Your Place in History

Rise to meet your place in History
by Talia Rodriguez

LatinaHerstory: Deputy Director of LGBTQ+ Affairs
Executive Chambers

“Dime con quién andas y te diré quién eres”

Standing in the parlor at the Governor’s Mansion in Albany, I thought about that phrase. I ran my newly manicured finger over the name “Chanel Lopez” on the stark white business card.

I learned something about Governor Hochul (fearless leader/her boss) in 30 seconds. I learned the Governor believes in innovation. On Chanel’s card I read a title I never knew existed before “Deputy Director of LGBTQ Affairs”, with the seal of New York, a masterpiece.

Meeting Chanel was firstly a lesson about my Governor, but secondly a moment of relief for me. As a SUNY trained policy analyst, I am always weary of homogenous voices governing for all. I knew Chanel could speak for me.

(And that was before I knew Chanel was from Harlem (a place I love).

To go first in history, is to be “damned if you do and damned if you don’t”. It never goes perfect. Never.

Chanel accepted that privilege/responsibility on her first day. I am thankful for that.

The voice Chanel brings to government is one that has been maliciously silenced for too long.

Politically speaking Chanel identifying as an Afro-Latina transwoman is an asset to our government.

As a Latina political scientist, I will have greater faith in the policy emanating from Albany because Chanel is there.

Effective governance requires understanding and empathy for “the average citizen”, and RIGHT NOW- the average citizen in New York is beautifully complex. Those complexities are also opportunities -if you seek to leverage them.

Patriots, see the most vulnerable American and center them in conversations and planning. I trust Chanel to do that.

When you meet Chanel, you will see the light behind Chanel’s eyes. The light- that’s evidence of a person who has accepted the love of their creator and the fact they were made in eyes of perfection.

“Rise to meet your place in history” I tell the youth during workshops. Chanel did that (and did I mention Chanel’s from HARLEM 😊)

When I found out Chanel was Dominican – I felt lucky.

Supported by a family with strong values and an abuelas love. A public-school kid and graduate of an “alternative school” and a survivor of childhood bullying, Chanel brings stronger perspectives in policy.

Taught at home to always stand up for what you believe in. And by a neighborhood (Harlem) that life is runway and should be treated as such. The journey to the white business card (with the state seal) wasn’t always glamours and in fact required finding the courage to live in the full expression of the human spirit in middle school.

It goes without saying that some of our neighbors are lost in pain on the journey of self-discovery and for those New Yorkers I am confident, Chanel will speak for them, too.

I crave authenticity in my leaders and so do the close to 10 million Puerto Ricans living in the United States. Puerto Ricans are amongst the Latinos leading the way in overall percentages of new voters, every year, in major states like ours. Puerto Rico’s population dropped by -11.8% between 2010 and 2020 (according to the Center for Puerto Rican Studies at Hunter College) 440,000 of us left the island and took our votes with us (BIG WEPA). In hiring CHANEL, our governor has sent a message about how our state will welcome our new neighbors- with inclusion.

Please join me in recognizing April 14th Day of Silence and stand up for somebody who’s got the courage to stand up to the world be their true selves.

Read below Chanel’s full interview, follow her brand and learn from someone who had the courage and bravery to advocate for herself and her community.

“Dime con quién andas y te diré quién eres”.

How do you define an advocate and ally? How do you see the future of your advocacy growing? – I define an advocate as someone who knows their community, who knows the needs and fights for the rights of their community, and someone who is passionate about their community. An ally in my personal opinion, is someone who wants to be educated about the community and who is right next to us with a passion for fighting for our rights. I see my advocacy growing by running for office in the future.

Who are you and what values were taught in your home? – I am Chanel Lopez an Afro-Latina transwoman, who was raised by her grandmother, grandfather, and my mom in what they called “El Barrio” which is referred to as East Harlem these days. The values I was taught at home were to always stand up for what I believed in and to always watch whom I have in my surroundings.

What was your experience as a student and your favorite learning moment growing up? – School wasn’t the best of memories growing up for me, I was always teased and bullied for being feminine, and I was jumped 2 times after for just being me. When I went to high school, I was in one of the most dangerous schools with nothing but gangs, so I transferred to a vocational school and obtained my diploma.

Do you see yourself as a leader, if so, why? –I don’t see myself as a leader, I see myself as an advocate, a representative of my community, and an activist. I am much behind the scenes these days and make a difference from the inside, especially working for our governor, I get to have an input in policy making and make decisions that would protect our community and give them equal access.

Do you have a role model, if not, what type of role model do you hope to be in the future generations? – I do have a role model, she was my Abuela. May she rest in peace with whom I lost to covid 3 years ago, who helped raise me and today I owe her for the person I am and the person I want to become because we are always evolving and learning so much about ourselves. She will always be the role model I would love to aspire to become.

Talia Rodriguez is a bi-racial, bi-cultural, and bi-lingual Latina from Buffalo. Ms. Rodriguez’s mission is to write about Latina’s, who have shaped the face of our city and our region. It is Ms. Rodriguez’s believes that our own people should inspire us and in telling our collective stories, we push our community forward. Ms. Rodriguez is a community advocate and organizer. She is a 5th generation West Sider, a graduate of SUNY Buffalo Law School, and an avid baseball fan. She lives on the West Side with her young son A.J… Ms. Rodriguez sits on the board of several organizations including the Belle Center, where she attended daycare. Ms. Rodriguez loves art, music, food, and her neighbors.

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