Had my first piece of the year published on the newly launched Dominican Writer’s Association website!
“When I was in elementary school, my grandma had a friend named Luís. He had a big and shiny baldhead. Every time he came to visit, he wore at least one piece of rainbow clothing. Usually it was a tight canvas belt…”
If you know me, you know that I’m here for Baldwin. I don’t place him on a pedestal, but his words have offered me guidance, solace and a lot of questions since the first time I engaged with his work. I’ve had a semi-cliche dream to go see what this Paris that Jimmy loved so much was all about and get some type of sense of what he may have experienced in his time.
Earlier this year, I heard Kiese talk about Baldwin and how even though he was consistently writing ABOUT African-Americans in the US, he wasn’t always writing TO them. That got me thinking. It got me thinking about me as a Black American who is not African-American and how his work has influenced me and perhaps others like me in this country. The other children of the Diaspora.
…That being said, you’re boy is presenting about Jimmy at the International James Baldwin Conference in Paris this May!! (ignore the date on the letter, lol)
Thank you to my momma, my gramma, my brother, and every other person that has believed in me.
Trust that there is more work to be done and I plan on bridging how we are being attacked in this country to Baldwin’s work.
by Kleaver Cruz
Do you remember who you were when you were 16? The places where you spent most of your time? Whom you were there with?
At 16 years old, Kalief Browder was alone. He was labeled with a mix of letters and numbers that made a new identity he wasn’t supposed to have. Kalief found himself amongst the overcrowded and disproportionately large population of Riker’s Island, isolated in a cell where light was hard to find and company impossible to keep. Allegedly, he had stolen a book bag. He was guilty in the state’s eyes whether he had committed the crime or not.
I believe him. I believe that he was innocent and forced to live as guilty because he was a Black boy whom the law saw as a criminal Black man. I believe his stories of how people continued to hurt him again and again because…
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Hashtags will commemorate the names
Of people that look like us who are living and loving their lives
not taken prematurely during a failed audition for their humanity
Talking about race, sexuality, class, gender, and every other constructed marker of identity, their intersections and the complex realities they create can be hard. Often they can be conversations that will either be avoided, entered defensively or at it’s best, push folks into a space of discomfort. A dissonance with inner peace that pushes you to grow and see the world differently, if only long enough to form a new question in your thoughts. In my dreams those questions focus more on the proper treatment of all those we share this Earth with in general and these United States in particular. No matter how great the vision of liberty, we often hold that image in vain. This idea of civil harmony is impossible as long as we do not speak honestly, from a place of love and willingness to listen.
When asked about how to identify a (trans) person’s gender, LaVerne Cox insists that we let that person “take the lead.” She is adamant that no two trans people have the same experience and thus neither her story nor that of any other trans person can be “representative.” What could it look like if we actually applied this principle of understanding difference and the systems that exist to maintain those distinctions to all lived experiences?
It would look like folks that have been historically marginalized treated as the incredible people they always have been because they are always at the table to write their own narratives: in truth and accuracy. It looks like white folks collectively doing the work to understand how to undo the deeply woven threads of white supremacy in the fabric of this nation’s culture, social and otherwise. It looks like all people that contribute to a society that prevents some from loving themselves more than others doing the necessary work to undue a hate that runs deep. Consciously and subconsciously. Liberally and conservatively. Actions must be taken and perhaps one of the first is in giving words to your story and it’s love triangle with the society we think exists and the one we must resist in.
It was after the first embrace
that I knew
love was something that we could make
create it against the odds
that have forbidden our existence.
Sitting with you is like
sharing a lung
occur between answers to questions
queries of every kind
I want to write a dictionary with you
So that we can fill it
with new words that define this exclusive connection
Intimacy at its best is sometimes found
in held hands
heads on stomachs
and living in each other’s presence.
In my dreams,
love can be the sweetest thing.
I want to grow with you.
Cultivate it at the edges
At the contours of this wave that is also the water its made of.
After the first embrace
I knew you were different.
I knew that we could be
of the most radical force
the world hasn’t seen yet.
As a great break from TFP and all the other things that are happening right now, I was able to read to second graders at P.S. 333 for their Real Men Read program this past Thursday. I first read Through My Window (the book I wrote in 2nd grade) and had goosebumps through most of it. It hit me that never in a million years as an 8 year old would I have imagined that as a 25 year old I’d be reading that same book back to a bunch of 8 year olds. I could feel how blessed I was to have had Ms. Fields in my life. As I read through the poems, I also realized that they might not be understanding all of the poetry and I wondered what my 8 year old self was thinking as he wrote those words. After a Q&A session where Ms. Lang (I think that’s her name) lead a discussion around why reading is important, I read A is for Activist. Not before having them practice their cat ears for a game the book leads kids through in search of a little black cat. Needless to say that after a few letters, the class was no longer quiet or resorting to “cat ears,” instead they were excited and nearly on top of me to find the cat. When I finished the book, I told the class that it was theirs to keep and was then followed up by kids asking for personal copies. To end my time with them, we talked about what it meant to inspire and how I believed they were all inspirations and as young Bronxites could accomplish whatever they wanted to. I ended by pinning on “inspire” buttons, from these dreamers, on the students, as did Ms. Lang. We then took class pictures and one kid encouraged the group to say, “inspire-cheese.” It was a great day.
“I read every day and get more words. It’s more important than video games.”
– On the topic of Reading v. Video Games
“My dad is a good drawer because he can draw himself as a monkey”
– On discussing my brother being an artist
“I CANT SEEEEEEEEE!!!!”
– From the way back in response to where the cat was in A is for Activist
“What’s your funny face?!”
– Getting ready for the group picture
“How’d you do that?”
– After seeing my funny face