Code Switch – Give Me The Signal

“Clean, concise, clear –

Say the right thing.

Right way, no other way.”

 

Rethink, rewind, redo.

Say it out loud? Think it longer.

One way? Another way.

 

Some of this, some of that, somewhere between.

Say it now, how it is. Don’t deny

this way, my way.

Sing it with your voice, say it with your hands, sway it with your hips.

Give me the signal.

Do it now, do it naturally.

 

Don’t make me your example, excuse, lesson.

Don’t praise me, refute them.

Their way, our way.

 

Can’t say it, write it, express it?

Forget it? Switch. Switch back.

Ingles, Spanish. Switch it up.

 

Make it work, make them accept, make it real.

Don’t box me into their singularity.

Make it yours, make it both.

Channel, challenge, change.

Give me the signal.

I can do it all.

Lo puedo hacer todo.

 

This poem was inspired by Celia Alvarez’s testimonio, and also an earlier discussion we had in class about code-switching (primarily in reference to language in the poem, as well as culture).

Letter in response to Alchemies of Erasure

Dear Alyssa,

“When a woman has to be made invisible, it is because she is powerful, and her presence reverberates, touching everything in its path.”

When I read this quote I immediately thought of you. When you recently moving from Long Island to North Carolina, you told me you felt out of place. Most of the high school you are now enrolled in is full of students who identify to be as white. Being that you are a mixed chick, you’ve said it’s hard to feel connected to these people who don’t identify with our culture- our culture as Caribbean women. I feel for you and I think as you get older you will realize that you aren’t just your appearance but you’re mind and soul are what make you shine compared to the others that see you as “the other”. You may be “the other”, the “new girl” but you are the new girl who is beyond her years and understands societal issues that people who don’t have the same identities as you do not understand. They can’t put themselves in your shoes. The place that you feel you have in this community allows you to be a powerful outsider. Someone who can actively listen and reflect on people’s actions and words. In my opinion, that’s a great thing!! People who aren’t like you and me, don’t have that ability. We have the capabilities to see what others don’t. We can see who thinks before they speak, and who doesn’t. We can see who chooses their words carefully and who just talks out of their asses. When you tell me you just want to leave the school and come back to New York, I fear for you. I fear that you won’t stick around to educate your fellow classmates of the role that you play in this community. You must stay. You must stay and tell them how their actions and their words have an impact on you! This will give you power over others. Your suffering and loss in these situations that you experience gives you the power to tell people your story and share how it can change their perspective of the outsider’s situation. Being the outsider or “the invisible” isn’t a bad identity. It’s empowering. I want you to realize you have this power and find that power within you because you can use it to do so much. You have no idea Alyssa. Your experiences in North Carolina can help educate people. The state that you live in, the environment you live in is such a political change from how you lived in Long Island, New York. You definitely already know this because you see it in school. You see how kids dress with their “Make America Great Again” hats supporting Donald Trump and all the hatred he stands with. I encourage you to step out of your comfort zone and describe your hardships you’ve experienced in your community with the open ears of youth and even your parents who can learn from your heart ache.

All my love,

Sophie

Where do we live?

We live in a country where
Looking for a better future seems possible.
Possible, hasta que nos la ponen en china.

We live in a country where we are free,
But become prisoners of our own thoughts.
Thoughts that want to be let out,
but we have to be careful with our words.
Porque sino…

We live in a country where “there is no”
Race, class, ethnicity, religion or gender inequality.
We live in the United States.

 

To my grandmother

My abuelita

Blanca

Four years pass by since you left abuelita but I am still crying your departure. This letter is for you, to thank you for all the things that you did for my mother, aunts and uncles. You struggle, you fight and you succeed. All of my love is for you, always.

My mom told me that being a parent of nine kids was hard, but it was harder for you to race them in the poverty because you wanted to give them all, but you couldn’t. You never wanted that your kids work with my abuelito but he needed help and you needed the money to feed them, to dress them, to put a techo over their heads. Let me tell you that you didn’t do anything wrong, if my abuelito left you, it was not your fault. I know that being a single mother was a motive to being pointed out, but you did it beautifully. You thought your daughters that being pointed out wasn’t a motive to die, las personas pueden hablar, but you know who you are and what is your value. I remember that you were always saying to me “mijita si tu esposo no te valora, dejalo, lo unico que necesitas son tus estudios.”

Blanca, your name, is pureness. I couldn’t call you by your name not because I hate it, but I love to call you abue, mi abue.  I know that you suffer when you saw your kids leave you in order to look for better future. You hate the airport, you hate to say goodbyes, you hate to be here without them but you also hate not to be in Duran, your home. I want to tell you that now I am in New York, New Paltz, learning more about how to empower myself as a woman like you always wanted. I’m not letting anyone to stop me to pursuit my dreams and goals, I will make you proud. Don’t worry, I’m coming back to Ecuador, I am not leaving my effort here to develop this country, I will make my country big.

I loved you and I always will, tears come to my face when I think about you. I learned from you more than I can possible ever learn from anyone or anywhere. Your wisdom was inspiring.

 

Por siempre, Gaby.

Ivette

Dear Ivette,

Like you tengo un testimonio de dolor. Mi papá se me fue when I was eight years old. His hands like yours were soft and almost a sign of protection of mi. love that you said that you started life looking backwards because I have lived that way my whole life until I came to college. I carried my mother’s depression for a long time because I had to be her best friend, she did not have no one else. My mother’s tears were my way to freedom of being what everyone expected me to be, so I thank you for that. I knew that for my mother to feel old about herself I had to be her bridge for her pain. My mother’s fears more losing me than her own life, but like your mother I fear my past because I cannot take back my mistakes or things I have said. I fear my future like your father, scared to be everything everyone said I would. Fear of doing anything right, not making my mother proud, being a loser. Ivette, sometimes I look at myself and ask why I am so harsh on myself. Me and you are not both from Puerto Rico pero I since the sazon between us how we struggled to be where we want to be. My father when we do speak tells me all the time what I study or am doing will never get me any money, he is locked away but does not still seem to understand that I do not need riches nor fame. I want to help students, Latina students that look like me, struggle like me, and cry like me because I want them to have a role model and to live up to themselves not anyone else.

Me encanto the way you said that although you were the bridge you could not choose sides on a bridge and that was hard for you. When leaving to college I had the opportunity to pick my own side and be my own bridge, mami at first did not get that and thought the worse but see your story symbolizes to me faith and hope. The way your mother spoken about men and how you are strong and we do not need them was beautiful; especially under teachings. My mother tells me all the time to get an education and to not depend on any man and she compares her past relationships and the way men have hurt her. You see Ivette we are not our mothers and something our mothers hear fear for us more than we do because they don’t want to be the mother with a screwed-up child. Men are not trusted, I would never forget my first heartbreak the first thing my mother told me was I told you so. Your parents like my parents take me to speak up for myself and more definitely not to let anyone take control of my thoughts and what is mine. I thank you Ivette and I hope one day I can meet you, you have been such a good person and you deserve the best. Like you the best gift I can give my mom is my education and love.

 

-Con Amor,

Menorka

 

Response 5

Dear Mom,

 

I read a portion of a book called Telling to Live and one of the testimonios stood out to me and reminded me of our family. The testimonio is about a Puerto Rican woman named Celia Alvarez who lived in Brooklyn and how her parents stressed the importance of knowledge. Her parents ended up taking her out of P.S. 7 and enrolling her in St. James. She also talks about how she would do her homework and her readings in the kitchen with the noise from outside and while her mother made arroz con gandules. I related so much to this story because we went through very similar things. You moved my sisters and I from Queens to Brooklyn and took us out of the P.S. school we were in and put us in St. Joseph’s in Manhattan. One of my favorite traditions that we would do with you is when we all watch the news at five o’clock while you cook dinner every night. Alvarez talks about how books were so important to her and it reminded me of how you stress the importance of reading to me and my sisters.You and dad have always instilled in us how important education is and I am so grateful for that. Sometimes I wonder what my life would be like or have turned out if you and dad did not do the things you did for us. Alll of my sisters are so beautiful and intelligent and I know that you have taught us and helped us blossomed into who we are today. I know that everything you have done for us was for a reason and I just want to let you know how appreciative I am for everything you and dad have done for all of us. I love you guys!

 

Love always,

 

Amanda

Dolores Huerta’s Impact

When I was reading about how Dolores Huerta lobbied for migrant worker’s rights, I was reminded of a song by an artist I’ve recently discovered. The song is called “Mexican Chef” by Xenia Rubinos, an up-and-coming latina singer/songwriter. The song focuses on the impact of brown people’s labor in the work force, and how essentially most of the jobs/services we take for granted or look down upon are occupied by latinos. It’s true that the pervasive stereotype of latinos as only being capable of fulfilling the types of jobs that Rubinos sings in “Mexican Chef” is an extremely harmful one. Many have argued that latinos should also be highlighted as those who can occupy positions of prestige, such as professors, doctors, artists, authors, etc. But the fact is that the latino work force, especially undocumented latinos, is greatly exploited, and activists like Huerta dedicated much of their lives in order to ensure that living wages and benefits were achieved for these workers via unions. But the latino work force continues to receive unfair treatment, especially undocumented migrant workers. There have been examples of deplorable conditions in which children labor in fields on unbearably hot days, as well as workers being denied access to bathrooms. Especially in our current political climate, we must continue the work that Huerta has done and demand rights for those who are often overlooked and demeaned in our society.

The Source of Life

I am a flower planted in a desert
I long for water
Even if it’s just a drop
I need something to keep me alive
For I am the root of life
I am all that is beautiful in a world that is dry and vacant
I am the spice

But the world is against me
Why must I have been put here?
Of all places?
Where the rain never falls
I can literally feel my leaves crumbling
My petals falling and turning brown

I am the desert’s only option
I am their only source of life
Yet they deny me my basic needs
Who does the desert think he is?
Expecting a meadow filled with color and life
when I can’t even get some water
Not even a drop!
Yeah, right…

I am the creator here
His only source of life
Either the desert gives me something
Anything
Or I’ll die
and he’ll have nothing

Hell

The pain tear her guts,
Suffering is her companion,
he forgot the word love,
Now her home is hell.

She is paying with her body,
The anguish and torments,
With the cries, the punishments
To live in hell.

No light comes through her window,
She stumbles with the mist
A fire burns in her soul,
but she can’t cope with the fear

Give her back her voice and yearnings
Give her back the light you took,
The life and hope that she lost,
For living in hell with you.