Radical Latina

A blog by Amanda Alcantara

Thursday, July 11, 2019

The Greatest Test Is Owning Up To Your Mistakes

The world will call you an ugly brown girl, one who isn't as beautiful as her light-skinned primas. The world will tell you that you only got that award because you're the token one in the room, that you're filling a quota. The world will tell you that your thighs are an invitation to violence, that your smile is an invitation to being called untrustworthy. The world will tell you that your mouth is a well where ideas need to rot. And when you tell them that "no," that your mouth is a river where ideas flow, it'll smack you across the face in an attempt to shut you up.

The world will tell you you ain't shit. And it'll do so in violent ways and in subtle ways and you'll internalize it in a way that when you make it anywhere that feels good, you'll feel like an imposter. When you make it anywhere that feels comfortable, you'll feel like you're undeserving. When you begin to let your body be the soft creature it is meant to be, the pain you once felt in your skin trying to burn you alive, will come back, begging to be remembered, begging you to run back to those flames.

This is what it's like being a woman of color in this world. A constant negation of your humanity and worth.

Learning to let go of that is hard. Yet unlearning what was taught and learning what actually is is the only way out of the flames.

You're beautiful. You're intelligent. Your sharp gaze and your thicker-than-a-snicker thighs are strong yet tender, even when the wrong eye contact can make you feel as hard as a cutting board that withstands all blades. You are worthy. You are worthy. You are worthy of love and joy. But mostly, you are worthy to just be without having to prove yourself constantly.

And when you learn that, when you learn that you're not a walking mistake, the hardest part can feel like forgiving actual mistakes you've made and will continue to make. Especially those you can't excuse yourself out of, those that make you realize the humanity that exists that you, the ability for error. Own up to the error, and forgive yourself.

Belleza, a friend would call me that all the time and I miss it. Belleza: denying yourself room to make mistakes is denying yourself too. You weren't put on this earth be perfect. If anyone makes you feel terrified of yourself and terror of your ability to error, the kind of terror where owning up to your mistakes — even the kind that don't emotionally harm anyone — means being made to feel less than human, the kind of terror that promises to hurl you back into the lie that you ain't shit, run.

Because above all, you are real. And real is far from perfect. And it is still worthy af.

And when the time comes when they'll try to shame you, to call you flaky or to question your skills, to rub your errors in your face, say "yes, I did that shit," with your head high because you know you are so much more than your mistakes. 
Read More

Monday, November 26, 2018

Q & A on Las Hermanas Mirabal, Feminism in Dominican Republic for #DíaInternacionaldelaNoViolenciaContraLaMujer

Source: Wikimedia. 

Last Sunday November 25th, was el Día Internacional de la No Violencia Contra La Mujer (International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women). For the ocasion a publication in Turkey titled Birgun reached out to me for a a Q & A on the Mirabal Sisters and their legacy. You can view the original piece here.

Still, since that piece is in Turkish, here is the original Q and A in English:

Could you please tell us briefly about the living conditions of women and girls in The Dominican Republic?

Dominican Republic is a developing country suffering from the legacy of colonialism, yet like any other place, people of all different classes live there, although the majority of the population is poor. Women and girls in Dominican Republic suffer the brunt of wage disparities in the country, and their rights are constantly limited. Furthermore racism (a global issue and the direct result of a history of oppression and colonial past) within the Dominican Republic and it’s diaspora means that Afro-Dominican women and girls are taught to value whiteness, affecting our self-esteem.

 Also, cases of traffic of young girls are commonplace in Dominican Republic, especially as a result sex tourism. Overall, women in Dominican Republic don’t have many means or opportunities to support themselves, even though they go to college at higher rates than men. A 2017 study shows that though more women are enrolled at universities in the country, women with degrees work at 66.3% rate vs. 81.3% for men. 

Lastly, the public perception of women and girls in Dominican Republic hasn’t shifted despite feminist efforts. In the country women are hypersexualized and valued mostly for their ability to be “good wives” and sustain family values. 

]What are the legacies left by Mirabal sisters to the Dominican Republic and The Whole world?

To be honest, it’s hard to gauge their legacy in the country without visiting and recognizing the symbols there dedicated to them. I wrote about it on my blog, saying that they’re part of a history that we still live and breath in the country with monuments and murals dedicated to them and their name being constantly invoked both in protests and by established institutions. 

The Mirabal sisters (Minerva, Patria, and María Teresa) were murdered by the regime of the dictator Rafael Leónidas Trujillo after they stood up against him. It is believed that the outrage following their assassination is what led to the movement that eventually ended with his murder, particularly because they came from a well-known family. 

They were part of the group also led by Manolo Tavárez Justo, Minerva’s husband, who later were vital in a leftist fight in Dominican Republic in the early 1960’s. The group became known as El Movimiento 14 de Junio, though at the time of their death it didn’t have that name. Today, Minou Tavárez Mirabal, Minerva’s daughter, is involved in government and ran for President in 2016 though her likelihood to win was minimal. 

Today, they are still hailed in the country as symbols of resistance and of women’s power and strength. In schools, young girls are taught about the Mirabal sisters. The Mirabal sisters are probably the strongest feminist symbol in the Dominican Republic.

And beyond the country, they have become a symbol across the globe of women’s resistance and of feminism, especially after the UN named November 25 the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. I’m always amazed at how far their reach is; I went to Buenos Aires, Argentina where a small group of feminist women call themselves “Las Mariposas” in their honor.

]How is the current struggle of women in Dominican Republic?

The feminist movement right now in Dominican Republic is struggling against the increasing number of femicidios committed against women and girls, and for abortion rights. 

Last year, the case of Emely Peguero particularly caught the national eye. She was a 14-year-old murdered by her boyfriend, who’s mother is a local politician. The fight for justice in the case of Emely became prominent and brought out thousands of people in protest because it paralleled a fight against corruption called “La Marcha Verde.”

Between 2003 and 2017, 1,247 cases of murder against women were reported. Just this year, there have been 6,012 complaints of gender violence, and an average of 8 women have been killed per month. When it comes to the LGBTQ community, 38 transwomen were murdered between 2006 and June of 2017.

When it comes to abortion, it is illegal under all circumstances, and feminists are fighting just for the minimum which is the right to abortion in three cases: when the life of the woman is in danger, when the pregnancy is the result of rape, and fetal infeasibility.

What is your message for the November 25? What kind of reactions should be shown for a better world for women and girls under these conditions?

One of the darkest aspects of machismo and patriarchy is the narratives surrounding violence against women. Gendered violence, and even women’s deaths at that the hands of a partner is often blamed on women ourselves: we’re taught that we were asking for it, that we invited the violence, that men can’t help themselves. First of all, the very fabric of our society that promotes messages like “men can’t help themselves” “women are weak”, needs to be dismantled and rebuilt with one that undoes not only strict gender norms but also the effects of colonization in places like Dominican Republic. Also, Institutions that protect patriarchy cannot then turn around and hail women like Las Hermanas Mirabal as a means to promote patriotic symbol, patriotism itself is often rife with machismo. 

My message is that the fight must continue —la lucha sigue— and yet this fight cannot solely rest on the shoulders of women. A narrative that shifts the perception of women and girls needs to be promoted worldwide, one where women are hailed as equal but also as powerful. Girls and women need to be protected, and the #metoo movement has also shown that we need to be believed.

We are light, strength, and for women of color, our capacity to resist even under the oppressive circumstances of racism and sexism is astounding...I can only imagine what we can achieve when we’re respected, celebrated and valued. #NiUnaMenos 
Read More

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Rainy days make me think about our mortality

Rainy days make me think about our mortality. 

When I was on the subway today a man got on and started singing that song that goes “piensa en mi, llora por mi, llámame a mi no lo llames a el." It was so moving. I always regret not having cash when that happens. 

I pictured the days when I cared about that stuff. When I was seeing two guys, trying to decide on who to pick, and it felt like the end of the world to pick the wrong one. This was in high school. College. 

3 years ago. 

Love pains never end. I pictured the future. Maybe I’ll have a daughter who will become a teenager and go through that and withhold it from me. 

Wow. Parents do think of us as an extension of them. 

I suddenly wish I could've savored those moments even more. Is there anything more passionate than begging for someone’s love as we try to make sense of the void within us? 

It’s raining outside. So yes I’m thinking about death and grayness. 

Yes. That feeling does happen again when we lose those we fought so hard to love. 

How tragic. 

Read More

Thursday, May 17, 2018

unmothered: how I mother myself

When i'm feeling incapable and imposter syndrome is planting a seed in my head that I'm insignificant, there is no one that i can turn to to lift me up.

incapable. imposter syndrome. insignificant.

All negations of the self.

i remember on days like this that i'm unmothered. And i have a mother and talk to her and she's alive and well and she is my mother. But she's not up to the task of reaffirming me but rather denying me when i come with feelings that are anything less than perfect.

and i would hope the resentment will go away but then

 incapable, imposter, insignificant come back.

So where do i turn when these feelings return that I'm incapable, insignificant, and imposter?

Sometimes i think it'll get easier, you know.

I have days that are magical where I recognize me. And I had one moment where I realized after years of teaching myself it and being taught it but really you can only teach it to yourself, that I'm a goddess which is why a mother in the form of an already known and praised deity like Yemayá or Oshún or Santa Marta whomever is supposed to be assigned to me as an afrodiasporic so-called mulata caribeña keseyoke person never claimed me. (I wonder where do I apply to become praised by the humans after I die? How does that work? Devils are probably souls who's applications got rejected and they escape and come to earth anyway and only underground cults praise them.) Praise or no praise, I praise me. I am a goddess. And not on some inspiring this is supposed to make you feel better way. For real. I am a goddess, and when I close my eyes and allow myself peace I can come in conversation with myself. In me, in my decisions, is all the answers I'll need.

I have days where I'm in touch with this me. And I skip down the street. And no man's piropo and no bad worldly news can take that light from me.

Then there's days like today where i crave someone to walk me back to that path, to cradle me back to life. Where i wish they'd tell me i'm okay, everything is going to be okay, and for me to believe it because in their arms it's just true.

Sometimes i searched for that in a man. in friends. in healers who were healers and not my mom.

incapable. imposter. insignificant.

like something that's beneath what is real. below or under isn't the word cuz that which is under is real. instead it's like i am ______

Sometimes I remember I am synonymous with a whole god (y no godess cuz I ain't less and cuz I'm not an afterthought) meaning god is amanda and amanda is god and if someone wants to say they're a god they can say they're an amanda and that works too and i can say im them cuz they're them and me and all of us too. but above all my type of amanda is amanda.

and then there's days like today where i want to die all over again, and i can only look forward to just resting in,

and birthing myself every morning.

and I remember am my own mom and that's how I mother myself.

Read More

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Black Latina Owned Bookstore in Brooklyn Challenges Gentrification & Stereotypes About Who Reads

By Amanda Alcantara

Cafe Con Libros. Photo by Amanda Alcantara

I recently wrote a profile over at BESE about Café Con Libros, a new feminist bookstore. With the bookstore owner's blessings, I wanted to share this follow up with other very important and key thoughts about the bookstore.

When Kalima DeSuze decided to open up Café con libros, she was taken aback by the amount of people who said a space like that wouldn’t make it. “Before I decided to make this move, people were telling me ‘no’ ‘no one reads books’, ‘no one is going to be reading feminist books.'" People told her that if she used the word “feminist” no one would come. And yet Kalima stood her ground and decided to push against all negativity and barriers to proceed with her mission to create the space.

Café Con Libros's inauguration was in December of 2017, in a location very close to where DeSuze grew up. It is painted in white, with large windows that give the small space a lot of light, creating a balance between intimacy and safety, yet openness. A nod to her Panamanian roots, the store’s name comes after a tradición that Latinx families know too well. 

“The purpose of the space is to build community and the way that I know my community builds is sitting around with a cup of coffee, and piece a bread and dipping it in the coffee—that can happen all day long” she says, adding that her intention was also to create a space that was family-oriented and open to children. 

DeSuze holds a full-time position at the Silberman School of Social Work at the City University of New York.  I wrote at BESE "She is also an activist who identifies as black feminist and likes to write. Café Con Libros is a reflection of all of that, building on DeSuze’s identification and politics as well as what she saw was missing for women like her". 

Café Con Libros also has a selection of children's books. Photos: Amanda Alcanatara

“I do identify as Afrolatina and I will say that, more so the African part plays into it". For DeSuze, there is a lack of narratives that center AfroLatinas, so she often gravitated towards black feminist thought, which was nonetheless powerful. Writers like bell hooks taught her about the importance of community and accountability. There is indeed a lack of narratives for AfroLatinas that are supported by the mainstream, many writers like Josefina Baez, Nelly Rosario, Mayra Santos Febres and others either choose to publish independently or are not given the wide recognition they deserve within Latinx communities. 

The bookstore is also reflective of DeSuze’s experiences as an army veteran. The U.S. army has waged wars worldwide, and also right within its own headquarters when it comes to the treatment of women. Her politics were shaped by her time being in the army and the struggles that she faced as a woman there. She says that while this time made her strong, it also emboldened her feminist resolute. 

 I became even more aware of the meaning and thereby the dangers of being a woman in a male/masculine dominated environment”, she says. “So much of my sexuality and femininity was stunted for quite a while out of fear for my safety and/or reputation which was easily damaged in such close quarters.” Having served seven years, JAG Corps, she said she had to toughen up in ways in which she didn’t need to prior to serving.

Over at BESE I wrote "As an AfroLatina, Kalima represents an intersection where many of us live: Black race and Latina ethnicity. And often times we are a bridge between these two communities, whether it is a chosen responsibility or not". Café Con Libros is a space where being AfroLatina is represented in its wholeness, as opposed to two identities that too many still cannot fathom actually exist as a whole. The selection of books is representative of the intersection between Black and Latinx, with children’s bilingual books as well as books by both Black and Latina feminists, like Zadie Smith and Gloria Anzaldúa. DeSuze also carefully curated a playlist that can quickly go from latest songs like Finesse by Bruno Mars ft. Cardi B, to Lauryn Hill’s 90s album The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. 

Yet obtaining the tools to open the store itself was not easy. DeSuze co-runs the bookstore with her husband, as well as some other workers. Sometimes people believe that her husband, who is black, must be married to a white woman when he introduces the store to them and says that it was his wife who opened it.

DeSuze co-runs the bookstore with her husband, pictured here.

“It remains this prevalent stereotype that either black people don’t read” She told me with some frustration in her voice, “First of all they’re not even thinking AfroLatina—[it remains a stereotype] that black people don’t read, that black people can’t create beautiful things and beautiful spaces, and what they say is true sometimes, that black people don’t have enough money to do it, and yes we are red-lined from bank loans in terms of trying to do the things that we want to do.” 

For DeSuze the stereotype is hurtful. She has taken to decorating the space with thoughtfulness and an attention to detail that is a testament to our people’s creativity. The space is surrounded by bookshelves with carefully displayed diverse books. The walls that don’t have bookshelves, are decorated with temporary exhibits. 

Café con Libros is like a bigger version of the nooks that bookworms would love to have at home, though so many of us from low-income communities of color cannot afford it or aren’t able to access these kinds of spaces.  

These ideas that bookstores for black and brown people and by black and brown people can’t exist in our communities is often times not only an outcome of systemic oppression, but also a direct result of repression. Recently an article in The Atlantic highlighted how at the height of the Black Power movement, the FBI targeted black owned bookstores. The article states that FBI director Edward J Hoover sent the following order “locate and identify black extremist and/or African-type bookstores in its territory and open separate discreet investigations on each to determine if it is extremist in nature.” Recently, #BlackLivesMatter activists were also persecuted and deemed "extremists." DeSuze believes that in a capitalist society, survival of the fittest is promoted, and she is building an intentional space in a present time when communities of color are continuously under attack, and where an educational space that centers our stories is necessary.

For DeSuze, Café Con Libros is indeed a political space, one that is gives women of color writers a platform by centering them, and one where the community can connect and share thoughts. In a time when Brooklyn is being gentrified, DeSuze is hopeful that the space can connect local residents. 

In this day and time where folks need a space for conversation, I'm hoping that this space allows for those conversation” she says, “Not everyone moving in are bad people, a lot of activists [who are moving in] are my friends, organizing in the community for years, so I want people who are upset and mad to meet those white identified people."

The question of gentrification for DeSuze is a personal one, and to her, Café Con Libros is a result of her own love for the community and her own family’s traditions. When speaking about the building where she grew up, she says “The folks in that building were immigrants and just coming from their countries, and relied on one another” she passionately continued, “We fed each other, we shared clothes, and so this is me, coming back and creating a space in the community that made me…because my family owned restaurants and small bodegas in our community, our Panamanian community.”

Photo: Amanda Alcantara

Read More

Monday, September 25, 2017

Why As A Feminist Dominicana I Love Cardi B: A Confession

Still from "Bodak Yellow" music video

Cardi B's single "Bodak Yellow" hit No.1 on the billboard Hot 100 list, making her the first Dominicana to achieve this feat. This has folks talking about her more than usual, sparking up the same conversation as always, with those who hate talking about her, and those who love her celebrating.

Hating on Cardi B, particularly within Dominican culture, is easy for both the sexists and the feminists.

Sexists will say that she’s a slut, that she sleeps around and climbed in her career by oversexualizing herself, that she is ugly, and disgusting, that her music is trash.

Feminists will say that she’s oversexualizing herself, that she’s using her body and not her mind to get ahead, that her music is trash and she uses the word “bitch” too often.

When feminicidios in the Dominican Republic made it to the forefront of the conversation again, I honestly felt like the feminists. I was angry at a culture where killing women was okay, and angry at the women promoting centering men in our lives, promoting the male gaze, promoting oversexualization. I was angry at how economic oppression and sexism in the DR means that women of all classes in fact, get ahead with chapeo because it is the only way, and I was angry at how Cardi B’s song in Spanish, which I believe is the chapeo anthem, further promoted that. I was angry at all of sexism.

And then I realized that my love for Cardi B, which is unlike any admiration I have felt for any other artists ever--except for those who I’ve met or known personally--is precisely because she represents so much of what we’re supposed to hate about women. It was my own internalized misogyny that made me angry at her--though it literally only lasted a day--because we’ve been taught to blame ourselves and never point to men. To love her is to love everything about women, to love high femininity in a way in which we’ve been taught to hide from. To love her and admire her is to understand that the burden of oversexualization is a burden black women carry as a result of colonization, and that it isn’t solely on us to undo it. To love her is to understand that this burden of being oversexualized means feminismo to us has looked like hiding from our sexuality at the fear of promoting our own bodies and further objectifying ourselves, as opposed to having the freedom to be free in our own skin. Her love for herself, her openness with her plastic surgery, her ownership of her way of speaking, is love of femininity in itself. And for us to love her is the most feminist thing we can do, and within our culture, because in the end, she’s just being her goddamn self and choosing not to be responsible for undoing this burden. She has often said when folks attempt to call her out because “imagine the little girls watching” that that’s not on her, because these aren’t her kids. That the responsibility is that of the kids’ parents. This is her defending her right to be carefree. Her openness with using men for money is unapologetically leaning in[to] the one thing women can use to get ahead--without blaming women for doing it, making it something open. In a culture where men begin to feel ownership over women’s bodies particularly when they financially support that woman, her message is imperative: paying my bills because we’re fucking, because I give you love, because I give you emotional support, doesn’t mean you own my body. (An ownership tied to feminicidios). It’s personally made me more demanding of the men in my life. Her openness with plastic surgery is necessary in Dominican culture where everyone has gotten something in their body modified or knows someone who has, where people go under the knife constantly but don’t say it out-loud. And yes, her openness about this particular topic as well is also necessary in a culture where so many tías get their tummies tucked on the low or breasts implant but shame other women (including trans women) who's surgeries may be more pronounced ("It looks so exaggerated"). Her openness is necessary in a culture where so many doctors do botched up surgeries and take advantage of women’s desires but women can’t speak openly about it or recommend what’s best to one another because of the shame tied to plastic surgery.

I grew up in an aspiring middle class home in DR (which in the US didn’t mean anything fyi) meant that we didn’t want to be seen as poor anymore so at home everything had to be perfect and respectable, like we had to hide a part of us. So to me she also represents the freedom I never had growing up in a home where I was critiqued day after to day for speaking too loud or too fast, freedom that can be found in spaces away from white supremacy, spaces where culture outside the system happens, culture that white folks then appropriate. To love Cardi B is to understand that womanhood in all its shapes and forms is amazing--even the womanhood that is considered the worst because it’s the one with make up, the one with weaves as opposed to natural hair, the one that abides to patriarchy and the male gaze according to what is supposed to be respected in women. I’m honestly tired of the ways in which everything from our deaths to our day-to-day decisions to survive falls on our shoulders. I’m most carefree when I’m running around with no make up, looking messy but feeling fly nonetheless while tanning under the sun in a random park in NY. I’m also most carefree when I dress sexy as fuck and wear heals and twerk my ass off on some guy while drinking a corona away from so many who I’ve met in woke spaces who look down on sexuality for the sake of “protecting our energy” or some other ideology that shames me for being me. To be liberated should mean to be able to do it all without worrying about being looked down upon, raped, or even killed.

Beyond all of that, she's a fly beautiful woman who's funny, witty, empowering, inspiring, and just great to look at. Watching her videos or listening to Bodak Yellow just makes me happy, it makes me feel empowered, and makes me feel like I'm THAT BITCH. It is baffling that we've been taught to hate on someone who can be all of that at once.

[Added 9/26/2017 at 3:58pm] *I'm also aware that she's made transphobic comments in the past, and that she herself does need to be critiqued for that and held accountable. While she did apologize, one can only hope that she did more work to understand not only that what she said was a slur but also why it was wrong, dangerous and unacceptable. A feminist narrative that doesn't include trans women is a narrative that isn't inclusive of women in general, period, no matter how dope Cardi B is. I'm currently reflecting on this further. My hope is that those cis women who resonate with this article hold ourselves accountable for dismissing Cardi's remarks (if we did) and think of how to leverage our privilege to push for trans inclusivity always.*

Cardi is open about it all, just this morning she posted a video saying she hadn’t even showered but wanted to thank everyone for making her single number 1. It’s easy as feminists to love the hood girls who find mentors that teach them to love themselves as they are, while wearing flowers on their hair and performing in long dresses and big hair do’s and singing about not needed a man. There’s definitely a disparity in how these femmes don’t make it to the mainstream, and that cannot be denied. But when we deprive other women of that love, particularly women like Cardi B who got ahead with her wit and not because someone signed her right off the bat, particularly women like Cardi B who are easy so to hate, we give into misogyny too.

Read More

Thursday, August 31, 2017

I have died and been reborn so many times this past week

I have died and been reborn so many times this past week. So much is being asked out of this body that I inhabit. I have had to rebirth myself many times, and hold myself and cradle myself to sleep, to feel like I am my own mother and can provide the love my inner child hadn't felt.

It started even before the eclipse. This anger filled me, I wanted to break everything. Things were great, it had been two weeks since I left my job to pursue writing full time, then suddenly misunderstandings began to happen (I see you Mercury Retrograde), and my living space became smaller because I was sharing it with someone for about a week.

I'm not surprised all of this is happening now, before during and after the solar eclipse. I've always related to the sun. My first birthday, my madrina dressed me up as Ra, the Egyptian sun god. Actually, for several birthdays, I had a yellow dress on. And I even have a tattoo of the sun on my hips. The sun provides us with energy, in a way beyond being a child of the Caribbean, we all need sun. It wasn't until this eclipse that I noticed this though, these moments when rebirthing (or birth celebrations) has meant a nod towards the sun for me, how the sun becoming covered seems to have covered a part of me, to let out another. Pero, I am tied to the moon too.

After the eclipse, things haven't been okay. My room seems to have gotten smaller, and even when I go out, I feel invisible, tired, exhausted, honestly, just depressed. It's like months, actually about two years, of shitty interactions are reaching their peak now. Friday night I had a meltdown, alone. Alone from feeling alone. I knew I was either going to check myself in or go out dancing, so I went dancing, found healing in the dance floor and re-birthed myself after having felt dead. I've been stuck in my own thoughts since I was a child. I've always known too much was going inside my head, and have yet to find a safe way that works for me of slowing it down.

To top it off, someone I was becoming close with accused me of taking their idea and posing it as my own. At first, like I learned to do whenever I get told I'm behaving in a messed up way, I took it in, apologized, realized if it happened, it must've been unintentional but I seemed to have done it nonetheless. Then, as I reflected to tried to do better, I revisited the entire thing, and realized it wasn't true at all (thank technology for receipts). What I said had been my words. I believed it because the child in me still thinks it's always wrong.  But it wasn't only that that hurt me, it was the person, someone I was opening up to, someone I had shared with. It was also that they turned one instance and seemed to have assumed it was a set of habits basically trying to undo my entire existence, "do you rip off other people's work to stay relevant?". I'm still reflecting, nonetheless. Learning from the whole thing.  

Still, I had to cry it out, and be reborn, yet again, away from the assumptions. The pain had began out of feeling alone, feeling like I'm living inside my head. Feeling abandoned, desperate. (And I won't even get into the mess that was Afropunk). 

Why do I call this death? Why do I call this dying? How dare I make that comparison? Well, for one, those deep negative thoughts that physically want to hurt the body I'm in come up. But also, two, it signifies a death to feel like you don't matter, to become so small, so unforgiving to oneself, to lose gentileza, to lost softness and self-love, and become completely immersed in thoughts that reek of hate. When you don't matter to yourself, you give in to society's intentions to make us worthless unless we are benefiting capitalism and someone else's gain. Living like a zombie, tied to the very history of that word, coming from Haiti.

Healing is hard. And building with others who are hurt is hard too. It's like searching for mothers elsewhere, when she is inside us. And that doesn't feel like enough. Sometimes, we want to actually be held. But the way society works, that kind of affection is only reserved for romantic relationships. Or at least that's what we've been taught.

This eclipse came with hardships because my inner sun saw itself covered. As a day person, having the night take that away created a shift. But, well, I'm a luna llena too. And I pay my respects to la luna.

There's an image going around, saying that healing isn't linear. And it's hard as hell to believe because coño, I want this to have an end somewhere. And yet, I'm committed to rebirthing myself over and over again. If I fall a thousand times, I'll get back up 1001. And I'm committed to be as alive as I can be, each time. A silent resistance.

Read More

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

You Deserve it Hermana: How the Sankofa Sisterhood Writer's Retreat Helped Me Find My Voice

Two years ago I was struggling to find my voice as a writer, struggling to validate my own truth as a writer though I have been writing since I was 7 years old--which is literally when I learned how to write. Then I heard about the First Annual Sankofa Sisterhood Writer's Retreat and it felt like a calling. A part of me knew that I had to go, why? I don't know completely. Maybe it was the Latina part of the title. Maybe it was the Sankofa part of the title and this idea of going back to our past to help us move forward. Maybe it was just this gut feeling that told me and tells us that we deserve to treat ourselves even when another part of us that sits in the back of our minds screams that we are unworthy.

I graduated from Rutgers University with a Bachelor's in Journalism and Media Studies in 2012. I had completed two internships, worked at the school newspaper, tv station and radio station, and took on leadership roles on campus, yet at that point I found that I still hadn't secured a job after graduation. A part of me that still believed in the American dream that got me to return to the US in 2006 told me that if I did everything right, if I was the perfect student, worker, daughter, everything, things would just work out. Yet the job writing as a journalist didn't come no matter how much I kept applying, after graduation I worked retail for several months before finding a job at a nonprofit.

As I struggled to really find my place and build platforms in a society where women of color are rejected, I wrote a piece on my blog that I still go back to titled, "No Place for Women in Journalism of Dissent". In this piece I wrote about my struggle being the only woman, sometimes only person of color, sometimes both in journalistic spaces either covering stories in the field for NY1, or working in an office setting during my internships. I ended this piece by writing "I am new to the field, and I bet there are some bad-ass Latinas out there writing some amazing stories and receiving tons of support from different websites and independent news sources. Women, sisters, if you really are out there, wait for me…I’ll be joining you soon."

Attending the First Annual Sankofa Sisterhood Writer's Retreat became one of the places where I found these fellow bad-ass Latinas who were killing it. At the retreat we had activities, we laughed, we cried. We discussed everything from the writing, what compels us to write, what is our voice and the importance of our voice, to the logistical aspects of writing like how to get published and how to not sell ourselves short as writers. Iyawó Alicia Anabel Santos calls herself the writing doula and she is, she helps you give birth to something that already lives inside of you. Months after the retreat, in December of that very year, I sent an email to those who donated to a campaign that I put together to pay for the costs of the retreat, which listed all of my accomplishments and milestones as a writer following this amazing weekend of building sisterhood and trust with others but also with ourselves and the different women that live in me/us:

I had a piece, the most popular so far in that year for my blog radicallatina.com, and got it republished on HuffPost Latino Voices (see it here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/amanda-alcantara/my-story-why-we-need-to-stop-teaching-women-to-apologize_b_8799836.html)

I started doing #PoetryMondays on my Facebook page for Radical Latina (https://www.facebook.com/RadicalLatina/?fref=ts). My writing got published on Telesur, Remezcla, and Feministing. The writing for those news sources is journalistic with some crucial experiential narrative and it has been well received. And that year I also submitted, for the first time, an essay for consideration for an anthology.

The retreat also helped me overcome the little voice in the back of my head that tells me I'm not worthy because somehow, I knew I wanted it so bad that I had an Indiegogo campaign to fund the expenses for attending. It was embarrassing and I was ashamed but I did it anyway. I successfully raised $500 which covered the weekend and transportation. I had to give up and renounce that negative voice in order to realize that I'm so fucking worthy, and $500 is nothing and it sucks that as women of color we can't give that up so quickly. I'm not one to posit self-care as always being resistance when sometimes it is sold by larger corporations as a way of giving into the capitalist machine, but this is an investment in you and in the women who plan this retreat who also deserve to be well compensated. This isn't money going into a white-man owned organization, this is money being redirected to other hermanas behind the retreat, to serve the meals at the retreat, and to guests invited to facilitate workshops at the retreat.

Hermana, you deserve this retreat. The organizers deserve to have your voice there. You matter.

Now, two years later and with many more articles published, poems written and new pieces to myself, I can easily say that the retreat was essential in my path to finding my voice and confidence.

I'll leave you with this quote which I included in my IGG campaign before attending this retreat:

"Why am I compelled to write? Because the writing saves me from this complacency I fear. Because I have no choice. Because I must keep the spirit of my revolt and myself alive. Because the world I create in the writing compensates for what the real world does not give me. By writing I put order in the world, give it a handle so I can grasp it. I write because life does not appease my appetites and hunger. I write to record what others erase when I speak, to rewrite the stories others have miswritten about me, about you. To become more intimate with myself and you. To discover myself, to preserve myself, to make myself, to achieve self-autonomy. To dispel the myths that I am a mad prophet or a poor suffering soul. To convince myself that I am worthy and that what I have to say is not a pile of shit. To show that I can and that 1 will write, never mind their admonitions to the contrary. And I will write about the unmentionables, never mind the outraged gasp of the censor and the audience. Finally I write because I’m scared of writing but I’m more scared of not writing." Excerpt from "An Open Letter to Women Writers of Color by Gloria Anzaldúa"
Read More
Header Image by msmensen.tumblr.com. Powered by Blogger.

© 2011 Radical Latina , AllRightsReserved.

Designed by ScreenWritersArena