An Ode to Self-Care
For Us by Us: The Untold Stories of People of Color on Campus
Daniela Marquez ’18 will graduate this spring with a major in Afro and African American studies. Born in the Dominican Republic, she migrated to the United States when she was nine years old, traveling back and forth between the U.S. and the Dominican Republic until she started high school. Recounting her time in the DR, where her father lives, she said, “When I lived with my dad it was a different rhythm. My mom was more laid back and my dad was more militarized. My mom also did not get to have a childhood, being the second oldest out of eight kids and having to take care of them was very tough. I was thinking the other day how my family has taken so much sacrifice, body and spirit wise for me to be in a position to be able to say ‘Okay, I don’t have to worry about what I’m going to eat.’ Now I understand when my mom says ‘Tu eres mi vida — you are my world.’ I never understood it because I used to wonder how can someone else be your life? How can you put others in front of you? And it’s because that’s her way of dealing with trauma. And sometimes I complain about her attachment, but she and her siblings are the foundation of my family.”
Arlett Marquez: Why don’t we start off with your name?
Daniela Marquez: My name on my birth certificate is Daniela Julivic Marquez, but I use the name Julivic. I grew being called Julivic and Julie by my family so it feels closer to me and I also like the fact that my mom created that name. I prefer Julie/Julivic and it’s weird because it’s one of those splits in my identity where officially I’m Daniela but during my time in DR and Cuba I introduced myself as Julivic. I felt attracted to the idea of detachment from my name. But even though I like Julivic, I’m not going to get upset with people who know me as Daniela. I feel that Daniela is associated with the school, academics and a more formal institutional process. Julivic is more the other side of me, the informal side. By informal I mean that it does not have to go through an institutional paperwork for it to exist.
AM: What was your experience coming to the United States?
DM: It was traumatic. School was weird; I had to learn English at an older age. I have a love-hate relationship with English. I really like it but also I remember I limited myself a lot with English which also came from people’s ignorance. People associated speaking proper English with how smart you are and how much people will validate your opinion. So for a long time I felt very invalidated. It wasn’t always in your face, but you felt this vibe from people where some would say, ‘What?’ and ‘Oh, honey’ — basically minimizing you. However, when I went back to the D.R., I tried to make complete sentences in Spanish and it was hard. That’s why I say my real language is Spanglish and that’s okay because it’s the history of migration and living in different places. An accent is a history. It has a lot of knowledge behind it in the sense that language constructs our interactions with reality, of what we call reality. So when you speak more than one language you can access different realities. If people try to do this to me now, I don’t pay attention to it.
AM: Why did you decide to take a gap year and what was your experience?
DM: The reason I decided to stay a year in DR was that I told myself that I needed healing. Healing in the place I feel that I’m from or at least where a big part of my identity is from. It was really interesting going back to DR staying in my father’s house, which is where I used to live. That whole year, my interaction with a place that at one point was a house of pain and violence — especially verbal violence — was very surreal. I also needed a break from Brandeis. Before leaving, I felt that I could not exist on this campus and everything that I tried to do always reminded me that I wasn’t a part of this. For instance, one encounter was when I worked in lower Usdan swiping IDs and one girl left her ID. I thought I saw the girl walking in and I didn’t know how to call her. I said ‘Hey’ and then she turns around and puts her hands up and says ,‘Don’t Shoot,’ and it was a white girl. I stood there confused and did not know how to process it. Things like this were happening to me back-to-back. So I applied to Brandeis scholarships, which is funny because the same place that’s harming you is giving you opportunities. I still feel that that was the best decision I’ve ever made. When I was there [the Dominican Republic] I learned that there are many types of ways to gain knowledge. Academia is one way, but it’s not the only way.That’s why now that I am back at Brandeis I came with the mentality of passing my classes but not making it the most important thing in my last year here.
AM: When did you begin your journey of self-healing?
DM: My search for spirituality started before I came to Brandeis. However, when I came to Brandeis I had the space to do it. When I started meeting people, especially Black girls that had their natural hair, I decided to let my natural hair grow. I went to a Dominican salon — big mistake.When I went I showed her a picture of what I wanted, she immediately told me ‘Oh.’ When I went back to Brandeis and washed my hair, I saw it in the mirror and I didn’t like it. I cut it myself. I went back to the same salon and had her fix it how I wanted it. It was so freeing, not to think about if it’s raining, ‘I can’t go into the pool’ or ‘Oh if I sweat I’m going to ruin my hair;’It was so nice and I started feeling more beautiful. And of course in between there were those moments of ‘Oh shit, I feel uncomfortable,’ but then I would tell myself, ‘Okay, you feel uncomfortable but get out of the house.’ It came to a point of where my hair wasn’t a problem anymore.
AM: So many people are trying to be okay with who they are and how they feel, is there anything specific that helped you?
DM: It’s a long process and it depends on the person and the tools that society gives you. I am still in that process when it comes to embracing my body and my sexuality. In this country especially, certain bodies cannot be sexual while other bodies are sexualized. Specifically the bodies of Black women are seen through a white gaze and you cannot be sexy because then that’s all you are. For a long time, I stayed away from that but then I was like, ‘Fuck that shit.’ I enjoy sex; not a lot of people can say that, sadly. I am still in the process of trying to enjoy my body. I wasn’t always comfortable; I am still not comfortable in many ways with my body.
When I was 12 until I was 18, I developed bulimia and that was when I thought I would never have a good relationship with food. It’s all a process; there will be some days where we say nasty things to ourselves. It’s different for everybody, but for me something that helped was when I got tired, it’s one thing for others not to like you but a whole different situation when you don’t even like yourself. You live with yourself 24/7.
I’m also trying to deconstruct and understand why I don’t like myself or why I don’t like those parts of me. Most of the time it’s because I’m trying to follow a beauty standard that has been implemented by our society. It has a lot to do with race, weight, social class and all of that shit. Once you realize these are all constructions, their effects are real and its effects on who gets to be considered more human are super real, but at the end of the day they’re all constructions. Writing helped me, painting helped me, dancing helped me. I feel dance is the thing that really helped me accept my body because there are no limitations. Not at the institutional level because when you institutionalize dance there are certain bodies that can fit and certain ones that cannot. When dance is at the level of el pueblo [the people], anyone and everyone can dance.
AM: How does it feel coming back?
DM: I feel weird coming back to an environment of aggressive competition. College is not life; I know college is not life. I want to backpack after I finish college, I’ve met so many amazing people in a journey of figuring out life and for me that’s beautiful. People sometimes try to change the whole world and they forget the person next to them. I’m taking a body gesture class which is in the theater department and one of the things they asked us to do was walk in silence and look at the people around us in their eyes. I noticed that it was so hard for people to do that and that’s how we walk everyday around here. At Brandeis, one day you can have a deep conversation with a person and the next day they will just walk by you. That’s also because people are so focused on the next thing: Getting to class on time or getting to work, so when do you have the human connection?
AM: Do you want to add anything else?
DM: Yes, love with freedom.