Monday, March 1, 2010

woc365: this is so cool… lati-negros: “Who Told You I’m Not...


Sent to you by moya via Google Reader:


via guerrilla mama on 3/1/10


this is so cool…


"Who Told You I'm Not Black?" Reading for NYC Latina Writers Group Performance Series

transcript of poems below

Glendaliz Camacho

"You were about twelve years old when your mother decided it was time you went to the salon. It was the trip. The one where you would get your first derrizado. As long as you could remember, your mother had been snapping plastic Goody brushes in your thick greñas. She had a whole routine for your hair. Every night, you sat on the floor while she sat on the sillon armed to the teeth with water, baby oil, a long cinta, that damn Goody brush and sheer will. When you'd hear that tell-tale crack of the brush, it was followed by your mother's profound sigh and the complaint, Dios mio, que pelo malo. But after this derrizado, you were going to wear your hair loose just like the Colombiana in your class. You were going to have pelo bueno – finally! - like the white girls on TV who washed their hair, came out of the shower and kept walking.

So there you were Saturday morning with your mother at Soraya's salon on 161st street. Soraya, with her gold bracelets clinking, released your hair from its bondage and set to work. She divided your hair into four sections and began spreading the derrizado on your roots. It smelled like rotten eggs and after a while your scalp was blazing. You squirmed in your chair while Soraya told you, aguanta un chin mas. She'd done this a million times, for every Dominican woman in the neighborhood who wanted to look good for their man, every Dominican teenage girl headed to a dance and every Dominican doña going to their grandkid's baptism.

When she was finished, you blinked back at yourself in the mirror. It was you but that long, limp hair didn't belong to you, did it? And that question burned on your scalp for fifteen years until finally you answered, no, this hair doesn't belong to me and you set your thick greñas free.


Last night I sat at a bar on Delancey Street with my boyfriend like two tourists on safari. One of the first things we noticed was that we were the only two brown faces other than the bouncer and the dj, employees. When you're the only brown faces in a room a curious phenomenon occurs – you instantly get "blacker." Our curly hair was even more exotic, our noses got even wider, our skin darkened, our bodies were fuller and more menacing.
Just because something is cliché doesn't make it untrue and we watched one unfold before us. The dj played music by mostly black artists, Jay-Z, Funkadelic, Kool & The Gang. While my boyfriend and I easily tapped our feet and moved to the rhythm, we wondered if some of the people in the room were listening to the same dj spinning. "Look at that guy," he said. "He's got insanity in his head." The guy he pointed out appeared to be dancing to maybe The Clash or The Ramones, anything but the Jay-Z song that was playing. He was completely disconnected from the tempo that in our bodies was almost instinctive.
My boyfriend went to get us another round and I watched as a blonde girl sitting on a barstool, shrunk away from him before he was even near. To be fair though, she probably couldn't really tell if he was a Puerto Rican about to rob her, a black dude about to rob her or an Arab about to just blow the whole place up.
I decided to go to summer school when I was thirteen. I'd been accepted into Brooklyn Tech and Bronx Science but I was three points shy of getting into Stuyvesant so they told me if I attended summer school and passed, I'd be able to go to there, the best high school in the state.
Classes were intense. By the time the teachers finished writing on the far right of the black board, they were erasing on the left. Every topic was covered in sweeping motions, only once and everyone got it. And if you didn't well, there wasn't time to really explain computational fluid dynamics to your slow ass, was there? Rarely did anyone ask a question, but everyone had the right answers. I'd been going to a specialized school for five years though so I was adept at working the system. You do the work, don't make waves, raise your hand in English and social studies, sit in the back for math and science, and you'd be fine.
But there was one thing I didn't have a plan for at Stuyvesant. In the nine years I'd been in school, all my classmates and friends were black and Latino. Not even a variety of Latinos, just straight up Dominican. Even the halfies, the half-Puerto Ricans or half-Ecuadorians or half-Italians just called themselves Dominican. None of these kids in Stuyvesant lived in Harlem or The Heights. None of them looked like me. I was as smart as they were but they were an impenetrable wall I was never going to breech.

And I left that wall intact, choosing to go to Bronx Science despite getting into Stuyvesant. But, the time spent wasn't in vain. It taught me to see all those divisive lines and walls that I couldn't see before and showed me the side where I most belong


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