As a child who grew up in the 80’s and 90’s in New York City, Francisco Mercado has seen the effects poverty and racism can have on a community and he has strived to work to improve the lives of children and people in communities of need. Cisco has a Master’s degree in history and political science from the University of New Orleans and currently works as Regional Supervisor for Camp Fire Alaska.

How are you connected to the Forum? 
I am currently on the faculty group for Conversations Across Generations. I have enjoyed getting to meet more people in Alaska, who really care about the issues of diversity and social justice. I was inspired to join because I want to make a difference not just nationally, but locally as well. Also, I want to move the conversation from arguing to talking and listening to each other.

What's one Alaskan story you've heard or read that you would recommend to others? 
I have read “The Call of the Wild” by Jack London and I highly recommend this story to anyone, who wants to know about Alaska. The book captures the beauty and vastness of Alaska, while at the same time, capturing how strong and tough you have to be make it in Alaska. Buck is my favorite character, because he is a leader and tough, which is shown throughout the book, because he never gives up.

What's one thing you've been curious about lately? 
I recently heard the term “environmental racism,” which I have zero knowledge about and want to learn what it is and how it affects my people. I first heard this term at the first meeting of the faculty group of Conversations Across Generations. I think I had never heard of this term before because people often do not want to attach the word racism to other topics. Some people are afraid of the word and want to eliminate it from the English language.

What question do you wish more people asked you? 
The one question I wish more people would ask me is “What does it feel like to be a big person in American society today.” It sucks being a big person in America. Everything in our society promotes a healthy lifestyle, but in a way, it is saying that being a big person is a bad thing. It makes us feel unwanted and unwelcome in our own country. Just because you are a big person, does not mean you are unhealthy. We need to change the narrative around big people. We are valuable members of this society.

What conversations do we need to be having (or having more of) in Alaska? 
The conversation I think we need to be having more of in Alaska is about why our politicians do not reflect the diversity we have in Alaska. I believe the system has divided our diverse communities. Instead of coming together, we argue about scraps from the table. We need more minorities and people of diverse thinking to run for political office.