We were able to sit down with Chasly from the Extra Butter team and ask her some questions about her heritage and growing up in Washington Heights. This is her story.
How did switching schools out of the Heights impact the way you looked at yourself and your culture?
I went to school in the Heights from daycare to 1st grade. My mother ended up finding a program called “No Child Left Behind,” which was an Act implemented by President George W. Bush in an attempt to close the achievement gap. This actually allowed me to attend a better, well funded school downtown since, at the time, I was only allowed to go to my zone school. Nearly all the public schools in the Heights were underfunded. Though this Act did help me receive a higher quality education, essentially, I was taken out of my neighborhood and culture and placed into a predominantly white area and school. From 2nd grade to 8th grade, I experienced bullying for speaking Spanish, having curly hair and even just being from uptown.
How did you handle the way other people were treating you?
As a kid I didn't understand that that was not okay and I began to suppress and hide parts of myself; this included refusing to speak Spanish and straightening my hair. So fair to say not too well.
At what point did you begin to really embrace your heritage and why?
It wasn't until high school when I began to accept and embrace being Dominican. It saddened me to know that there was an unnecessary language barrier between me and my grandma. Though I can speak, write and read Spanish, I tend to overthink it a lot now so the after effects are still there.
What are some things that unite you back to your culture?
Some things that have helped me unite with my culture are listening to music and having talks with my grandma (she’s very helpful).
Are there any items/foods that you can’t find in NYC but will always find back home?
Living in the Heights makes it easy for me to find foods from back home but what I haven't found yet is coconete! My grandpa usually brings those back from DR for the family.
What advice do you have to anyone struggling to embrace their ethnicity and the way they feel about themselves?
Some advice I have for people struggling to identify with their culture is listen to the music! It makes you feel good and helps you learn along the way :)
Listen to Chasly's favorite latin tunes..
Check out our Instagram for more info on how we are celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month at Extra Butter.