An Open Letter to Governor Rauner

Governor Rauner,

Yesterday, you made this comment about the one- day strike organized by the Chicago Teacher Union that shut down many Chicago Public Schools and displaced nearly 400,000 students for the day:

“It’s shameful that Chicago’s children are the victims in this raw display of political power. Walking out on kids in the classroom, leaving parents in the lurch and thumbing their nose at taxpayers — it’s the height of arrogance from those we’ve entrusted with our children’s futures…” -Rauner, 2016

I really want to point that you have just said exactly what the city and state have been saying about you.You were elected at the end of 2014 and we trusted you to get the state in shape, yet you are failing us.

For over 8 months, Illinois has been facing a budget crisis, and as a result, Illinois’s social service programs and schools have been greatly affected. You even stopped funding the MAP program that gives out grants to low- income college students.

I understand that everyone is entitled to their own opinions, but by not passing a budget, you are playing politics with student education and people’s lives.

That is why people are fighting and protesting. They are fighting because of the lack of funding for public schools in Chicago and universities all over the state.

Chicago State University, along with other universities, are facing possible shut downs. Students are thinking about transferring to schools that lack appropriate resources, or worse, are thinking about dropping out of college entirely.

A student who is unable to continue college, may now have to get a job that pays lower than a living wage, hindering any means of returning to school and leaving them without a college degree. If economic growth is so important to you, then how is this person supposed to appropriately contribute to society when they can barely making a living?

What I am getting at, Governor Rauner, is that you have a position of privilege and power and yet are misusing it. You are standing against unions and standing against MAP funding. You are marginalizing people and making them powerless as you shape Illinois, not to the needs of the people who reside in it, but rather your own.

The year before your election, news outlets reported you owning nine “houses”. I point this out because you have the luxury of living the way you do, yet so many others are struggling to get by.

Referring back to your comment about children being the victims, I agree they are. However, not passing a state budget is making things worse for them. In an article published March of 2015, found that one in four children who reside in the Sangamon County live in poverty. 

Another article, featuring yourself, stated:

“What we’re focused on is the current situation and the future,” [Rauner] added. “Change is difficult. Change causes pain. We believe very strongly that we’re going to go through some short-term pain for some very long-term gain.”-Rauner, 2015

I agree there must be change occurring. But I also do not think that change has to be this painful and this desperate. If we are analyzing the current situation, you should realize that you are not helping to solve it, rather, you are making matters worse for the present and for the future. Parents, teachers, students, and staff are holding such protests to catch your attention. We cannot reform our systems without your help. We are asking you to come and see the problems that people are facing on a daily basis; to understand why we are protesting.

 

Sincerely,

one student of thousand others being affected by your actions,

Bianca I. Mena

Crying out to you

Today, the police released the video that showed a police officer shooting  Laquan McDonald on October of 2014. Like some writers, I refuse to say the police officer’s name because I find it unfair to give them fame for something that should not have occured. This particular police officer shot and killed McDonald with 16 gun shots. This isn’t the first video in recent news showcasing police officers’ injustices towards the African American community.  Beyond police brutality, my African American brothers and sisters are fighting all along college campuses for a voice: a voice of reason, inclusion, and safety. I’m referring to Mizzou, to Dominican, to U of I, to Yale, and to many many more. These are students that are fighting for justice.

Today, we live in a world that does not know how to be inclusive to people with a different ethnicity, a world that does not know how to treat people with the same respect. We are not living in a community. And this is NOT what God had envisioned for the world when he created us.

Who am I to be speaking on this topic? I am not an African-American. But I stand in solidarity with them. As I mentioned before, we have a new vision of what the church looks like. The new church includes people of color, people with different perspectives standing side by side to worship His holy name.

I stand in solidarity to my fellow community members. But I am waiting for the rest of the world to acknowledge the importance and beauty of difference. God is not solely calling myself, He is calling all of us to support our community members, to educate ourselves in their struggles to be respected. To have equality among people is not a goal for the next ten years, this is a necessity for today.

Carry each other’s burdens and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. Galatians 6:2, NIV

 

Lord,

I pray for my African American brothers and sisters. As a part of a bigger community, we cry out to you as we stand to witness the injustices done to our community. I pray that we may continue to seek you during these hardships and that we, as people, learn to stand together in an inclusive community and in solidarity.

Amen.

 

Bondye bon- God is good

For those that do not know, I went to Haiti nearly four weeks ago. I’ve been putting off writing about my adventure because I have no idea how to form coherent phrases that describe what I witnessed and experienced. None of it were bad, on the contrary, I would like to say the perspective I carry are different. I am still Bianca but now I am more passionate.

While I can probably write an entire book, I will only share with you a letter I wrote to the donors that assisted me on this amazing service trip to Haiti:

To everyone from the Global Service Foundation,

My name is Bianca. Before the trip, I was a Sociology major and Spanish minor. But after the trip, I have also acquired a minor in Social Justice and Civic Engagement.

Before I begin with the story about my decision and journey to Haiti, I want to start off this letter by thanking each and every single person in this great organization. You have opened my eyes and essentially opened my mind and heart. The relationships that I built, the lives that we touched and touched us personally, I will never forget. Haiti, my first travel abroad trip, I will never regret, but rather cherish in my heart and be my motivation for other service that I plan to do throughout the course of my life.

During the fall semester, I had intentions of traveling to Cuba with Dominican University. But just as soon as I got accepted into the program, the program got canceled. I remember I had talked to my English professor during a session that I was upset about this. I essentially told her that I had desires of traveling and although Cuba wasn’t a service trip, service was something that I wanted to experience as a part of Dominican. That day, she recommended to me to think about and apply to the Haiti trip. A couple of days later, I found myself in the office of the trip coordinator, talking to her about the trip. And the next thing I knew, I was signing the agreement and assuring my seat on the plane Haiti bound.

You might be asking yourselves, why I ended up traveling to Haiti, out of all places. I know that I got endless calls from my family members asking me this question when I told them that I would be spending my first college spring break in Haiti doing service. But it’s quite simple: I wanted to go beyond the walls of tourism. I wanted to know Haitians by their true nature. I wanted to get first hand experiences to the daily lives of the people there. And I got more than I bargained for.

The following weeks, were not so much a blur, but they were hectic in preparation for the trip to Haiti. We read the book, Haiti After the Earthquake by Paul Farmer, gathered donations, and got our passports, transportations and suitcases ready. I had not been on a plane for over six years and not really been outside the United States, besides Mexico for family, so this was a big deal.

In Haiti we went to the Iron Market, where I learned to bargain with people and saw so many beautiful things that Haitians had created. I learned that a large amount of the population dedicate their lives being street vendors. During the trip, we familiarized ourselves with an organization called ASAPH. The girls that attended this school taught us to dance some traditional folk music, and most of them braided our hair. Well excluding me, my hair is too short to do anything to it. Then we held malnourished babies at Mother Teresa’s Home for the Babies and that was when it was hard for me to do service. The cries of the kids that wanted to be held and fed, the confused expressions that their faces held when their parents left after visiting their children, it was unbearable. I wanted to care for all of them and I realized quickly that I couldn’t. I think this was the moment that I realized that my service in Haiti was limited. I can only help so much. But the little I had to give was enough to change their beautiful lives even if it were for a mere hours. After this, we worked in Wings of Hope where I saw only God’s grace and love working in each and every single one of their lives. This organization represented hope.

As I describe to you all the big events that we as a group were able to participate in, I begin to realize that words fall short in describing what I experienced in Haiti. And one of the several things that I have learned during this trip is that people have to come and see for themselves what Haiti is all about. Only that way will all the misconceptions of Haiti drift away and be replaced by all the hope and love that these places and people have shown us.

What are my plans after this? I have a strong desire to go back to Haiti. If for some reason returning becomes impossible, then I want to continue serving. Whether that is in a different country or in my community here in Chicago, I want to continue working in service for others. Long term goals of mine are to get my master’s degree in Social Work so that I become specialized in helping people. But I know with certainty now that this is the career path that I want to pursue.

From the bottom of my heart, thank you because I am now a part of the Haitian family.

Bianca I. Mena

Our mission is to love

If I may say, it has been very hard to express an opinion over what has been the center of discussions to several conversations: the Mike Brown and Eric Garner cases.

It has been hard because everyone has something to say. Most people see this issue and say, “It doesn’t pertain to me”, “it’s not an issue in this country”, hide their opinion in fear of the comments and replies to it, or simply do not have sufficient information of both sides before taking a stance on one.

Yesterday afternoon, in the midst of Finals Week, my University gathered together as one to organize, pray, and participate in a rally and die-in. And as we all lay on the floor of the university in silence for 4 1/2 minutes, I could not help but pray to God for all the people involved in these situations.

I prayed for Mike Brown’s and Eric Garner’s family. That they may continue to seek comfort in God despite all this hurt that they have been through.

I prayed for the people standing against police brutality and police abuse. I prayed that they may not revert to violence and have social justice in mind. I prayed that their judgment may not become fogged by the way they portray all police officers to be due to all that the media is reporting.

And believe it or not, I prayed for the police departments over the entire country. I prayed for them because most of them are now living in fear. I prayed that they too find a way to love others before taking drastic actions towards alleged criminals.

I prayed for all of the people involved and all the people who are afraid to be involved. I prayed that someday we may live in a world where we do not fear authority but can co-live with them in a non racist community.

And at the last of those four and a half minutes, I thanked God. I thanked Him for giving me a community that supports social justice. I thanked Him for giving us the strength to stand together. I thanked Him because even when we feel alone in this world full of hate and violence, we have Him to lean on and guide us.

“I will always find you..”

Lately, I’ve been feeling disconnected from God. Whether it’s the sleep deprivation, the hours on the bus/train, the hours learning and studying, I find myself continuously feeling spiritually empty. For a couple of weeks at a time I didn’t go to my church, didn’t attend my women’s bible study group, and I avoided any contact with people who would remind me of my disconnection from God.

That sounds very upsetting, believe me, I know. I felt guilty not putting God before everything in my life. I know that if I actually took the time to make Him my priority, my issues would not have overtaken my decisions and attitudes. And even though I knew that it was important to put God above all else, I couldn’t find myself to do it. I didn’t know how.

I am a ‘Once Upon a Time’ fan. I am not quite caught up with the season that is airing but I am still a fan. What I always find the most beautiful and inspiring within the seasons is the relationship of Prince Charming and Snow White. They are two characters that end up falling in love, TRUE LOVE, and devote themselves to each other. But because their love is powerful, people jealous of this love try their hardest to separate the two. And each time that both Prince Charming and Snow White get separated they tell each other,

“I will always find you.”

The awesome thing about Prince Charming and Snow White, is that they do always find one another. But that right there is in it and of itself a very powerful sentence. It’s implying dedication, love, loyalty, everything and anything that represents the relationship we have with God.

The thing is, yes, I have felt disconnected, but not once have I felt as though He wasn’t there. I knew He was, I just wasn’t making the effort. Each and every time that I drifted from His path, He would find me and would guide me back towards Him. I was just so afraid, and sometimes still am now to seek Him once I know I have wronged Him.

1 Corinthians 16:23 (The Message) reads,

 Our Master Jesus has his arms wide open for you.

Jesus is our shepherd. For Him, it does not matter how many times we drift. Each and every time, He will seek us as we should be seeking Him in our daily lives; always believing and relying that God will find us.

God gives unconditional love

I got a dog. Not recently. I have had her for several weeks now. Perhaps a little over a month. Her name is Bibi. She is a lot to handle. But truly a wonderful dog. It’s kinda like raising another human being though. Granted, for the rest of Bibi’s life I will continue to feed her, bathe her and pick her poop up but the similarities are all there.

In the beginning, there would be sleepless nights as I, the owner, and the pup began to grow a relationship. For the first week, I had to sleep next to her as she grew accustomed to the new house and to the new faces that would quickly become her family. By the second week we had given her a couple of beds (yes, a couple. For each floor of the house.), several toys, and introduced her to canned dog food. Third week came around and she got a couple of collars, a leash, dog treats and doggy poop bags. We even got her wee wee pads that we spread all over the floor which is like a big NO NO. The most recent thing that we have done for Bibi is build her a dog house for the outside. And yes, I said build. My dad spent a couple of days working on that and then my siblings and I painted it. We placed a pillow inside and VOILA!

That’s the thing. In several people’s eyes, they will read the previous paragraph and claim that I spoil her. Will I agree? Of course. How can I deny that I do not spoil her if I am basically giving her the world. I already regret that I let her lay on my bed. Now each time she sees me on it, she wants to jump on. I regret covering her each night because now she expects me to before she goes to bed and will not sleep until I do.

Being a dog owner, it is trial and error. Just like it is being a parent and basically anything else in this world. Because no matter how many books are out on the shelves of bestseller, I bet none of them will be the exact same experience as everyone. There is no universal remote or training when it comes down to it. And if by some miracle such thing exists, then I would not care. I am enjoying every minute of being a dog owner. It is the way she sleeps, the way she greets us when my family and I get home, the way she jumps as if she is a deer or a bunny. It is coming home to a house where the dog expects you home and gives and receives unconditional love.

Why am I blabbering about my dog?

Because I see my spiritual faith growing as I spend more time with my pup. This summer, for me, has been hectic. With one job and then one internship and then getting ready to be a commuter in college. It is hard. It seems crazy to find time for God. The person that you truly should be setting time aside for. But with my pup I do. I appreciate what I do and learn at the job and in my internship but with my puppy I can feel at ease and loved because my puppy does not see failure, my pup does not see sin. My pup sees me and loves me. How can I not see where God is in my life?

I must admit, it is a weird analogy. Comparing my puppy to the Creator of the world. But that is where I am in life. Each morning I wake to take her out to the backyard. And when I do, I sit there and hear the neighborhood awaken. I enjoy moments like this as I talk to God in the cool brisk morning air. It is kind of like God sent Bibi my way as a sort of presence of His. Whenever I need a reminder of Him, I lay next to Bibi only to get wet kisses by her. She gives me the energy and the smile I need. She requires the same amount of attention and love as does God. My path to being a dog owner is not perfect, much less my path to stay righteous in God. But it is having faith and loving every minute to strive for better not for me but for my puppy, for my God. But also understanding that no matter what, my puppy Bibi and my God, will continuously give us unconditional love.

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Never will you nor I be alone

When I had the idea of first refocusing my blog, I was very excited to start writing. But it really never occurred to me how difficult it would be to write creatively. I’ve written several drafts of posts I wanted to publish, saved some, and discarded many. But just as I had written in the last post, my only intention is to write truth.

This blog isn’t a “How to survive life” blog. In fact it is opposite of that. I’m not telling you guys how to live your life and avoid the heartaches. I want you guys to go through these heartaches so that you may learn from them just as I am learning to overcome them. With this blog, I’m telling a story, my story, to anyone that is willing to listen. The purpose behind telling my story is in hopes that you will not feel alone.

The scariest part in life is believing that we are walking in this Earth alone. I struggle with understanding it. With the feeling of solitude, I become desperate for attention. I get physically and emotionally sick when thoughts like this seep into my mind. At some point in my life, I picked up the Bible and began to read the book of Genesis. A verse in particular stuck out in a moment of disparity and has thus helped me in times when I feel most alone.

The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” – Genesis 1:18 (NIV)

God never intended for us to live alone. He wanted us to be in communion with one another. With this intention, He created woman after man. God had provided knowing that we could not live life alone. He gave us friends, leaders, and family. God even sent His own son to live among us, to know us, and to be us. He was 100% human as He is 100% God. With people in our lives, they make us into better and healthier human beings. Because they challenge us and keeps us accountable to the promises, hopes and dreams that we have.

This verse was just the beginning to the new world that I was being exposed to through God. . I began to understand that there are people like me and people like you going through the same situations. And maybe our reactions to these situations are different but it still does not veer away from what we felt, are feeling and are bound to feel. I found a place where I was no longer and will never be alone.