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Hinojosa ‘owns her voice’ in Roosevelt lecture

Published: September 18, 2009
Section: Front Page

La Periodista Activista: Mexican journalist Maria Hinojosa speaks about the importance of owning one’s voice politically in Rapaporte Treasure Hall yesterday.<br /><i>PHOTO BY Phil Small/Tahe Hoot</i>

La Periodista Activista: Mexican journalist Maria Hinojosa speaks about the importance of owning one’s voice politically in Rapaporte Treasure Hall yesterday.
PHOTO BY Phil Small/Tahe Hoot

Mexican feminist and award-winning activist journalist Maria Hinojosa filled Rapaporte Treasure Hall with her 6th Annual Eleanor Roosevelt Lecture on “The political responsibility of owning one’s voice.”

Hinojosa is the managing editor and host of National Public Radio’s Latino USA program as well as senior correspondent for the Emmy-winning PBS newsmagazine “NOW.”

The lecture, which was also part of Hispanic Heritage month, was sponsored by the Women’s and Gender Studies Program, and cosponsored by Office of the Dean of Arts and Sciences, AHORA!, the Journalism Program, the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism, and the Departments of American Studies, Hispanic Studies, Latin American and Latino Studies and Sociology.

In her lecture, Hinojosa drew on many personal experiences to discuss the importance of finding and owning one’s voice in order to become self-empowered and to fight for social justice. Born in Mexico City and raised in the “multicultural utopia” of Hyde Park, she explained that growing up as “a Mexican kid in the south side of Chicago” was “a matter of ethnicity and gender, my status as immigrant and as someone who was trying to become an American.”

As she struggled with issues of identity and finding her voice, she was influenced by the civil rights movement, the women’s movement, activists including Martin Luther King Jr. and Cesar Chavez, as well as her mother. She shared a story of her mother standing up to immigration officers who tried to separate their family as they entered the United States as an example of the power of trusting and owning one’s voice.

Hinojosa explained that as she began to find her own voice, she was driven by a powerful sense of mission to “meet this need of speaking the truth and being visible because there were times I felt invisible.” She explained, “I am able to do what I do because I have a mission and I understand that I’m living in a particular historical moment,” she said. “My mission when I was your age and in college is different from the one I have now, but I always have the one of visibility and portraying who I am in my realities—the realities I have understood—and putting them forth.”

Hinojosa portrayed many realities of her life in her lecture, touching on personal subjects including her decision to have two abortions.

Although she said in her community there is “a tremendous amount of shame surrounding this topic,” Hinojosa does not shy away from sharing her experiences.

“I speak about my abortions because to me, it’s part of my political responsibility to own my voice,” she said. “It had to be my role to talk about this, and to talk about it without shame.”

She also discussed her role as a working mother, explaining that as she tries to balance her life, it’s complicated.

“I think about the notion of balance, and I don’t know if that’s the right word, because you’re never entirely settled with it,” she said.

Yet she is able to manage her roles as mother and career woman through dialogue with her children. “I listen and talk with them about everything. I talk to them about the work that I do and when they understand that there’s a mission behind it, they get it,” she said.

Being personal in her lecture, according to Hinojosa, “allows people to open their own personal place” which is important because “the personal is so political.”

“I think that intimacy, genuineness and authenticity are the most important. That’s what we’re all clamoring for deep down inside,” she added.

Hinojosa’s lecture also addressed the students and the importance of their voices.

“We are entering a time in our country that’s going to get really ugly, and your generation needs to step up to the plate. This is your battle and you may want to think of the political responsibility of owning your voice in this moment,” she said. “You guys have to open the dialogue to create a better sense of unity.”

In the past, Hinojosa has also worked as a correspondent for CNN, hosted public affairs talk show Visiones on WNBC-TV in New York, and served as a producer and researcher for CBS This Morning and worked for CBS Radio as a producer. In addition, she has also published two books, “Crews: Gang Members Talk with Maria Hinojosa” and “Raising Raul: Adventures Raising Myself and My Son.”

Hinojosa’s work has earned her numerous awards and honors, including the Robert F. Kennedy award, the National Association of Hispanic Journalists Radio Award, a Unity Award and the Top Story of the Year Award from the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, among others. She has also been named one of the 100 Most Influential Latinos in the United States by Hispanic Business Magazine and one of the 25 Most Influential Working Mothers by Working Mothers Magazine.