Yutzils Valeria Roman’s Convocation Speech Transcript
The Humanities: Dancing & Storytelling
Do you remember a time when you were afraid to dance? For me, it was seven years
ago at my quinceañera. Part of the quinceañera ceremony includes these choreographed
dances you do in front of everyone. My music included a little bit of Bruno Mars,
Adele, and Nicki Minaj. It was 2014. When it was my turn to dance, I was so nervous.
I didn’t want to forget any of the moves; I didn’t want to fall. There were so many
things to keep track of. But as soon as the first beat came through the speakers,
I took the first step and the rest followed. It wasn’t a perfect dance, but I had
a lot of fun. Muscle memory helped. But that’s not always the case.
Lately, our bodies have been trapped in repetitive motions. We’ve been inside
and the days have all blended together. Our spaces have stayed the same, but our lives
have changed. Between a year ago and today, some of us have lost family members and
friends. There were more people in our lives then than there are now. Some of us have
felt the pain of targeted attacks and aggressions against our own communities, against
our families. Some of us have had to deal with financial struggles and child care
challenges. We had to continue working to pay electricity and internet bills. We realized
just how much we need one another. If this year has shown us anything, it is that
we are forever interconnected. We may move to our own rhythms, but we still move alongside
These past semesters have been some of the most difficult to navigate. We’ve
had to transform living rooms and bedrooms into classrooms and offices. We’ve had
to think about our family’s safety and our own well-being. Not to mention that many
of us continued to enroll full time in classes and be involved in extracurricular
activities. There was no blueprint for any of this. We had to figure it out as we
went along, one day at a time. Our professors, mentors, and family had to figure it
out as they went along. The fact that we’re all here today, that we’ve made it this
far, should be celebrated, not forgotten. We’ve accomplished something extraordinary
in such an uncertain time.
As I look back at the things that led me to be here today, I can’t help but think
of the small things. Being able to just open my window and breathe. Go on walks with
my Mom. I’m sure all of you can think of small things that kept you going this past
year too. I can’t tell you how many times I would turn in an essay or finish a zoom
class and immediately start playing music in my room. I just had to move in any way
I could. Because of the pandemic, some of us cannot dance like we used to. What will
dancing even look like as we move forward? How will our bodies move through the future?
No matter what our dancing looks like, we must remember to do it.
I think there are many ways to dance in this world. My time in college has only
confirmed this belief. During my studies, I learned about the Inca civilization and
the fascinating system of writing they developed using a series of knots and strings
made from cloth: the quipu. Language can be spoken and written, but it also can be
touched and moved with our hands. I read stories written by authors who look like
me, whose families crossed borders like mine. The humanities taught me to dance through
an exploration of new ideas and rhythms. The humanities teach us to actively seek
out multiple voices, to create our own spaces if we cannot find them.
Whether it’s for a quinceañera or a solo-party, dancing reminds us how goofy,
spontaneous, and vulnerable we can be. It encourages us to both lose ourselves and
feel part of something bigger. Dancing is a celebration. So, as we leave and graduate
today, I ask you to think about who, and what will be part of your celebration? What
rhythm and style will you dance to, will you create to? We must now take the steps
we’ve learned and turn them into our own movements, into our own motivations and successes.
Lastly, I would like to thank the people who have danced with me the most: my
family. My family here and in México. I see you watching the livestream. To my given
and my chosen family: thank you for supporting and loving me. No estaría aquí sin
ustedes, sin el apoyo que me han dado. Espero poder abrazarlos pronto y celebrar como
debe de ser. Los quiero mucho y los extraño.
And to all who have taught us—Class of 2021—how to move and who have moved us,
both on and off the dancefloor: thank you. You have given us the courage to dance
with our words and with our everyday actions. I look forward to dancing with all of