by Ashlee Polarek
I’ve decided to be beautiful.
Like the warrior that guides my soul brave and fierce.
I want the confidence that I put on every morning like a warm coat
To fill my insides. My head. My heart.
I’ve decided to be beautiful.
Like a blossoming field of flowers relishing in the breeze.
I want the sun that warms my skin to be a radiance felt by others
In my smile or in my embrace.
I’ve decided to be beautiful.
Like laughter dancing off someone’s lips, joy incarnate.
I want my words to be sweet like honey on a spring day
When they pour from my mouth or out on to the page.
I’ve decided to be beautiful.
Like the Mother Nature powerful and strong.
I want her waves to wash over me,
her waters a guide for the next adventure.
I’ve decided to be beautiful.
Even if no one else agrees.
Even if everyone agrees.
I’ve decided to be beautiful.
by John Peña
I find that life is an ongoing journey of finding oneself. Especially through all the labels and barriers that capitalism and colonialism puts on us. I, like anyone else reading this exist after several centuries of displacement, and abuse. Being of Diaspora can feel like a constant struggle for safety and understanding, living within systems that literally aren’t built to nurture any of the healing we need.
So many of us feel lost because the language used to describe us, our bonds, and spirituality; were destroyed, our connections to each other and land severed. The forms of these teachings that survived are suppressed, mistreated, or appropriated for “cultural” Consumption to this day. Many generations ago we were placed into colonial boxes, where anything that wasn’t gendered or white was just “Other”. Other to varying degrees but still other nonetheless.
That “Other” was and still is beautiful and to find ourselves beautiful is a necessary act of revolution.
Every Conversation with a Diasporic sibling, is creating a new language that affirms our shared understanding or confusion at the systems that aim to keep us down. Our discourse currently wedged somewhere between ancestral knowledge and Millenial Socio cultural analysis with no direction in a world facing collapse.
Lots of us struggling to let go of the societal need for consumption and embracing a natural desire for spiritual growth and collective Liberation, while facing barriers, and crises created by western exceptionalism. We are at a powerful point in our humanity, where the deafening isolation that capitalism created is clashing with our desire for interdependence, and liberation.
I am transformed each day with the experiences and conversations I have with folks who like myself are trying to find the meaning of life in Diaspora, and how to destroy colonial structures, and the various chains that bind. Impatiently preparing, while trying to reconnect not only with each other; but ourselves. Before it’s too late.
By Eros Purizaga
they say just because you can, it doesn’t mean you should.
but mom, now, how were you to know, if you ever even could?
it seems necessity’s a dish best served cold when the world doesn’t really care.
crossing the border where the old & new met & to this day don’t agree much on what is & isn’t fair.
when we forget that borders are sometimes, & maybe even most times,
what we tend to make of them.
like an assumed cadence by a reader lost in stanza’s, never fully understanding
what they truly might’ve meant.
although pregnant, not a doubt ran through your mind.
you never looked back from the american dream you’d gift your sons with you were hoping to find.
assured with the faith that we’re all invited to drink of God’s wine,
which they’ve somehow confused with “God’s whine”,
& took control of His image; our freedom.
so now we’ve become the blind leading the less blind, while trying to simultaneously outshine everyone in a reversed garden of eden.
reversed because now immigrants are accused for something of which has no real resolution.
caught in constant tension between being fed foolish lies or needing a real revolution.
mother your pain; your biggest blessing. that’s what’s odd to me.
& my shame is sometimes acting like i don’t appreciate this american dream.
even in my poetry everything is purple.
i’m the outsider trying to find a peace within; like a square around a circle.
so maybe they’ll never know what it feels like to be too filled with adrenaline to even cry.
& to be told to not look up at night, because your eyes will shine.
but here i am an anchor baby
with a family of faith praying for my self-proclaimed enemy as my god tells me to.
ruining the party by telling the old news that he loves the gentile just as much as every jew.
by Caitlin Martin
by Brenda Hernández Jaimes
Empty are the people that are ashamed of who they are. These people live in a constant hell without knowing it. To deny and be ashamed of your background, heritage, language that you speak and, ultimately, of your physical appearance is to abandon yourself and leave your soul dry.
Hate has never truly dwelled in my heart, but these hollow people come so very close to creating this feeling. For many years I could never comprehend why anyone would twist their mouth in annoyance when I spoke to them in Spanish.
Speaking in this beautiful language is my way of connecting to my community. To utter a buenos días, provecho or hasta luego is to communicate that I am also like them: a proud Latina and that they aren’t alone in this country. This is my way of demonstrating that I’m here as well, with them and I would be there for them. By speaking in my parents native tongue, I create a safe space for my community and I. The chains of having to speak only in broken English are gone and a warmth is quickly surrounding us. This warmth is a small but strong link between us. This link creates a connection and an open trust that was non-existent before. Jokes, advice and bits and pieces of our private life are shared in these few moments because what else do we have to share but ourselves.
But not everyone accepts this warmth from their people. They hear those words in the language that raised them and they sneer, only offering a disgusted glare that would stab at anyone’s heart.
“I don’t speak Spanish.”
Their words feel like someone pulling at my hair. For so many years I never understood why anyone would stop speaking this gorgeous language, our language. But it doesn’t ever really end there. The denial goes as far as betraying their birthplace, being ashamed of their childhood home and striving to be as white as possible.
Why would anyone want to remove their rich culture and history for one that is filled with genocide? Why would you claim a culture that is known for appropriating everything and tries so hard to make it their own, while only ever creating a bastardized version of it?
When they say they don’t speak Spanish, they are erasing a part of the foundation that defines them. They’re ashamed to speak to people that don’t fit into the blond and blue eye appearance they dream of becoming one day, without realizing they never will. They’re ashamed of the strength it took for our people to endure the many tribulations caused by the people they so desperately want to become. They’re embarrassed of their physical appearance and go as far as to powder their face like Porfirio Díaz. But they’ll never look as basic as Lauren or Chad.
It’s not all their fault for being ashamed of their culture, not really. The quiet racism that white people have instilled on latinos has resulted in these people becoming arrepentidos. The blame can only be shared with the people they idolize.
The birth of this denial can usually be traced back to a simple phrase: “You shouldn’t be speaking in Spanish to your children because you’ll confuse them.”
Confusion can settle in and instead of fighting back by teaching their children their native tongue, they erase the opportunity to participate in the warmth of their community. In a small way it’s easy to understand why they would rather not make their children go through the awful bullying and mistreatment they went through, but our people have endured much more. By speaking another language, more doors are opened for children to grow and connect.
To begin with, it’s fair to assume that arrepentidos don’t have much love for their heritage when it’s so easy for their colonizers to come and tell them to change who they are and quickly sway them to destroy any evidence of what makes them Latino without much thought. The denial goes so far as to make them believe that their home country is just as ignorant as white people paint it to be. Their home becomes a country that has no education and and is so dangerous, you can’t step out into the daylight without immediately being shot and killed for no reason at all.
But they keep eating the shit that these close minded white people have given them. They stuff their faces with this mistreatment. They eat it up, all of it, time and time again. At the end of the day this insecurity and this denial, this desire to be part of, excludes them from the diverse and welcoming community that birthed them can only backfire. They will never be white. They’ll never be a Chad or a Lauren. The white man will always see them as they truly are, as what they’ve strived so hard to erase. Once they realize their mistake, it will be too late. The people they left behind won’t need them, want them, accept them anymore. Mistreatments cannot be forgotten, much less the embarrassment. Instead of being greeted with open arms, the backs of the people who fought for them will be the only thing they see. There will be nothing left for them but to keep ignoring the vile smell of shit that emanates from their mouths. They’ve let part of who they are die, what else can it do but rot?
by Joey Reyes
I am the peace within my mother’s pain
I am the sensitivity hidden within my father’s machismo
I am the escape my nana sought when she left Mexico 44 years ago
I am the manifestation of hope the ancestors called out for when they were
I am Frida Kahlo
Torn in two
With a heart that achieves in whiteness
But cries out in queer, brown, nonconforming existence
You don’t see that
I give you the me you want to see
I give you the me that you see as
You don’t see me as I roll my body to the music that fuels my spirits
You don’t see me as I look in the mirror
Telling my body how beautiful it is
You don’t see the scars of the mental and emotional abuse
your culture has fed into my life
You see me as I am, which is as I am not
Truth be told
You don’t see me at all
You see the self you’ve superimposed onto my brown skin
My brown eyes
My dark brown hair
My differently framed body
Truth be told
My soul is lighter than your skin
But you can’t have that
You never will
Because that’s not you
Carlos Garcia León
I came to the States within my mother’s arms
As she crossed terrains, freezing rivers, and internal fears
of her life, on the hope that my life would be not be hers
I came to the States and was met with ears that could not comprehend
For the language I spoke was not, what they called, theirs
For the language I spoke would never be theirs
I grew up in the States and was still looked at questioningly
Always told that I should think before I speak
That my rate of speech was too fast for anyone to understand
I grew up in the States slowing my tongue
To be on the same pace as they were
Since I did not have the luxury to be ahead of them
My tongue and my brain were changed in the States
Destroying thoughts because they took too much space.
Being ashamed of my rapid fire mouth
That was a mistake.
My tongue was always meant to be quick –
Spanish is a fast-paced language –
This adaptation burned down my voice.
It was meant to do so, then there is no reason to speak
Against those who opposed who I was, how I spoke.
I was a dreamer, I could have been another DACA recipient
My parents never lost their tongue, they acted fast to get my papers
But many never got that chance
I am learning to use my tongue against the States
how it was meant to, but with new skills
Picking up pace word by word
I dream in English now, society overcame my system
I’m rebelling it; using my English-prowess to speak fast against it
Against anyone who slows down tongues
Against anyone who clouds and darkens dreams
Against anyone who have rated my rate of speech as not worthy
COVID-19 has caused a worldwide pandemic where the majority of humanity has been ordered by the government to stay home, keep their distance from others, and avoid gatherings of all sorts. What a pain! We miss loved ones, we miss the gym, we miss going out on Friday nights, we miss being with friends at the beach or a park or local restaurant. It is tough to be alone for so long! What if this was your social reality long before this pandemic began?
This is close to reality for my sister and many other people in a similar position. My younger sister is 22 years old and has Down Syndrome. Through my vocation, I also have the pleasure of working with many teens and young adults with disabilities. I have gotten to befriend dozens of people with varying intellectual disabilities and have been able to see, in part, into their world. While there are some incredible programs and people who come alongside folks with disabilities, it is still a lonely and callous world. School serves as one of the main sources of community for my friends, but once that ends at age 22, what opportunities remain? College? Not likely, though possible for some. A job? Extremely difficult to come across. A segregated program? Sure, but is that it? Is that enough?... The truth is that we all crave connection, a place where we belong, a place to know and be known by others.
In this time when luxuries of social interaction and connection have been stripped away from us, please consider some of my friends with disabilities who live in a “socially distanced” reality. How might your experience with social distancing be growing your understanding and empathy for others? It doesn’t take much to make a difference. We can start by asking ourselves these questions: How can I include people with disabilities in my workspace? How can I reach out to the one person I know that has a disability and begin a true friendship? Churches and faith communities… this is definitely to you as well. How can we, Church, begin to reach out to a community of people that have been pressed to the margins? We are only complete when we all are valued. It’s not just creating space, it is eagerly listening to the voices that desire to emerge out of their socially distanced reality.
To parents, friends, teachers, ministers, volunteers, social workers, business owners, other advocates, and those with disabilities that are paving a way and are pressing into society to foster belonging for all, thank you.
by Josephine Jael Jimenez
We were in the car, my mother, my sister and I. My mother started talking about someone I love and how poorly their life had turned out because they decided not to follow the Lord the way she had. It’s the same thing I’ve heard over and over again throughout my life, but then she started talking about how sad they were sometimes.
“Her depression never goes away because she doesn’t follow the Lord. That’s the only cure.” It sounded better in Spanish, kinder almost, but that’s how they get you down in my grandma’s village. They make ignorance sound so sweet.
My mother and I used to fight all the time, mostly because I was never the kind of kid she wanted. I was never the sheep that blindly followed the shepherd or the kind that went with the other sheep. She was the kind of shepherd that demanded that.
We would fight about cleaning my room mostly, but as I grew up, we started to fight about religion a lot. My parents aren’t the type of people that ask too many questions. If the book says to do something and the guy at the pulpit give it the thumbs up, then who am I to question that? Well, I’m the type of person that asks too many questions, according to my dad. He says I’ve just gotta have faith, I say I like tattoos.
The fights that hurt me the most were always the ones about my depression. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been told that if I truly loved God, if I truly believed he was real and good, then He would take my depression away. All I had to do was ask. I spent a lot of time asking God to make me happy, to take away the demons in my head, but He never did. For years and years, I thought I wasn’t good enough to be healed, cured of my sadness. I thought maybe it was because I didn’t like to kneel, it hurt my knees too much. As I got older, I thought it was because I didn’t clean my room like my mom said. But then when I grew up, I realized that I didn’t need to be cured of depression, I needed to be cured of my expectations and of the image of a God that would choose to leave my brain broken. The cure came after that thought crossed my mind and I found a God that held my hand through the pain and the fog. We all suffer, She would say, and you are no exception. You are not so special that you would be exempt from pain. It’s the same song she’s been trying to get me to sing all along.
I didn’t like that at first. It made me angry because I couldn’t see that I was being selfish and stupid. But I was constantly reminded that other people suffer worse. Would I prefer their suffering?
It was never supposed to be about praying away the illness in my brain, it was about allowing the pain to make you really enjoy the times it’s not there. Joy and happiness are sweeter now. There are no highs without lows. Life can’t be beautiful if it is not also disgusting sometimes. It’s about balance.
My mom went on and on in the car about my loved one’s kids and the lives they chose to lead, judging the success and the happiness that they found for themselves because it didn’t look good to her. She blamed that on not following God her way, too. Normally, I would have blown up and yelled up to high heaven about depression and fate and how you can’t control your kids, but I was tired. I was tired from all the years of having to find peace with God despite the painting of Her my parents had created and hung over the mantel that was my life. I was tired from painting over the image of someone they should have taught me to see the right way in the first place. I was tired from trying to convince them that my painting was also beautiful because it taught me how to see the beauty and majesty in life. But then she said something awful.
“People with depression kill themselves because they didn’t have the sense to ask God for help.” This is when I spoke up, when my God whispered in my ear to offer a different perspective, that’s all I needed to do. So I told my mother she was wrong, again. I told her of the fleeting thoughts in my deepest valleys of how I could get rid of my pain, how easy it was in certain seconds of my life to think of crossing that thin line. It wasn’t about loving God, because I do, it was about seeking help and dealing with the fact that I was a little bit broken, that my brain didn’t work the way it was supposed to and that it had nothing to do with how many times I prayed. She stopped talking soon after, I think the realization got to her. Once your kid tells you they’ve thought about trying to meet God, something starts to click.
The conversation left me wishing that these conversations didn’t need to keep happening, that maybe one day I wouldn’t have to fight for the validity of my ailment. I wish I didn’t have to write a whole dissertation style speech every time someone told me it was all in my head or to just do things that make me happy or to just pray the sad away. Maybe one day we’ll get there, but for now it’s my cross to bear. But who am I to think I’m too special to do it?
Originally published in our IN SICKNESS issue, January 2019
by Josephine Jael Jimenez
There comes a time in every girl’s life where they should finally come to terms with the fact that they’re never going to be good enough. Well, they’ll be good enough for someone, but not for everyone and that’s the part that sucks because ever since infancy, girls are taught to be enough for people. To make themselves enough.
You have to start off as a good daughter. Behave nicely, sit properly, don’t chew with your mouth open, keep your mouth shut unless you’re told to speak. There’s a certain way you should walk and talk and you should always allow people to pull you in a million different directions, especially if they’re men. Don’t look at your brothers or your neighbors or your friends who all happen to be boys playing in the mud. Girls don’t play in the mud, they don’t get dirty and jump off the backs and tops of things. They stay low to the ground, but now low enough to stain their clothes. Daughters are supposed to be pure like that until the day they die.
Then you move on to being a good prospect. You can go on dates, but not too late and your daddy will stand there threatening this boy you like with a shotgun because you weren’t taught to take care of yourself and this boy wasn’t taught to respect you. On these dates, you’re supposed to act demure and like you don’t know what comes next when you know that people follow the same basic pattern, they show the same basic signs. When he finally kisses you, you’re not supposed to kiss him for too long on the first date because only whores do that and women who are called whores don’t deserve respect. Women who have sexual desires don’t deserve love, so you better shove all that down deep while you’re at it. Don’t make any sudden moves, girly. You’ll scare all the men away.
When a boy sticks by you is when you get married and you both become man and wife. Wife first, woman second, in case that didn’t ring in your ears immediately. Cook, clean, give birth to all the babies he wants and cook, clean for all those little creatures, too. Do as your husband says, keep your man happy. Look nice, be nice, never say a word against him because if you do, he’ll find someone new and it’ll all be your fault. Your kids will blame you.
God forbid you have a daughter. You’ll have to teach all this to her, too. You’ll never say it so plainly, you’ll just teach her with different words. Day after day, year after year, you’ll tell you daughter in so many phrases that she has to be something to someone for the rest of her life or else she’s not enough. She can’t be her own person, her own master, her own love because that doesn’t mean anything in this world. She’ll only have worth if she belongs to someone because that’s what your mommy told you.
It’s all a lie, a figment of some man’s imagination. You don’t have to be someone’s anything, you can just belong to you. Women can sit how they want and dress how they want and kiss someone forever if they so choose. They can walk and talk and say what’s on their mind and get dirty if they want to. Women don’t have to be enough, they are enough. Enough is not something you earn, it’s something you are. No matter what your mommy told you, or the way your daddy treated you or what the whole wide world thinks. What they don’t tell you, what they won’t tell you, is that sometimes, your mommy and daddy don’t know shit and neither will you.