The Speeches I Would Like to Give

Original artwork by the author: Grace Palacios

I am the oldest child of teenage parents.

Against their parents’ advice my mother and father dropped out of high school to raise me and give me a better life. I have always wanted to make my parents proud. I want their late nights, their hard work, and their sacrifices to have all been worth it.

I am now the same age they were when they chose to give their futures for mine.

I am Afro-Latina. Living in America this is an inescapable fact. I am proud of who I am and of my heritage, but the obstacles I face as a female minority can be overwhelming. Since my childhood I have longed for a way to transcend racial and economic boundaries and build relationships with those who feel similar to the way I have felt.    

The past four years of high school have been challenging. Amongst my strongest memories is being bullied by a classmate. He embarrassed me in front of others and pointed out all my insecurities: From how I felt and the way I looked. 

I believed everything he said about me, but I kept it inside. 

I also changed high schools when my parents felt that my grades were not where they needed to be. This upheaval and the removal of all that was familiar to me increased my sense of other-ness.

So, to escape I lost myself in films, films filled with dreams of better lives. I fantasized that these lives could one day be my own. But these films too came to contribute to my sense of alienation. Far too often I noticed that the heroes and heroines did not look like me. They did not look like my parents. 

As I spent more time alone with my thoughts I began writing them down. At first they were just observations, but soon grew into speeches I would like to give, dialogue I would like to deliver, stories I would like to be told. This writing opened my mind to the power of creativity.

When I discovered acting as a way of performing both my own writings and those of other people, I discovered I could give them a body and a soul as well as create, express, play and most importantly make people believe and listen.

Yes, I am the product of a teenage pregnancy. Yes, I have indigenous features which make me feel insecure. But I am 100 percent American. Although I don’t feel like I belong.

There is a constant struggle to rise above the stereotypes that Latinos face. Some common ones are: troublemakers, loud, uneducated and Latina women are overly sexualized: Homemakers or harlots.

These are the perceptions I want to change and defy. 

I didn’t grow up in a broken home. My childhood was filled with beautiful and positive memories. My mother is a strong woman who sacrificed her teenage years for her family. I feel her strength within me.  

Through art I have learned to find my own inner strength and to face my fears. I have learned the importance of finding a way to communicate my voice, happiness and affirmation within myself.

It is my mission to change the typical stereotypes about Latinos. 

The real fulfillment is in each of us discovering not only who we are, but also overcoming all the limitations we’ve placed on our humanity in the pursuit of making art. I know it won’t be easy, but the thrill is not in the failing or falling, but in the fact that there’s a chance tomorrow for you to stand up and try again no matter how many obstacles and limitations are in your way.

I’ve got my heart set on this dream, and I know the insecurity will always be creeping up and the dark thoughts can always sweep back in, but by putting in the work personally, emotionally, and professionally, I am determined to let nothing stand in the way of me speaking my truth.

— by Grace Palacios ’21

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this publication are those solely of the authors. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of The Bennett as a whole.