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Guest Post: The Power Of Mentorship And Collaboration In The Latinx Community By Diana Limongi

Diana Limongi is a nonprofit professional, activist, writer, and Latina mom from New York. She is the creator and host of Parenting and Politics. You can find her own Twitter @dianalimongi and Instagram @parentingandpolitics 

Have you ever wondered if you could do something and talked yourself out of doing it? I bet everyone one of us can point to a moment when we decided to not take an opportunity because we felt like we weren’t ready.

That’s one of the reasons why mentorship and collaboration are so important. We need to be able to see others that may look or sound like us, who are successful and who have taken that “plunge” and launched that project or did the unthinkable (Enter Alexandria Ocasio Cortez here).

“Should I start that project?”

“Should I run for office?”

“What if I’m not good enough?”

“It has to be perfect.”

“I don’t have enough experience.”

I have been lucky enough to count on mentors who have shared their failures and successes and have encouraged me to do it even though I wasn’t ready … if I had waited until I was ready, I would still NOT be ready to launch my podcast, Parenting and Politics.

We need mentors because with mentors we will be able to see beyond what we think our limitations are. We need mentors because we need to see others succeed and learn from their mistakes and their successes. We, as a community, need to BUILD on those successes. We, as a community, also need to come together to support one another when we are being attacked. We, as a community, need to SHARE the knowledge and resources, because only then, will we be able to continue to grow and excel.

It is especially important for us to pool our resources and knowledge together because, for many of us the truth is that we lack the social, political and economic capital that would come with wealthy parents who have been here for generations. Many of us are first-generation Americans, we are the first to graduate from college, we are many “firsts” but the important thing is to never be the last, or the only one… we must use the knowledge and expertise that we have fought so hard to is help bring others up. And that is something we have in common with our Black brothers and sisters… they too, as a community, may lack resources and opportunities due to slavery, Jim Crow laws, segregation and other evils like mass incarceration and police brutality… we must come together to work to advance our people.

I am lucky to belong to a group of Latina creators called WeAllGrow Latina. Our motto is, “When one grows, we all grow.” And I firmly believe that. If one of us succeeds, I feel like we all succeed. I also believe that we can’t act from a place of lack. I believe looking at things through a lens of gratitude and abundance is the way to go. Because, if we look at things through that lens, we will not think someone has “taken” something that “should” be for us. Maya Angelou said in an interview that she would say thank you even if she lost a job because that would mean that it would lead to something else. “Thank you, because I know something better is on the road for me. So you fired me? Good on you, and very good on me — because what I’m going to get, darlin’, you would long for.”

Here are some reasons why mentorship and collaboration in communities of color are important:

1. Collaboration over competition: Have you ever worked on a project and were feeling stuck? Did you ever need to bounce your ideas off of someone else? That’s why collaboration is important… two (or more) brains are better than one! Collaboration allows us to think outside the box, it gives us different perspectives. We can’t do it all alone, nor should we want to! That will only cause us to burn out. And, we’re in it for the long haul… we can’t burn out! We must work together, remember that many hands make light work.

2. “If you're the smartest person in the room, you're in the wrong room.” Full disclosure… when I was younger, it took me a while to understand this. But, it makes total sense. There is always room to learn something, and you always want to be in a room full of people who will nourish you and help you grow. Even in a place where you have more “knowledge” you can still learn. (Teachers can learn from their students all the time, and our children teach us so much!)

3. Letting go of the risk of failure. Having a mentor will help assuage your fears of failing (yes, people fail all the time, and as Oprah says, failure only points us in the right direction). Guess what? Successful people have failed too! Successful people have run for office and been defeated, they have had unsuccessful businesses. They have been there and done that, and will probably want to share the lessons learned so you don’t have to.

4. We are all connected. Sounds cheesy right? But, you never know where life will take you. Offering to mentor someone, to share your expertise, can one day come back to you in some way. Things move so quickly, that maybe that person you mentored will be in a position to help you out someday.

5. The ripple effect. Offering to mentor someone, or asking someone to be your mentor takes dedication and courage, but I guarantee you that what you will get out of it will be immense. It will not only benefit you, but it will also benefit your community… and ultimately that is our goal, right? To improve our communities. The knowledge you gain, you will take with you and use it to make improve conditions for others. Mentoring has a tremendous ripple effect.

I want to say something about collaboration that is really important: don’t be afraid to reach out to others in our own Latinx community, and to other people of color. That is how we get real change… do you think the Squad would be so powerful if they didn’t support each other?

There is SO much work that needs to be done that requires us to come together and work together. If we stop to listen to each other, to learn from one another, we will see that many of the issues that affect our own communities are issues that affect other communities. There is TREMENDOUS opportunity for collaboration between communities of color because we are dealing with similar problems. We must find commonalities, and work to find solutions together.

While those in power (the so-called majority now) try to divide us, we must remember that together we are stronger and that knowledge is power. And that is what mentorship and collaboration can do: help us become stronger together, through information and resource sharing, through story and experience sharing, through collaborations like this one with The Brown Girls Guide to Politics podcast which I am so happy and grateful for.

To all my Latinx friends and Brown girls reading this, and wondering “how do I even get a mentor? I don’t know where to start!” Start with the people around you! Or, just ask someone you admire! Be honest and open. And, don’t get discouraged if that person can’t be your mentor. Say thank you and move on. Also, you don’t have to ask… most of the time, these things happen naturally. I have a few people whom I consider mentors, and I have never asked any of them to “be” my mentors, it is something that just happened. It needs to be a good fit. Go with your gut.

I want to end by encouraging you to do two things:

First, Amplify and honor the voices of your sisters of color!

Don’t pretend to know it all, (no one does!) and be ready to listen and understand with an open heart and an open mind. Even if our lived experiences don’t necessarily match others,’ by listening we can be empathetic and understanding. Personally, having the podcast has helped me understand the stories of Black women and also has given me an opportunity to learn more and challenge my own beliefs.

Second, FIND a mentor.

Write a list, “What do I want in a mentor?” What do I need in a mentor?”Find someone who will believe in you, more than you believe in yourself. Find someone who is willing to share all that they know with you, find someone who, if you think there isn’t a place for you at the table, will move over so you can sit next to them… or, as Shirley Chisholm said, will bring you a chair. Or, better yet, will help you build your own table. 😉

Diana Limongi is a nonprofit professional, activist, writer, and Latina mom from New York. She is the creator and host of Parenting and Politics, a podcast that looks at parenting through a political lens. She also has a blog, LadydeeLG, where she writes about motherhood, raising bilingual kids, multicultural families, and activism. She works with organizations that help mothers, children and families, including the NY Paid Leave Coalition, the UN's Shot@Life program and MomsRising/MamásConPoder and the Aspen Institute. 

Diana has a BA in International Political Economy from Fordham University, an MA in Migration Studies from the University of Kent, and an MPA in Nonprofit Management from NYU. Diana is fluent in Spanish and French. She and her multicultural family live in Queens, NY. You can find her own Twitter @dianalimongi and Instagram @parentingandpolitics. 

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