Omar's Open Road

  • INTERVIEWED BY:

    Full Circle

  • INTERVIEW LOCATION:

    Los Angeles, CA

  • AIRED ON:

    Public Television: Season 11

OMAR CARDENAS

Youth Organizer
Children's Defense Fund

“Culture cures us; we heal through culture. We heal through our experiences and our ancestors' knowledge. I knew that I needed more of that to uplift my spirit, to help me heal from the trauma I experienced growing up.”

INTERESTS:

Education Non-Profit Organizations

THEMES DISCUSSED:

Community Culture Education Societal Pressures Struggle Choices Family Self-Reflection

FOUNDATION:

Teaching / Mentoring

TAGS:

car accident, culture, dropout, friends, high school, hospital, identity, individual, intoxicated, knowledge of self, labels, mentorship, options, relationships, rights, roots, school, social justice, story, teaching

BIOGRAPHY:

  • Stockton, California, where Omar grew up, was once named "America's Most Miserable City."
  • At home, Omar experienced physical psychological violence; he internalized that violence and started on a self-destructive path.
  • At one point, his principal met him at the steps of the school and told him to leave; he didn't know what his options were, so he just left.
  • Luckily, he had his older brother as a role model; his brother was the first of his friends to graduate high school.
  • He'd listen to his brother have intellectual conversations, and he felt powerless because he couldn't engage; decided he had to go back to school.
  • He was 23 when he went back to school; started at community college, where a Chicano Studies class caught his attention.
  • Realized "la cultura cura": culture cures; joined the Children's Defense Fund to help young people learn about and embrace their roots.
  • Says at times, seeing young people going through what he experienced can be taxing, but he stays positive, takes everything one day at a time.

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