Weeks ago I attended a gala for a local nonprofit that was held in a beautiful historic courthouse, overlooking the Boston Harbor.
Though I’ve been to many events like this, this one stood out for one very important reason: Among the auction items was a two-night stay at the Fairfax Embassy Row Hotel in Washington, D.C. It was valued at $600 with a starting bid of $180.
I was overcome with emotion looking at that auction sheet.
You see, this is the hotel that my parents have worked in for more than 30 years as waitstaff, kitchen staff and cooks. It is the hotel that helped put my brother, Luis Diaz who is now an immigration lawyer, and I through college and graduate school. My parents survived mergers and company takeovers, they participated in a union strike. And throughout these changes they have remained in that hotel because, lacking an education, they don’t have the choice of just finding a new job when times get tough.
Our parents are the heroes on #ProofPointDay. They are the folks that have been unapologetic about wanting/demanding a better future for their children because “back home” they didn’t have that option. On this day, I want to thank them for working harder than anyone I’ve ever met, and for holding on to a hope that can so easily be thrown out in the face of racism, oppression and injustice.
Thanks to my parents’ unyielding hope and belief in their kids, I now lead an organization that helps young people get to and through college. I couldn’t be more proud of the folks that work alongside me and the students and families that will change the statistics on post-secondary achievement outcomes for Black and Latino communities.
I didn’t bid on that two-night stay that night. I did take a picture of that auction sheet and plan to hold on to it for the rest of my life. That simple auction item at a social event means so much more to me as a first-generation college graduate.
It is a reminder of the two worlds that I have lived in for quite some time now. A reminder of the determination of my parents, like many other parents of first-generation college students, to do whatever it took to ensure we could realize our potential. And, a reminder that as a country, our work is not done until every student has a real opportunity to earn that college degree, and the life that comes with it.