In This Video

Dr. Dave:

So hello and welcome to the Knolshare here with Dr. Dave podcast. This is Dr. Dave Cornelius, your host. We are going to talk about social justice today with Angela Marquez. And so when we talk about social justice, what we’re talking about is that everyone deserves equal economic, political, and social rights and opportunities. And the goal is to make sure that we open doors of access and opportunity for everyone. Right? So in short, when we’re talking about is social justice means equal rights and equitable opportunities for all. And today we have Angela Marquez, the Outreach Program Manager of the Data Sciences Academy at the University of Arizona. Angela is also a member of the Navajo or Diné Tribe. One of the original people of the United States. So welcome Angela.

Angela Yazzie:

Thank you. I’m glad to be here.

Dr. Dave:

Yeah. So why don’t we just kick off by you telling us a little about who you are in your own words and how you would describe yourself as a Navajo or Diné descendant.

Angela Yazzie:

[foreign language 00:01:23] A Angela Marquez, you Shia touchy to Baja that Chanel it. So, hello, I’m Angela Marquez. I just shared with you my clans as a Navajo woman. I have four clans given to me from first, my mother, then my, my dad’s mother, then my, my maternal grandfather’s mother, and then my paternal grandfather’s mother. So traditionally in Navajo culture, your clans come from the women in your family, and that’s also links to the importance of the woman in the family structure and in the culture itself. So anyways, I am born for the Táchii’nii Clan, which is if you translated, it means red running into the water, and that is one of the traditional, or I guess, original clans for the Navajo Tribe. And it’s really common to hear. So anyway, I grew up on the Navajo Reservation and I often go back and my grandmother on my mother’s side lives in Leupp, Arizona, and my other grandma lives Black Mesa.

Angela Yazzie:

So it’s a quite a long drive, but it’s totally worth it for me to go back a lot. And I just wanted to share also that my grandparents did a lot of the raising of me, as is very common on the Reservation. And they taught me lots of things. They taught me the importance of my education. They taught me importance of my culture, sense of need for social justice, faith, and how to care for my community. So I would not be the same person if I didn’t have them to help me along. So I’m just so grateful for their help along with who I am. So anyway, I just love that I am Navajo. I didn’t realize growing up that it was such a treasured thing, but now that I’m here in Tucson and I’ve been here for a while, I realized there’s not a lot of Navajos outside of the Reservation. And so I’m just so glad that I’m able to ask my grandparents everything that I need to know. And yeah, I’m really glad to be able to share my experience with you.

Dr. Dave:

You’re so fortunate. So let’s talk about how do social justice, any type of challenges show up in your experience as a, a Navajo descendant and a woman of color.

Angela Yazzie:

I thought social justice, the idea of social justice is such a funny idea because it’s this need to seek out justice only because injustice have been socially acceptable until recently. I just think that that’s just such a funny thing, because I just didn’t really ever think about social justice with that name, social justice until I went to college. So the Dine people have a oral tradition of passing down knowledge from one generation to the next. And so a lot of what I know about my culture and my family, I know by asking the people that I know. But, there is not a lot past that. If I want to know about my great, great, great, great grandma, that’s not something that a lot of people can tell me about. So what I can look up in the books is often not something that I want to know necessarily.

Angela Yazzie:

I learn about my peoples being forced from their land, resources, being taken with a promise of some sort of rehabilitation afterwards. And of course that never comes up. I learn about lots and lots of broken treaties throughout history. My grandpa on my dad’s side is, or I guess he was, he just retired as the Chief Justice of the Navajo Nation. And so he has taught me so much about how our government is intentionally different from the US Government and that it looks to lead as a group of people rather than as a one leader for the nation. There’s just lots and lots of history for the Navajo people that I am so sad to learn about. We’ve been taken advantage of, we’ve been lied to, we’ve been killed. And those of us that are left behind are asked to live in a completely different world with things that we don’t know how to do.

Angela Yazzie:

There’s a lot of trauma that, that I inherit, I guess, and we, as a people are still healing from all of that. And so the Navajo women, like I said before, are seen as very important people of the family we are seen as leaders and your own identity is given to you by your mother and all of the women in your family. That is very important to me, right, as a Navajo woman to be seen as this strong capable person, because that is absolutely my role these days in terms of social justice as, as a larger scope. We build each other up, the women in the culture, build each other up, and that’s exactly what we’re doing now.

Angela Yazzie:

As a woman of color, as a Navajo descendant, my role is a fighter for social justice. And I have to do that through education. I am a math teacher when I’m not heal… When I’m not working at the U of A, I am in the classroom and I teach high school math. And I also am an avid gardener, newly. And I am a mother, right? And so all of these avenues I can use as my own experience. And as my own teaching brings me to fight for social justice and to show that there can be change brought up with whatever talents that I can bring to the table, whatever kind of energy that I can bring, that it is my absolute duty to do that.

Dr. Dave:

I agree. So when you’re involved in different conversation with people and they talk about diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging, but how do you feel sometimes, do you feel like you’re treated as a victim or that you should have all the answers? You know, what is that experience like?

Angela Yazzie:

I don’t know if I would use the word victim whenever I’m asked about diversity or equity or inclusion or belonging, of course it depends on who’s asking the question. If it’s somebody that I’m familiar with and I can be open about my experience without too much holding back. But if it’s somebody that I don’t really know, then I have to be very careful to steer away from the victim kind of dialogue, because that’s not who I am. I refuse to see myself as somebody that is beaten down and stays down. And so, I try to steer the conversation whenever I can towards action. What are we doing to help build each other up and help diversify our community? How do we bring about equity, all of these things. Yeah, if I do feel the victim kind of talking, coming along then I just try not to encourage that. I think.

Dr. Dave:

So let’s talk about your career, right. What has been the impact of social injustice on your career?

Angela Yazzie:

My career has changed. I graduated from the U of A with a Bachelor’s in Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics. And I quickly learned that if I wanted to use that degree, that I had to move, there’s not a lot of opportunity for me here in Tucson and the family that I was building was here. And so I really needed to find something else that I could put my energy towards in Tucson. I, at that point, I was talking to my mentor that I’ve had for very long time, Vicky Curtis and she basically showed me that I should take my volunteering seriously. So prior to applying to the College of Education, I actually volunteered in the classroom as a tutor and as a teacher for 10 years. So it was kind of funny. I just kind of was a teacher and then didn’t realize it nor was I getting paid for it. And it’s not much different now.

Angela Yazzie:

I just thought like, wow, of course I should totally get into education and specifically math education. So I have found through my work in the classroom, that math is a real equalizer of us all. There is no color. There is no prejudice when it comes to numbers. I knew that if I were to bring my own experience and my energy to education, that I would fight for those that are underprivileged. Because they are not only dealing with these academic problems, but they bring all this other thing from their life experiences that I can directly speak to. Because I also come from a hard background.

Angela Yazzie:

I really see myself as a fighter for education in general. I have been in the classroom for so long, and I just cannot get away from math. When I was studying biochemistry every semester, I would take a math class just because I thought it was so much fun. And at the end of it, I am very close to getting a math degree just out of fun. I just, I just love numbers. I don’t know what it is about numbers. I just really enjoy studying and learning. And I just love that I don’t know so much. There’s so much to learn when it comes to math. And you can literally reach the stars if you study math, like with a little bit of rigor and discipline, you can go to space. So cool.

Angela Yazzie:

Where I come from, brown kids, Navajo kids, there isn’t a common goal of college on the Reservation, which I find to be wrong. But I completely understand because there’s all of this less weighing us down for us to be able to even dream of that. My grandpa, the same grandpa that I mentioned [foreign language 00:12:36] her Biase, he actually told me a story when he was going to school as a young boy, he went to boarding school, which I also went to boarding school. That’s a lot of our story, but back then, boarding school looked a lot different. And you were pushed, you would try to push yourself off your own culture. I’m not sure how to say that. But if you spoke Navajo, you were punished. If you had long hair as a man, you were punished. If you did anything related to being Navajo in the school setting, it was not allowed. And so my grandpa, he told me that when he first went to school, that he left. He ran away and he walked for miles and miles through the desert to get back home. And once he got back home, his parents drove him back.

Angela Yazzie:

Yeah. It’s a long history of my family valuing education, even though we were being abused at these schools, that the only way to be able to survive in this world is through education. And so that is such a hard story for me to share, because it’s so sad for you to think about these children that have gone through so much for the sake of learning, but nowadays it’s a little different, but still that’s part of who we are. That’s part of our history and we have to kind of accept that and learn about it and grieve that, and then we can pursue our own education. So that’s something that I’ve had to do. And I know that a lot of my students come to us with these similar kind of baggage, maybe not exactly the same thing, but they really, they have to overcome a lot of trauma.

Angela Yazzie:

My role as an educator is to first get to know the student, get to know them on a personal level. And then at that point, then they can learn. That’s a lot of what I did in the classroom was listening. So I am a strong believer that no matter where you come from, what experiences that you hold on to, that we can change our own lives for good. For me, that’s encouraging a strong math education because that is oftentimes the limiting factor and your own career ideas for yourself. If you don’t do well in math, then you very, very much limit yourself for what you can do in the future. So I, as a math educator, want that to not be a hurdle for my students,

Dr. Dave:

Understood. That is really as inspirational, right? To encourage more people of color and to really participate in STEM education. Let’s talk about you personally, and the things that you’re doing to improve opportunities for black indigenous and people of color in your community.

Angela Yazzie:

So I really like that question. It inspires action and it requires action. And I just don’t ever see that. I hear a lot of people talk about their ideals and I hear what I wish that kind of talking, but there’s not a lot of action. So I just really love this question. I am, as you said before, I’m working at the University of Arizona, the Data Sciences Academy, that’s a new thing at the U of A. I am help building up support for the data sciences. So that’s Statistics and Data Science is going to be a new major. Systems Engineering is another one, Management Information. All of these majors that involve some sort of data work. And it is a statistic that is a little bit old by now, but there’s a statistic out there that 90% of the world’s data was collected in the last two years.

Angela Yazzie:

And so that’s huge, right? And that’s what is referred to as big data. Where you have these just millions of data sets and all of them, each with their own individual data points and not a lot of people know how to manage that. And so our role, our goal anyway, in the Data Sciences Academy is to help build up curriculum for K-14 education around data science. And there’s absolutely no reason why the BIPOC community can not be at the forefront of this. Our experiences, our collected struggles really make us very adaptable and well-prepared for this really big challenge, I believe. As a part of the design committee of this Data Sciences Academy, I can help bring this curriculum to communities that the other people in our team wouldn’t think of, I guess you could say. I just am really excited about this revolution in math education. It’s starting in California and it’s, it’s spreading, it’s gonna get here.

Dr. Dave:

Awesome.

Angela Yazzie:

Yeah. I’m really excited about that. And that’s something that teachers always, always, always need a so much support. And if I can offer just a little bit of that, even just a community of we’re trying to learn this together, that’s what we’re doing with the educators and data science. So if you’re an educator, you want to learn more dataacademy@arizona.edu is our website. It’s great, we have a yearly fellowship where we award teachers for being a part of it. Definitely something to look into. Otherwise, as a math educator, I of course build up curriculum, but then also I am an informed voter. That’s also something that I believe is very important, both locally and nationally. And if you’re going to help with positive change, it’s small steps.

Angela Yazzie:

Its small steps in policy change in government. That’s, I think truly one of the only ways that you can affect lasting change is by getting involved and not staying quiet. Our goal should be to be seen and to be valued. We are not going to be treated any less just because we’re different. And nobody else is going to fight for that except for you and your own community. It’s, I think everybody’s goal, should be anyway to be involved in government and to never grow weary of doing what is right is kind of one of my mottos that I just have to hold on to. So higher education institutions are historically underrepresented. And with our efforts for inclusion, we can change that and we can change that starting with funding.

Dr. Dave:

I love the insights. If we wanted to make significant change in the way we have relationship and integration between BIPOC and non BIPOC individuals in our community, what would be a few things that you would suggest or recommend?

Angela Yazzie:

Significant change. That is such a great idea. Oh man. Just think about that. That’d be great. I see a lot of that happening with U of A, which I’m so glad. I just love U of A. I’ve come here for my undergrad, my masters, and now I’m working here. I just love this community. And specifically the Data Sciences Academy, as you all know, is, is doing what we can to help out all communities with specifically the BIPOC communities and the underrepresented communities. So I would absolutely love to see education valued, fully funded and accessible for all. Oh my goodness. That would just be a dream listening to Bernie Sanders. Talk about free education. Oh man. It was amazing. That would have been so great. I think that if we can think of this idea of free education as not being this far off dream, this lofty idea, if we can see that the reason why it is such a lofty idea is because that we’re being kept down, we’re being repressed in this very moment that we can do something about that.

Angela Yazzie:

We don’t have to be desperate for any job because we couldn’t get ourselves an education. I think that if we’re free to learn, we can go through life without having this huge burden of, how will I pay for this? That shouldn’t ever be anybody’s excuse for not getting an education. So working together as a whole community, we can address our needs and we can grow together. And the way that we can do that is if we see ourselves with dignity and deserving of a spot at the big table, and you can do that through education, through learning gives power to yourself.

Dr. Dave:

I strongly agree.

Angela Yazzie:

Well, good.

Dr. Dave:

I always like to ask people this questions about utopia. If you had a diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging utopia, and you could make that whatever you wanted it to be, what would it look like for you to dream a little.

Angela Yazzie:

Yes, absolutely. Absolutely. I just think that if we are free to learn, we are free to be. Free accessible education for all is what I look for in a utopia. But with that comes all of these ideas that… Free, or not free, but like affordable housing is part of that. If you are an educated person, you learn that there are so many things that you can do to help build yourself up and, and strive towards this utopia. Housing is one of them. Education is one of them. On the Navajo Reservation, it sounds funny for me to share this, but water, water, is it not accessible on the Reservation. I forget what the exact statistic is, but from my own experience, anyway, we have to haul water because we don’t have any running water in our house out there. And that takes about, I think about an hour and a half to get some water. And that’s just completely bonkers to think if I didn’t have this experience, it would just be so foreign to just see that. So water is part of that. Electricity alongside that.

Angela Yazzie:

Man, once you become educated, once you reach out towards all of these ideas of inclusion, you see there’s so much that we can do to build each other up. But I strongly believe that it starts with education because that is all of the careers. That’s science, that’s technology, that’s engineering, math, art, whatever. We can create a better tomorrow if we are informed people.

Dr. Dave:

Without a doubt. Angela, thank you so much for sharing your insights on your experiences. I don’t want to screw up, is it a Yazzie? Is how you say it? How would you…

Angela Yazzie:

Yeah, that’s my maiden name. Angela Yazzie. It’s so funny when I share my clan, I very often say my name is Angela Yazzie, because that’s in my brain to say that with my clan. Yeah, if you were to say Angela Yazzie, then everybody would know that I’m Navajo, I think. It’s a very common Navajo name.

Dr. Dave:

Is it?

Angela Yazzie:

It really is. Yeah.

Dr. Dave:

Okay. I just wanted to point that out. Cause I thought it was so cool. You know, the way you have it in parentheses, but when you get an email from me.

Angela Yazzie:

It’s the U of A. I went here as a student and my net ID is A Yazzie and they just gave me the same one. So I had to. I called my mom and I was like, I’m back to A Yazzie. welcome back!

Dr. Dave:

There you go. Angela Yazzie. That’s beautiful. So I’m going to close because unless you have any final things that you want to share with our audience about the amazing Angela Yazzie Marquez?

Angela Yazzie:

I don’t think so. Just one more shout out toward our datascience.arizona… I’m sorry, dataacademy@arizona.edu is where you can find information. If you’re an educator, that just doesn’t just mean teachers. It can be tutors. It can be teaching assistants. It can be admin. If you are in education, you would consider yourself an educator. Definitely look us up. We are not a burden. We try to help. If you’re there, then we want to help you.

Dr. Dave:

Good. I’ll point this out and share it with a few people. I just want to close and say, thank you for listening to the KnolShare with Dr. Dave podcast. I hope this learning experience would also prompt you to take and seek more and discover how we could contribute to a positive experience for BIPOC lives. It really doesn’t take much for us to just tap into our own humanity, to share what we’d have. It doesn’t take much.

I would like to say that the music for this podcast was written by my niece, Kyanna Brow- Hendrickson. I’m giving her a shout out.

This podcast is Copyright 2021, KnolShare.org and Dr. Dave Cornelius.

I’d like to say until next time, be well, stay safe and connect soon.

Angela Yazzie Marquez again, just thank you so much for sharing your story with us today.

Angela Yazzie:

Thank you.

About the Speaker(s)

No bio currently available.

Dr. Dave Cornelius is the founder of the 5 Saturdays program and leads the group’s Leadership Council. In addition to being a published author and speaker, Dave is an experienced IT and business professional and a globally recognized lean and agile catalyst who empowers others to achieve their very best. He specializes in coaching, training, and leading co-located and distributed teams to deliver quality innovations from concept to cash. Dr. Dave held leadership roles where he helped transform IT into a partner with other groups within an organization. Dave holds a doctorate in management (IS/IT emphasis), a master’s degree in business administration, and a bachelor’s degree in computer science. His professional certifications include public speaking (Toastmasters DTM), product management (PMC II), project management (PMP), agility practices (PMI-ACP, CSP, SPC), IT service management (ITIL v3), and process optimization (SSBB). Learn more about Dave by visiting Dave-Cornelius.com or on LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/daveauck/. You also can follow Dave on Twitter @DrCorneliusInfo. Learn more about our on-demand Agile and Design Thinking courses at https://KnolShare.org