I moved to Michigan late 2015 from Texas. The decision to move came from a two-week visit to Ann Arbor in November 2014. During that two-week visit, I worked with a group of people who had planted a church of the church of my undergrad. Not only did I connect with the church team, but I also saw the intersection of many of my interests in Detroit and outlying neighborhoods. My undergraduate studies were in social work because of my desire to confront issues of poverty and racial injustice. What better way to tackle those issues further than investing in Detroit? My objective in moving to Ann Arbor was to invest deeply in my church community, build connections in southeast Michigan, and learn what it means to bridge the gap between diverse communities. I especially wanted to understand more of Detroit, its narrative and where the city saw itself moving forward.
In the two years that I have lived in Michigan, I have learned that I truly have so much to learn. I still see Detroit as a frontier and spotlight in the way it leads or fails to lead in the conversation of race in the U.S. but now have a greater understanding of the politics and the history that reveal the complexity of issues. While I am enamored with the idea of helping to build strong communities in Detroit, what does that mean and what am I willing to sacrifice? As I wade through many different decisions, I do my best to keep things simple- focus on the people and task before me, and love well.
I am familiar with navigating through the clash of cultures. My family immigrated to the United States from the Philippines, and I was born in New Jersey in a small suburb not too far from the Atlantic. I was one of a handful of minority students in predominantly white neighborhoods. While my family spent some time with other filipino families in the area, because we went to a Protestant church, my interaction with filipino peers was limited to big parties instead of Catholic mass. When I was 11, my family moved to Texas. Moving to Texas was not only a cultural shock but also a spiritual shock. Christianity as it was practiced in East Texas emphasized knowing the exact moment you gave your life to Jesus and reciting John 3:16 by heart (two things that at the time, I had no memory of). I was also again immersed in a predominantly white community. My racial identity and finding who I was spiritually intersected and fostered insecurity in me of where I truly belonged. In some sense, I saw the church community my family was a part of as oppressive because I didn’t know how to fit in. But I also wanted to follow God and be part of the church. When I became more confident in my faith in college, I made peace with the church community of my childhood, but the desire to create spaces of belonging is now deeply rooted in who I am and my life mission today.
Through my course work at the University of Michigan, and through my field placement at the James and Grace Lee Boggs School, I hope to understand further what it means to “create spaces of belonging” and to bridge gaps between communities with seemingly competing needs. I am also learning how people are practically tackling issues related to racial injustice and poverty. Left and right, I am continually inspired by the work of my peers and people I encounter not only in class but in the field. I come as a learner, but as I strive to be a professional, I am owning being a teacher as well. It is a privilege, as well as a responsibility. I hope to continue to find meaning in this purposeful journey.