Thursday, February 4, 2016
Thursday, January 28, 2016
I’m currently taking a certification class to teach ESL in the US or in other countries (that’s why there hasn’t been much activity on here lately). After my class the other night, I was chatting with one of my practice students about our best and worst experiences while living in NYC.
She told me her best experience happened while walking to her train and hearing someone play, “the most beautiful sounds a piano could ever make.” She said she followed the music and was led to a man playing his keyboard in the middle of the busyness that is Penn Station. She listened to the man play for a while and then struck up a conversation with him. They ended up going for coffee that same evening and she has continued to visit the piano player at least once a week. She said they have developed a great friendship and she looks forward to the great conversation he provides.
My heart was warmed as I listened to my student. I was in awe of her story for several reasons. The main reason being because my student is fairly new to NYC; she came directly from Ecuador. And for her to have such a regard for the piano player that she would make it a point to talk to him really stood out to me. I remember when I first visited NYC in 2010, I too was in awe of some of the talents that were displayed on subway platforms and on subways. But since living here, I have become like all other New Yorkers, and past those people straight, without even looking at them or listening to the talent they are sharing.
Tuesday, January 12, 2016
An ambitious attitude. That was my first impression of Darian Symoné Harvin when I connected with her on Twitter. And the fact that she picked up and moved to NYC a month after graduating from college lets me know my impression was correct.
Wednesday, January 6, 2016
Some of us have them in one area of our body, while others have them all over. Regardless of where those pesky red, pink, black, brown, or sometimes white lines appear, the general consensus is that all of us women hate them.
I’m talking about stretch marks. Which I unaffectionately referred to as “those.”
I was in seventh grade when “those” appeared on my calves; it was as if they came out of nowhere. One day nothing, and the next, a mess. I didn’t know what to do or how to get rid of them. I just knew those stretch marks were ugly, horrible, and made me stand out. The thought of those lines on my calves made me feel marked and altered like I’d done something wrong to my body. I couldn’t understand why I got them when most of the other girls in my seventh grade class didn’t have any…that I knew of. The only thing I did know was that I didn’t want to get made fun of for being different.
And the fact that I was at the age when girls were starting to shave their legs (my mom wouldn’t let me), I knew I couldn’t let anyone at my school see my hairy, stretch mark tarnished legs. So I chose to wear pants every day. It was the only way to keep myself out of the line of fire while at school.
From seventh grade on, I never wore shorts– only in the privacy of my own home. Even when I got to high school and was issued shorts for P.E., I still didn’t put them on. Thankfully, we had the option to wear sweat pants instead of our gym shorts. If not, I’m sure I would have ditched P.E. as often as possible.
I continued to keep my legs and “those” covered well into high school. While other girls would wear shorts without thinking twice about it, I was secretly wishing I could do the same. This would lead to internal battles with myself about whether or not I could handle the ridicule that would come at exposing myself. But I never allowed myself to give in. “Pants for life” was my motto.
Growing up in Southern California, with excellent-sometimes hot weather, the one thing I was trying to avoid happened. While I was trying to avoid being an outcast and teased for having “those,” I was being talked about for always being covered up–even on hot days. In eleventh grade, I remember hearing an acquaintance say, “Tamika always dresses like it’s winter.” I thought to myself, if their commenting about me always wearing pants, their sure to comment on my stretch marks.”
Sunday, December 27, 2015
Every year I write a reflection blog post about the things I experienced or about the main lesson I learned throughout the year. 2014 was all about living my life to the fullest and living in the moment. And I know for a fact I tried my hardest to do both this year.
2015’s lesson: “Love Yourz”. This lesson was brought to me by none other than my fave rapper, J. Cole. With the release of his December 2014 album, 2014 Forest Hills Drive, J. Cole dropped one single gem on me; a gem I’ve needed to hear my entire life.
Ever since I can remember I have always imagined how much better my life would be if I was a different person. As a child I would fantasize about how cool I would be if I had a different name and looked “Latina.” In high school I would visualize myself having a bunch of fancy clothes and somehow equated that with having a better, much cooler life. I used to always look at my life as boring and stale. The crazy thing is I felt this way despite my friends/peers constantly wishing for the brand new car I drove at age 16, the large family I have, and the attractive culture I come from. But that was never enough for me. I always wanted more.
Monday, December 21, 2015
I moved the arrow on my computer screen over the “send” option and paused. Will my fellow Afro-Latinas like this? Am I representing myself, my culture, and them in a positive way? Is this even a good idea? At the very last minute doubt crept in, and it was strong. But at that point the thing I’d been working on for two weeks straight (bouncing ideas off of friends, finalizing the header, researching women to feature, compiling article links) had to go out. There was no reason it shouldn’t. It was done, it was ready, I sent it.
“Doubt can only be removed by action.”
The idea to start Es Mi Cultura -a monthly newsletter that spreads awareness of the wonderful contributions Afro-Latinas are making to further advance our presence- randomly came out of nowhere. I had been wanting to start a newsletter all year, but had no idea what purpose it would serve. But now when I think about it, the idea specifically for Es Mi Cultura came to me at the right time; which is why it was perfectly launched during Latino Heritage Month.
Friday, December 18, 2015
Home, literally. But more importantly, home in the figurative sense. Although I have only lived in my upper Manhattan neighborhood of Washington Heights for a year now; I am comfortable and this is home. California will always be my home too. That is where my family is, it’s where my heart is. It’s where I was made.
But NYC is where I became alive, it’s where I started living. And my Washington Heights neighborhood is where I belong.
I walk up Broadway and feel comfort, I’m amongst my people. The old man who sits on his stoop and hollers out to his friends in Spanish; he reminds me of my Abuelo Victor who does the same from the porch of his house in Panamá. The woman who owns the Bodega and recognizes me, she calls me, Mami. The Coquito lady and her cart are still stationed in the same place she’s been all summer. A few months ago, for a dollar she would hand me a small cup filled with memories of the many Raspados I had as a child. Now she hands customers a steaming hot drink to combat the chilly weather.
It’s the blonde haired Dominican woman, Gloria, who waves and smiles as I pass by her hair salon. She doesn’t know English and my Spanish is sketchy— but she always knows exactly what to do with my hair. Our lack of communication reminds me of my cousins in Panamá, who I also just smile and nod at. It’s the women in the nail shop, with heads full of pink rollos, who remind me of Ma and my Tías. The fellas laughing in front the nearby barber shop remind me of my brother.