Hearsey Fellow Velez Discusses Af-Lat-Am

Investigating the changing identity of Phillips Academy’s increasing Hispanic population and the role of minority clubs on campus, Amanda Velez ’04 presented her Brace Center Hearsey Fellowship Project on Tuesday in a lecture entitled, “The ‘Lat’ in Af-Lat-Am: Minority Clubs and Identity Formation at PA and Beyond.” Her speech represented the last of three Hearsey Fellow presentations. In addition to Velez, Chair of the World Languages Division Dr. Margarita Curtis spoke about the impact of immigration on Latinos and gave general background information about the culture. “Race always used to refer to black and white,” Mrs. Curtis stated. She continued, “Now, Hispanics have also entered the equation, and we’re all about to enter an identity crisis. PA is just a small example of what is happening all around the world.” Velez took the podium after Dr. Curtis and began with a short history of Af-Lat-Am, then moving on to speak about her own experiences. She talked about growing up in the Bronx with her Puerto Rican parents, and then having to leave home to attend Andover. Before she left New York City, her mother told her, “When you get there, it may seem as though all of the kids are just like you, but never forget the difference between you and them.” Although Velez said she didn’t fully appreciate this piece of advice at the time, she asserted that the words now resonate in her mind. Once she arrived at Andover, Velez joined Af-Lat-Am, and by her Upper year, she had a dream. She realized that since there were now enough Latino members of Af-Lat-Am to branch out, she could start a special, separate club uniquely tailored to the Latino students on campus. Velez believes that Latinos are constantly swallowed up into the “umbrella” group of several different minority organizations that schools provide and that it is time for such a custom to change. Velez’s proposition was that there would be two groups— one for Latino students and one for African American students. Each group would then elect a president or representative who would meet with the other as often as necessary so that the two groups could stay connected as part of a larger whole. When she surveyed a group of students on whether or not they would be in favor of a separated group for Latinos, eight out of 10 responded in favor of the idea.