Empowerment through Language...

Monday, December 14, 2015


It was a Friday night. I was at the Downtown Writers Center preparing for our weekly poetry reading. A flash on my screen announced that Paris was under siege. But the reading must go on...

Photo from L.A. Times article, Mon. 11/14/15
Later I watched the news, once again bereft, waiting for the faces of those who were slain. It was quickly determined that one American citizen was among the victims. Her name is Nohemi Gonzalez

Much was made of theories and perpetrators. Paris was under an oppressive, dreadful weight compared to that of the Nazi invasion. The world was slack-jawed once again. The pundits and politicians were in wait like buzzards.

The diatribe against immigration took a radical twist in direction but does not erase the vicious tone we have endured for the past few years. Let me restate the obvious: the only U.S. citizen to die in Paris is Nohemi Gonzalez, a first-generation American citizen of Mexican heritage, a first-generation college student who attended Cal State Long Beach with a major in industrial design. A young woman working her way through college and brightening the lives of others. She is one of those humans whose value is at the core of the intention of our national identity, generation after generation. Nohemi is  one of those who thrived in the opportunity her mother worked so hard to provide to her only daughter. Nohemi was having coffee with friends in a small cafe on a street in Paris where she was doing a foreign exchange program. Nohemi had every reason to believe that life is grand and she had a brilliant future ahead when she graduated next spring.

The politicos have bullied those who have fled from political and financial oppression of Central and South America, stirring the flames among paranoid citizens who believe the myth that "immigrants are destroying our economy...taking our jobs..." all the rest of the lies that get attention, air time, and often ill-advised votes at the polls.

The media gave small nods to Ms. Gonzalez but nothing was really made of her as a symbol, as a martyr. I bet those who perpetrated the massacre and subsequently were killed by law enforcement are lauded as martyrs by the radical Islamic networks. The spin must be something! But did our media counter the mean-spirited insults of several of the political candidates who are narcissistic enough to believe they are capable of being president of the United States? Why was there so little in the media after the first 48 hours about this young woman, who has worked against all odds to fulfill the mythic American dream? 

I have been asking people if they know that Nohemi is the only American who died that horrible Friday night. Almost none has even heard her name, much less her accomplishments and heritage. Nohemi is the face of so many college students on campuses throughout our nation, the next generation of dreamers, achievers, brilliance. She is not a moment between other news items; she is the daughter of Ms. Beatrez Gonzalez, who will mourn her through these holidays and for the remainder of her life. Nohemi died at 23, in Paris, trusting her future. She was a teaching assistant, a girlfriend, an employee, a neighbor, an American.

This will not stop the blowhards vying for a very important job. But please, let us remember: #HerNameIsNohemi.