Meet A Villian

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“If we lose our stories, we lose our connection to each other.” So says Brownsville native Shantel Palacio. And she’s not about to let that happen in her community. While most people are content to just talk the talk, Palacio channels her passion into action. She launched a video web-series on her site Brownsvillain, where she intends to preserve the local stories. As a collective portrait, these short testimonials come together to create a vital, evolving mosaic, in an effort to take back the narrative of what it means to say: “Yeah, I’m from Brownsville.” That narrative is made up of equal parts resilience and bravado and a sense of belonging, in defiance of any outsider’s presumptions about the neighborhood.

At a more personal level, community activism is an imperative in Palacio’s life. Without question, she identifies with the defiance and pride of the distinctly Brownsville motto, “Never Ran, Never Will.” When building her own success story she felt there was no option: it is too important for local kids to see themselves in members of the community; they need to know they can amount to something more than the low-expectation stereotypes reinforced by outsiders, something that must be reinforced throughout the community.

With a Masters in Public Policy from U Mass, Palacio has been a policy analyst for the NYC Department of Education for over seven years. Palacio’s childhood desire was to become a journalist, and she earned her undergraduate degree in Communication at Bryant University. With few technical skills but feeling compelled to tell the crucial story of her neighborhood, she rallied friends, volunteers and whatever resources were available. Even with some ten interviews already recorded, Palacio knows she has merely scratched the surface. With 
Brownsvillain, Palacio aims to make a record of the present in the hopes of influencing the future. Palacio has also started a PhD in Education Policy and with the goal of improving opportunities for communities like Brownsville, she hopes to continue to explore intersections between social capital in low income communities and educational policy.