Melli Vargas and Scott Acord

Recorded September 15, 2020 Archived September 17, 2020 42:11 minutes
0:00 / 0:00
Id: lsk002327


Melli (54) talks with colleague Scott Acord (59) about her journey into healthcare and the discrimination her bi-racial daughter faces from the community and her family.


  • Melli Vargas
  • Scott Acord

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00:01 And we are recording. My name is Scott acord. I'm 59. Today's date is September 15th 1920. We are in Mission Hills and I am with my colleague Melly.

00:15 Hi, my name is Natalie Vargas. I'm 54 years old today's date is September 15th 2020 location is in Mission Hills, California, and I'm here with my colleague. Nice to meet you. Thank you for agreeing to share your story with the hear me now storytelling and listening initiative here at Institute for human caring. So, let me just start by asking you just tell me a little bit about you.

00:48 Okay, I was born in El Salvador 1966 my birthday July 23rd 1966 born and raised there up until I turned my parents. They met there in the Salvador my mom's side of the family Armenians live in these and from my dad's side of the family Chinese and I just recently found out that there's some Koreans in there, too.

01:18 Saw and also some of his family members. They were also from South America of my dad my father my father. I'm not your father's name was Cesar Vargas and unfortunately he passed away in 2018 of an amazing man. Amazing. He was one of those wanting one in a million man. He raised five of us by himself. Wow. Yes, my mom decided to

02:00 Apart from us when I was 7 years old. She left to Costa Rica and so my Dad decided just to take care of all of us. It was two brothers and three sisters. So it's pretty large family considering being a single father.

02:22 Back then back in 19 in the 80s. The I don't know if you heard up the Civil the Civil War in El Salvador. It was getting really bad my Dad decided to make a decision to migrate to United States for our safety my brother with all five of us. My my second oldest brother. He was kidnapped twice. So that's when my bro my Dad decided to say, you know, what enough is enough. I'm taking my kids. We're leaving only ask you. How old was your brother? And why was he kidnapped he at well, he was I think he was in the 15. He was 15 years old. So the Gorillaz they were recruiting young people to be part of that are.

03:22 Be a kidnapping exactly and because we were lucky enough to leave another comfortable area. So they were targeting.

03:34 Some watch Reach people. So that's what they were doing. And it was getting very dangerous for all of us and my dad he decided hey Bliss pack and go but before that back in the 80s, it was a little easier to to get your permanent residence.

03:56 So at that point we had family members in New York City and we all came in with a visa from my dad that was

04:09 Kind of like a working this and we all decided we were all like at the end and that I've with the resident and what is your dad doing El Salvador accountant? He was an accountant and once we migrated here, he was also doing accounting. That was his passion numbers. He was a very smart man and

04:33 So are we all moved here? We it was not easy. It was not an easy change for all of us. I was 16 left all my friends my family my cousin everybody there as soon as the airplane landed here. I just wanted to go back. I just didn't want to be here but little by little, you know, we got used to it and so our journey started here in the United States in 1983. After what we battle in the Salvador and it was gaping shootings and it was a nightmare. We were living a nightmare. So how long after you were living here. Did you start to feel comfortable and connected to the US or did you call her back? Then? He was a different culture. I mean in the 80s use feel there was hardly any

05:33 Not many Hispanic people and I don't know. I mean it was just really I think that's the time it took me about 10 years to do it.

05:45 To get used to to get a little bit more comfortable with this country and what about your siblings and your father my father. I mean they were old, you know, we were at the end we ended up doing you know, what we thought it was best for each one of us my dad. He started working doing accounting business hours for churches and you know, whatever he could get his hands on he ended up doing very well my dad thank God. Yeah, he ended up doing very well and a helium.

06:25 He bought his house backing his first house. He purchased it in 19 at think it was 1997 years after we arrived here. So hell, yeah, he he was he was very determined that he was busy. This was going to be his home.

06:45 And he did he did he did very well he my sisters because we were coming from a country that

06:56 We were not that well prepare in the sense that you know, what are we going to do here?

07:03 You know my sisters they were working as housekeepers nannies and things like that. I was a baby of the family.

07:11 I was a little bit more aggressive in the many ways. So I ended up just doing

07:19 I was just getting home and getting a job. My first job here in the healthcare industry was in 1989 at a hospital. And what were you doing? I was doing a receptionist mind you I was here. I got here in 1983. My first language was English. I mean the Spanish I'm sorry Spanish and being us over but that pushed me to learn faster. And that was the beginning of my journey here in the healthcare industry. So working around Healthcare it just what what was it about it that Drew you

08:11 Helping others. I love helping others. I love to even just give On Smile if I can just smile to someone.

08:19 If that will make your day that makes me that completes me that it's an accomplishment just to make you smile. It's not always I'll butcher it but it's not always medicine that helps or cures people listening or smiling at exactly after I was working at Northridge Hospital. That was my very first job out here here.

08:52 Let me back up. When did you move to Los Angeles? And did you come out here by yourself? You landed in New York and then migrated here, right? Okay.

09:11 After let me see about two years after starting my job at Northridge. I decided to just change, you know, not change Fields but change the

09:25 I guess this is the structure of my Healthcare Act.

09:32 How can I say from from the hospital? I went to a clinic and that clinic was an oncology clinic and that's when I learned that like we were saying a smile can make a person in pain a better day and I will get that a lot because I am very customer service driven and for me to see someone coming in in a lot of pain are there not a lot of the stress or something. I will try to make them happy not happy but to ease their pain and I worked it out the Providence promise exactly.

10:17 After two years I couldn't handle it anymore. It was getting too. I was getting too personal with them and it was hurting me and I just decided just to move on to another level of the healthcare industry. I went into a Health Plan level. I wasn't at call center taking 120 calls a day dealing with multiple issues people yelling at you and you know, my boss used to tell me hey.

10:46 Used to call me coach coach

10:49 Nobody's going to be calling you just to say hello there. Just calling you because they're mad or upset customer service. That's what the line he's there for to complain. But and I said, you know what that's fine. There's only one thing that we can do, you know. Hey, there's a hold button and then you just vent and then go back into telling you you're a great customer service your back to the call.

11:18 How did you know the the Providence like values that you know, like it's it's Integrity Excellence dignity Justice and compassion. How did that figure into like say your your work? Okay. So let me back up a little bit. I was raised in a Catholic school and is called the Divine Providence.

11:43 And that when I get hired here at Providence, I told my former boss, you know, this was my call.

11:51 To be in Providence. And because I said, I know that we can make a difference somewhere one way or another it could be directly to the people we work with and our clients. Our customers are Physicians are caregivers and I have seen that there's been some changes that since I started working here in a sense that

12:20 I like to promote positive tivities. I like to be positive energy positive energy and I like to produce dad and share that with people that are around me and

12:38 And I think the values of Providence and the people that I work with is amazing. I mean it just from from where I was at to where we are now and where I'm at now, I see how the valley people hear how they respect people and I love that about Providence and you can see the how professional people are and they respect your opinions and coming from another company. He was completely different. I mean it for me it has been a blessing being here part of Providence. And and that's why I was like when I was nominated to be part of this committee, I was to someone higher up. I guess I can remember the name. I think it was Eric's assistant.

13:35 To nominate me for part of the committee. It was for the diapers inclusion, but because of you know, they were other candidates they decided to just keep me in out and other areas for it. So

13:55 But I see that that's us Providence has a hole we can make a difference we could do it make a difference and I think we and I can see it that we could you know, if we are Hands-On and we can help people to understand to how how to respect one another and that's what I was saying. You know, it's just that since I started working here. I see how people respect others. Tell me a little bit about your work here now. Okay. I was hired here as a manager for business development for the Affiliates, which is Providence Care Network.

14:34 I do contracts. I do meet with Physicians with different cultures different religions reach different ethnicities. And. And as a whole we have to respect all of them because

14:53 We have to if there's no way that we can say. Oh, no, you know, this is this is why I am you have to respect me, you know, and I was telling one of my friends the other day that we are out up probably at a state that we have to become kind of like a chameleon. We have to change while we're so we can blend in with everybody because that's who we are We Are One humanity and that's how I see everybody.

15:29 So so tell me let's let's talk a little bit about your family now and your family and your extended family a little bit my family. Now my mom Marina Messi's who is Armenian Lebanese. Thank God. She's still around. She's still very healthy and she lives in Commerce, California. So she emigrated as well. She immigrated as well. And when did she immigrate to the US in 1987 hooker? And did you so were you close with her after she left the family now? Yeah, and but at the same time, you know, I have to respect her since my mom she gave me.

16:29 She's always there now for me and if I need her she's always there. Yeah.

16:35 My dad, like I said, he passed away in July 1918. He he moved to Texas to be closer to my brothers my two brothers. These are in Carlos who are oldest to the family the old move to Texas Houston as well.

17:04 So my dad look there, unfortunately, like I said he passed away and I haven't been in Texas instead.

17:14 But you know, we still remain as close as we can but with the ceiling and be difficult and getting to that part I have I got married in 1985 to my

17:33 Ixnay bird from El Salvador. He was my sweetheart. So he was already living here in California when I moved he left Salvador back in 1979. Oh, wow, 79 or 80 in the 80s and 80s be for like two years before I did live and

17:58 We kind of like

18:01 On each other again and then you know we decided to get married. I had my first daughter 1987. She's no 33. Thank God. She's very a very strong opinion of the she has her own mind the very strong opinions. She's around and the only thing is that she's very

18:32 Self-conscious I guess because she's considered herself more like

18:41 Different

18:45 Sexual preferences. Okay. Yes, so and she has tattoos all over so and my brothers are very religious. So she's not she feels like she's not welcome in the family and things like that. So I'm trying to see how we can work that out by my brother is the two of them are very old-fashioned very old-fashioned. I don't discriminate anyone, you know, as I always say, you know why she's my kid and I will love her as she is.

19:19 With tattoos with whatever she wants to do with her buddy. That's her choice. She's already old enough to make sure that she's fine that she's well and as long as that's her choice to steal my kid, you know, we divorced her dad backing.

19:41 1989-90 and I just decided just to stay on my own. I was very young when I married the first time and I just was not too I was not ready and you know, no one can be ready for marriage, but it just didn't work out, you know, so I remained single until I met my youngest dad back in 1997 1997. He is African American but he is called a creole and yeah, which is a French black person race.

20:29 We see from he was he was born here in California, but his parents were from Beaumont, Texas, okay.

20:40 We dated for off and on for many years. He's was very abusive.

20:51 And I ended up after having my kid. I ended up moving out because I just felt that it was not the right situation to raise my kid, so I decided just to be on my own with her.

21:06 So before all that when my dad was still around he met my daughter's father.

21:15 Manager that people in El Salvador, very racist they do not believe black people are

21:26 The they don't believe that they're good people.

21:30 When he first met him he thought he was from Puerto Rico because he has green eyes and fair skin.

21:38 But he still black.

21:40 Let me ask you just real quick. So in El Salvador, are there many people of African descent. They actually I'm not sure if he has already been amended by the Constitution will not allow black people become and there are Salvadorian citizen. That's how I even had a neighbor who had moved to United States had a baby from a black person. She would not bring the kid to us out of there because of a shame.

22:17 Dad how bad it is over there now my daughter my youngest daughter she's now 16 she's beautiful green eyes blonde hair fair skin, you will see her and you would not know she's African-American and paper. I have to because of the blood type you have been told that I have to do that because you know, the sickle-cell that they have and all that you have to make sure that in paper especially medical records and everything. You have to document that.

22:55 She's a very smart kid.

23:00 And I believe that she can make a big difference as well after all this riots and everything about the differences with black people black lights matter. She has become very vocal.

23:16 Very welcome and I did not see that coming from her because I understand that she's you know, that's her ethnicity, but she has become more vocal about it and she wants to do something about it. I think that's great. Yes, and I do too and she gets herself motivated and she even attended to one of the problems process protest during the season.

23:44 She enjoys that in the sense that she enjoys to share sharing her points of views to help if she can make a difference. She wants to be part of it.

24:01 And when I told her that I was going to be talking about this today. She was very happy because she's she's very much sensitive when it comes to the black community.

24:16 What's your daughter's name? Rachel pipian OPP on it's it's very much French spells p i p i o n

24:27 And her grandmother. She was completely very way down south. Her name was Dorothy Mae. I wanted to name my daughter Rachel Mae, but she's like no no, no, don't name her. That's too Southern.

24:48 Little Southern over there. I don't want the southern over here. I'm like, okay, so I ended up keeping her as at Rachel Madison. It's still pretty and I'm just letting you know, I'm I'm so glad that I have all these experiences in my life and I have had all this many ethnicities in me and I have learned so much about everyone, you know, I didn't Jewish people Muslims equal opportunity.

25:23 But it's it's great. It's it just amazing. I love languages. I love different languages. I learned some Parsi because my ex was Persia Jewish. So I'll let you know for me. There's got to be some sort of

25:43 No transparency, but some sort of like.

25:47 A way to blend in with the rest of us with everyone. There's a lot of times that my mom. I have to pretty much on her short in a sense that we go out and she might be standing next to a black person.

26:07 She starts talking about them in Spanish.

26:11 And I have to turn around and shot her up because that black person might be Hispanic. There's black communities in Puerto Rico Cuba Costa Rica and everywhere else.

26:27 And I have to just now put my foot down and sometimes she even talks bad about them in front of my kid.

26:36 And

26:38 At that point my daughter she starts feeling a little uncomfortable and that's when I tell her you know what this got to stop.

26:46 You don't care for them. That's fine. That's your choice. But we have to understand that we all have to live with one another granddaughter exactly exactly in in and she's like, oh no, but you know, she doesn't look black and I'm like, you don't have to look like one to be so.

27:13 You know, it has been a little hard to to cook Hibbett with her in the sense that

27:24 How can I make her understand but she's already almost eighty so but still a lot of Elder people think they have their mindset one weight, how can you transfer or convert that into something else? So what I try to do is just to avoid those areas or you know have her away from people that she can insult and then I just you know, it's hard it's hard. You said your brothers are very religious. What about your sisters very yeah.

28:02 Very easy going and red state.

28:13 And then the other one lives in Italy the one in South Dakota. Both of them are very neutral. They just respect you know, and there's probably more like a little bit less than how I am because I'm more exposed to a lot of stuff.

28:32 Versus Batman but sometimes you know my older brother my older sister. She could be a little bit.

28:42 On the racist side, but not as much.

28:48 But my brothers DS they're completely

28:53 They don't even believe in that. My daughter is black. They refused to believe that and it's really hard because I wish they would accept who she is and who they are and and just respect that. How does Rachel identify identify as black or biracial Dollar on black and I even tell her you got to be proud of who you are. Oh, yeah, you know I could tell you and you know, a lot of people right now they see Asian people like all you know, the verdict of it people in a dirty they eat, you know, all kinds of junk and this and that

29:40 But you know what and I feel it. Sometimes that they they can look at me. Like I'm not completely 100% Asian, but they still see old, you know, maybe Filipino Hawaiian whatever they want me to be they want. I'll be. They feel like it but

30:00 A lot of times it's just that we get an understanding and appreciate who we are and it's if they think that I'm Chinese. Hey, I take that I take ownership if they think that you know Hispanic I'm here too. If I'm I'm eating right here, whatever you want me to be today. I'll be today. I mean your your makeup is

30:28 Worldly, very Multicultural, right exactly and I'll be whoever you want me to be but just respect, you know for me. That's my my Moto respect respect what they are and who

30:45 Who they want to be I mean

30:47 Like I was telling you with my older daughter respect from you know, if they want to if they want to do certain things one. Wait, let her let them do it. Nobody's you know.

31:02 Asking you to support them the other day my brother. We were sending we have a group chat.

31:09 And we were sending music with different life in the 80s, you know, and we were playing some of it and then he's like, oh, yeah, you know that they they were gay and I'm like, so what?

31:29 What is that has to do with anything? I love their music whatever. The choice of leaving is their choice. I'm not supporting them other music. That's all there is your ass, which kind of music I like and this is what I like. What is that? What was there? You know lifestyle that last tile should not matter to you. You don't live with them leave it alone. And you know, I'm the type of person that I will if I see something that it's it's offensive to others. I will just stepped in because you know what, we just got to understand each other and we got to respect each other and that's the bottom line.

32:17 What are some other ways that you feel like?

32:22 We can educate like Community or family members. I thought you know, I mean you said respect but what are some of the things that you think we can do that in addition education on what I would I would see that it would work better or not better, but it's just

32:43 Right now with a pandemic it's kind of hard to choose to come out with certain things. But in the future of my vision would be to have a community getting them together physically and perhaps communicating. Why would they feel that one is better than the others if we all are in the same, but I just believe that that's what churches are doing. Now, they're getting old times of need all Races and all kinds of evil other religions are transferring to other religion. So but

33:21 We have to also respect not all are religious people. So what I would do, I would love to have like a community Gathering and just try to to converse one another and see how not everybody is against each other or how we can make a better Community. You know, Michelle Obama famously said it's hard to hate up close, you know, which has that, you know sort of meeting people in the community and that's one of the things you know, I hope that with this hear me now program that we are able to to do

34:06 Where we can listen to various points of view and people can.

34:12 See that we're all the same random. Somebody sent me a video yesterday and it was

34:19 I forget the man's name. I want to say it's a prince something as a young African-American man, and he was talking about racism, you know, and he basically boiled down in the world energy. He was a scientist that energy is it knows no.

34:43 Color boundaries, it knows no cultural or racial boundaries, you know or Sizer or age or you know, it's just an energy which which I really liked, you know, cuz the strip said everything else away and you know,

35:06 Put it this way one caller, right the energy is it well energy doesn't have color energy is just there and then that's nice and that's a way a nice way to put it we're all energy and we all are the same. The only thing is that we all have different.

35:28 Vessels vessels exactly and maybe today I'm wearing this vessel the next time my next life will be a different vessel. Maybe I'll be a four-legged Bissell right or a bird but I love being involved with Multicultural people in a sestet not involved but to interact with them and I guess that's why I have been doing this for so many years. I've been doing networking for the last 20 years and I love it. I did enjoy interacting.

36:11 And and I said, you know, I have met so many people this way many people different races different religions different everything and it's just an amazing experience and this is something that I will take with me when I'm gone. It's just that I was all over and I did not

36:34 Say no to one because of you know, who they were and it's just all for all do you think some of that is maybe in your DNA because you are so Multicultural, you know what you're not like your parents ever very

37:03 Prejudice I think it's me because I was raised by my father by himself and I became very StreetWise.

37:15 I was

37:17 I was somewhat bully by my older brother's so I would rather I would rather be out on the street with my friends making friends. I'm also the youngest I'm the youngest of three and so I just wonder if there's some of that youngest child, you know, cuz I'm much different and I'm much more liberal than my two older siblings are 5 and 7 years old. And yeah, I was and I really wasn't by the my brother used to at ease and see my brother used to torment me. He did and very fun inventive ways. And he was also quite wonderful to me as well through all of that. But you know, I just think that somehow being the youngest

38:08 We we got away with a lot more maybe because our older siblings had broke our parents down and and maybe that opened us up and in certain ways. I mean, I feel like for me it it did. Yeah. You know what I

38:24 My with my siblings day always I tell you where my dad's baby girl. I mean you were spoiled and yes, I was he he wasn't I'm not going to lie. I mean I started learning how to drive at the age of 11 going practice at 11 years old. I will but you know what I think him for that and he would he would be like here he would give me money on the side. Hey go go with your friends and you know, whatever and that's who he was with me and I never told that to my brothers might stabilize until after he passed.

39:14 And I like we're ready new.

39:17 Jesse were always telling out with different things new things that we didn't have I had to do something about it. So yeah, and you know, I

39:34 I think that that's what it makes me different from them. I was what they called the black sheep of the whole family. I was always very independent and the in my Independence talk me how to be more assertive with people and how to interact with different Multicultural people in all kinds of different things in in this world.

40:03 So it sounds like that had an influence on your work now. Yes, unintentional and an influence on the work you do now as we begin to wrap this up, let me just ask you well. Is there anything else that you would like for the listeners to know? I would like to let everyone know that.

40:28 We are at one point in time that there's no room for hate.

40:38 There's room for growth and that's why we all need to do growing. We need to grow our as a whole. We need to start respecting one another. I I mean, yes.

40:55 I have multi in a cultural ethnicity. So however you want to call it. But for me, I'm just a human.

41:04 You know how many people they even stopped me when I was younger. Excuse me. Where are you from? I'm from here. I'm from Earth. You know who yes, you know while you are exotic looking and yes, thank you. But you know, I'm just a human look at the people as humans not as individuals just humans. You know that you're you're my human at all. I can see that you see that then you do the mean sometimes I do hear some a human.

41:41 Who they are who will their owners are they just see a human loving them and that's what I would like to see everyone loving each other and respecting not loving but at least have some respect from one another.

41:56 Thank you. So, thank you so much for sharing your story. I really I really enjoyed sitting here with you and getting to know you. Thank you. Appreciate it. Thank you.