"I Am Clear in Who I Am": Cultural Identity, Racialization, and Being Cuban in the Bronx

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Lauren Sepanski


Every Saturday, as I arrived at St. Stephen’s United Methodist Church in the Marble Hill neighborhood of the Bronx to assist with Spanish and English as a Second Language (ESL) classes, I became used to a routine. I would enter through bright red doors that needed a stern yank to open and walk into a large room, sectioned off with a floor-to-ceiling divider from the church’s worship area, that served as a greeting area. There would be a table where several women and sometimes their children would be chatting. I would greet them, sign in, and sit on a long bench nearby, where others who had come for the classes were waiting. Sitting there I could hear the sound of drums coming from the church’s worship area, the sound of voices coming from the people who were conversing in the general area, and the sound of a jazz saxophone and piano playing coming from the balcony upstairs. Eventually, the sound of the piano would stop, and Tina, the ESL and Spanish language instructor, would descend the stairs, arms outstretched and smiling, greeting us in both languages. From there we would try to find a room that was unoccupied and relatively quiet, which was not always easy. There were voice lessons, baby showers, and birthday parties held downstairs, and sometimes the conference room on the first floor was being used for homework help. Occasionally we even held our ESL classes in a broom closet, because that was the only place available. The church was a lively place on Saturdays.

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Sepanski, L. (2012). "I Am Clear in Who I Am": Cultural Identity, Racialization, and Being Cuban in the Bronx. Undergraduate Journal of Service Learning & Community-Based Research, 1, 1–11. https://doi.org/10.56421/ujslcbr.v1i0.81
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