A film & panel conversation about women, body image & leadership

There is still time to get free tickets to screen new documentary, "Miss Representation," a film that explores the limited and disparaging portrayals of women and girls in media. The film's director argues that this distorted image making challenges young girls self esteem and makes it difficult for women to thrive in leadership positions.

Some of the film's stats are sobering: 

  • the US is 90th in the world for women in legislatures
  • women hold 3 % of leadership positions in mainstream media
  • 65 percent of women and girls have eating disorders

After the film a panel of women, including the amazing Terrie Williams, the film's director, Jennifer Siebel Newsom, and yours truly, will have a conversation around the issue.

Saturday March 31
SVA Theater 
23rdt abetween 8 and 9th Ave

Free: www.123signup.com/register or call
Women in Media: 212 592-4511

Syracuse University here I cometh...

I have many, many reasons to be grateful for & one of them is having the privilege to travel the nation to speak to all kinds of groups, organizations & people. College students are usually the most fascinating. Young, idealistic & intelligent, esp. on all things, social networks, I find them open to new ideas at looking at the world. I usually come inspired by many of the sweet exchanges. 

Tomorrow I'm traveling to Syracuse University. Wanna come? If you can't make it, you can go via Twitter. The students have hooked up a twitter party. 

Send questions #SandraAtSU 

New discoveries that love alters the brain may not be front page news, but maybe it should...

It is an ancient wisdom that counsels to an eternal truth: what we pay attention to not only grows but ultimately defines us. Now, science is catching up age old wisdom and neuroscientists are "seeing" this in our brains. The gist: how and with whom you choose to spend the irreplaceable hours of your life will literally transform you.  Diane Ackerman's gorgeously written column, The Brain in Love, explores how relationships alter the brain -- most especially, intimate  relationships-- those that fail or lift us. These bonds, she writes, change the delicate circuitry that shape memories, emotions and ultimately, the self.  Loving relationships it turns out change the brain most significantly:
...we inhabit a mirror-world in which every important relationship, whether with spouse, friend or child, shapes the brain, which in turn shapes our relationships. Daniel J. Siegel and Allan N. Schore, colleagues at the University of California, Los Angeles, recently discussed groundbreaking work in the field at a conference on the school’s campus. It’s not that caregiving changes genes; it influences how the genes express themselves as the child grows. Dr. Siegel, a neuropsychiatrist, refers to the indelible sense of “feeling felt” that we learn as infants and seek in romantic love, a reciprocity that remodels the brain’s architecture and functions.
Oh mother was so right when she cautioned me as a young girl: Tell me with whom you walk and I will tell you who you are. Translated loosely from the Spanish aphorism:  dime con quien andas y te dire quien eres
So glad that it was advice that I kept in the back burner and managed to consistently keep. Thank you mom!

If you are feeling alone today know that you are not.   

The lightness of your being...

There are self-imposed burdens and then there are the burdens that others dump on you. Knowing the difference between the two will relieve you of a lot of stress. Spend the day contemplating your load.

Do you take on stuff that you have no business taking on? Or, do those you love, work with dump their s**t on you? Are you a recipient for other's drama? Is it time to check them? Or you?

Spring is a perfect time for cleaning and weeding not just your house or garden but your mind. Explore what it is that weighs you down and recycle. Feeling light -- in mind and heart -- is a pathway to happiness.

My son is scared he might be the next Trayvon Martin...

My 9 yr. old son told me last night, upon hearing the story of Trayvon Martin, that he was scared. And sadly, I could not tell him not to be scared. The reality is that my son is a young brown boy growing up in a nation that refuses to courageously face the cancer that is racism. My son's being brown, Puerto Rican and male makes him a target of bigots. As a mother of two sons I have twice the worry. It's a sobering reality that I wished weren't so. I wonder, do white mothers of young boys have similar worries of harm coming to their sons when they go out to buy a bag of candy and a drink?

So last night, rather than sugar coating the situation, my youngest son and I sat down, watched the latest news on the case, and had the talk. It was a difficult conversation to have with a fourth grader and one that I wanted to push till he were older and better able to comprehend the complex realities of the world we live in, but, this was a significant moment and his fear was real.

This is also the talk that is ubiquitous in living rooms across many Black homes, Jewish homes, Muslim homes and Latino homes of late, and for ever, really. Those who come from groups that have been hunted-- or cast as the other -- we have these talks with our children. A decade ago, I had the talk with my oldest son when he entered adolescence.  My momma had a similar conversation with her five children when we first arrived from the Caribbean to the U.S. Not speaking English and being poor, immigrant, brown made her five kids very vulnerable. Coincidentally, while visiting Israel a few weeks ago, two mothers, an Arab mom of two and a Jewish mom of seven, shared that they too have the "talk." They tell their kids of the harsh reality of potential violence because of the other. Ugh...

There are thousands of variations of the same tired conversation meant to protect our children from harm that spews from intolerance and bigotry. It's deep. It's complicated. It's urgent. And inescapable. Will these talks ever cease to exist? Will racism, antisemitism, any ism ever end? Ugh...

Last night, it was my turn to tell my son that there is a sickness in this world that we've yet to conquer. My message to him was clear: racism can infect anybody. Trayvon's killer, George Zimmerman, is white and Hispanic and according to all reports, he had a serious case of bigotry that made him view all young brown and black males with suspicion. It didn't matter that Zimmerman's mother is Latina, something Zimmerman's dad suggested inoculated his son from harboring bigotry against Blacks. His letter to the Orlando Sentinel is a peek into the mindset of the Zimmerman home. Racism, Mr Robert Zimmerman, is alive and kicking in Latino homes too, we just don't admit or talk about it. Welcome to the real world.

Being an eternal optimist, however, I will not give up hope that as a nation made up of a gorgeous mosaic of people from all over the globe -- and a promising democracy and beacon of hope to many -- will waste this precious moment. We can use this innocent boy's cold blooded murder to tackle the cancer that has consumed so many hearts and minds and claimed far too many of our citizens since the beginning. Kevin Powell's sobering and inspiring column Trayvon Martin and the Fatal History of American Racism put this issue in a historical perspective. Must read. Please read.

History offers moments when nations are asked to transcend to a more perfect union. To more perfect beings. A chance to do away with things that no longer serve us--racism never did and does not. I believe that this is one of those occasions where we are being asked as a nation to tap into our better nature. For Latino media, especially Spanish language media, it is particularly a salient opportunity to discuss racism within our own tribe. Latino families everywhere, are you listening?

And while its true that the dialogue starts in our living rooms we also need our leaders - politicians, from the President down to the local crossing guard and teacher --  to be bold and engage in an honest heart to heart dialogue.

Happy Spring

Sun worshippers soak up spring rays on top of Teotihuacan Sun Pyramid in Mexico

On Whiteness and Trayvon Martin's murder...

I was overseas when Trayvon Martin was gruesomely murdered by a racist gunman who was a self appointed neighborhood watchman. Coincidentally, I was in Israel, a place of turmoil and pain in the world. Also, a sea of hope and beauty, but I digress.

I returned from overseas more patriotic but after catching up with the horrible details of this high school teen's murder and the lack of mass outrage by my fellow non Black Americans, I realize how imperfect our democracy continues to be. How much work we have before us.

My outrage:

-An innocent teen is dead and his killer George Zimmerman is still free.
-The cops in this Florida town are protecting the killer.
-The way Trayvon's family was treated by law enforcement officials is simply outrageous.  

But what is also disconcerting to me is that as I look at the photos of the protesters it is mostly Black America that is hitting the streets and the Internet to demand justice. Where is white America on this issue? Jewish America? Asian Americans? Where are Latinos?

I visited a Holocaust Museum in Israel Yad Vashem and met a Holocaust survivor. Ud was his name, and B495195 his number. It was a moving experience to hear his remarkable story of survival. But it was something about what he said that caught my heart: millions of Jews were killed not by one man but by millions of good people who did nothing. He reminded me of the quote: All that is necessary for evil to triumph is that good men (and women) do nothing.

Living while male and black and brown in this country continues to be a dangerous. Where is the collective outrage by good White Americans?

I was following an interesting thread on Gawker where this issue was brought up. A heated exchange with the occasional stupid comment, but one insightful commentator caught my eye.

The post is from a self described white commenter:

...You know, at first I was going to be all "Waaaahhh, I'm a white person and I do care," and then I thought that yes, you're 100% right. We care, but we really don't. Ten thousands black kids would have to die all at once in America (=1MM overseas) for us white folks to care enough to do something about it. ....I sat here thinking about this case and thinking that this kid was murdered in cold blood and then went back to doing some work. I didn't sign a petition, I didn't post it to Facebook, I didn't even talk to my husband about it. When black kids were being murdered at an astonishing pace in Chicago, all I could muster was "damn, that's sad." And I donated thousands to Vick dog rescue. I realize that you're not referring to every specific person, but to our whiteness in general and that you will be right for a long time....

The Justice Department, after much pressure, is finally stepping in to investigate the murder. Hopefully justice will prevail. But I am interested in the exploration of our individual hearts as it pertains to racism and bias.  Whom do you consider suspicious? Are you willing to really go there and be honest with yourself? 

As long as the voices of everyone not just Black America say enough is enough there will be more Trayvons. 

"We are one human being wearing countless masks. When all the masks are stripped off, what remains is essence, the soul, the divine spark." That's a beautiful truth written by Deepak Chopra and one of the constants that I kept thinking about as I made my around Israel for ten days. Visiting a region replete with so much history, dignity, magic, mystery, and spirituality was an extraordinary experience and one that I am still processing.

When you find yourself looking at others and their different ways because of culture, religion, sexual orientation, color, race, ethnicity, class, gender or titles think about an eternal truth: we are one. Strip away all the superficial layers and masks that we carry and that many times serve to separate us from each other and a new perspective at looking at the world and yourself emerges.

No human being is illegal...

Painting by LA based artist, Liliflor Ramirez

Rest in glorious light my friend Chef Maximo Tejada

I'm still processing news that culinary artist Chef Maximo Tejada passed away last night. There are people who leave you with a little light after you talk to them- and Chef Maxi was one of them. Talented. Sweet. Soulful. His culinary philosophy was steeped in the idea that our spirit is infused the food that we prepare.

As any artist knows, spirit is weaved into everything we create. Songs. Paintings. Clothes. Books. And yes, tonight's dinner. Chef Maximo was an amazing a genuine artist who was in touch with spirit in ways that were mysterious and magical.

Chef Maximo's secret ingredient was his loving and generous energy. If he was stressed, irritated or just not well, he would take a walk, meditate and go back to the kitchen when his head and heart were clear. He demanded that of everyone who walked into his kitchen too.  Chef asked them for peace in their heart -- or at minimum -- buena onda, a good vibe. And the result was spectacular!

Tasting his food at -- Rayuela and Macondo-- felt like a culinary tour through Spain and Latin America via the palate. He was formally trained at the French Culinary Institute but his real training he told me started in his grandma's kitchen. He was born with an intuitive gift -- a rare alchemist talent that translated cultures, a people's history through each plate he created. Dominican-born, New York-raised, he belonged to the world.

Chef Maximo was present on the night when as a friend described, the moon came out to shine for me. Chef Maxi helped celebrate the publication of my book in May when he transported the restaurant's kitchen to Susan Taylor's home and prepared dishes with such joy that I can still feel his warmth today. His mouth watering creations enchanted everyone who gathered at Susan and Kephra's beautiful home to welcome my book into the world. Chef Maxi, Hector Sanz, his business partner and loving friend and Catalina, the sweet event's planner of the company, prepared a small surprise cocktail in my honor: soursop martinis. Those guanabana martinis were unforgettable. As were the quail eggs, shrimp, oysters, and many more exquisite dishes.

My book party was an amazing night that I will never forget not just because of the exquisite food, or sweet company, it was the unseen energy that we all felt in our midst -- loving sweet energy and his name was Maximo.

I feel so honored that I was able to taste his art, but even more honored that I was able to meet and be gifted a little of his light.

All photos by Gary Santana
RIP Maxi. You will be missed.