While mainstream media remained relatively silent on the death of Maylin Reynoso, a 20-year-old Dominican woman from the Bronx who went missing, a Brooklyn-based poet named Elisabet Velasquez promised to remember her name and the names of other brown and black women of color who went missing, Latina reports.
“When a Black or brown girl goes missing, immediate reactions look to place blame on the victim,” said Velasquez, the Puerto Rican scribe of the poem, titled To The Black And Brown Girls Who Go Missing Before They Go Missing.
She was angered by the lack of attention for the disappearance of the Brujas skating crew member, so she decided to put her talents to good use in order to memorialize women like Reynoso who are seemingly forgotten by news outlets.
“Oftentimes, as in Maylin’s case, the victim’s mental status is brought into question, as if having a mental illness justifies a less thorough investigation,” she continued. “I would demand timely, fair and accurate reporting and dissemination of information regarding our missing black and brown girls that does not divulge criminal, sexual, mental or medical history of the victim.”
Velasquez, 32, says that cases like this bring her anxiety, especially when thinking about the young women who she works with and her, daughter, who is 16 years old. However, she aims to change the conversation by urging communities of color to use their voices to raise awareness for the underrepresented.
“When mainstream media fails us they will have no choice but to hear our voices,” she said.
Read her stunning poem below.
To The Black and Brown Girls Who Go Missing Before They Go Missing
Maybe it was because of the last time
you ran away with the boy
who looked like God.
Maybe it was because of the way
you came back three days later
like you were God.
Maybe they expected you
to resurrect like this, again,
like you have always been a dead girl,
wanting to rise,
glory and miracle.
Like you just wanted your loved ones
to gather around you
so you made a funeral of your body.
Maybe they did not search for you
because you being gone
was not enough evidence
that you were indeed missing.
You so loud, the police are sure
your family will find you.
Crying wolf. Crying rape. Crying.
You so loud
that when you are silent,
they point your parents in the direction
of your echo and say look,
a cave in love with her own darkness.
When the media does not report the news
of your disappearance, you are not a girl worthy of a torch.
You, girl with bonfire hair, do not get to be illuminated.
Do not get to smile for the sake of being happy.
You have a prison grin. They say, it’s your mouth that keeps you captive.
You talk crazy before you talk freedom. It is no wonder you are missing.
Look, how your whole life is condensed to height, weight, eye color, tattoos, piercings.
You, get to be an art gallery on a light pole.
You, do not get to be someone’s favorite song.
You, get to be broken record.
You, do not get an amber Alert if your name is not Amber.
You, a name too hard to pronounce, must mean you difficult too.
Must mean you not worthy of a chorus to sing you into a prayer.
Must make you a melody we forgot the words too, a quiet hum.
A flash mob with no mob and no flash.
You, a dance too hard to memorize.
When they stumble upon your lifeless body in a lake,
they point out every other time in your life you’ve drowned.
Medical records will float to the surface before your body does:
They will say you did this to yourself.
Girls like you are always found submerged in a body of water.
Always baptized, never saved.