The Arc Towards Justice

During my last semester at Brandeis University, I was nominated to be one of the graduate commencement speaker for the all student graduation. Though I was a finalist I was not selected. I wanted to share my commencement speech with folks. I reflected a lot on my time at Brandeis, the circumstances we dealt with and the amazing people I got to meet along the way. I hope this inspires you and gives you a little hope during these times.

Finalist Brandeis University Spring 2022 Commencement Speech

By Mariela Martínez

Hello, my name is Mariela Martinez and today I would like to share with you all a poem title “the arc towards justice.”

Para mi Mami, Papi, Laura y Juanito, lo hice por ustedes, los amo mucho!…….

We have been at Brandeis during a time of turmoil and uncertainty,

the uncertainty of COVID, the wake of the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery, children in cages, the public outcry against racism, the internal reckoning with White supremacy, and the last days of the Trump Presidency…

We leave Brandeis while some of it continues, however, we do not leave unprepared,

Rather, we are equipped with tools, a listening ear, an advocate’s heart, persistent feet, keen researching eyes, and a soul taught to love deeply and unabashedly, to see the stranger as a friend and reckon with our own foreignness, before weaponizing against someone else’s.

Though we hold these tools, we have yet to fully test them,

we are battled and bruised from late nights, COVID scares and deep night quarantine reflections,

shaken, from asking hard questions and looking at ourselves in the mirror as we come up with answers.

Tired, of working our knowledge & empathy to advance social justice, and seeing ourselves fall short

Being fed an installment to social change, told your dreaming is too big, change comes slow, and left trudging in the snow, never knowing if your story will be told.

Let me tell you, it is worth it, every sacrifice, every miniscule push forward no matter the steps we take back… is worth it, our footsteps in the snow, proof that we can grow in the cold.

While the world saw the apocalypse, and tweeted about it, calling it a tragedy,

You held a mirror to your soul, grappled with your humanity, built up empathy rather than apathy.

Know that when your story is told, your work is known, someone else will see it and say “that’s me too.”….

I have learned alongside you all,

Brandeis has a legacy of radical transformative social change, because of its students, I have born witness to the Black Action Plan, racial equity work and holding people in authority accountable. It has not been perfect, but we have grown and learned from these experiences.

Slowly but surely socializing the hope for liberation.

All a part of the beautiful visions for the world you all hold and unfold in radical spaces beyond classroom doors.

We are a sea of change. A multitude of drops, a cresting wave remaking the world with our wake.

We are transglobal people, who have embraced our own foreignness, refused the alure of conspiracy theories, economic scapegoats, and false prophets,

I feel that amongst us, there is brewed the sweet nectar of love that cannot be tainted by hate. We have words, aspirations, and plans laid out for a brave new world

We lie in wait, for the time to take our shot and rise up…

I was in high school when I learned I was not exceptional,

I am ordinary,

average intelligence score, told too poor to go to another shore, drove from Mexico and got stuck with no bootstraps to climb the rope….

But I knew I could do more, not for being exceptional but for being ordina-ry-or

I am not an academic, nor a tech bro,

These ears, eyes, heart, and mind only tools I’ve got to dine

Yet it was enough to get us here, you and I

Love your ordinariness,….


Know there will be times when we fail…

So, we must have the power to embrace ourselves when we do, forgive…when we are weak, when others we rely on fall short,

Most of all we must learn the transformative power of radical self-care, of ourselves and of others. So when we fail, fall short of the milestone, land on a star rather than a moon, propose a radical idea and see it turned into a band aid solution,

let us not relish in self-hate, let us forgive, get up and continue walking through the snow…

Poque somos un ecosistema de vida, sosteniendo y tomando creaturas adentro de nuestra barilla.

Lo que hacemos y lo que pensamos,

Todo el estrés de sobrevivir se hace un vino que

El cuerpo toma todo lo que la barrilla y mente invita… y eso nos hace…

We are complicated, complex, exquisite beings, capable of so much more.

Life will take us on journeys we cannot imagine, and the least we can do is be kind to ourselves about the choices we make during uncertain times,

this one didn’t turn out too bad…

Know history has its eyes on Now… our actions and choices matter.

We cannot justify “not so bad” behavior but neither can we condemn to the recesses of society people who have made mistakes. Toni Morrison once shared, “before there can be a final solution there must be a first, second and third one.” Steps, not a jump to our own human demise.

We must see people as more than one dimensional, build bridges on common ground to step into our beloved community.

MLK himself said it would not be easy. That his dream had turned into a nightmare and admitted some of his optimism may have been a little superficial,

but we are now equipped with tempered solid realism.

Revolutionary professors Pineros-Shields, Firchow, Hill and Santos teaching us to be…

Owning our ordinariness as what makes us all exceptional!

We have learned and now know grassroots movements are the bedrock of social change, participatory action should lead the way, we must look for the everyday peace indicators to point the way, empowerment policies to transform our deeds.

We must be Anti-racist, anti-capitalist, anti-war, anti-borders, Anti-gender-based-violence

Going high when they go low

I believe reparations are possible, the abolition of prisons and detention centers is doable, police accountability is not just a dream, I have heard you all preach, speak these dreams into realities, stones in your caps, you carry on your journey.

If you are on this ground, you deserve a say, no status should dim your voice, always a choice

Know I believe your truth, your experience

Justicia for all, once and for all.

Si se puede!

Published by MarielaRebelde

I am a person in between things wanting to document my words in this space.

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