It takes less than 10 seconds in a room with Iskra Perez-Salcedo to realize that she is a force of nature. Leader, teacher, mentor, powerful woman and now friend are all words that describe this marvel of a woman, but words and labels don't truly do her justice. They don't capture her laugh, or her smile, the amazing story of her life, her passions, her challenges or the incredible triumphs. Still, if I had to describe Iskra with a label, it woulb be marvel.
Iskra is a marvel.
I sat down with her over coffee and a churro waffle at Broom Wagon Coffee, a favorite place for the 1 Million Cups crew on a Wednesday morning. This morning, I was coming off an incredible high of presenting at 1MC, and yet this time with Iskra was better. Sharing this project is great, but I am all about the stories.
Iskra originally came from Cuba as a child, she values education and hard work, and also sees a responsibility, and an incredible joy, in mentoring and leading others. Her story is amazing. Every time something rose up in her way, she worked through it. Socio-economic circumstances, cultural traditions, job movement, Iskra survived and moved on. We share some of that. I am not a Hispanic woman, so I will not even pretend that I come close to understanding the full scope of what she dealt with, but based on my tiny exposure some issues of my own, I can only imagine how many would crumble in the face of those odds.
We are both part of the 1 Million Cups community. By this point, I am sure that some of you are wondering how great a community it can be if so mnay people and I have never had a chance to connect before this. I would tell you to look at your day, there is definitely someone you see all the time that you don't know that well. There are more than a few.
Iskra is a presence at 1 Million Cups, enthusiastic and supportive. She tells me about how important it is to support young entrepreneurs, how imprtant it is for her to support young women. This is her passion, not a burden. It is at the core of who Iskra is as a person, she wants a better world. We talk politics for a moment, and she talks about getting more involved not because she wants credit or attention, but because this is where her grandchildren will grow up and she wants it to be better.
Iskra is a maker.
Her presence is felt all over Charleston. I have heard her name spoken in various groups I have encountered, and I can only imagine the response this will get once published. Name the network, the group of women in business, and you will find her there. Something was missing though, a group for Hispanic women. So Iskra started that group. Her challenges and triumphs have shown her how important supporting others is, how important it is to receive support yourself. When someone needs that support, she is there. She is excited by the success and happiness of others. Sitting in Broom Wagon, Iskra tells me how happy she is for me and how I have clearly found the place I need to be. The smile, the lauhg, the light of her presence are all authentic.
She loves her daughters and her heritage, showing me pictures from the Caribbean Festival with her family. There is a lot of pride there, a palpable love. We share our thoughts on a ton of things. I remember she was involved in the memorial for the Emmanuel Nine, so I tell her about my friendship with Rev. Daniel Simmons, one of the victims. I tell her about working out every morning, about how he always wanted to lift far more weight than we thought he could and the game we played where we snuck weights off while he prepared. We laugh and smile, even in the shadow of such an awful event.
This small coffee table feels like a home I never really had.
Iskra and I are both people who have been shaped by our pasts. She knows hers well and has embraced the woman she has become through her journey.
"There's no way of knowing where you are going if you don't know where you've been."
A lot of people love Iskra Perez-Salcedo. It takes only a few minutes in her presence to know why.
Favorite Animal: Dolphins
Why: They are playful, smart, friendly, sociable and travel with their family. They are very much like Iskra.