Burqa-clad women walk around like silent ghosts without voices. To us women in the developed countries , especially America, they languish quietly as second class citizens with few choices. I’m grateful to live in such a wonderful country and that my beloved father brought me over to America as a young baby from Stuttgart, Germany. I couldn’t imagine traveling through life with a stifled voice, intellect and ability to contribute to my world.
We American women have ample opportunity to aspire to and reach the highest pinnacles of expression, education and spiritual enlightenment. I’m also blessed to have had a father who instilled in me the virtues of independence, resourcefulness, high intellect and resilience in the face of great hardships. These are the staples of my character and integrity.
Papito was born on the island of Puerto Rico in 1929. Though, the Depression held America in its grip, my grandmother would not allow poverty to affect her family. She was fiercely independent. When my grandfather fell ill with a lung ailment and had to be separate from the rest of the family, she fired her shotgun into the air each night to let prospective suitors know that she was not a pushover, didn’t need their assistance and had her family under control!
As a youngster, Papito was a very special and aspiring boy who sold enough produce from their farm to support his mother and 8 brothers and sisters. Even at that age, he was an entrepreneur and his great skill at painting and lettering earned him a prestigious position with a local business man also surnamed Ferrer.
When Papito came to America, he joined the army and ended up stationed in Germany, where he met a beautiful, engaging blond. I was born nine months later followed by my younger sister, a year and a half later. Papito was a serious and very disciplined man and decided to move to a more suburban area in New Jersey. He didn’t want to raise his girls in an urban environment like Paterson where most of his siblings settled.
Papito ended up buying a starter home in Long Branch. When I was six, another sister was added to the family and when I was ten, my last and youngest sister was born. Papito stayed true to his religious roots and we were enrolled at Star of the Sea Catholic School. He wanted us to have a quality education and marry doctors and lawyers.
Catholic school was a fertile place for me to develop confidence in myself. The nuns recognized my special talents in illustration, poetry and speaking and I was often chosen to read to the class. When Papito could no longer afford tuition, we were transferred to public schools. There, I retained my passion for the arts and discovered I also had a great creativity for fashion design and seamstressing. I was asked to design and sew all the costumes for our medieval plays. By the time I was in seventh grade, I knew I was going to be a rock ck star/fashion designer when I grew up.
Eventually my parents irreconcilable different forced our family apart and I ended up in foster care. My world crashed, but somehow, I maintained a fierce dignity to survive. Papito’s mentoring brought me through the storms.
After flailing and struggling for several years, a friend invited me to his church and I ended up committing my life to Jesus Christ. A supernatural change came over me. I was told that God had a wonderful plan for my life and I was a new person. I couldn’t wait to finally explore my life. Storms once again, interrupted my forward momentum in the guise of financial hardship, sickness and being hit by a car.
A break came through receiving a brochure in the mail from Brookdale Community College and I welcomed the though of dreaming again. I enrolled for fall semester and that began my upward climb to normality. Through malnutrition and poverty, I received grants and a full scholarship offer to Boston University. I managed to stay on the Deans list with a 3.85 GPA, graduating four years later with my Associates degree. My identity was now fully established and I was elated to soar in my aspirations.
Several more storms assailed me, (including a violent and abusive failed marriage) and later an immune system breakdown from a LYME Disease diagnosis. The stress of my husband’s emotional abuse and deportment threats caused me to break down physically and I was so weak I couldn’t work I fell into a deep depression, but clung to my faith, knowing that I would ride out the latest storm in God’s strength. My recovery was very slow, but I gradually regained my strength and vision.
God opened up a door of opportunity through a childhood girlfriend who had been praying for me for many years. Diana called me, urging me to apply for a Christian non-profit organization, Love in the Name of Christ, that she worked for part-time.
Though I had no professional clothing for an interview, I made a strong impression on the executive Director, Carolyn Eyerman and Operations manager, John Hodem. Joan was a warm, yet professional woman with decades of experience in the social and healing services. She saw something in me that I thought I had lost so long ago. I was hired as program coordinator of my own business clothing and mentoring program!
Only God could have orchestrated such an event and I was exhilarated that I was called to network with such inflectional professionals. My six-year tenure with Love Inc turned out to be the most supportive and joyous time of my life with me helping disconnected women, domestic violence victims and welfare women entering the work force for the first time! Many wonderful relationships were established because of Joan’s belief in me and I learned much from these professionals in the areas of ministry/outreach, education and the social services. My confidence grew as other opportunities continued to present themselves.
My talent in singing and music also came to fruition with recording projects and performing in very upscale restaurants. I met many influential business people, pastors and CEOs as well as an MTV CEO, who hired me to do a private event at his mansion in Belmar.
Storms have continued to assail me with greater intensity. My faith has been stretched and God continues to give me glimpses of higher spiritual intuition and His miraculous workings through me. I’m continually inspired to chronicle my life and faith journey through new songs, books and my photography. Most passionately though, is my desire to see broken people from all over the globe healed and transformed whether through personal or via my internet connections.
When God brought a wonderful man into my life, I was yet to experience an ever more relevant journey balancing two different perspectives, traditions, habits and decisions. I married my wonderful husband, Mark and we talked about my desire to be called by my family name. He had no problem at all.
Strangely, the ones who adamantly refused to honor my request to be addressed at Anita Ferrer, were family members, Marks male friends and our church family!
Times have changed, people. In 2011, many women are keeping their family names, or hyphenating. It’s a personal choice now and some of us just don’t believe in a rigid, thoughtless tradition borne in the 1800’s when women were their husband’s possession. To each woman her own, but I proudly wear my family name like a badge of honor. The name Ferrer is synonymous with my many weighty struggles, blood, sweat and tear lessons and victories. I’m a phoenix who God himself has reconstructed and sculpted from the funeral pyre, a once almost disintegrated tangled mass scattered to the winds of tragedy.
This name, Ferrer was borne out of a great legacy, the struggle and the fruits of my grandmothers, father’s and my life skills,skills, history, successes and creativity. The jewels of my spiritual crown continue to bring forth fruits of creativity, deep intellect and empathetic passion and compassion for my fellow-man. Teofilo Cepeda Ferrer, Papito’s legacy encompass every part of me, the musical, literary artistry and intimate communication and friendships to a subliminal level.
I wear my father’s name with honor and will not cancel it out because tradition says I must. It epitomizes the extent of my commitment and faithfulness to an extra-ordinary life of leadership, civic and social contributions and also a lifestyle that is excellent and pleasing to my Heavenly Father.
I hope you all now understand my deep and personal reasons to be addressed and known by my family name.
I also hope younger women all over the world will think deeply about what their family name means to them as they prepare to unite with their soul mates. May they ponder the contributions and inheritances of their relatives, fathers or grandparents as I have pondered and cherished the depth and beauty of what my father and grandmother have passed down through me.
Wear your family name proudly, young woman. It’s a brave new world! !