Those who know José Medina love him for his passionate, outspoken, articulate and palpable energy that he carries with him into every room he walks into. Those who do not will feel this same energy from his first published poetry books, Lo Que Se Dice, Se Hace and What You Say, You Do. They are two books of poetry, written in authentic Spanish and English, rather than direct translations.
The books were conceptualized as part of the idea that a student's testimonio has an emotional, social, and political impact on the reader of the text. As a young language learner in the US, José experienced a lot of trauma and oppression by the school leaders charged to create educational access for him. The two books, based on his own testimonio, were written to ensure that the conversation continues around how emergent bilingual students continue to face educational systems largely focused on the transition to English, rather than valuing their entire linguistic and cultural repertoires.
In dual language specifically, it is important that all we do aligns with the 3 goals of dual language as described in the Guiding Principles for Dual Language Education: Third Edition. As a co-author of the resource, but also as a practitioner and former dual language principal, I understand how difficult it can be to use sociocultural competence, one of the goals of dual language, as the foundation for the other two goals: bilingualism/biliteracy and grade level academic achievement in both program languages. It is difficult because we often lack the vocabulary to engage in serious conversation about bias, privilege, advocacy, and discrimination. Books, such as these, allow for that conversation to be front and center.
Additionally, the fact that the two poetry books are written in authentic fashion in both languages, allows for the opportunity to have students make cross-linguistic connections and to use their entire linguistic repertoires as they read and work within the two texts.
José believes that the book tackles something that we often still hide from. School systems, even today, do not fully embrace the varied linguistic and cultural backgrounds of students. The two books force us to realize that students are still being tied to gurneys, as Medina experienced within his introduction to the US educational system. Although the straps holding students down are no longer physical/actual straps, by not embracing fully all that students bring into the classroom, Medina believes we continue to put emergent bilinguals at a disadvantage academically.
My abuelita Juanita passed away in 2015 in her nineties. Although she never had educational access, she was one of the major motivating factors for me as a student. She taught me that lo que se dice, se hace. That is, you have to do what you say, so that your words have meaning. This has become my life's motto as a person, but also, as an educational leader. This, coupled with my entry into the school system, literally tied to a gurney, led to the idea for the two books of poetry.
Lo Que Se Dice, Se Hace is an unapologetic view of what has been and continues to be the reality for immigrant families who come to the US. But, at the core, it is also a cry to action and a vision of hope for what can be, when we value each other and those things that make us unique and beautiful. Medina believes that the biggest take-away for the students reading the books is that the work is not done. Even at an early age, it is our duty to advocate and defend against oppression by educational systems that strive to destroy the essence of self. Media urges that students, parents, and families must actively advocate for ALL people - and not just those that look like us, pray like us, speak like us, live like us, and love like us. He writes that together, is the only way to move forward.
Since the story is based on Medina’s own personal testimonio, and on events that took place in his own life from the age of 5 to 7, the two books serve as a reminder of what happened in one moment in time. Moreover, readers will understand that these types of oppression are still happening today. Finally, by sharing some of the most traumatic experiences in his childhood, it is his hope that the two books of poetry serve as a way to begin the healing for all that have been oppressed, while also, lighting a path that involves active advocacy in the name of equity and social justice. We thank José for sharing his extraordinary story and appreciate all he does to pave the way for dual language education!
To create an inclusive, multicultural community is essential in dual language programs. Indeed, especially with the present anti-immigrant, anti-other, anti-any language not English - this is essential to the survival of all people everywhere.