstream
A cataclysmic eruption of emotional turmoil
Trying to reconcile ignorance with social responsibility
To match complacent ambivalence with social in-Justice
Frustrated by the harrowing cries of American nativism
That have long kept me marginalized and oppressed at the fringes of a
society that continues to remind me of my inadequacies…I am Latino – I am otherI am in a state of intellectual unrest
Challenged by the pervasive privilege that allows dominant thought…
dominant voice…to become dominant mis-Truth
We are victims of our own confused distortions of diversity
Embracing difference like an unwelcomed relative on a short visit from out
of town
We’ve become tolerance clowns
Believing that veiled attempts at inclusion equate to massive strides beyond
the “movement” to freedom
We believe we are free
And so we settle for pieces of the dream
Because the pieces seem like more than we had before
And they are—
More calculated trickery masked behind opportunity
More veiled bigotry fueling the systemic inequity that pervades every aspect
of social life—with nothing changing—
except our cries for justice—our marches for freedom—our pursuit for
liberatory education—our dreams of “one nation, under God, with liberty
and justice for all…”Instead, we’ve become a nation of self-satisfied, aggrandizing, popular
culture consuming junkies—addicted to social media notions of revolution.
We’ve relinquished the almighty pen and become a nation of selfie
snapping, 140 character tweeting, facebook posting anarchists.
Only we revolt against things like facebook updates and other insignificant
distractions while power and privilege remain far beyond our grasp. Alas,
we have far to go—with little hope of moving forward…and I can’t help but
wonder…is this what our ancestor’s died for?But some days, I sense a stench of rage in the air—a faction of action
billowing through the masses calling for change—and it resonates with my
spirit. It draws me in, beckons me to continue to critically analyze the
hegemonic forces that attempt to distract me—with juicy “realities” like
“Love and Hip Hop” and “Keeping up with the Kardashians.”And it’s easy to get distracted because complacency is comfortable—Until I
realize that the promotion I deserved at work…the equitable salary I should
have been paid…the access to the neighborhood and home I should
deserve…the mountain of debt that keeps me in a lower socio economic
bracket…all of the opportunities I should be entitled to because of my status
as an “American” are well beyond my grasp. It’s then that
I realize that complacency comes at very high price.And so, I choose to be a rebel rousing challenge to the status quo…to
question the hetero-patriarchal and systemic obstacles that keep me
oppressed. It’s at those moments that the cataclysmic emotional turmoil
surfaces…and I continue to push against the wall…and I know I am not
alone…and it all seems worth it. Change can happen…but not without effort…not without
struggle…and not without community.

Jason RiveraJason Rivera is a doctoral candidate in the Minority and Urban Education (MUE) program at the University of Maryland College Park.  As a full-time higher education professional and Ph.D. student, Jason has encountered the systemic institutional and societal barriers that impact Latino student outcomes.   These encounters—coupled with the multiple roles he occupies as a Latino male, educator, scholar, and social justice activist—are what compelled him to pursue doctoral studies. As an emerging scholar, he has been able to utilize his research and scholarship to contribute to the current dialogue on closing the achievement gap for Latino and African American students at Montgomery College, a multi-campus 2-year institution in Maryland.  He has also served on a research team led by Dr. Victoría -Maria Macdonald, which was charged with examining the low graduation rates of Latino males at a four-year public higher education institution in the greater Chicago area.

After serving on the Chicago research team, Jason was invited to participate in the 40th Anniversary Symposium of Pedro Albizu Campos High School (PACHS), also known as the Puerto Rican High School.  PACHS was one of the first alternative schools to utilize critical and culturally responsive pedagogy to teach students ostracized and marginalized by the Chicago public school system.  The PACHS experience brought three of Jason’s research interests—care, social, and cultural capital—into alignment and affirmed his professional aspirations.

Jason is interested in pursuing a faculty-tenure position where he can support students on their academic journeys while continuing to honor his passion for social justice and community engagement. He also remains committed to helping reframe conversations about Latino males from deficit-oriented approaches toward models of success and how such models can be replicated to support Latino male college persistence and completion.  His ultimate goal is to generate research and scholarship that favorably contributes to the growing national discourse on Latino male educational experiences.

Prior to his Ph.D. program, Jason earned a Bachelor of Arts from Manhattanville College, where he majored in History and Political Science.  After his undergraduate studies, he began working in the field of education, first through non-profit organizations and then as a teacher and administrator in K-12 and higher education settings.  Jason received a Master of Science in Elementary Education from the City University of New York at Staten Island and has since served as a teacher, mentor, educational leader, and director of several academic support services.


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