Being Latiné, Being Human

Photo by Rach Teo on Unsplash

Rituals can relay a powerful connection to cultural vestiges, ancestral memories, and convivial possibilities for living. Their qualities can have a way of preserving or salvaging what is important to know in order to sustain ourselves in times of flux. This understanding of ritual has helped me to garner an appreciation of holidays; for example, the current celebration of this Hispanic Heritage Month is a yearly ritual to reflect on who I am and who I am becoming. Indeed, we should not merely acknowledge Latiné identity and history for one month to appease the capitalist desire to commodify difference; but rather, take intentional moments to explore and connect with how, for example, Latiné subjectivity interfaces with modes of being human.

Moving in between different “worlds” including Puerto Rican, neurodivergent, Afro, cuir/queer, Jewish, and different regions of the mainland, as well as engaging with national and international nontheist organizations, has deepened my understanding of how to be human differently: that is, embodying a “transgressive” life stance that challenges western and colonial notions of identity and religious practice. I am reminded of my Caribbean ancestors whose own ways of being were deemed inferior or backward by colonizers, with these orientations still suffusing daily life.

As a humanist practitioner and scholar, I’ve been able to witness and center emerging and radical work within Humanism. For example, youth, young adults, and scholars of color alike are demystifying colonial frameworks, like the apolitical melting pot, and instead focusing on experiences that are expansive, rhizomatic, and not monolithic. My praxis is guided by two broad questions: (1) how might we reimagine spaces of belonging that affirm alternative genres of the human? and (2) how might we promote liberatory imaginations, especially within communities of color? My diverse leadership activities and community-based activism have leveraged the knowledge of those in the margins. For example, I have spearheaded educational programming highlighting the contexts and entanglements with power that mediate a sense of self, the human, and the human condition. In this time of grief and strife, discourses on humanism can provide an additional language to transgress nihilistic tendencies.

During this time of flux and uncertainty, I am continuing to explore the intricacies of my positionality as a young, first-generation, low-income, and Afro-Boricua, cuir/queer humanist/freethinker and how these dimensions overlap with the challenges and possibilities of working within predominately white settings. I want to spend extensive time with colleagues grappling with issues of identity, culture, and the human condition through interreligious and dialogic engagement. Yet, I have discovered that this desire to learn with and from humanist/freethinking orientations will allow me to forge new insights around reflexive inquiry, organizational dynamics, and systems change thinking as a humanist, and extend my commitment to meaningful social change that will hopefully lead people of color to recognize within our broad humanist, nontheist organizations a fecund site for human flourishing.

Hispanic Heritage Month can be a time to explore the contradictions and interstices that make us human. My invitation is to think about your roots and routes. Go live, experience, study, and feel the ways in which you want to become more human, and if humanism and freethought speak to an aspect of you who is seeking to be free, may you find the accompaniment of like-hearted mentors, teachers, and colleagues in this journey. All walks of life can have a space to grow in the humanism of the now and the future, we just need you to know, even in the midst of growing edges,  disillusioned,  elitist behaviors, the opportunities to believe in each other and create networks of care for you and us to co-labor without fear and in revolutionary love. My Afro, neurodivergent, cuir/queer, and multifaceted self has been welcomed, and I look forward to nurturing myself and others’ “story of the life we cherish the most.”