Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Persisting to Love

A dulled light of day was shining into our bedroom, matching the sullen mood, enhanced by caresses, with a heavy mixture of love and pain. Car alarms rang off rhythm to the sad bachata blasting from someone’s car stereo. Our bed sat by the half open window, at level with the sill, and as I laid belly down with child, sprawled over his body, I could see the littered concrete dotted with idle, middle aged Dominican men singing along, and round bodied brown mothers, grocery bags and children in hand, walking to the slow, constant beat of despair. I became aware of the miracle we were – imperfect but persistently, striving to become ourselves, striving to know love. Baldwin states, “Love takes off the masks that we fear we cannot live without and know we cannot live within.” Loving can be a painful process. These masks exist as a defense or shield from environments of terror and numbness. We mistake false identities for ourselves. Removing masks would make us susceptible to become vulnerable to these fatal environments, and so we sleep and wake and bathe with our masks on and forget there was once a bright face looking back in the mirror at the innocence of our early youth, however long that might have lasted – for some, 10 years, for others, possibly 3. We become a colony of preconstructed characters, blind to the concept of a community consisting of honest individuals. The fear of removing these masks contribute further to the poison latent in our fatal environments.
In today's time, loving can be a painful process because loving means we come to accept that the world does affect us; that the constant grilling, the sight of children being frisked by authorities, the smell of piss on every wall of each abandoned building we walk by, the idleness of life or the moral ease of those who end it, their own or others', all have the ability to make us weep and become filled with true anguish, or loose our minds completely. But without coming to accept and understand this, we would have no incentive to want to exist in a different kind of world, or exist at all. And if we cannot exist as ourselves, outside of these masks, in our environments then we are left with two options – to change our environments or run away from it, and the spaces where oppression does not exist at some level are becoming endangered, quickly. Part of our attempt to change society must be to develop ourselves and offer the people we were meant to be to each other..
We laid there, two lovers, both tainted by the terror of this world, trying to understand the answer to this question – how can love become an oasis where realizing our highest selves will not be compromised? This, for us is a new concept, for we both come from histories where loving has taken us through moments of deceit, anguish, and pain, often times by attempting to love others who have not had the courage to notice, no less, remove their own masks. Yet still, we laid in our humble bedroom – a paradox, hope fighting to exist among week-old laundry thrown in corners, each clothing piece a removal of some weight picked up by our interaction with the shaken world, the walls scented of day old incense burned to center ourselves within what parts of ourselves we’ve come to know, mixed with whiffs of spiced meats and fried platanos carried by the cool draft of a new autumn in that old fifth floor apartment where our lives as a new family is to begin. I imagine we were both at some point in our internal conversations, wondering how this miracle is supposed to unfold with a lack of known references of liberated love. A dear friend once asked me, “Is it possible to imagine or know freedom if our legacies have never truly experienced it within the last 500 years of oppression?” What must it be like to live with no masks, and love with no limits? We can try to imagine what this oasis might look like, but even our imaginations are tainted with the pain that has held our true identities hostage. We try to caress and kiss away the false illusions we’ve acquired over time, but we cannot pretend that the world does not enter our attempts to love.
One night I was under the false illusion that my body was dirty and worthless. It was difficult to be held and for parts of my body to become exposed outside of our bed sheets.. That day, a young boy had violated my right to have my body protected from unwanted touch or exposure. He was no older than 12, with the face of a terrified child. The world had put in his mind that it was okay to violate women to his own pleasing or for his own curiosities. It was probably the first time he had tried to pull down a woman’s shirt, for his body language and his eyes were so full of fear of his own actions. His environment had placed the mask of “sexual assailant” on such a young face. His toxic environment had shaped the emotional state of my body. A hot shower could not wash away the filth and anguish that sat like silt upon my pregnant belly, naked breasts, and reoccurring memory. All throughout that night, whenever I became aware of my body, it only existed within those short moments of feeling violated and humiliated.
Being a woman of color who has cracked her mask in this world makes one become even more deeply connected to the pain that exists in these war zones. We become exposed to the efforts of a white world trying to erase our existence, but we also become exposed to a dystopic patriarchal society – even among our brothers of color – that also seek to null our true power and beauty, either because they do not understand it or are intimidated by it (therefore the need to control or undermine it). The product of males of color feeling powerless in a white society is the sexually violated woman of color. When boys and men of color are given no spaces with which to experience or understand authentic power, they take up the white man’s illusion of power – to conquer and control- and turn it on their own women (and in other ways, on each other). This results in communities of masks laden with false power and bodies with limited abilities to feel love and security, communities of unknown or lost identities.
The perseverance of love between my lover and I, consists of a lifetime series of attempts to know ourselves, discover true power, and share our unfolding selves with each other. One element of our love is essential if it is to survive in a world where freedom is an alien concept, and that is – our love must have the ability to overcome oppression – oppression embedded within ourselves, oppression perpetuated in society. We are left with no tools but our own developing imaginations and the courage to take on this challenge, and courage is essential if we are to walk and love and speak without masks. It takes an enormous amount of trust amongst ourselves to take on this task. We are still in the process of fully understanding and realizing love, although our imperfect attempts are miracles because against the weighty odds, we persistently choose to exist, to find our highest selves within ourselves and between each other, to love, in the context of deliberate numbness and inadvertent hate.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Self-Portait: Portadora de Vida

So here is my first completed photomontage self-portrait. I'd like to decode all of the symbols I've incorporated and explain why I've decided to add specific details, but I think I'll leave it for viewers to interpret. I'll just say this piece reflects the array of changes and emotions I've experienced since learning I was carrying a life inside me.

I'm considering working on a series of these of other pregnant women. If you're interested in modeling and living in/near the NYC area, shoot me an email: RosaDominicana at gmail dot com.

Photomontage on wood with acrylics and mounted copper, mirror pieces, and painted conch shells. 18" x 48".

Photomontage method was taught to me by Keba Konte. Check out his work at

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Crafting the Journey of Radical Brown Motherhood

On this mother’s day of 2009, one day away from 20 weeks of carrying a life inside of me, I ponder the journey set before me as a Latina mother that has chosen to walk with the guidance of truth by her side. I did not choose to be brown, but I do choose to engage in the meaning of what it means to be an individual in a society that strives to erase us into the blank page of conformity. In a world that attempts to numb our spirits and mute our hearts, I choose to dig deep into the female instinct, that is a warrior instinct, one that is drawn to protect life and uncover its meaning buried underneath the fallacies of heteronormativity and patriarchy- diseases that affect the lives of all genders and the threaten the foundation of life itself. As I came to make these choices, it was no surprise that I came to understand the meaning of struggle- a journey full of sacrifices, misunderstanding by those close to me as well as those I expect misunderstanding from, but also the blessing to have met others who have also chosen their own paths of warriorships of love and truth, although often times it does become an isolated path.

It is not easy choosing what one must do over what one wants to do, but this is the journey of radical brown motherhood, and it is a journey full of love as it is full of struggle. Choosing to walk with truth does not give one the option to disappear into non-existence. I believe everyone comes to this planet with some gift, some contribution to humanity, some great feat or goal to accomplish that sets us apart from solely eating, shitting, sleeping animals. Walking with truth means loving ourselves enough to know what that feat is, to authentically know our identities. To stray away from this path is to never have known ourselves, our potential, to have never really existed in this world. As a warrior of life, seeker of truth, and soon to be mother, I ponder whether there is any distinction between the first two and the last.

There are those that try to distance the act of motherhood from warriorhood, while I believe that one cannot exist without the other. The work of motherhood must engage in also shaping the world her children will come to know themselves in. A radical mother, a self-aware mother also becomes an advocate for truth-knowing among others as she must advocate with her own child. We live in a society of individuals who have had their highest selves hidden from them. It is a toxic environment. No radical mother, or no loving mother wants her children to be exposed to toxicity. The work to provide others with the opportunity to know themselves is parallel to the work of mothers who nurture their daughters and sons with the opportunities to see truth.
I believe that this life inside my womb is closer to knowing truth in its most fundamental form than it will ever be before it passes on to life after flesh. His early growth is a nine-month prayer. He is vulnerable but does not know fear. He learns, remembers, dreams, discovers, and I believe is in constant connection with a divine life-giving force, growing and moving in unison with the will of Most High, as if singing in perfect pitch with the wavelength of the universe. His obstruction from the oppressive world outside the perfect womb is limited. My challenge will be that when he does enter this world, that he will continue to learn, dream, and discover in unison with this divine force without self-doubt or fear; that he will continue to sing in unison with Most High by distinguishing truth from the fallacies of our world and find his own authentic journey through the world carefully perceived by the womb of his heart and critical mind. These challenges I take on for my own son cannot be distinct from carving the world he will come to know himself in. And so I do choose a more difficult, less luxurious path, but a path that recognizes my own existence; a path that refuses to have my life, the life of my son, and the lives of others dissolve into the dangerous waters of complacency and self-negation.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Red Wine

A flash fiction story I had written a while ago and just remembered as I was grading my students' short stories. Sure this piece still calls for serious improvement, but I think it's worth sharing anyway...

How much time does it take to get from point A to point B? She was in disbelief. It just didn’t feel like point B. This is not what she had imagined. There were supposed to be fireworks, popping champagne bottles, people-filled rooms and festivities. But there were no voices speaking. The fading light bulb lit up an empty living room. Each day, the walk into the kitchen, the setting of keys on the table, made the yellowing walls come over her. Daily experiences were drab like the tablecloths that folded onto her lap as she had her lone celebratory dinner.

Finally the world had caught up. The Chinese take-out sat opened and yet to be served on the one, empty plate, placed at the single candle-lit table. Always the one too busy for opening movie nights, birthday parties, or dinners with the girls. The wine. Nobody else chilled their dry red wine. She did. Remembering where she placed it, she grabbed it feeling almost accompanied by it. Stabbing the top of its mouth, each rough and slow unscrew became a step closer to herself. It’s alright, she doesn’t need recognition. It has always been about the work, or rather, the purpose of the work. It was never about who noticed. It was more about it getting done. Getting it done meant the work would speak for itself.

After popping the cork, the cool smoky air rose from the bottle as it angled over the glass. A nice slow gulp with eyes closed. Exhale. Eyes open. Suddenly that meal became the festive occasion it was meant to be. She heaped her plate with vegetable fried rice, sechzuan eggplant, and spicy bean curd, and dug in.

The work should speak to her kin. If they only cared to listen. But perhaps the work just speaks a different language. It was a book. Not everyone speaks “book.” Her chewing slowed. The glass of wine was half-empty. Most of her closest loved ones didn’t speak it. How did it come to this? Who was she? What was point A? This eggplant sure tastes good. How long has she been here?

Another gulp of the chilled red wine. The glass rested between her slender fingers. She would see her mom picking it up and reading her name on the cover, proud and filled with joy. But what good is it if she won’t crack the book open, or try the first few lines and then let it sit, like a trophy, next to pictures of loved ones both alive and in the spirit world? Her brother would ask her for the title, call it “interesting,” and congratulate her, moving on to the next mundane topic. He wouldn’t even ask her for a copy, one she had already signed for him. “Con Amor, Juana.” Then there were the childhood friends. They called her “the scholar.” But she’d like to see herself as more like them than they allowed her to. In fact, the “scholars” that would read and recognize her work would consider it authentic, or in “non-book talk,” ghetto.

The grip around the long cool bottle tipped its mouth over the wine glass. The window. She leaned at the edge of its pane. The sun moved quickly towards the horizon. On the sidewalk was her past sprawled out before her eyes. Pedestrians would intrude onto children’s hopscotch and scooter chasing games. Dads would slam domino pieces over crate balanced wood boards, while moms would huddle into groups and share the latest, occasionally screaming at children that moved too close to traffic. She looked back at her half eaten dinner spread on the single chaired table. Where had point B gone?

Still Black - A Portrait of Black Transmen

I finally met Kortney Ryan Ziegler in person (after years of knowing her solely in the blogsphere) during the showing of her film, Still Black, for the Black Queer Film Festival in NYC. The above is a piece from my fave interview in the film. What I loved most about the film is the exposure of the juxtapositioning of those who are attempting to redefine gender identities in a world where identities are pre-constructed and shoved down our throats through mainstream media. I find this process parallel to all other forms of self-actualization, where folks who try to authentically exist in the world are faced with the pressures of pre-constructed fallacies of today's society. What I heard echoed throughout the film were Black men challenging others to be true to themselves. This in itself takes courage, because the world pushes us to participate in living lies, to deny our own freedom and help perpetuate and build our own psychological, emotional, spiritual, as well as physical prisons. The Black men in this film expose the process of decolonizing the concept of humanity in a world that dehumanizes.

Thanks Kortney for your brilliant work.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Broken Body Lyrics - Tigera Consciente

I wrote this today on the train ride home after looking for an apartment for my mom outside of NYC to get her out of a battered women's shelter, after a break up with someone I love and care about, after two straight weeks of my first year as a full time maestra, after having just moved back home to NYC and in Wash Heights, after 7 years of metamorphosis...

Broken Body by Tigera Consciente (Beats by Beatnuts, feat. Dead Prez)

My stomach turned and produced anxiety
running up my esophagus into my heart
connected to some long distant artery,
an umbilical cord running into yours.
My thoughts,
mingled with your uncensored emotion,
exploding into my eyes, I cannot see
past where I've been and who I am
when it was you and me.
How can I profess this to be or not to be,
life has me questioning, asking, pleading,
crying, breaking,
tearing out of this enclosed space I call safety,
only to build a new one I like to call clarity,
but the membranes are too thick for me to see through,
feel through, stuffy inside I cannot breathe truth,
I must bust open and fly out into uncertainty,
ask a million questions why-
why am I me, and who am I to be,
in this, in us, alone,
stripped down
beneath the bone marrow my spirit sticks to
the earthly matter it is repelled to.
Stationing itself in perpetual complacency
or is it latency, dormancy,
does it not know what its capable of,
or are my bones unable to soothe
the aching screams of a speaking spirit?

What do they not want to hear?

Do they not want to carry the image of its destruction?

Who am I to be? What do I fear?
I run with the soles of my feet
numbed and calloused,
no longer feeling the lost breath,
the running heartbeat,
a race to death with a faint vision of life,
because all I can see is the concrete in front of me,
sun up and sun down,
hoping one day I would reach myself,
not knowing I might be carrying the object of my wealth
behind my eyes,
open and closed,
catching a glimpse of life, sometimes
of its distorted reflection.
10 years,
15 years,
20 years later
my knees collapse,
shattered bones within tightened skin
sprawled across the pavement.
Perhaps that day I will feel the light speed
of my spirit,
light years behind my thoughts
yet over the finished line.
Perhaps then I would see
truth waiting for my arms to crawl
this broken body
back home.

Thursday, July 24, 2008


Transitions are exciting and difficult. Since I last posted a lot has gone down.

1. Moving from Rochester to NYC.
Foundation is very important to me. I'm a homebody, a double Capricorn, and a real hostess. When planing gatherings or work sessions, I tend to always insist that I host them. When my foundation gets shook, everything else becomes more difficult to focus on. I went from a temporary home to couch surfing, and in the midst of that there is so much I've had to and still need to accomplish: completing online English courses, finishing up final projects and papers for my grad program (including my end-of-year portfolio, which is still in progress), applying for food stamps, medicaid, and a second B.A. in Art, helping my mom find work and stable housing, and looking for work, for examples. So all of these things add to the foundation-shaking factor, especially with my life locked in a u-haul storage box.

But what has been interesting and confusing about this shift is that its the first time in 7 years that NYC is technically my home. I'm a drastically different human today compared to 7 years ago, and gentrification has done a lot to change my "home" in those 7 years as well. My first moments here have been a mixed process of mourning, reflection, and celebration: mourning those aspects of the city I created memories in that are no longer there; reflecting on who I was 7 years ago and why I left NYC and how my current relationship to this city is, and will be different- a process of facing my past and healing, a process of constructing a new self.

Something automatically shifted in all this foundation-shaking that allowed me to stay focused. There was a shift from being rooted in my physical space to being rooted in faith. I remembered what life had taught me in my 6 years in the Bay Area, and that's that intuition is the voice of Most High within us, and that when we are on the path that She has set before us the Universe will provide - always. So my intuition has been my closest companion in all of this, and even in the midst of all these challenges I've been feeling like the most blessed person on earth!

2. Shifting from University Student mode to Educating Artist / Family Member / Friend mode.
This is going to be a process of unlearning. There are so many hidden emotional, physical, spiritual, and intellectual habits I've acquired as a University Student. As an unhealthy workaholic, I've let myself neglect my own humanity. A lot of my creative energy has been stifled; for the most part, my relationships with others, including family, have been put into the back-burner; my physical well-being has gone down significantly in the past 7 years; and although I know I've been walking down the right path, I've been consciously in and out of touch with my connection to Most High - I've been so focused on cultivating my intellectual growth that at times I've neglected the rest of me. That's gonna change.

Balance is going to be significant in my continuing process of self-actualization. I have to remember or learn what it means to be a complete human being. Working for social justice has to include developing healthy and holistic selves, there is no movement without a people. It has to be a part of what I'm working towards, what I'm building (not just trying to take down and destruct). And I can't guide others in doing the same if I'm not there myself. A "movement" of people who neglect their own humanity is a dehumanizing movement. And although I can't say I've neglected all other parts of myself all the time, I know I can do better at strengthening my consciousness of all aspects that make me a complete spiritual and human being.

Goals and Blessings.

I have a commitment to stay true to my vision and my path in this life. I've been recently blessed with the opportunity to teach at the James Baldwin School. It was at the top of the list of schools to teach in. I didn't get the position right away. My commitment to my vision was tested and strengthened by Most High, and in that work She provided the perfect opportunity. As far as I've studied and witnessed, this school will support, respond to, and value my work and my vision.

My emotional, spiritual, and intellectual well-being depends on my growth as an artist, at least partly. I'm going to be working towards a second B.A. in Art at City College of NY. This way I'll be present and attentive to this process, while working towards getting credentialed as an Art Teacher in addition to my English credential. I don't see this as "extra work" but as necessary work for my own spiritual existence. I also plan to cultivate my work as a fiction and non-fiction writer.

I have faith that the harder I focus on and walk down my chosen and spiritually inspired journey, the more the blessings will continue to come.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Freedom Time- Lauryn Hill


powered by ODEO

[Selected Verses]

What's got 'em
Drunk off the spirits
Truth comes, we can't hear it
When you've been, programmed to fear it


How can dominant wisdom
Be recognized in the system
Of Anti-Christ, the majority rules
Intelligent fools
PhD's in illusion
Masters of mass confusion
Bacholors in past illusion


Hungry and thirsty
For good meat we would eat
And still, dined at the table of deceit
How incomplete
From confrontation to retreat
We prolong the true enemies defeat
Destitute a necessity
Causin' desperation to get the best of me
Punishment 'til there was nothing left of me
Realizin' the unescapable death of me
No options in the valley of decision


How can we show up for
An invisible war
Preoccupied with a shadow, makin' love with a whore
Achin' in sores
Babylon, the great mystery
Mother of human history
System of social sorcery
Our present condition
Needs serious recognition
Where there's no repentance there can be no remission


What's goin' on, what's the priority to you
by what authority do we do

the majority hasn't a clue
We majored in curses
Search the chapters, check the verses
Recapture the land
Remove the mark from off of our hands
So we can stand
In agreement with his command
Everything else is damned
Let them with ears understand
Everything else is damned, let them with ears understand

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Reflections #3

I'm grateful for this space. Its sort of like a time capsule. It serves as a reminder of who I am becoming, and lessons I've forgotten. After re-reading my reflections series #1 and #2, I realized how much more relevant these realizations have become over a short period of time, and how important it is that I keep these in mind as I make my major transition back home to New York City in July.

Recently, I've been hit with a blessed humbling experience. I came down to NYC from Rochester and met up with a homie I haven't kicked it with in 8 years. Imagine that. This was the cat that turned me on to the Bay Area, and now he's turning me on to myself. During these 8 years I've completed a Bachelors degree, and now I'm finishing up my Masters. The Bay Area had turned me out to some new critical eyes for looking at the world. I learned that I had been living a life of systematic power indifferences. What trips me out though, is that this shouldn't have been news. I guess I was taught to not look at my own life experiences as sources of knowledge, truth. So, I came to understand the value of my perspective through theory, politics, and academia.

Seeing my homie made me realize how much I've become immersed in the language of academia and lost touch with the language of my self. The balanced had been tipped, and I became this thinking potato that seems to have forgotten where I came from. I'm grateful for him caring enough to challenge me on my shit. Grounding me in my own dirt. I came back to the East Coast thinking I had to be accountable to the community I left behind. What I'm realizing now is that I've got to become accountable to myself... first. There's this piece of me I've been unaware of. And its something I need to battle and be conscious of as I'm reorienting myself back into my old stompin grounds. Again, the lesson of humility is worth remembering here. Its time for me to reconnect.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

The Courage to Write

I've decided to highlight one of my students' assignments on my own blog because of her ability to do what is most difficult for writers to do: to take risks. Once we settle into ourselves and realize that the places from which we must write from are our most vulnerable and painful ones, we've become self actualized writers. Here, a 9th grade student, early in her writing, establishes this inherent ability in her writing.

Amane, a practicing Muslim, focuses on how the social experience of 9/11 and the "war on terror" has affected her personal experiences in day to day life. She begins by establishing her experiences as a young citizen in the U.S.:
I practically lived in the United States my entire life. I stood up and and put my hand over my heart and recited the pledge of [allegiance] every day in elementary school. I watched the [superbowl] and sang the national anthem, every time, just like every one else in the U.S. does....
She goes on to describe how this has changed after 9/11:
After 9/11 occured every thing changed. I would go places and get insulted. "Terrorist, go back to your own country. We don't need more of you here." They would say things like that and even worse sometimes. I didn't understand, this is my country....

Do you have any idea what it's like for me to go for a ride in a car and role my window down. I get middle fingers, I get called names, I get spit at, things get thrown at me, and again I also get shouted at. Like other kids my age, i go to the mall to go for a walk and go shopping. But i wish i could do this with out being stared at, gawked at, laughed at, talked about, threatened, and again "Go back to your country."

What is most compelling about this account is that after having been targeted and dehumanized on numerous accounts, still alive in her is the courage to imagine and hope for a world where difference is not a threat and empathy is the norm:
I believe that away from here, a place for rebels, outcasts, untouchables, and uncomfortables to be free. To become their own society. That way they would all be normal, and they would all keep their pasts in the present to think before they hurt or cause hurt the way people bestowed it on them. We, outcasts, we can all be a family. A real and true 'free country'. An outcast is someone who is ostracized by society. An out cast... is me.
I would like to invite Amane to extend that hope to the people of the very land we stand on. With persistence and a struggle rooted in love, justice will prevail. To read her complete post visit her at

Sunday, March 30, 2008

A New Companion

She was my friend's cat, and couldn't afford to pay the pet security and extra rent that landlords love to charge. Her name is Sofie. If it were up to me I'd call her Shadow because she loves to follow people around. Especially my mom. She thinks she owns my mom. She loves to talk and be spoken to, and she's her liveliest in the morning and takes constant cat naps throughout the day. She's earned nickname "Meowmona" because she will meow until she gets what she wants. A true fighter, perhaps.

UPDATE: Sofie had to go back to her old mami, because she was driving my mami nuts... I miss her dearly and I know she misses me too. I mean, she peed on her old mami's rug and walked back into her carrier, which she usually fights not to get into... trip.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Winter Soldier Mike Prysner Testimony

Via La Chola and Flux

Part One:

Part Two: