By Karla Fonseca
In the event “Living Between Worlds,” Tianna Faye Soto, a Puerto Rican-Jamaican-Chinese woman, discussed mental health and wellness in a college setting and the multiple identities, or “hats,” a person must wear in their everyday lives.
This event was hosted by Union Latina and took place on Nov. 9 in the Brower Student Center.
“You deserve to feel proud of who you are,” Soto said. “You deserve to feel proud of your story in all parts, both heavy and light and messy. Every element of who you are is beautiful, even if it doesn't feel that way.”
Soto began the event by introducing herself, starting with her professional life and leading into her family history and her childhood. Soto talked about living with multiple identities; Puerto Rican, Jamaican, Chinese, musician, actor and daughter.
“On a college campus, we’re all discovering our identity,” said attendee Ashauna Francis, an urban elementary education and Spanish major. “This is the key point. At some point, everybody allows something to define them that isn’t actually them.”
Soto also invited the audience to reflect on their stories within themselves by allocating time for meditation and prompts for the audience to answer among themselves. These prompts included finishing the sentence, “I am…,” and “What identity do you feel closest to?”
“Culture is not the only identity people have,” said Kelly Maci, a sophomore early childhood urban education and Spanish major. “There’s so much intersectionality, and I feel like she really expressed intersectionality well because she had to figure out and explore three sides of herself and extra things, with her being a musician and with her being Puerto Rican, Jamaican, and Chinese. She even mentioned to us how she felt much more connected to her Puerto Rican side so she wanted to go and explore her Jamaican and Chinese sides.”
Students related to what Soto discussed about her own life. Her experiences bore a resemblance to the experiences of many people in the room.
“I agree with what she was saying, living in a predominantly white area, and from being from around a 90-plus percent white population,” said Camille Clemente, a sophomore public health major. “Growing up in elementary school, I was probably the only brown person in my classroom and one of a couple in the whole school. That experience has made my views different from other people’s views who have grown up with other people that look like them. In a predominantly white area, it has been hard to connect with my culture, similar to what she was saying, but I’m very lucky to have a small community of Filipinos living with me.”
Students enjoyed the unique presentation style of Soto, which allowed her presentation to go beyond just her own life experiences.
“I like how interactive the presentation was since we were able to reflect on her background as well as our own background and values,” said Karyme Estevez, a sophomore interactive multimedia major. “This made the talk feel very communal.”
Visiting the College, Soto sought to provide a sense of peace in the hectic lives of college students.
“It’s so hard to be a college student right now and just affirm how far you’ve come, what it means for you to be in this room, and all the hurdles and challenges you had to overcome to be here,” Soto said. “It's so amazing, so please be proud of yourself.”