Liberty Student Shares Her Puerto Rican and African American Heritage at School and as a Nurse

Liberty University nursing student, Ariana Speight, 20, was raised in a home that encapsulates what it means to marry two profoundly rich cultures under one roof.

Speight’s mother was born in Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico and immigrated to Bronx, New York as a child with her mother in order to be closer to the family they had in the states. 

After relocating to Virginia as a young adult, Speight’s mother met and married Speight’s father. Her parents were both incredibly proud of their cultural backgrounds, and they wanted to do their best to teach Speight and her older brother how to embrace their mother’s Puerto Rican heritage and their father’s African American heritage.

Speight said that while the cultures seem incredibly different at first, both cultures have a heavy focus on family in a way that makes them naturally understand and complement one another.

“I think that Puerto Rican and Black culture are more similar than people would think,” Speight said. “Of course, the food is different, but it’s just certain things about respect in the household and certain figures like your elders,” Speight said. 

Speight’s Puerto Rican and African American heritage impacts the way she experiences culture and the way she views the world. Her appreciation for both of her parents’ backgrounds has grown as she has gotten older and made the culture her own.

“I think, from a multiracial standpoint, being biracial has definitely had great impact because I kind of get the best of both worlds,” Speight said. “I get the Puerto Rican culture, and I also get black culture and also American culture in general,” Speight said. 

Her mother and grandmother incorporated Puerto Rican food, music and even an appreciation for salsa dancing into her home. Growing up, they spoke Spanish around Speight and her brother whenever they got the chance. 

These daily integrations, combined with the family’s trips to Puerto Rico, cultivated an environment where Speight’s background could be understood and celebrated fully.

Her parents made it a point to create a Christian home and atmosphere that celebrated the Lord and the diversity of God’s Kingdom. This intentionality was not lost on Speight and that desire bled into her young adult life as she looked towards college.

When it was time to choose a college, Speight prioritized integrating faith into her education as a future nurse. The Christian foundation of Liberty’s education system is what pulled her attention from the other state schools she was considering. 

Speight with her mother.

Speight shared how important it is for her to bring pieces of her heritage to Liberty’s campus in order to celebrate the cultural diversity seen in the body of Christ. 

“Being Puerto Rican and Black is a part of my identity and my God given identity so it’s definitely something that I’ve made a goal to make sure I am including in my studies and in my future career as a nurse,” Speight said. 

Speight proudly carried the Puerto Rican flag in the Parade of Nations event put on by the International Student Center for the last two years. She has attended events hosted by the ISC and the Spanish Club and encourages anyone curious about how to celebrate other cultures to look into the many events the ISC hosts year-round.

Speight works at the Office of Equity and Inclusion and shared how events such as their annual “Gran Fiesta Latina” is one of the many ways she personally is involved in enjoying and helping others share in and enjoy in her culture. 

“I just really love cultural awareness in general and diversity is something I’m really passionate about because it says in the Bible that the Kingdom of God and Heaven will be diverse and it is diverse so why not make it exactly on earth as it is in Heaven,” Speight said.

Speight’s goal as a nurse centers around her desire to be “culturally competent” in order to make people feel seen and understood in the way she would want to be understood. She hopes to be physically and emotionally impactful on patients of any and all cultural backgrounds. 

Nadia Vires is a Feature Reporter. Follow her on Twitter at @nadiavires.

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