Ohtli Prize Reception Speech
By Obed Arango and Holly Link
Consul Alicia Kerber, friends, friends, brothers and sisters who are with us today. Today is a day of celebration for the CCATE community. Today is a day that we celebrate love. The love that Martin Luther King referred to, such as “Communities of love” or “the Beloved community”.
Today we receive this award thinking about Mexico, in Mexico there and in Mexico here. We receive this prize thinking about our homeland, Latin America there, and Latin America here. We receive this prize thinking about the thousands and thousands of refugee children and migrants around the world, including those who are in this country in need of beloved communities. We receive this prize with a vision that’s local, regional, national and international, knowing that what we do here at the local level can influence the global. As Brazilian educator and philosopher Paulo Freire, reminds us, education has to be dialogical, an education in which everyone learns and everyone teachers, one in which everyone reflects and shares and in which we declare: all of the knowledge of the world for everyone and from everyone. This is only possible through what Freire reminds us – Love.
At CCATE we decided from the beginning that love would be our guide, that every effort, every word, every action, every purpose, would be guided by love. That’s why today CCATE is joined by more than 24 volunteer teachers who teach 32 weekly classes that reach 275 families with at least one member on CCATE. How is it possible that with such limited resources, CCATE does such work? The answer is LOVE.
As a university professor who has been teaching for 27 years, I know the importance of having university partnerships and support for places like CCATE. We are thrilled to have the University of Pennsylvania, Villanova University, Montgomery County Community College, Eastern University and Cabrini University walk down this road with us.. That love and solidarity has made it possible that this fall, 4 of our high schoolers have been attending a course at the University of Pennsylvania in collaboration with Drs. Tulia Falleti, Cathy Bartch, and the Organization of American States….that mentors from many of our college partners work with CCATE students each week. And that we have interns at the undergraduate and masters level that work with us behind the scenes on CCATE’s growth and development. What has propelled all of this work is love.
In the last four years CCATE has made 5 murals with historical, ecological themes that promote peace, justice and dialogue, with the participation of no less than 400 members and friends of CCATE. Our of our 12 short film productions, six have been awarded in local film competitions. How is that possible? With love.
In the last 4 years CCATE has developed a deep love for the environmental health and well-being of our community, with the support of Ann Stillwell, the John James Audubon Center, Greener Partners, the Food Trust, the Norristown municipality and school district, and the University of Pennsylvania. CCATE families and students have explored the air, water and soil quality of Norristown, learning not only to take care of the environment, but also proposing and making important changes at the center; we have, also, learn about nutrition, health and food. Through such projects we have developed a deep love not just for our environment, but also for integrating the arts, health, nutrition and sciences.
It is love that motivates each volunteer teacher at CCATE to get up every morning, and in their busy schedules, finding the time to spent a few hours each week to teach at CCATE – to motivate a love for reading in children, to teach them to paint and draw, to teach them ceramics, theater, cello, violin, guitar, piano, music production, to have dedicated classes for girls empowerment, to work on SAT preparation, to kick a soccer ball, to learn to win and lose, to learn to live together, to respect each other, to love each other as sisters and brothers, and to create a free space for free minds in an atmosphere of love, affirmation and dialogue.
It is out of love that CCATE’s relationships with the representatives of our consulate and local governments and the school district are positive, constructive relationships, always focusing on doing our best, working on the complex challenges we face. We want to be part of the solution, which we believe is often through art, a lot of art in and around this town. We want this art to cross over regional and national borders, helping make Norristown a center for the arts.
It is the support of foundations, philanthropists and local enterprises that support CCATE to works towards our dreams every day. Thank you all! Because that love is manifested in financial, material and labor resources, we appreciate your recent and continuing support in the search for our own building that we are close to obtaining. Thank you.
It is love that motivates each mother and father of CCATE to push this community to continue growing, to read, to paint, to create, to surprise the world with their hands and talents. It is love that drives the board of directors to fight for the dreams of everyone, to have CCATE always in excellent condition in every way. It is love that drives Dr. Holly Link to dedicate her talent, her focus on each girl and boy, and from her wisdom and experience to be the driving force for educational innovation at CCATE. She, together with Diana Lugo, and the team of parent leaders guide this director of a thousand dreams and a thousand errors as we move forward. It is the love of all of these leaders that give us balance, and through CCATE families, students, mentors and teachers reinvent this space each day.
Finally, although it is impossible for me to mention everyone that has made CCATE possible, I would like to say that CCATE was born not just in my own dreams, but of two girls and a mother who are able to be with us today, the Arango Kautz family. Kathy, Haruko and Christy, saw me dreaming and shared that dream with me, stars in my eyes in 2006, when I discovered myself an immigrant and told them one winter afternoon, deeply missing Mexico, as I pointed to an abandoned building: girls one day we will found there a cultural center so that all of us can achieve our dreams, so that immigrant community can exist. It was out of love that they believed in me and continue to believe.
May our commitment always be love in all facets of our life. And at CCATE, that love is greater than any other resource. In this way we will always say: Long live the community!