Tongue Tactics: 9 Afro-Latino Poets Who Get Radical On The Mic
In a climate currently riddled with anti-immigrant and anti-black rhetoric, poetry for many serves as a form of self-preservation, a way to make sense of identity and an opportunity to set the stage for experiences constantly being put under erasure. To engage in the celebrations of #BlackHistoryMonth, we present these Afro-Latino poets with exquisite bars about protest, struggle, family, heritage and youth.
Liz is an Afro-Dominicana whose poetry fuses her Dominican upbringing and the tough grit of her native New York City. Her work has afforded her the opportunity to perform internationally, from South Africa to Paris. Expect her manuscript, Blessed Fruit & Other Origin Myths, to be published in September of this year.
Of Cuban-Jamaican descent, Aja Monet is an internationally established poet, performer, singer, songwriter, educator and human rights advocate. “Education was the village that raised me,” she stated. “I care about it because I recognize the difference it makes in my life and the impact it has on fine-tuning my vision.” Last spring, Aja relocated from her native Brooklyn to Miami, FL to open up Smoke Signals Studio alongside her partner umi selah.
Afro-Chicano poet and Up Jump the Boogie author John Murillo is a purveyor of all things cool. He tinkers with formal and free verse, doing the very necessary work of engaging themes of family history and personal identity.
“I remember reading books and being so invested in the characters and the story,” said Ariana Brown to PBS.org, “and then I would realize, this book is not talking about me. Part of my work is to always go back for little girl Ariana and figure out what it is she needed that she didn’t get.” After years of struggling to find representations of herself, Brown became the Afro-Mexicana role model she needed through her love of language and the art of poetry.
A necessary voice in the literary landscape, Willie Perdomo’s work is lyrical flair meets intelligent wit, stringing together themes of Puerto Rico, el barrio, the diaspora and folk music.
This 20 somethings can be found spitting poetics about Dominicanism in venues around New York City. “most dominicans won’t claim black same way they won’t claim self hate,” he writes poignantly in “along the massacre river.” Expect his work to be found in the forthcoming Afro-Latino Poetry Anthology (Arte Público Press 2016).
Venessa is a working student of Cuban-Puerto Rican descent, whose poetry unapologetically screams #StayWoke. “When I think of my culture, of its struggle, of its will to fight and keep on fighting, I think how blessed am I to have come from such lineage of unmeasurable glory,” says Venessa to VIBE Viva. “To be both brown and black and alive is a gift. I honor this gift with my voice and of course the voice of mi gente!”
Mayda Del Valle
Mayda and her tongue tactics bring into conversation “a hybrid identity and experience” that is “Spanish and English, part hip-hop and salsa, part Nas and Sonia Sanchez, part Shakespeare and John Leguizamo.” Her work deals with the aesthetics of hip-hop and the urban Latino experience, while exploring “themes of healing, transformation and the recovery of ancestral memory in the modern day diaspora.”
Noel is an Afro-Boricua writer with a wicked knack for performance poetry that largely deals with “the spirituality of languages, the meanings of diasporic identity and the ancient and present art of verse.” His work has appeared in The Acentos Review, FreezeRay, and Maps for Teeth, as well as on Blavity and LatinTRENDS. He is a working educator, living in the Big Apple.