I thought I had to be white if I wanted to be a real writer. I loved writing since as early as I can remember – first grade, Mrs. Kazekwa’s class. I was the girl who, when given a picture of a clown to describe, would write a life story specifically for him.
In high school, my grandmother loaned me her Smith Corona typewriter on which I spent most of my teenage years typing away. She still remembers how I uttered, “I am the next Stephen King!”
At 18-years old, I was a first-generation, barely going to make it to college, brown skinned, grito shouting girl. Ajua! I won an academic scholarship from the McCollum High School Academic Booster Club because Mrs. Davis and Mrs. Crockett believed in my writing more than anyone else did.
In college, another world opened up for me. At Palo Alto College I began to weave English and Spanish as if making baskets strong enough to carry success. I relished my newfound authors: Helena Maria Viramontes, Sandra Cisneros, and Esmeralda Santiago. My love of language began to spill into the cracks of my writing. I ventured off to the University of Texas at San Antonio where it took me ten years to graduate with a beautiful family of Latinx babies ready to forge their own mark in life. I leaned into motherhood as much as I leaned into authorhood.
When I see the struggle and the passion of women like myself, I feel a greater call to lend my support.
After the Texas Teen Book Festival announced their author line up for 2016, Michael Sedano and Sarah Rafael García put out a call for poets, writers, activists, educators, and the community to write a response to the Texas Teen Book Festival. There was not one Latinx writer in the author line up. I and many others offered solid words of rebuttal with the hashtag #wearewriterstoo.
In Texas, we represent one-third of the population. The festival, which should represent our state and our landscape, did not accurately reflect this. Especially, when so many of us worked so hard to become writers comfortable in our own skin.
Sarah Rafael García, of Barrio Writers, took the charge to work with the TTBF on the inclusion of Latina(o) writers. Many voices, from across the United States, gave voice to those not invited to participate. The outpouring of messages, poems, and statements took the writing platform at La Blog’s Online Floricanto by storm.
A few days later, the TTBF revised their lineup and put out a new call. They added four new authors who were all Latinx writers. The lineup continued to evolve. Barrio Writers hosted a writing workshop as well.
More often than not, this is not the result we receive from proclaiming our stance on inclusion.
There is this idea that inclusion is a trivial way of saying, “Pick me for the team too!” Yet, it’s far greater than that. People pursue greater heights, as individuals and in their communities, when they see themselves reflected in a landscape outside of the four walls at home.
It is difficult to break the preconceived notion of not belonging. We think maybe we don’t because what is good and true about Latinx people is omitted from early education. Thus, our passions drive us to work harder.
The responsibility is twofold. We have to meet each other in the middle. Some complete the long jump and others wait to land it. In the waiting, we are still marginalized. Our tired legs try to land the long jump. Some of us have broken our knees when we land fully on one leg and not the other. Others of us have damaged our hips in continually trying to land and still more are putting on muscle and becoming stronger.
We learned we must speak loudly and in numbers.
I remember the Canaanite woman in Matthew 15. Jesus told her he only came for lost sheep. She argued her point with him. She wanted him to cure her possessed daughter. It was not lost on Jesus that she spoke up with great faith for her daughter. He went up the mountain and healed and fed many because they were loyal in their walk with him.
“Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” Her daughter was healed. –Matthew 15:28 (NIV)
Jesus spoke for many and that includes me.