Creating Courage: Celebrating AAPI Legacy
By Judith Martinez
I am the product of immigrants. This is a fact I am proud of.
I am also a product of strong, immigrant women. This is a legacy I am proud of.
In the midst of Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month,Mother’s Day and Mental Health Awareness Month this May, I have been taking time to reflect on the unique intersections of my identity and how it has shaped me into both who I am, what I stand for, and what I am building. Especially as the founder of InHerShoes, the modern woman’s community for courage.
My name is Judith Martinez and I am a first-generation Filipino-American. I have the double edged sword experience perhaps many first-gens do: the life of privilege to be born in the U.S. — the land of “the American dream” — and the expectation and sometimes daunting task to fulfill what those “American dreams” are, even if those dreams aren’t necessarily yours. The same age I walked across the stage as one of the first in my family to ever graduate college, my mother crossed 7,332 miles and came to the United States for a new life. The first and eldest of her five siblings to come to America, once she became a citizen she petitioned for her parents, my grandparents, to come to America, too. Growing up, I often straddled a fine line between dutiful daughter and resistant rebel when it came to the expectations that were laid before me, and a life I stubbornly believed was full of possibility. This is a line I am still learning to dance alongside today, learning how to relate to the past as a place of reference, not residence.
For as long as I can remember I was destined to be a lawyer. The yellow brick road to success that was laid out for me looked like going to the right schools, getting the right grades, and doing the right things so I can live the “right” life. A life that was filled with success, which was measured by money, which equaled stability, safety, and opportunity. As a granddaughter of cacao and rice farmers in the barrios of the Philippines, as much as my lineage of women comes from strength and perseverance, it also came from a narrow path of survival. Following your passion was not an option for my mother or grandmother in their upbringing. Passion was a privilege. As a first-generation founder, passion is the groundswell I have built InHerShoes upon and is part of our rallying cry for all women to tap into to catalyze courage for themselves and their communities. As a daughter, granddaughter, and founder, I am clear the sacrifices the women in my family have made are a direct line to the passions and possibilities I am afforded, and am determined to pay forward.
As a first-generation student and Filipina American recently awarded by Serena Williams and Stuart Weitzman in tandem with the Footsteps to Follow Campaign, I don’t see this as Serena and Stuart Weitzman choosing just me; they chose my mother, my grandmother, and an entire generation of first-gens striving to do, be, and create better. That’s how this grant feels, and that’s what I’m committed to making it mean for those I and InHerShoes can now impact because of it.
That impact stems from one question at the heart of our work: what would you do if you were 1% more courageous? Being InHerShoes and furthering our mission means answering this question for yourself every day in your own way, and having that courage positively impact the communities you care about. Whether it’s through a conversation changing the trajectory or your life; or simply mustering up the courage to raise your hand in class — InHerShoes’s impact lives in the in-between moments that ultimately make up our lives. At InHerShoes, we believe the lives we love are on the other side of fear and it’s a lifelong journey — one act of courage at a time.
With each generation we muster up the courage to traverse our own “unchartered waters” — whether they are literal, like for my mother immigrating to America, or perhaps symbolic, like deciding to carve your own path and build your own dreams. This May I am celebrating the courage of our mother figures and women in our lives across generations, and the courage we all have the ability to catalyze for generations to come.
Judith Martinez is the Founder and CEO of InHerShoes, the modern woman’s community for courage, and a Vital Voices Leadership Incubator Fellow.