This past Sunday, Lupita Nyong’o won the Oscar for best supporting actress for her role as Patsey in “12 Years A Slave.” She ended her acceptance speech by saying, “When I look down at this golden statue, may it remind me and every little child that no matter where you’re from, your dreams are valid.” Many know her story of being born in Mexico, raised in Kenyan, and a graduate of Yale School of Drama. It is an unlikely story of a woman who looked beyond what others saw as limitations to become an acclaimed actress. She was able to see her achievement as not only an indicator for herself, but indeed for “…every little child.” To acknowledge that dreams can be realized speaks to the true role model she is for all young people, especially for those who struggle against hardship, injustice, and discrimination. In such a surreal moment, Lupita has become a hero for many.
February came to a close at Hillsides with a celebration of Black History Month. The recreation center was filled with displays from each cottage depicting African-American heroes, who by their examples contributed to the freedom that all Americans enjoy today but especially those of color. Each cottage chose a significant person throughout history to study. Those selected to be profiled were Mohammed Ali, Maya Angelou, Rosa Parks, Jackie Robinson, Martin Luther King, and Tupac Shakur.
When asked about Maya Angelou, one of our 11-year-old residents explained that he admired her because of her inspirational poems about freedom, “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” which reads, in part:
The caged bird sings
with a fearful trill
of things unknown
but longed for still
and his tune is heard
on the distant hill
for the caged bird
sings of freedom.
Whether it is Angelou, now Nyong’o, or any of the other heroes selected, theirs are the stories of adversity confronted and achievements reached even though some dreams are still not fully realized. They are stories that inspire none-the-less and encourage each of us, especially those we serve, to embrace their dreams and strive to see them fulfilled.
We measure our success at Hillsides not just in improvement scores, graduations, and family reunification. We measure our success when dreams can be, once again, embraced and hope for their fulfillment is restored.