• Amanda M. Pericles

Elizabeth Acevedo: The Inspiration


If you've been following me for a while on Instagram, you'll know that this page was inspired by Elizabeth Acevedo. I didn't know who she was until one day, September 22, 2015, when a friend shared a video of hers on Facebook. I watched the video, a performance of her poem "Afro-Latina", and it was like my entire world shifted. I had never felt so understood by someone and it was like I had finally found a box I could check myself into. An identity I never knew I could claim.

Elizabeth is from New York, born to Dominican immigrants. She received a BA in Performing Arts from George Washington University and a MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Maryland. She's toured both locally and internationally, given TEDTalks, and been featured on BET and Mun2. So I don't end up rewriting her entire bio, you can check out all she's done on her website here.

It's been over two years since that Facebook post, and this year, on October 23rd, I was finally able to see Elizabeth live at Bridgewater State University. I did a live feed on Instagram, so I do not have any personal videos to share, but it made me so happy to finally be able to see her perform. As soon as she walked in, her beauty smacked me in the face (she's stunning). Although her hair and style are literally jaw-dropping, her personality, confidence, and talent are truly what makes her beautiful. That night she performed various poems and told us about her educational, personal, and cultural experiences, sharing with us how she gets through this thing called life via writing and performing. It's been about a month since that night, and I found it fitting to post about it now.

The end of the year tends to be about giving thanks, reflecting on our lives, and looking towards a better future. This year, I've realized that these past two years have been a crazy journey for me, both emotionally and intellectually. I am in no way the same person I was when I watched Elizabeth's video for the first time, but I'm definitely not done growing or learning. I'm thankful for having developed an open mind, which allows me to learn and grow intellectually. I'm thankful for emotional growth, which allows me to speak my mind without breaking down. I'm thankful for my immigrant parents, whose lives have not been easy, but who have struggled and worked tirelessly to make sure my life can be a little easier. I'm thankful for the opportunity to help others (including my sister) on their identity journey. I'm thankful for friends and followers, who give me a little push to keep striving for excellence and a better me. And finally ... I'm thankful for Elizabeth, because without that video that day, I wouldn't have created @afrolatinas_ the very next month, and I definitely wouldn't be the woman I am today.

Afro-Latina

Camina conmigo

Salsa swagger anywhere she go

Como "la negra tiene tumbao - azúcar!"

Dance to the rhythm

Beat the drums of my skin

Afro descendant

The rhythm's within

The first language I spoke was Spanish

Learned from lullabies whispered in my ear

My parents' tongue was a gift which I quickly forgot after realizing my peers did not understand it

They did not understand me

So I rejected habichuela and mangu

Much preferring happy meals and big macs

Straightening my hair in imitation of Barbie I was embarrassed by my grandmother's colorful skirts and my mother's "ehbroki Ingli" which cracked my pride when she spoke

So, shit, I would poke fun at her myself

Hoping to lessen the humiliation

Proud to call myself American

A citizen of this nation

I hated caramel colored skin

Cursed God I'd been born the color of cinnamon

How quickly we forget where we come from

So remind me

Remind me that I come from the Tainos of the rio

the Aztec, the Mayan, los Incas

Los Españoles con sus fincas buscando oro

And the Yoruba Africanos que con sus manos built a mundo nunca imaginado

I know I come from stolen gold

From cocoa, from sugar cane

The children of slaves and slave masters

A beautifully tragic mixture

A sancocho of erased history

And my memory can't seem to escape

The thought of lost lives and indigenous rape

A bittersweet bitterness of feeling innate

The soul of a people past, present, and fate

Our stories can not be checked into boxes

They are in the forgotten

The undocumented

The passed down spoonfuls of arroz con dulce at abuela's knee

They're the way our hips skip to the beat of cumbia, merengue, y salsa

They're in the bending and blending of backbones

We are deformed and reformed beings

It's in the sway of our song

The landscapes of our skirts

The azucar beneath our tongues

We are the unforseen children

We're not a cultural wedlock

Hair too kinky for Spain

And too wavy for dreadlocks

So our palms tell the cuentos of many tierras

Read our lifeline

Birth of intertwined moonbeams and starshine

We are every ocean crossed

North star navigates our waters

Our bodies have been bridges

We are the sons and daughters

El destino de mi gente

Black, brown, beautiful

Viviremos para siempre

Afrolatinos hasta la muerte

Elizabeth's next novel, The Poet X, releases next March. It's available for pre-order here.

#Elizabethacevedo #spokenword #poetry #dominican #newyork #afrolatinas #blacklatina #afrolatina #thanksgiving #givethanks #emotionalgrowth #personalgrowth #inspiration

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