Issues + Advocacy

Read This: Nathalie Molina Niño’s Incredible Latinx Equal Pay Day Speech

Nathalie Molina Niño

In honor of Latinx Equal Pay Day 2019, The Riveter was proud to host an impressive array of speakers at our location in West LA in partnership with the brilliant Ana Flores, founder of #WeAllGrow Latina. Our participants included:

  • Yarel Ramos, anchor/reporter at Univision Communications.
  • Xochitl Oseguera, senior campaign director for MomsRising and Mamás con Poder.
  • Luciana Faulhaber, first-generation Latinx-American actress, activist and filmmaker.
  • Brenda Gonzalez, co-host of Tamarindo Podcast and regional director for UnidosUS.
  • Marlene Orozco, lead research analyst with the Stanford Latino Entrepreneurship Initiative.
  • Eliana Murillo, founder of multicultural marketing at Google. 

To kick things off, author and investor Nathalie Molina Niño gave an incredible keynote speech that we can’t stop thinking about.

Here are her powerful words:

Your children are not your children. 

They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself. 

They come through you but not from you, 

And though they are with you yet they belong not to you. 

You may give them your love but not your thoughts, 

For they have their own thoughts. 

You may house their bodies but not their souls, 

For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, 

which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.

That’s an excerpt from a poem by Khalil Gibran, the Lebanese-american poet that I painted on the wall of my bedroom as a child. My mom hated it, but she also painted around it for years. She’s here so I don’t want to put words in her mouth but I think deep down she knew it was true. 

But it’s hard to let go. As a parent, it’s truly hard to let go. 

But you know what’s harder?

Of course you do. You know exactly what’s harder, it’s being the one that breaks away. Because it means willingly going where no one in your family has ever gone. It means being lonely, possibly the worst kind of lonely, the kind where your the odd one in your family that they don’t understand, and you’re also the token Latina in spaces that weren’t designed for us. 

In fact, sometimes they’re spaces EXPLICITLY designed to exclude us, places that in little, constant ways, tell us we don’t belong. Like paying us 54 cents on the dollar for what a white man earns for the same job.

Whether it’s to go to a fancy prep school where pretty much no one is Latinx, where you learn to code switch to survive. Or you go away to college when your immigrant parents don’t understand why you don’t just go to the community college around the corner. Or maybe it’s to take that promotion that requires you move away, or even the decision not to have kids when everyone else in the family is god damn prolific, as our beautiful Latinx families tend to be. 

I don’t know about you, but I grew up with 15 primos, actual primos, nevermind the primos en segundo grado (second cousins), then it gets really messy. 

Or maybe it’s just that you decided that the little restaurant you started in your neighborhood could be bigger, in fact maybe it could be a franchise and you could open restaurants all over the country and maybe all over the world. Our family might have supported the local restaurant, but once you start thinking beyond that, we get questions like, “who do you think you are?” What, staying here with your family, that’s not good enough? Que te crees?

In her book, Nely Galan talks about how when other kids had their parents celebrating and even dropping them off when they went away to college, she had to drive away listening to her mom wailing, yelling at her about, why she was abandoning her family?

It’s hard to understand that “your children are not your children” but being those children, might actually be harder.

It means making your way feeling totally alone, with the added weight that comes with the sense that in order to be you, in order to pursue your dreams, you have to confuse and disappoint the people who love you.

My response to that dilemma is these two things:

  1. Play the long game.
  2. Build your chosen family.

Now, what do I mean by long game? 

Here’s what I mean. I’m talking about the day, years and years later, that Nely Galan handed her mom the keys to her beautiful new apartment in Miami. Or the day earlier this year that I gave a speech during immigrant heritage month, about how my dad used to pick me up from my fancy prep school in Hollywood Hills in his beat up old work truck. But he would park a few blocks away at a meet up spot we’d agreed to, because he didn’t want to embarrass me. 

And how now, decades later, I look back at my work as a tech entrepreneur, my work with the Obama White House, even my work now with TimesUp and the National Institute for Reproductive health and if you ask me about the things I’m most proud of, I would tell you that that dirty, beat up truck my dad endured for endless hours to get me right here, is probably one of the things I am most proud of.

That’s the long game. The long game is sending my dad the video of that talk and watching him sob, not because he’s proud of me. Because I’m proud of him.

The long game might take a while, but it’s in your head, it’s the visualization of your moment. That moment when you come back and you prove to your family that you never left them, that you ALWAYS intended to come back, and that the loneliness and the sacrifices you made (even without their support or blessing) were all for them.

The long game is when you come back.

And we all come back. And you and I know, in our heart of hearts, that that’s the plan. You just have to remember.

And in the meantime, because none of us succeed alone, you’ve got to force yourself to come into rooms like this and find your chosen family. Chosen. Family. That means you choose, it means you’ve got to be discerning and not let just anyone in your inner circle, because unlike other people, you’re not just making friends for fun. You’re building your life support system. 

My chosen family is fierce, I built it over many years and yes, I made mistakes. But I learned. And the next time, I picked better. I picked people like my girl Jovanka Ciares, who you might remember from ABC’s My Diet is Better Than Yours and who is right here today. And by the way it’s not just about being picky and discerning, it’s also about earning the right to call them family. It’s about being fiercely protective of the friendship and about making time and working to be a good friend.

And when you fail. And you will fail. I have failed. It’s about getting up and trying again, and giving those friendships the same level of importance as everything else. And when you don’t, it’s about apologizing and trying again. Our families taught us that nothing is more important than family, and friends, they come second. But that is a lesson we’ve gotta leave behind. 

Because our families, they’re going to have to share us. And the beautiful thing about the long game is that, if you play it right, you end up with one massive family, that combines both the ones you’re connected to by blood, and the ones you chose, to get you through these lonely days when we went into “the house of tomorrow.”

So, play the long game and build a chosen family. That’s what I usually say when I talk about this. But today I wanted to talk about one more thing, the 3rd ingredient that is really going to be what leapfrogs us and annihilates this asinine wage gap that I know we’re talking about today but that just pisses me off every time I think about it.

How many of you have heard of the 80/20 rule?

Sometimes it’s used in economics (around distribution of wealth) and other times it’s used for time management (probably the top 20% of your to-do list is really more important than the other 80% combined).

Well, my 80/20 rule is different.

But I promise you it’ll be the most useful tool in killing this goddamn wage gap. My 80/20 rule is about my Latinindad. 

You will not find anyone more proud of her latinx heritage, I’m half Colombian and half Ecuadorian and 100% andean. In my house English was not allowed. And in my house we honored our abuelitas and we prayed at the altar of Celia Cruz and a good empanada.

But in my house, my parents also taught me that it’s ok to pick and choose from the culture that surrounds us. And most importantly, that it’s sometimes ok, in fact it’s sometimes NECESSARY, to leave behind some of the baggage that our ancestors left us. Keep 80% and go exploring for the other 20%. Cultures EVOLVE, including OUR CULTURES! And you know who decides how they evolve?

We do.

We are the ones that get to decide that when our abuelitas taught us to be polite, to not take up too much space, to be demure, to be grateful just to be in this country and not complain too much…that might have been right for them, but it’s probably not right for us. We get to decide that while we love our abuelitas, our abuelitas did not know about the wage gap, and they didn’t know that they would be putting our children in concentration camps or calling our sons and daughters anchor babies.

My abuelita Blanca is no longer with us but she voted in every single election she was able to, and she voted Republican EVERY DAMN TIME, except once when that handsome “morenito” with the weird name rolled around and then she changed her mind. That was her last election.

So make no mistake, my abuelita was Republican. But I think it’s important to say that I have no doubt in my mind that my polite, sweet, republican abuelita would spit in the face of the sad little man in the white house right now.

The 80/20 rule means we get to throw away some of the lessons from the people we love, because they do not serve us anymore. Because what we need now is to be loud, to be impolite in the face of the people who consider us subhuman, to put humility aside and demand what we’re entitled to, which is a hell of a lot more than the other 46 cents on the dollar we’re owed.

We’re entitled to power. We control the purchases of 63M americans, so we’re entitled to the driver’s seat in the economy, in the corporations we work in and in the halls of government too.

20% is for us to go exploring and learn from our black sisters who consistently vote not just with their wallets but in the ballot box too. 

20% is for us to go and learn from the white ladies who are getting more funding for their startups than us.

20% is to see how the old boys clubs work, to see the shortcuts they take and to put on our big girl panties and make our own shortcuts.

20% is to explore new ways of being Latinas that work for us, right now, in a time and a place that our abuelitas wouldn’t recognize because times have changed and we are 63 million strong, and it’s time we started acting like it.

20% is where we listen to our elders tell us not to date that darker skinned lover because “hay que mejorar la raza” and we say, no.

We can be what our ancestors dreamed of and at the same time say no to slut shaming and go have ourselves 5 lovers if that’s what we feel like having.

We can be the pride of our family and our culture and still have room to evolve and re-imagine what success looks like, on our terms.

Your blood family might need a little time, but they will love you. Remember the long game. And even if they take a little longer than you’d like, your chosen family will definitely love you. And remember that if you honor who you are, the most important person of all, will always love you. You.

I’m an investor and I usually give speeches about investing, market rate returns and other business stuff, so I’m going to stop with all this warm and fuzzy stuff before I totally ruin my reputation and derail the schedule here.

And I’d like to close with this: 

I was in Guatemala last week, and I gave a speech for Planned Parenthood Global and I brought my mom with me. We were (and still are) celebrating her 5-year anniversary of being cancer-free! Congratulations mom, you got to watch your daughter talk about abortion in Spanish in front of 1000 investors, yay us!

But while we were there we took a day just to walk around and be tourists in beautiful Antigua. And we fell in love. 

And maybe we were a little sensitive because that day was my Abuelita Blanca’s birthday but we stopped by this hotel that an investor friend asked me to check out, called the Good Hotel, and we were moved by some words painted on a beautiful wall that I’d like to leave you with:

Innovar es abrir los ojos y accionar los sueños.

Innovamos para crecer, no para olvidar.

Bendita la tierra nuestros abuelos.

Bendita sea la tierra de nuestros nietos.

To innovate is to open your eyes and take action on dreams.

We innovate to grow, not to forget.

Blessed is the land of our grandparents.

Blessed be the land of our grandchildren.

Gracias.

Nathalie Molina Niño is an author, the President of @outcomescapital and an advisor to FullCycle, VoteRunLead and National Institute for Reproductive Health. You can find her on Twitter at @nathaliemolina.