The United States of America had 18% of the world’s international migrants population in 2020, International Migration 2020 Highlights by UN.
“My hope is that there will be less hate in the world, that we will treat one another better, that there will be more understanding among individuals as well as nations”, Kristie Delia Moore, founder of Female Leaders of the Americas.
Borders were born from men’s fears. Before the sophisticated walls and prohibitory customs existed, borders were merely imaginary lines that we sadly allowed to be implanted in our minds because the world truly belongs equally to all. And in the United States of America, immigration is a part of its culture, richness and growth. Just as the nation’s father, George Washington, once said “The bosom of America is open to receive not only the Opulent and respectable Stranger, but the oppressed and persecuted of all Nations And Religions; whom we shall welcome to a participation of all our rights and privileges, if by decency and propriety of conduct they appear to merit the enjoyment.”
Yet, the development of unity between citizens of different backgrounds is not always easy due to the lack of knowledge about other cultures that sometimes turns into stereotyping and even confrontation; something that Kristie Delia Moore has understood since her childhood and decided to help eradicate.
Witnessing Racism in the United States
Kristie was born in Irvine, California, a city two hours away from Los Angeles which had 307,670 habitants by 2020; composed of people from diverse backgrounds with a large number of Mexican, Asian and Native American descendents. In fact, Kristie’s mother is from Zacatecas, México, and her paternal grandparents are from Slovakia and Ireland. Although the city of Irvine has one of the lowest crime rates in the country, it is not exempt from racism.
“I have seen my parents, my grandparents and my friends from other backgrounds have many stereotypes placed upon them,” explains Kristie. “For example my grandparents would be criticized for not speaking English. Sometimes people think that Mexicans are lazy, or that they take opportunities from other people. That is something very hard to navigate, to witness how people tell them to go back to their countries.”
Immigration Statistics in the USA
Historically, the United States of America is a country that grew due to the integration of immigrants. Even nowadays this presence still holds great relevance, so much that, in 2020, the USA had 18% of the world´s international migrants population, according to International Migration 2020 Highlights by UN.
By 2021, the USA had 45.3 million immigrants which is 13.6% of its total population, as noted by the Migration Policy Institute. The states with the biggest amount of immigrants in 2021 were: California with 10.5 million, 27% of its population; Texas with 5.1 million: Florida with 4.6 million, 21% of its population; New York with 4.4 million, 22% of its population and New Jersey with 2.1 million, 23% of its population.
The Migration Policy Institute also reported that around 18 million US children under 18 lived with at least one immigrant parent and that the largest group of immigrants in the nation are Mexicans, who were 24% of the entire country’s population in 2021.
Amigos de México
Driven by the desire to connect cultures and promote mutual understanding, Kristie decided to create an ethnic studies program while in high school that would introduce teenagers to Mexican culture
“I founded Amigos de México,” recalls Kristie. “It was an ethnic studies program where we introduced 15 high school students to ethnic studies and to the Mexican American community and Mexican American history.”
There Kristie met Sabrina, one of the program’s participants who became her friend. Sabrina understood the barriers they had to overcome being women of color. Later on, Kristie invited Sabrina to found Female Leaders of the Americas.
Creating Bonds to Eradicate Wrongful Stereotypes
In 2019, Kristie received a scholarship to study in Russia for the summer through the National Security Language Initiative for Youth program. The next summer she participated in the Experiment Digital, a virtual exchange program between the United States and nations in the Middle East; after that she studied Chinese through the STARTALK program and met 45 Europeans through the Benjamin Franklin Transatlantic Summer Fellowship program. All of these opportunities allowed Kristie to experience other cultures and to envision this mutual exchange as a tool for global understanding leading the path to founding Female Leaders of the Americas in 2020.
“Female Leaders of the Americas is a 10-week virtual exchange program for girls 14 to 19 from North and South America and it is centered around international relations, government and politics, language and culture. One of the purposes of it is to connect girls from all these countries and give them a chance to learn about each other’s cultures,” explains Kristie.
The program has grown exponentially. It was initiated in 2021 and it received a Call for Kindness grant from the Rileys Way Foundation. That year, they had 64 participants from four countries including: USA, Brazil, Mexico and Peru. By 2022, 150 girls from 14 countries participated and this 2023 the participants have reached 167 from 7 countries. The management, which started with just Kristie and Sabrina, now has 10 volunteers involved, 9 of them who were previous program participants.
“Our biggest goal is to connect people and achieve more cross-cultural understanding because North and South America are very geographically close but at the same time most people haven’t met so we really want to bring young female leaders together in a safe space to learn, talk, discuss, interact and engage in topics that have been historically male dominated,” says Kristie.
Reaching Out to The Pollination Project
Although the project is mainly online, it requires funds to cover the platform use as well as other technical tools. So, Kristie searched for grants to help support it.
“I found TPP while doing online research,” she recalls. “Sabrina and I were so excited when we knew we were going to receive the seed grant because this would allow us to continue and to improve and expand the program.”
Kristie is currently studying Global Studies with a concentration in Peace and Conflict at UC Berkeley. She is also working on adding new topics to the program, such as science and business, as well as expanding the sessions to the academic year schedule, apart from the summer. The hope is that the bonds that are created between the young female leaders from the Americas will thrive and help eradicate wrongful stereotypes towards immigrants.
“There is so much hate and lies spread about the immigrants and other underrepresented groups and it has been getting worse with time. I wanted to start this project to serve the community and foster more understanding between all of these different countries,” says Kristie. “It has been amazing just having the chance to meet new people throughout the program. I think that if you grow up learning and appreciating others and their culture then, as you grow older, you are going to have more positive relations, more positive perceptions.”
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