I’m sitting with Claudia Maturell in a Dunkin’ Donuts in Kittery, Maine; we’ve met so that I can interview Claudia for a blog I’m going to do. Claudia has a sparkle in her eye when she talks about her passion for equality and anything that is off-the-chain, unjust, or just plain not right! Her spirit & attitude are downright contageous! This passion can also at times feel overwhelming, Claudia admits and has felt this, too. She’s also felt a sense of hopelessness at times, like we all do. Many of these “blue” emotions may possibly stem from many American’s sense of disempowerment.
My partner (Mahraiah) & I have been attending a Racism Dialogue, held each Tuesday evening, at the Baha’i Center of Learning Green Acre School, Eliot, Maine; I’ve come to see Claudia (a member of the Bahai faith there), as a wonderful, vibrant person to be around. For one thing, she trusts a process where there are many resources to draw from, but there’s also a unique chemistry that plays out of a group project.
This is the “trusting the process” of education, dialogue, training, and the group process. Out of this resolution, people have to fashion some way of effectively doing this work. Perhaps this is why Claudia is such a good facilitator. She’s humble, tries to avoid getting hooked in structures or relationships where maybe more stuff is intersecting-such as racism, sexism, heterosexualism, or any other “ism” for that matter, and attempt to move on.
Bear: What kinds of bias or discrimination towards you, did you run into in school, jobs, community, etc.?
Claudia: My family and & moved from Cuba to the Miami and Naples, Florida area when I was eleven years old. I didn’t have any real experiences like this; at some point in my secondary education, I wasn’t thinking about bias or discrimination against me, but more about how I could assimilate as an American. At that juncture, think I unconsciously started identifying myself as white.
Bear: Did you experience a lack of access to, say, healthcare services, or any other kind? If yes, do you think it was racism behind the social disparity between whites & persons-of-color? in terms of access to these services?
Claudia: No, because our family wasn’t wealthy, and, like many other Cuban-Americans, we had access to and used Welfare and other Social Services.
Bear: What kinds of issues (racial) emerged for you in your family?
Claudia: From what I gathered from the stories I heard, my
grandmother wasn’t fully comfortable with my mom marrying a black
guy. It wasn’t until I was born that the tension between them started
to ease out. As I look back, I wasn’t very close to my dad’s side of the family. I’m not sure if it was a cultural difference or something else.
Bear: When you were in high school or college, how did being Cuban-American impact your social life-if at all?
Claudia: This was my time to assimilate and enculturate into American society, so this is where I focused my thoughts. In college, I mingled with all of the groups; I usually hung-out with groups or people where I felt invited & welcomed.
At this time, I began feeling a bit resentful towards my own very vibrant & colorful, Cuban culture; perhaps this was due to my desire to fit into an American model, and the resentment was a part of a defense mechanism, or an internal struggle. However, there were also other times during college that I felt myself isolating away from certain groups of other people.
Bear: What inspires you most about being Baha’i, and our human, internalization of oneness process, an interdependent part of our Universe?
Claudia: For me, the Bahai teachings are messages for all human beings, not just for those who’re affiliated with the Faith.
There is a feeling that we’ve been given a sense of understanding as to why there are so many unhealthy, societal reactions, i.e., such as conflict, war, nuclear armament, greed, violence, etc., in our contemporary world.
A two-fold purpose guides us here: to develop our inherent gifts and potentialities and to contribute to the betterment of society with these. The second of the two-fold purpose alerts us to take responsibility to do whatever our strengths, attributes, and gifts direct us to do on our spiritual journey.
Also, the need is to see understanding & knowledge spread, may affect collective groups of humans. In other words, an example could be to think how could we take our racial conversation out into the world’s conversation?
Bear: If you had the chance to offer suggestions to government agencies, who now see the need for training in Anti-Racism, what suggestions would you give to them?
Claudia: I would lay the groundwork that all human beings are noble, dignified, with infinite capacities to change and advance our current conditions. This is a foundational premise for me. It focuses on the potentialities and the positive aspect of who we are as human beings.
Copy: Christopher Bear-Beam 11062017