Despite my overwhelming desire to have traveling to Puerto Rico to have pork chops be my primary reason for the travel – I got to do something yesterday I’ve been working on for a bit.

When I got to Newhouse, I wanted to try to find ways to make inroads with Latinx students From all spaces.  Syracuse can be a bit of a culture shock for non-white students and if you are a first-gen (ie: your parents didn’t go to college), even moreso. 

My mom and dad had no formal school education.  Yet – both of them worked as hard as they could to show us the value of school.  I was doubly blessed to have Daisy and Norman pushing me even further to do it.  When I got out into the public – I noticed how much being a latino meant to other folks.   I’d be on the speaking circuit and have people stop me and be like “Thank you for representing.. “.  To be honest, I never really have it much thought.  To me, being a latino was personal – and private.  I wasn’t ashamed.  I wanted Rafael to be a name I only heard in Spanish.  A safe place – if that makes any sense.

When I started to do more work in Latin America, I started to see how good it felt to hear people speaking in Spanish to me.  I also got extremely self conscious because – while I could speak Spanish fluently – I called it “mom Spanish”.  Spanish that worked well everywhere, but missed technical terms..  (Like how do you say File or FTP site, or workflow).  But it felt good.

All of this has been pushing me to try to find a way to collaborate with different communities. This year I’ve been working with local students at Newhouse to restart the chapter of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists.  Marnie Munoz has been doing amazing at this and her team is just getting started! 

This brings us back to Puerto Rico.  Gabriel Paizy Damiani is the Dean of the School of Communications at Ferré Rangel in Sagrado Corazon – San Turce, PR.  A Newhouse grad himself, he’s been looking for ways to collaborate with the school that gave him so much.  We met last year and immediately started brainstorming ways for us to set up a program.  Our Dean, Mark Lodato has been really excited to see how we can collaborate, branch out, and expand our voices with Latinx representation, so this has been a labor of love. 

Yesterday, the Escuela de Ferré Rangel at Sagrado relaunched a new vision for the school, and announced that we are working on a partnership between Sagrado and Newhouse.  This partnership will have students from Puerto Rico come to the mainland and learn, while sending students from Newhouse out to PR to get essential skills in Latinx culture and markets, making them even more prepared for the bi-lingual workforce. In the interim, Milton Santiago – an outstanding cinematographer and professor at Newhouse is going to be starting a cloud collaboration project between Newhouse and Sagrado using Amlos technology from Canon.  The goal here is to shoot, edit, and color grade a project from different locations – but having a singular voice. Milton’s already done some great work with Canon on this in Vegas – so I’m excited to see if we can take our work to the award circuit!

For me – I just get to teach more people.  I spent the days before driving up and down the area that I would have known my dad walked as a runaway… imagining what it must have been like to be so smart. – and have no outlet or opportunity.  It would be so cool to see how this could be a start of an effort that can grow wider and involve more communities, from all spaces, and many countries. For as … complicated… as my relationship w my dad was..  I hope he can see how im trying to use that to try to be better. 


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