By Veronica Maria Brown-Comegys
In this time of racial reckoning that was sparked by the police killing of George Floyd, Harvard graduate Denise Padin Collazo presents a book that celebrates and equips the Latina to be powerfully visible in spaces that were birthed in white supremacy, and therefore not designed for her.
In Thriving in the Fight, A Survival Manual for Latinas On the Front Lines of Change, the author shares experiences in activism and organizing communities. She has been a speaker, mentor, coach, and fund-raiser. The book’s message is for all women of color. Collazo, who is of Puerto-Rican heritage, wrote that women are the “bones that hold the flesh together in families, communities, and institutions.” She does not flinch from pointing to the church and society as agents that keep women on the sidelines. Chapter titles exhort women to move from the corners. For example, Chapter 3 is entitled: Leading from the Front.
The formerly taboo subject of anti-Black racism within the Latino community is examined in Chapter 4, which is entitled: Disrupting Anti-Blackness in Your Culture of Origin.
As a fighter for racial justice Collazo felt she had to examine anti-Black attitudes in her own family. She describes herself as a white presenting, US born Puerto Rican. The author wrote, “I had to be brutally honest with myself about the many ways I’d been taught to distance myself from Blackness by my culture, my family, my music, and even my church.” Latinos were taught many things that were wrong, according to the author. She acknowledges that she grew up in institutions that were informed by colonized thinking, colorism, and approximating whiteness. The change agent’s goal must be the attainment of racial solidarity. “Anti-Black racism limits the collective power of the Latino community,” she said. Collazo urges Latinas to “follow African American women, who have operated successfully on the frontlines for ages.”
Collazo promises that the book will help the reader unleash the best version of herself. She asks, “Can you just love yourself?” “Will you accept your sizzle?” “Can you own it?” “Are you willing to leave behind some deeply embedded mindsets that may not serve you anymore?” As the change agent pushes herself past old boundaries and false beliefs, her impact will grow and her people will benefit, according to Collazo.
At Harvard Collazo studied Romance Languages and literature. In addition, she completed all requirements for pre-medicine. Her thesis, written in Spanish, explored the role of the Taino people in Puerto Rican literature across time.
The author is senior advisor for external affairs and director for institutional advancement at Faith in Action, the nation’s largest faith-based progressive organizing network. She has been affiliated with the group for 25 years. She represents Faith in Action with corporate executives and builds strategic partnerships. Collazo is crafting a program to expand the organization into all 50 states.
About the book reviewer:
Veronica Brown-Comegys is a freelance journalist, who is writing a memoir about her experiences as a student and intern at United Press International in Brazil. Her bylines have appeared in the Miami Herald, San Juan Star, Hartford Courant, and Michigan Chronicle. Veronica is an anthropology aficionado. She was a student in the Michigan State University Department of Anthropology MA/PhD Program. @Brown9501Brown