Author Archives: Tatiana Figueroa Ramirez

About Tatiana Figueroa Ramirez

Born in Puerto Rico and raised in the mainland United States, I graduated with a B.A. in English Literature from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) and am a 2016 VONA Voices Alumna. I currently perform spoken-word in the greater Washington D.C. area and have previously performed in Philadelphia, Miami, and the Dominican Republic. Most recently, I have been published in Public Pool, Spillwords, and The Acentos Review, and Here Comes Everyone: East & West Issue.

Representation Matters

Standard

Although it’s just starting to feel like spring in Maryland, the spring equinox was about a week ago, meaning that spring is here. However, even more interestingly, it seems like March 20th was a universal trifecta of cosmic energy. In addition to welcoming in a new season, that day also had the pleasure of witnessing a solar eclipse and a super moon. I don’t know much about astronomy and the science behind these events, but that sounds pretty special if you ask me. Personally, my trust in cosmic energy and astrology is flaky. I’ll occasionally indulge in a horoscope reading and I proudly rep being a fiery Leo, but, on the whole, I don’t let any of it define me or my life.

On the other hand, a poet I follow on Twitter is better versed in that sense. She strongly believes in the effects of cosmic energy on our spirituality and she has a fairly deep knowledge of what these cosmic events mean. Through her, I learned that the energy being put out into the universe could be used as an opportunity for spiritual renewal. It could be said that it is the end of an era in a person’s life to make way for a new purpose to properly develop and grow. She explains that now is the time to state your intentions and, as the moon moves through its phases, your intentions will bloom, as well.

Again, I tend to only half believe in the power of the stars, simply because I don’t have a lot of experience with cosmic energy; however, I do believe in a power greater than all of us that may or may not use the cosmos as a tool, so, all in all, I was open to this possibility. More importantly, I was curious to see how, if at all, these events would affect my life and my spiritual course as a whole. My open-minded side was hoping for some kind of message from the universe, while the skeptic in me wasn’t allowing me to hold my breath.

So, on March 20th, my day went on as normal. Nothing particularly special happened until that night when I was taking a shower. Yes, the shower, the fountain of great ideas for every creative. So, being a writer, I was using my shower time as a time for reflection and thinking. I was thinking about my writing and which direction I should take. This was when the universe hit me with its gift. Representation matters.

Growing up, I don’t remember seeing any characters or celebrities who I could fully identify with. The closest thing I had was Scary Spice, but I definitely didn’t feel represented in books or shows. The vast majority of characters were white, while the few splashes of diversity I could see as a kid still only represented a minority of a minority. I couldn’t find any character that combined my physical features with my Afro-Latin roots. When it came to toys, Theresa, Barbie’s friend, was as good as it was going to get, but, I must admit, her brown, perfectly-tamed, wavy hair still made me feel out of place. But imagine. If it was hard enough for me to find a Hispanic representation that wasn’t from Central or South America, then imagine finding an accurate representation for each of my friends, who are even more diverse in their skin tones, hair types, and backgrounds. In other words, Susie Carmichael simply was never enough.

Unfortunately, fifteen years later and not too much has changed. DreamWorks is just now introducing the first black lead in a 3-D animated film and make-up lines have only recently expanded their products to include options for darker skin tones. There’s no doubt that this is a step in the right direction; however, it is also very clear that this movement could use some help, so that it can continue to foster positive change. This is where my intentions for the new moon come into play.

For me, representation matters, so, through my writing, I want to diversify the representations people are seeing. This means representing the minorities I identify with, the minorities around me, and the under-represented in general. I want to encourage character and perspective diversity, while also increasing options for those who feel under-represented. There is a spectrum between Theresa and Susie Carmichael that exists as a gap in media representation. With my writing, I hope to help lessen that gap because, simply put, representation matters.

But I do wonder, what else does the universe have in store?

Advertisements

The Song of Mothers

Standard
Dedicated to Mami, my mother’s mother, and her mother’s mother:

.

I can hear her humming in a distant room.

She sings songs of her childhood

that were from her mother’s time

and the time of her mother’s mother.

No complaints.

No slowing down.

Just the rummaging of what she’s getting done

and the sounds of her voice.

A few sighs here and there may be heard,

but never a malicious word.

She goes about her business,

finishing every chore with perfection,

while lightening the load of those around her.

.

Her humming is soothing like a lullaby,

but with a melody that keeps her going.

It takes me home to my island.

It takes me home to my childhood.

It is the humming I love most.

The humming of my mother,

my mother’s mother,

and her mother’s mother.

.

2015 is Welcome

Standard

We have officially welcomed the new year and are starting a new time in our lives.  This is mostly a time of reflection on the past year and an opportunity to set goals for the year to come.  And, although I believe change can be initiated at any time as long as the motivation is there, I also believe the new year serves as a good marker to indicate each person’s progress.  In terms of reflection, I have learned two things during the past year… perfection is nearly impossible and welcome change because it is inevitable.

As humans, we don’t like to accept the flaws in ourselves, in our environments, and in our lives, but, as soon as we stop expecting perfection, we will be much happier with our situations.  For example, as we enter a new year, we set our resolutions and look forward in the hopes of a perfect year, but, as the year goes on, things happen that don’t fit into a perfect year plan.  However, imperfections are natural.  It is how we react to these unforeseen “bumps,” which will determine how good your year will actually be.  Mortality, break ups, disagreements, and rejections are all bound to be a part of the new year.  They are all bound to evoke change and change is inevitable, but it is not always bad.

When a person dies, we who are still alive mourn their death.  We miss them, we’re hurt, and, sometimes, we’re surprised.  These are natural responses to death, but they are also selfish.  Though we must grieve and take time to cope with loss in a healthy manner, eventually, we must understand that our loved one was in pain.  They were suffering and, although no new memories will be made, we can be grateful for the memories we do have.

In break ups you must think “is it possible that two people are better off apart than together?”  Was the relationship positive and productive?  Break ups are most difficult because the drastic change scares us.  You are single again, you’ll eventually need to date again, and you’ll need to trust in another person all over again.  Essentially, all of the “progress” you’ve made seems wasted and you’re back to square one.  However, a lot of good can come from a creak up.  It can be an end to what was actually a toxic relationship, it can be a chance for you to explore a relationship with a more compatible partner, and it can force you to mature into a better person.

With these examples, my point is to welcome change because there is always a plus no matter how low this change make you feel.  The same goes for disagreements, rejection, pressure, and anything else that may have forced a shift or some kind of change in your life.  Your perspective may have changed, you may have learned something new, or you may have reached something you never thought was possible.  Simply embrace the change.

The past year been a rocky one with plenty of highs, lows, and overall change.  Can I say I had  perfect year?  Absolutely not, but I can point out enough great things that happened in the past 365 days allowing me to say 2014 was still a good year.

As for this upcoming year, I can’t say it will be perfect (and I can’t expect it to be either), but I can say it will be a good year filled with positive change.  I have my goals set and I know the direction I would like to move toward (which is mostly driven by positive thinking), but I will welcome whatever comes my way and will do everything I can to make every experience a positive one.  I hope you all will do the same and I hope 2015 is good to you.

Stay Woke

Standard

.
The night is black
Our skin is black
Yet the world flashes
With lights
That are red and blue
As the world wakes up
To an orchestra of sirens
After the introductory
Boom boom boom.
And your son or your daughter
Your brother or your sister
Your nephew or niece
Comes to you and says,
“I heard the fireworks.
They woke me up.
I see the reds
And the blues in the sky,
But I don’t see the big boom.
Where’s the spark?
Where’s the explosion?”
And you look that child
Deep in their eyes
And you realize
“Baby, that’s exactly
What I’m trying to find.
That’s the thing I ask myself.”
And you aren’t feeding him lies.

You truly think to yourself
When will people see the spark?
When will they hear an explosion?
When will my brothers and my sisters
Wake up and see the red and blue hues
For what they really are?
Those alarms don’t mean
Music to my ears.
They make opportunity
For my fears.
The fact that the badge to me
Is more of a warning
Of the devil in blue
Than an angel on earth
Means we need to wake up.
We have to rise from our slumber
And make our own explosion,
Our own thunder.

Now why is it that our children,
Who can’t even vote,
Are dying in the name of America?
Why are they dying in America?
And why is it
That when they die
Our protests are seen
As hyperboles and jokes?
Why must they die
For our people to wake up?
For their people to wake up?
Because if I wear
A black hoodie and blue jeans
That means
I’m the director
Of the city’s crime scenes?
Because “protect and serve”
Can be exchanged
For “project and slay”?
Why is there a new case each day?
At least that’s how it seems
With the most recent of things.
There’s always a new one.

Hashtag rest in peace my angel.
Hashtag you got your wings.
Hashtag never forget.
Rest in peace
Because we haven’t found it here.
Rest in peace
Because we’re still restless.
Rest in peace
Because dying is the only way to get it.
That’s the price of peace?
Death?

The irony of the land of the free
And the home of the brave.
Where our people
Fear the youth
And dark skin.
Where the new slaves
Are still shackled in chains.
Where our leaders
Pray we stay sleeping.
Land of the free
And home of the brave.
One nation under God.
One nation together
As long as we stay divided
From bottom to top.
One nation united
As long as you stick to a curfew,
Walk on sidewalks,
Stay away from skittles,
And find a way to hide
The melanin you inherited
From your dad and/or mom.

Now call me selfish,
But with a father who looks Arab
And a brother who knows he’s black.
My father is named Martin.
My brother is named Martin.
I’m just grateful
I’m not hashtagging
Rest in peace to my Martins.
Because I know all too well
No one is safe
Unless I have the right friends,
Know the right places,
And disown the ancestors
Who make up my faces,
I’m not safe.
My family is not safe,
My friends are not safe,
My fellow Americans are not safe.
All college educated,
All clean records,
All good people,
But no one is safe.

Officer, what was my crime?
Was it the fact that I was out at 1am
With my brother
On my way to Taco Bell
Because I was hungry?
Or was it the fact that my skin
Blends more into the night than yours?
And I can’t deny it
My roots aren’t from the land of the free
And the home of the brave.
You’re right about that, Officer.
I’m no Native American
Because I can’t trace my ancestry
To the Iroquois or the Cherokee.
I just know I was born on U.S. soil
That was stolen from the Spanish
In a war I had no part in.
And, on this night,
That I choose to get a quesadilla
And nachos with guacamole on the side
I see five patrol cars pass by
And I tell my brother
“Junior be careful I’m scared.
Something doesn’t feel right.”
And I didn’t feel safe
‘Till we were both
In our home.
I didn’t hear any boom boom booms.
There were no fireworks tonight.
No rest in peace tweets,
But a friendly reminder
To stay woke.
.

Happy Veteran’s Day!

Standard

As the daughter, granddaughter, niece, cousin, and friend, of military veterans, I wanted to take today to honor the people who have served in or are currently serving in the armed forces.  I know the sacrifices that need to be made to be able to wear those uniforms and it is a position that shouldn’t be taken lightly.  Being part of the military is something that shouldn’t be taken for granted and I feel honored to have such close ties to the military.  From the days of watching my father come home in his uniform or seeing my uncle retire to even witnessing members of the military honoring my relatives after their passing, I have always had respect for the military and their veterans.  Whenever I see a veteran, I always feel a special attachment to them because the life of veterans is all too familiar to me.  So, if you see a veteran today or any day, make sure to show them respect and remember what they’ve done for you.

Happy Birthday Junior!

Standard

People constantly tell me that they are jealous of the relationship I have with my brother. We are extremely close, we get along better than most siblings, and we act as if we’re twins, even though we’re three years apart. When people point this out, I can’t deny it, but the truth is my brother and I have been solidifying this relationship for YEARS, so I think, after all of our hard work, we deserve a good relationship.

When times got hard, rather than separating and growing apart, we stayed close together, becoming each other’s support system and we fed off each other’s strength. This was how we managed to progress and develop our individual peace, balance, and success, despite whatever madness was going on. Over the years, my brother has become my best friend, my business partner, and my mentor, among other roles he plays in my life and I honestly could not have created a better big brother… Well, maybe he could be less stubborn, but I guess nobody’s perfect. Either way, I literally cannot imagine my life without him and I feel honored to share so many journeys with him.

Today is my brother’s 25th birthday and, although he has accomplished so many things already, I know there is so much more he’ll achieve in the next chapter of his life. Happy Birthday Junior!