Two Poets Unapologetically Reclaim Their Names: “Say It Right, Or Don’t Say It At All”

What’s in a name? For poets Yesika Salgado and Aman Batra, the answer for much of their childhood was shame.

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“I am 10 years old ironing Mami out of my tongue and hair,” Salgado expresses. This marks one of several examples of the compromise both wordsmiths succumbed to as they attempted to erase the embarrassment attached to their “ethnic” names. “My name is now a full-on apology,” they say in unison—a sad yet freeing revelation.

“I get accused of being too complicated when I ask for someone to say my whole name, every syllable of it, as if I should apologize for the work that it takes,” Salgado continues before Batra joins in for a pivotal shift toward reclamation. “But why, when my name is the only thing that’s been given to me without the expectation of something in return?”

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Catch the powerful poem below as the duo issues a call for respect that people of color should never hesitate to demand: “Say it right, or don’t say it at all.”

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