Forged In Fire
Remember Game of Thrones? It’s only been 15 months since the last episode aired (don’t even get me started), but it might as well have been a decade ago. That’s how long and unrelenting this past year has felt. Sometimes I feel like we’re *living* in Westeros. All that’s missing are the dragons and ice zombies. Not that I want to give 2020 any more ideas.
I loved the entire series (except for the finale—again, don’t get me started), but there’s one episode—and one scene in particular—that I keep coming back to. Season 1, Episode 10. Eddard Stark has been executed, Sansa is taken hostage, Arya is forced to flee King’s Landing, Robb and Catelyn Stark mobilize an army to fight the Lannisters—the Seven Kingdoms are on the precipice of chaos.
Meanwhile, across the Narrow Sea, another narrative is unfolding. Married off by her brother to Dothraki warlord Khal Drogo, who has just died in battle, Daenerys Targaryen is forced to prove herself a worthy successor. What does she do? She walks straight into her husband’s funeral pyre, carrying with her three dragon eggs. The following morning, she emerges from the fire unscathed, determined to lead her people to glory—and rid the kingdom of the scourge of slavery.
It’s a beautiful homage to an age-old myth: that of a phoenix rising from the ashes. This is what SHPE is doing right now.
Amid the worst economic disaster in 90 years; growing social and political unrest; and a global pandemic that’s exposed the fragility of our most trusted institutions, we’ve done more than just survive. Just as Daenerys did, our organization has used the “chaos” and proverbial flames raging around us to prove itself, to show the world that SHPE is ready for the challenges and opportunities ahead. Just like Daenerys’ newfound purpose, SHPE’s mission is a just cause: empowering Hispanics to be a force in STEM.
The difference is, SHPE hasn’t emerged from the fire—not yet. In many ways, we’re still being tempered by the flames. Throughout these crises, my team and I and, along with SHPE leaders and members, have had to learn new skills, develop new strategies, transform our realities and create new ones. We’ve gone from being an organization that thrived on being together—at our chapter meetings, at our many regional conferences, and at our National Convention—to one of many Zoom screens and webinars. To an overwhelming degree, we’ve risen to the occasion—and above the fray.
But that doesn’t mean we’re invincible, just as Daenerys didn’t survive that fire without feeling the heat (or being covered in ash and soot). There have been times when the flames have gotten too close for comfort: miscommunications, misunderstandings, even a few missed opportunities. All of us have felt the heat. All of us have been forced to wonder whether SHPE as we know it would survive—let alone thrive.
No doubt, you’ve experienced your own doubts, your own fears, your own painful burns. A college education put on hold. A lost internship or job. Mounting economic anxiety. The loss of a loved one to this merciless disease. You’ve felt those flames as much as anyone—and have the burns to prove it.
I want you to know that I see you. Your SHPE Familia sees you. You might not think so now, but all of this—the jarring uncertainty and the resulting doubt and fear—is only tempering you for the causes and movements to come. I sincerely hope that SHPE’s mission is one of them.
Long before these crises emerged, before the sparks that started the fire in which we now find ourselves, one of the themes that defined the growth of SHPE—and the tagline of our 2019 National Convention—was The Power of Transformation. Those words have never felt more meaningful than they do right now. At its core, the myth of the phoenix is about constant regeneration. Reinvention. Resiliency. It’s about emerging from crises stronger and smarter than ever.
This is that moment for SHPE as an organization, as a Familia—and for all of us as individuals. This is the moment when we must embrace new skills and strategies, whether it’s participating in one of SHPE’s latinXfactor™ webinars or pursuing one of our numerous certificate programs. This is the moment when we must help our fellow Hispanics: through mentoring, networking, or donating to SHPE’s cause. Most important of all, this is the moment when we must create our new reality, to come out of these crises with a renewed sense of purpose—and the vision to see where that purpose leads.
Hemingway once wrote, “The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places.” That’s the story of Daenerys. It’s also the story of countless heroes, both fictional and real, who refused to let the world determine their reality, their worth, their purpose.
In the story of SHPE, it is you—our members—who are the heroes. Because you refuse to let the world break you. You refuse to let the past dictate your future. You recognize yourselves for who and what you are: The Future Imperative. A force to be seen, heard, and honored. A force for good.
When I think about this quote—about how many are strong at the broken places—the “many” I see is the SHPE Familia. We Hispanics know what it means to be stronger at the broken places. And if this world tries to bend our wills, beat our minds and break our hearts, then that is where we’ll find the strength to make a better one.
Raquel Tamez, SHPE CEO