Alma Lopez lived in Chula Vista, California, in a mixed-race family. “I basically had an identity crisis growing up. I was raised around only Mexicans and felt like I belonged, but at the same time I knew I didn’t. I was included and at the same time excluded,” says Lopez. “My dad, who is black, was raised by Mexicans as well, so we both were not in touch with our black side.”
When she arrived at Cal State Dominguez Hills, Lopez says she experienced culture shock. “I was around the other half of me, the black side. This is where I learned to embrace my beautiful melanin and my black culture. I realized both sides of me are beautiful, and I don’t have to choose one.”
Unfortunately, she adds, the two ethnicities don’t always get along. “So, I never hung out with my black and Latino friends together, and this is a common thing.”
To change that, Lopez and her best friend, Deja Maduro, a human services major who is also of mixed heritage, co-founded the Women of Color club on campus. “I want all women of color to find our similarities and embrace our differences,” says Lopez. “I find this is the best way to erase racism slowly but surely.”
Passionate about many social issues, Lopez is currently investing much of her time championing equality for people of color, especially blacks and Latinos, and women’s rights. “As a result of my involvement at Dominguez Hills and creating the Women of Color club, I’m tearing down the stigmas among people of color, teaching them to love themselves so we can love each other,” says Lopez, a criminal justice administration major who will graduate in 2019. “We are removing barriers so that women learn how to be allies for each other and support social justice issues together.”
She’s inspired by the things she’s seen and endured in her own life, she says. “When I look at a fellow minority, I see a brother or sister to defend and fight for. Very few people feel comfortable standing up to injustice, but I feel that it is my responsibility to do so.”
After graduation, Lopez plans to attend graduate school, explore a career in urban planning, and start a nonprofit for children with troubled backgrounds. “I want to help disadvantaged, poor communities like the one I grew up in,” she says. “I want to help those who are like my dad and me and guide them to the right path. It is only right to give back to the place you came from.
“I may not have the power to change all of the things I want changed in this world, but I promise to die trying.”