Diaspora Project ~ Manny

By Chandlor Henderson

This one is personal to me because in some ways, the reason you are reading this is because of Manny. It’s not like he told me to quit FB and start a blog, but he was the first person to ever blindly believe in an idea of mine, and show me it was possible. He showed me that the cartoon I had been dreaming about for 10 years could actually happen, and he drew the first one BY HAND. He is a good friend of mine, and someone I truly hope is around for the rest of my life. His attention to the finer points of life and the world are unmatched and rare. His multiple artistic gifts are truly spectacular. If you don’t know Manny, or don’t have a Manny in your life, find one. And cherish them.

What brought you to Oregon?

My parents and I used to live in Lennox, California with my grandma on her property. It was already difficult living there since it was pretty ghetto. I noticed that we moved right after an incident at a stoplight in 1997. We were on our way to get me a present for my birthday and we stopped at a light, like normal. But then I heard the glass next to me break and my hand was bleeding. My dad ran the light and we zipped home. Someone had shot at my dad’s car and I feel like a bullet was intended for me. Luckily it missed and I am here today.

Do you plan on staying?

I’m not currently planning on staying in Oregon. I plan to move to New York City because I’d like to pursue some of my lofty dreams. I’m not sure how long I’ll stay there. I might move back if things don’t work out.

Would you raise a family here? Why or why not?

It’s kind of a toss up for me. I feel like I wouldn’t mind raising a family here. 1) It would help bring some diversity to the state and 2) It’s beautiful here. But no matter where you go, your children / you will experience some form of racism. I feel like no matter where I raise my kids, I would get them involved in multicultural programs and try to raise them with as much love as possible.

What impact has Oregon had on you?

Oregon has had a strange yet amazing impact in my life. I remember watching a video of myself as a kid and I felt like a had more confidence to be myself back in that footage. I think it was because I was surrounded by individuals like me. People of color. I didn’t know what it was at the time, but I felt like we were all family. Once we made our move to Oregon, I felt out of place. There were barely any brown kids at the schools I went to, no street vendors selling mango con chile, or Elote Locos, and kids would call soda, pop. It was hard to make friends at first. People would assume I was Mexican and ask me about my “culture” when I had never even been there. I was put into an ESL (English as a Second Language) class because I was brown. I remember sitting in class in 5th grade when the ESL teacher came by to gather the foreign kids. The teacher and her made eye contact with each other. I looked at them, they looked at me and they nodded at each other and boom — I was enrolled to learn English even though I had been speaking it for 10 years. I was obviously very good in that class. With that being said, when I went to El Salvador, where my family is from, I was told by cousin that I look Salvadoran but don’t act or sound Salvadoran. I have been white washed and feel like it’s sad… but I could also use it to my advantage.

What would you say to someone moving here?

Don’t let anyone take advantage of you.

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