Somos Escritoras #ATX Summer 2019

This summer, we hosted the second annual Somos Escritoras/We are Writers workshop for Latinx girls (grades 6-8) at Sadler Means Young Women’s Leadership Academy.

For one week 13 young Latinx girls met at Sadler Means to join in community and share their stories and experiences through art, writing and theater.

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Somos Escritoras young writers and writing mentors sharing their self-portraits. 

Together we examined our cultural and linguistic histories, discovered new ways to use art and writing to define ourselves, while building a bond of sisterhood and community.

 

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Where I’m From: Girls drew a picture to share all the people, places and moments that are part of where they are from. Then, they took their pictures to writing. 

Throughout the week, members from our community joined us to share their gifts and talents with us. They hosted guest writing and art workshops, shared the ways they use writing in their lives and careers and provided insight into their writing journeys.

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Somos Escritoras is a communal space, in which, we are coming together Como mujeres y chicas, to share, grow and learn from the intergenerational exchange of stories and histories. Our journeys are connected by our shared desire to make our dreams come true, give back to our communities and pave the way for future generations of Latinx girls to realize their power–and step into it.

The week was made possible by the letters: C-O-M-M-U-N-I-T-Y!

Thank you to our community supporters:

  • Sadler Means Young Women’s Leadership Academy
  • Sadler Means Principal: Mrs. Christina Almaraz Ortiz
  • Our Writing Mentors: Nathaly, Judith, Tania, Stephanie, & Desiree
  • Web Designer: Iris Treinies
  • Guest Presenter: Natalie Martinez, Fox 7 Austin
  • Guest Presenter: Lorena German
  • Guest Presenter: Dr. Paty Abril-Gonzalez
  • Lunch Panel Presenters: Soledad Bautista, Alethea Maldonado & Sandra Springer
  • My Parents: Vivian and George Flores
  • The Heart of Texas Writing Project Director: Deb Kelt
  • My Chair: Dr. Cinthia Salinas
  • Dr. Noah DeLissovoy
  • Dr. Arcelia Hernandez
  • My Dissertation Co-Chairs: Dr. James Blasingame & Dr. Sujey Vega

 

 

 

Defining Ourselves Through Art & Writing: Somos Escritoras #PHX

“If I didn’t define myself for myself, I would be crunched into other people’s fantasies for me and eaten alive.” ~Audre Lorde

Back home in Arizona and beyond thrilled to be facilitating Somos Escritoras #PHX. This week, Chicas (grades 6-12) from schools throughout AZ will come together at Palabras Bookstore to examine topics related to identity, language and culture while using art and writing as tools of self-definition, expression and critique.

 

 

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On the first day of workshops, we asked girls to respond to the following questions: How do you define yourself? How do you think society defines you? ¿Cómo te defines a ti mismo? ¿Cómo crees que te define la sociedad? These questions anchored all texts we explored and activities we engaged in during our time together. Girls shared with one another and then shared aloud. In their responses, girls defined themselves as human, different—meant to stand out, un gran chica who wants to go far in life, as loud as ME!

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From our opening conversations, we moved into a discussion of the life and art of Frida Kahlo.A bold and fierce artist that defined herself on her own terms through her art and activism. After a brief discussion, we engaged in a gallery walk of her self-portraits, which we had set up in the space prior to our time together.

 

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After, exploring her art and noticing the ways she used colors, facial features, hair, animals and artifacts her painting to express her emotions and define herself in a specific moment in time, each girl created their own self-portrait—defining themselves through their art.

Letter to Milagros

I wrote this “Letter for Milagros” for an assignment for my intersectionality: gender and race class during my doctoral studies. I wrote it while I was pregnant with Milagros (April 2015).

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The Friday Before Milagros was born.

Dear Milagros,

I write this letter from a place of love.

A deep love that I’ve heard from the women in my life only a mother knows. As I eagerly await your arrival, I reflect daily on my own lived experiences as a Latina woman and the lived experiences of the women who raised me in order to prepare me for the experiences that you will encounter as a young, bi-racial “Ger-Mexican” girl.

In this reflection of what I have encountered in life and the women in my family have encountered in their lives, I feel an urgent need to begin to try and explain to you the society that we live in. This is not to frighten and silence you, but raise your consciousness about the oppressions that exist in our world, in order to utilize this knowledge to your benefit.

 

Our society is full of controlling images of women and girls of color. We are viewed in negative ways, as burdens to society, as overly sexual individuals, taking more than we contribute and of contributing to systems of poverty. The fact is ….is that there are systems and structures in place that are designed to keep us in second-class status behind White men and white middle-class women.

 

The dominant groups construct these stereotypes and narratives as a way to control our bodies, silence our voices and ideas, and inflict internal pain by working to damage our self-definitions of who we believe we are and our worth.

 

However, as Audrey Lorde writes in speaking of these forces and the experience of Black Women, “we [have] to be watchers….to become familiar with the language and manners of the oppressor, even sometimes adopting them for illusion of protection” (Cited in Collins 107).

 

This does not mean to sit on the sidelines and simply be a watcher of oppression and injustice, without action. It means to be aware of the tools that the oppressor uses to dominate and the structures they create and use what you learned from being a “watcher” as a form of resistance to deconstruct them.

 

In my life I have been a watcher and a listener of the lived experiences of others. There are times when I acted, and times where I sat on the sidelines and continued to observe, for I was not ready to take action. From the listening to the stories of the lived experiences of others, this too, informed me on how to move from watcher—finding the language and courage to bring my silence into action.

 

I will admit that this role of Mom is new to me. You are my first…and there probably will be times when I, too, feel lost and uncertain. I know that lots of Moms feel this way at times, but luckily, I can look to my own Mom for guidance, support and advice. The lived experiences of my Mom informed the way that she raised my sisters and me.

 

My Mom grew up in a small town in northern Arizona. The youngest of 11, my Mom was raised in a home full of women—which included her nine older sisters, and her Mother, Josefina.

As a young child, my Mom endured a tremendous amount of oppression stemming from societal imposed perceptions of poverty, race, and language. In school, she was punished and ridiculed for speaking Spanish to her friends. She was spanked and forced to write 100 times on the blackboard, “I will not speak Spanish on the playground.” These experiences caused internal harm to her confidence and the view she had of herself as a Mexican-American/Latina. Due to this negative experience, My Mom made the decision that she would not teach us Spanish, with the hopes that we would not experience the same shame, ridicule and guilt that she experienced as a Spanish speaker.

However, not speaking Spanish has impacted me in similar ways that speaking Spanish impacted my Mother.

My attempts at speaking Spanish are often ridiculed and I’m looked upon as a sell-out, una vendida, una agringada, or as not being proud. Gloria Anzaldúa speaks to this as Chicanas trying to out Chicana each other…and says “Chicanas feel uncomfortable talking Spanish to Latinas, afraid of their censure…often with Mexicans y Latinas we’ll speak English in a neutral language…. “there is no one Chicano language just as there is no one Chicano experience…A monolingual Chicana whose first language is English or Spanish is just as much a Chicana as one who speaks several variants of language (80-81).”

Not speaking Spanish the way “I should,” has made me feel like an outsider, as not being “Mexican-enough” and like I don’t belong. The words, the looks, and the laughs have hurt my spirit in so many ways. This repression of language, and the stereotypes, that have been imposed on me and continue to be imposed on me have led to my silence at certain times in life.

I tell you these stories because I believe in the powerful healing, learning and relationships that can be built in sharing our stories. Although they hurt my spirit, I give them to you as gift—a lens into my life, a piece of wisdom from which you can draw strength.

Over time, I have come to realization that these imposed stereotypes of who I am, do not define me. I am in charge of creating my own definitions of who I am. These definitions that I create for myself lift me up and carry me through each day—like Patricia Hill Collins explains Black women throughout history who “crafted identities that were designed to empower” (109). The identity am crafting for myself, as daughter, sister, wife, educator, student, aspiring scholar and future Mom empower me on a daily. This is what I hope for you.

Not only do I share with you my story, and the stories of my Mom, but also the memories, wisdom, words and stories from my Nana Josie and other women in my family who helped to raise me and nurture me as a young child and adult. These women, Nanas, aunts, cousins, and madrinas showed me how to care for others, love unconditionally, seek justice, and define myself in positive ways. Like my Mom, they too, struggled

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Their words and actions impacted my life in so many ways, and it is their model of strength, courage, power, love, and hope, along with my lived experiences, that will guide and shape me as I embark on this new role as Mom.

I wish for you to be a reflective watcher and listener .

I wish for you to not allow for the negative stereotypes that society may impart on you to break your spirit or chisel away at the identity you create for yourself.

I wish for utilize what you learned from being a reflective watcher and listener to seek justice and deconstruct the systems of oppression that may hurt you and others.

 

Do not be silenced, bring your silence to action—share your stories and create the world that you want to live in for yourself.

Each day will be a gift of learning and wonder. There will also be days of heartache, sadness, and uncertainty, but these too, are gifts in which we learn and grow. I am here to share all these gifts with you, both the uplifting and the heartbreaking, and be there for you as a source of strength, support, and encouragement—a guiding light who will always have your best interests at the forefront of my heart.

All of these experiences will shape you into the woman that you will one day become.

They are survivors. We are survivors. Their stories are apart of you—and will lift you up in hard times. Hold these stories close to you.

Love,

Mom

 

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Milagros (1 week)

My Spanish

Inspired by Alison Villasana’s poetry workshop and Melissa Lozada-Olivo spoken word piece, “My Spanish” here is my writing around a my languages. Very drafty, get down draft, but I wrote it for ME.

My Spanish

My Spanish has never been my Spanish

It is my mother’s story of shame, ridicule and pain

An unknown ancestor waiting to be discovered, remembered.

 

My Spanish brings up many questions

Assumptions of my orgullo

Raised eyebrows about el sonido

Concerned looks of pity

 

My Spanish, stumbles over itself as if trying to find itself in a dark room

At times

it finds the light

The right palabras

The right sonidos

Other times, it sneaks back under the covers to hide from the dark and avoid the light.

 

My Spanish is my Nana Josie’s prayers

The blessings of her sopa de fideo y tocino bien cocido

Whispering prayers on my ojos bonitos and my forehead

Reminding me of times that must never be forgotten.

Somos Escritoras/We Are Writers: A Creative Space for Latina Adolescent Girls

“I change myself, I change the world.” ― Gloria Anzaldúa

This summer, I co-facilitated the FIRST Somos Escritoras workshop in Austin, Texas with a group of talented doc students and undergraduate students from UT and my younger sister.

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In previous Somos Escritoras workshops, Latina girls and their mothers and Latina girls and their mothers and fathers met to write, draw and share stories from their lived experiences. Each time, I work alongside girls and their parents in this space, the girls always describe that they feel free and comfortable to write and share alongside—unlike they do in school or in other settings. For many, this feeling of comfort and solidarity comes from hearing each other’s stories, and being heard and realizing from this sharing that they are not alone in their experiences. They ask for more time and they ask for a space for them to meet and share—just the Chicas.

To honor their requests, I decided that I would organize a Somos Escritoras creative writing workshop for the Chicas to come together to share and perform stories from their lived experiences through artwork and writing—while building and growing alongside one another.

During the first two weeks in June, 13 Latina adolescent girls in grades 6-12 met at the Con Mi Madre offices to participate in Somos Escritoras/We Are Writers. At workshops, we explored topics related to language, culture, gender, family, education and advocacy. Girls read and listened to poetry and essays written by Maya Angelou, Gloria Anzaldúa, Audre Lorde, Pat Mora, Michelle Serros and other Black and Latinx writers. storytellers and spoken word poets that connected to these topics and their lived experiences. They discussed these texts, connecting them to their lived experiences, and those of their friends and family, while considering how this impacted their worlds and how they had the power to create counter narratives through the writing and speaking of their own truths. Girls created self-portraits, masks, advocacy posters, illustrations and other pieces of art in which they defined themselves in their own words, extending meaning through writing.

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Throughout the week, we played improve games and warm-ups to not only strengthen our bond and have fun, but to continue to reflect on the importance of teamwork, working through tensions and always coming back to our breath—our center.

On the final night, we gathered on the University of Texas at Austin campus to celebrate the work that we had done together as a community of escritoras poderosas.

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We invited family and friends to join us in celebrating our words and our stories. At the celebration, each girl stood in front of our invited guests and shared a piece that they had written at the workshop. Girls shared pieces in which they honored their mothers for all they do for them, describing their pride in their cultura, and declaring who they were and who they were becoming.

**Thank You: Con Mi Madre, UT Austin Curriculum and Instruction, Language and Literacy Colleagues, Cinthia Salinas, Noah DeLissovy & Aracelia Hernandez, Karen French, Lucas Horton, Yvonne Taylor, Christina Murray, Omar Rodriguez, Mr. Salmerón, Vivian & George Flores, Roxanne Schroeder-Arce, Laura Gonzalez, Nathaly Batista-Morales, Cori Salmerón, Maya Ellison & Stephanie Flores. 

 

Somos Escritoras/We Are Writers: A Creative Space for Latina Adolescent Girls

“I change myself, I change the world.” ― Gloria Anzaldúa

This summer, I co-facilitated the FIRST Somos Escritoras workshop in Austin, Texas with a group of talented doc students and undergraduate students from UT and my younger sister.

34603301_10109636101152941_204121546262839296_n.jpg

In previous Somos Escritoras workshops, Latina girls and their mothers and Latina girls and their mothers and fathers met to write, draw and share stories from their lived experiences. Each time, I work alongside girls and their parents in this space, the girls always describe that they feel free and comfortable to write and share alongside—unlike they do in school or in other settings. For many, this feeling of comfort and solidarity comes from hearing each other’s stories, and being heard and realizing from this sharing that they are not alone in their experiences. They ask for more time and they ask for a space for them to meet and share—just the Chicas.

To honor their requests, I decided that I would organize a Somos Escritoras creative writing workshop for the Chicas to come together to share and perform stories from their lived experiences through artwork and writing—while building and growing alongside one another.

During the first two weeks in June, 13 Latina adolescent girls in grades 6-12 met at the Con Mi Madre offices to participate in Somos Escritoras/We Are Writers. At workshops, we explored topics related to language, culture, gender, family, education and advocacy. Girls read and listened to poetry and essays written by Maya Angelou, Gloria Anzaldúa, Audre Lorde, Pat Mora, Michelle Serros and other Black and Latinx writers. storytellers and spoken word poets that connected to these topics and their lived experiences. They discussed these texts, connecting them to their lived experiences, and those of their friends and family, while considering how this impacted their worlds and how they had the power to create counter narratives through the writing and speaking of their own truths. Girls created self-portraits, masks, advocacy posters, illustrations and other pieces of art in which they defined themselves in their own words, extending meaning through writing.

34535875_10109638366458251_1583069639011729408_n.jpg

Throughout the week, we played improve games and warm-ups to not only strengthen our bond and have fun, but to continue to reflect on the importance of teamwork, working through tensions and always coming back to our breath—our center.

On the final night, we gathered on the University of Texas at Austin campus to celebrate the work that we had done together as a community of escritoras poderosas.

35433352_10109674390236311_2341473241857523712_n.jpg

We invited family and friends to join us in celebrating our words and our stories. At the celebration, each girl stood in front of our invited guests and shared a piece that they had written at the workshop. Girls shared pieces in which they honored their mothers for all they do for them, describing their pride in their cultura, and declaring who they were and who they were becoming.

**Thank You: Con Mi Madre, UT Austin Curriculum and Instruction, Language and Literacy Colleagues, Cinthia Salinas, Noah DeLissovy & Aracelia Hernandez, Karen French, Lucas Horton, Yvonne Taylor, Christina Murray, Omar Rodriguez, Mr. Salmerón, Vivian & George Flores, Roxanne Schroeder-Arce, Laura Gonzalez, Nathaly Batista-Morales, Cori Salmerón, Maya Ellison & Stephanie Flores. 

 

Dreaming Together/Soñando Juntos

“Nothing happens in the ‘real’ world unless it first happens in the images in our heads” ~Gloria Anzaldúa

At our last PUENTE meeting with our parent/caregiver partners from SEEDS, we started our time together engaged in an opening community reading and writing experience. Our opening reading and writing was focused on the dreams we hold close to our hearts. I selected the bilingual poem, “The Dream on My Wall,” by Jane Medina to open our discussion about dream(s) and dreaming.

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Teachers and parents sat alongside one another as the poem was read aloud in English and Spanish. After a brief discussion of the poem, teachers and parents had time to draw and write about their dream(s).

This opening reading and writing is an important part of our PUENTE meeting. It brings the community together to explore and examine our lives through reading and writing that stems from our lived experiences. As we read and write together we discuss our lives which leads to generative themes to explore in 1-1 partner time and in the next meeting during opening reading and writing. In addition, it is another opportunity for parents to practice English by orally sharing, drawing and writing about their lives and further developing their vocabulary based upon their own experiences.

As parents and teachers finished drawing and writing about their dreams, several people shared their dreams with the entire group.

Collectively we dream about:

  • A cleaner planet
  • Starting a Mexican restaurant serving traditional Mexican food
  • A clean DREAM Act
  • Our children to attend college
  • Living a healthy life with our families
  • Becoming teachers that honor students and families
  • Returning to our homes
  • Seeing family members that we have not seen for many years

As Gloria Anzaldúa reminds us, “Nothing happens in the ‘real’ world unless it first happens in the images in our heads.” I believe that telling our dreams to one another is a way that we may begin to breathe them into reality. Together we can begin to construct and (re)construct reality and imagine endless possibilities.

As teachers, we learn a little more about the parents that we are privileged to work alongside during our time together. These conversations teach us more about what matters most to families and how we can be better serve them in our future classrooms.