Delilah Cruz, a woman on a mission, is constantly on the move.
Talk with her for a spell and you will see why she is an inspiration, a mover and shaker, a role model to many young Latinos in her North Philadelphia community.
“Change your mind-set and you’ll change your life,” is the mantra of this dynamic 27-year-old activist. By that, she says, she’s encouraging the youths of her community to engage in some self-reflection, examine where they are in life, and then proceed to do something for the greater good.
Cruz, born and raised in Philadelphia, grew up in a single-mother household. It was those early struggles and challenges of her family that helped mold her into the strong and influential woman she is today.
Her mother, Benedicta Leon, worked long hours to pay the bills and put food on the table, constantly making sacrifices to provide for Cruz and her brother, Ivan.
“I don’t just want to be loud [and speak] with no substance,” she said. “I don’t have time to be uninspired. There’s so much I want to do in my life. I understand my purpose and I know what I was put on this earth to do,” Cruz said.
What motivates and inspires Cruz are the people she surrounds herself with, which includes young Latinos in Philadelphia. She looks at the type of world her goddaughter will grow up in, and this motivates her to initiate change through her connection to students at Community Academy of Philadelphia and through the use of her platform.
“Delilah has the unique ability to adapt her personality and her message to any audience, and always in a very genuine manner,” said Jaclyn Smith-Spade, vice principal at Community Academy, who works with Cruz. “Her energy is contagious, and people who speak with her know she values their integrity, and that Delilah only wishes to uplift and motivate them to be the best people they can be.”
Cruz works at Community Academy as the school’s family and events coordinator.
Her website, delilahandcompany.com, is a platform she uses to push positive messages from community leaders to the public.
Articles on the website, written by Cruz and her team, are intended to make a positive impact, no matter how small, on readers.
In one of her articles titled, “Femme Kulture Clothing Line is Determined to Inspire Your Inner Heroine,” Cruz brought awareness to a hardworking Latina that was not only living her dream, but also aiming to inspire women through clothes.
Take a look at her website and you’ll see the important messages she talks about and the positive impact she strives to leave on her community.
Cruz, like many people of color growing up in Philadelphia, has felt the sting of racism in some form or another.
Eight years ago as a student at Penn State, Cruz had an eye-opening experience at a local Walmart that remains fresh in her mind.
As she and an African American friend, Tiffany Parker, toed the line at the checkout counter, a white clerk at the register immediately went into shutdown mode.
The store clerk refused to allow them to make their purchases, even though her register was the only one open at the time. There they stood, suspended in disbelief at the slight of the cashier.
They were only able to purchase their items when the store manager offered to open up another register. Just a few minutes later, they witnessed the same clerk ringing up sales for a white couple.
She remembers thinking, “Did this really just happen to us?” Tears flowed as they realized they had just experienced racial discrimination. Instead of letting the moment consume and define her, she used it to fuel her interest in learning more about race relations.
She later took a college course on Race & Relations, which supported her long-held belief that racism is still very much alive. What happened at Walmart was a lesson for Cruz. It helped her develop a drive to right wrongs in the world.
She says if she were to experience racial discrimination again, she would use her platform to speak up about it, something she couldn’t do after experiencing the incident at Walmart.
Her drive and motivation for wanting to make a difference in her community is never in question.
She believes that changing one person’s life can slowly bring about positive change that not only reaches the community, but even the world.
“Delilah is a walking inspiration that lights up the world through everything she does,“ said Carlos Martinez, a senior at Community Academy. “She is an amazing person that is changing the world day by day.”
“Sí, se puede” is Cruz’s rallying cry. This loosely translates to mean: Do anything you set your mind to do.
“The change you want to see in your life or in the community starts with you,” said Cruz, who herself attended Community Academy. “You have to be the one willing to speak up for what you believe in. Bring positive change to your community, whether that be by building your own platform through social media or simply uplifting the individuals around you. Use your voice, don’t be afraid to speak up about social injustice because that in itself is bringing awareness to an issue that needs to be dealt with in order to benefit the people around you.”
Cruz is that young Latina who used to think that doing small, positive acts was not enough to combat against the ills of society.
What she realized is that she needed to change her mind<NO1>s<NO> and mind-set. Having faith and a vision were important for Cruz to become the outspoken, inspiring, and heartwarming individual she is today.
She said individuals should focus on not what you can change about the world, but what you can do for your community.
She said to worry about your impact on Philadelphia, on the people you see every day and how you can change their lives.
Meanwhile, Cruz continues to be that ubiquitous Latina in North Philly.