BronxCentric! and My Bronx Influential Women of 2014 Award

Just a few years back I remember sitting in my room reading the issue of Bronx Times, flipping through the biographies of twenty-five prominent Bronx women, thinking to myself,”How do I get in here? Could this one day be me?” I was familiar with the work of  some of the ladies, who were accomplished professionals, many of whom were several years older than I. I did not see myself being able to compete with or in the same ranks as they, and wondered if I ever would be.

Over the past five years, I’d sometimes revisit the annual issue of the honorees, wondering if it were attainable to one day have my name and bio in there. I knew I needed to accomplish something great and hoped that at some point in my career I’d make the grade. More than receiving accolades and awards externally, I’d always dreamed of making a difference in the Bronx borough of New York City and hoped one day to inspire others to do the same.

I never thought it would come so soon. That is when Lisa Sorin of The Bronx Times e-mailed me in January and told me that I’d been nominated as one of 25 Bronx Influential Women for 2014 for my work with BronxCentric!: Bronx Movers and Shakers, a website and on-line discussion group I’d founded in October 2011. I took a second to digest what I’d just read.

Yesterday evening I and 24 other women were awarded 25 Bronx Influential Women of 2014 by The Bronx Times. The reception, which began at 6 PM at Villa Barone Manor in Throgg’s Neck, featured an Italian-inspired dinner. The ceremony started at 7 PM, each woman announced with a short biography about her work followed by receiving an engraved plaque.

The women were from extremely diverse fields and ethnic backgrounds. The honorees included a Spanish nun, an African-American doctor who studied in Havana, a Puerto Rican environmental activist, an Israeli-American director of a dance organization, and an Italian-American educator, among others. They ranged in age from their early thirties to seventies, many of them mothers and holding multiple degrees. They came from as far as Spain and Puerto Rico, while others were born in the borough and were third generation Bronxites.

This honor is now in its fifth year and its alumni “class” includes the likes of Marcia Cameron, Deputy Director at Mosholu Preservation Corporation, Rosemary Ordonez-Jenkins, Assistant Executive Director of Phipps Community Development Corporation,  Margaret Walsh, president of the Parkchester South Condominiums, and Jacqueline Acevedo-Villanueva of Marketing & Advertising Solutions Inc. (MAS).

This is a terrific honor and I’d like to thank The Bronx Times staff. I’m not even sure what word I can use to describe it. Being recognized form my activism in the Bronx is the ultimate honor. When asked about BronxCentric! through e-mail inquiries or in person, many are surprised to know that it is not an incorporated non-profit or LLC. As I explained it last night, I am an activist with a full-time job in workforce development in a non-profit; this is a side project. So, even when I’m done working…I’m still really working. I never really stop.

I am still not certain who nominated me, but thank you. I’d also like to thank Clarisel Gonzalez of Puerto Rico Sun, for inspiring me to further pursue social media, Ed García Conde for his tireless coverage of Bronx issues on his website “Welcome2TheBronx,” George Luis Acevedo of Bronx Women’s Business Resource Center, who also nominated me for the Bronx Women’s Business Resource Center Woman of Excellence in February, my fellow Mychal Johnson and my fellow SouthBronxUnite members, the Sociology Department at Lehman College, and many more people, places, and institutions who have pushed me to achieve.

If I can do it, you can do it too…

– Shannon



20s Anxiety

I have been reflecting back on my twenties as I am just a week away from turning thirty. I have decided to republish a few pieces that I wrote on past blogs that represented monumental milestones for me. I have edited the piece. I am amazed and even a bit embarrassed when readings some of my old blog and journal entries if only because I have matured.

This entry is in response to something one of my internet buddies wrote on Facebook. Her post was about 20s anxiety. You know, starting out and establishing yourself as an adult. We all know what it is. Here is my response:

Your post struck a nerve. I have been feeling the same way lately. I am also 24. I live with roommates (in NYC we have to until we’re 45 because rents are so high), have my Master’s degree, a new 2008 look, and recently got a new job. But somehow that is not enough. I am in a constant state of panic thinking that I should be making $40,000 by now, be on the way to a down payment on a condo, have a boyfriend already, and a circle of girlfriends (I have no close female friends.)

A lot of my friends have taken a very casual approach to their future still not knowing what they want to do at age 25 or older. Meanwhile, I’m constantly thinking, “Oh, my God. I need to have my condo by age 30, a retirement fund, and a great career.” I am constantly falling asleep worrying about my future. My friends tell me to lighten up, but just thinking about it is often enough to keep me awake all night or to a panic attack. I look at a lot of my friends and want to scream, “Quick, time is running out- get your life together!”

In the next 3 months I hope to move out of my current residence into a place of my own (working on that, looks halfway feasible), making permanent at my job (I’m a temporary employee implementing a program) and maybe getting into a higher pay scale, starting to network and meet new friends, and starting my savings for a condo. I hope to have a down payment by age 26.

No, Norma, you are definitely not crazy. I think a lot of people have these same fears that we do but they are less verbal about them than we are and take it easy as a result. I believe that our generation is facing a lot of issues that previous ones have not. A college degree is the new high school diploma, Master’s degrees are a dime a dozen, people are postponing marriage and children, you almost surely need a two-income household to get by if you are, and real estate prices are unreachable for us in most places. Who would have thought it’d take me four months to get a job here in NYC with a Master’s degree? Who would have thought that with a job and degree that I’d still be struggling to find an apt. I can afford?

A trip shall be in order for you. Last year at this time I was kind of lost. In Colombia I had a lot of time to travel and think things over. I got a whole new perspective on how I should live my life over there. I feel more settled now because living there was a big goal of mine. I sometimes wonder what could have been if I’d stayed, but I’m seeing how things go here. I would advise you go somewhere completely alone for a week or two. Go to another country or somewhere very different from you’re used to. That way nobody is distracting you and all that exists is you, yourself, and your thoughts. That may straighten a few things out and if nothing else, you’ll feel more relaxed when you come back.

But I think that a lot of your fears and concerns are all of our fears and concerns in our 20s. Being in a circle of 20-somethings can be stressful because we are like balls of anxiety. I’d also really advise you to talk with friends who are in their late 20s and 30s because they have already gone through this and can give you some insight on how to deal and not be so anxious about the future. We are over that college hump and a lot of people expect that you just graduate, go out into the world, spread your wings, and fly solo but it’s not quite like that. You are always still going to have your doubts but as long as you are working towards something, have goals set for yourself, you will continue to move forward.