• Yulkendy Valdez

Choosing between your career and activism: Lessons learned from Netflix’s TV Show, Gentefied

Growing up, you probably had people tell you to put your head down and do your job. You also have people telling you to make a difference and shake things up.

Little did we know how hard it is to do both at once. The reality is that sometimes our career aspirations get in the way of our activism.

We all define activism differently. It could be advocating for a new policy or law, convening your local community to protest gentrification in your neighborhood, or standing up for racial injustice at work.

Sounds good, right. Power to the people!! But in reality, what you see is people getting fired or punished when they do that.

So the next day, you see your primo interviewing for another job because now he is unemployed. He gets dressed for the part and gets ready to code switch, so the recruiters

think he is a fit for the organization.

Sounds sad! I know. But there are ways you can continue to move up on your career and create systematic change.

You can be like Yessika Flores in Gentefied. She is played by Dominican actress, Julissa Calderon.

She is fiery, relentless for social justice, but she doesn’t do it alone. She gathers all her friends, and they strategize together how to make an impact in the local community. She leads protests and has no problem holding people accountable.

Depending on your employer, being like Julissa might not be possible at all times, but as you get to know the organization and learn the ins and outs, you can decide what you can and cannot do, and outweigh the pros and cons. Just like Julissa, you should have super cool friends around you that believe in you and care about the world.

You can be like Ana Morales in Gentefied. She is played by Karrie Martin. Her character is also Julissa’s girlfriend, but their activism styles could not be more different.

Ana leverages the arts to foster social justice. We might not all have an artistic promise like Ana on the show. She can make beautiful murals that advocate for all types of love, especially queer, brown love. However, you can write a blog, volunteer at youth art nonprofit, send letters to Congress. Art can be displayed in many ways, and it is one easy thing we can all do to showcase our activism.

You can be like Erik Morales in Gentefied. He is played by Joseph Julian Sorias.

He starts a library at his work that incentivizes kids to read. He gives a free taco for every book you read. Very creative! This also creates more business, since parents come more often and buy tacos to eat with their kids.

You can also start or join an employee resource group or the DEI committee at work. More and more employers are open to change. The trick is to always check in with your mentors and friends for advice on how to pursue your passions that might not be connected to your main job.

Ultimately, trust your gut like Yessika, Ana, and Erika in Gentefied. Watch the show and let me know what you think!