In this interview, we speak with Yajaira De La Espada, who is of Puerto Rican and Panamanian descent. This educator and author is using her experience in the classroom to inspire the development of revolutionary content for youth…one beautiful and imaginative thought at a time.
Yajaira De La Espada
Describe the work that you do…
I am a Child Imagination Specialist. In my day job this means working as Community Engagement and Education Coordinator for the Alliance for GLBTQ Youth. Outside of my day job that means creating content for our youth (toys, children’s books, kid TV shows).
What inspired this work?
I was a traditional school teacher for a long time, and I’ve seen how the educational systems push to indoctrinate our youth into rote memory and curriculums that only engage students to take standardized testing. I have seen firsthand what this does to the spirit of a child. This inspired me to write stories for my students to engage their critical thinking and imagination skills more. The pseudo powers that be understand the importance of quelling a child’s imagination. This is why school is the way it is in this country. Most schools, whether they be private, public, or charter (I’ve worked in every setting), are not considering how to engage the whole child. Many are just concerned with getting that paycheck from the government to keep the lights on. This is why my work is important. I was always the teacher who was most concerned with the people my students would become. So I tried to engage their imagination as much as possible. Although I am no longer a traditional school teacher, my work lives on through the content I create for the youth. It is essential for a child to see themselves reflected in stories and other media. This is why I do what I do, so that our children will have more mirrors to see themselves in.
What piece of advice/ encouragement would you give to other Afro-Latinx who want to make moves?
Listen to the children and the elders more.
What is one valuable resource that has been helpful on your journey?
My elders. I have been blessed to have many healing women in my life that have helped me on the path. I would also say the book that has helped me the most in my life has been, We Are the Ones We’ve Been Waiting For by Alice Walker. This book changed my life.
How can people reach you?
Yajaira’s first picture book is entitled, The Alphabet of Enchantment Island, and it’s all about being Afro-Boricua.
She is currently seeking literary representation.
Learn more about The Alphabet of Enchantment Island in this video from her recent Kickstarter campaign efforts.
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