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“tierra”

Press your palms on her. Feel. Experience. I meditated with this, I took my time. I followed my gut. I used a glass bowl- equal part dirt and mod podge. I didn’t wear gloves. I used my hand… to scoop the mixture and press it on the canvas. I let the paint drip. My room smelled like glue for a week. I slept in a hoodie. The windows open.

This painting is an ode to the pivotal parts of our identity and ancestry that are underground. The ways in which we as humans fail to uncover and realize the beauty and complexities of All that we are and all we are connected to. By exposing the roots, I resist our culture’s desire to see beauty on the surface and encourage us to dive into the darkened parts of ourselves burrowed and sometimes disregarded. By exposing the roots, we are reminded there is more to the world than what we see. Most of our forests are underground. Did you know? Take care of her and she will take care of you too.

“I wait.”

Featured“I wait.”

I am 9.

I am hidden underneath the bathroom sink. Maybe if I hide, she’ll forget. Mami was downstairs, by her side a bowl filled with mayo, olive oil, and two eggs. Last time, I had to leave it in my hair for four hours. Trails of mayo leaked from my plastic wrapped head down my neck, shoulders, forehead. I don’t want to, I don’t want to, I don’t want to. 

Mami found me. You’ll be beautiful.

I am 11.

PLAP. PLAP. PLAP. 

I am on the shower floor, eyes shut, fists clenched as mami used a handle brush to PLAP. PLAP. against the large matted knot on the back of my head. Loosening the knots, she continued the force adding Silicon every few minutes. Ay mija, no llores. She says as my tears mingle with the running water. You’ll be beautiful. 

I am 12.

I am on Mama’s bed, listening to the tick tick tick tick of the rain on our tin roof. We are in the Dominican Republic, I am thinking about how life would be if my hair stayed down instead of up. I daydream of silky hair. Tomorrow Mami made an appointment for me to get my hair relaxed. I’m a little scared, but happy. I’m going to be beautiful.

I brush my hair into a bun– the last time I’ll smooth out these kinks. My sister comes with me, she drags her feet to the salon while I float. She hates it there. The noise, the heat, the smell of frying hair. 

My sister and I wait an hour before they start. A lady in a tubee washes my hair over a sink. The weight of my head straining my neck, her fingers scrubbing my scalp raw, I hold in tears. I’m going to be beautiful. 

I am in the salon chair now. Tia mixes what looks like a powder and a cream together. I stare into my reflection as Tia brushes the cool mixture into my hair starting from the back up towards the front. When she is done, I sit by the window. An open square in the cement wall with curved bars instead of glass. My eyes wander. I look at the women. Their hair. Their outfits. Tia starts to set another woman’s hairs in rollos. I wait. 

The mixture isn’t cool anymore, it’s getting a bit warmer. I wait a little longer. My scalp begins to tingle. Tia is laughing, talking to someone else. I don’t want to interrupt. I wait. The tingling is getting worse, the heat is rising. Is it working? I think to myself. I wait. My entire head is in pain now. I can’t wait anymore. It stings, it stings, it stings. I hold back tears as I get up, and go to Tia. Tia, me duele. 


Her eyes open wide, as if she saw a ghost. Ay mija! She yells. Ven, ven, ven. The pain is unbearable. I can’t speak anymore, it almost hurts to cry. A woman puts a towel around my neck, ties it with a butterfly clip, and she scrubs my head. As she touches my head, I feel like my skin is coming off.

Some did. My scalp, the top of my forehead, the back of my neck. It was bright red, almost purple. Little blisters were forming, some of my hair fell off. I don’t think it worked. Tia looked down, as I stare into my glassy eyes in the mirror. She left to call Mami. 

I go back to Mama’s house. 

I don’t have much memory of those next few days– I remember pain. Sadness, feeling ugly.

I am 25.

There are areas on my scalp that are extremely sensitive. Other areas, where I feel nothing at all. 

The mix of numbness and intensity follow me.

I decided when I turned 18 to stop getting my hair treated at all. 

I made the decision to feel beautiful without manipulation. 

2020 Taught Me to Breathe

Featured2020 Taught Me to Breathe

My response to a scholarship prompt: 2020 was a challenging year in many respects. What have you learned about yourself that will enable you to thrive in school, your career, and in life? (250-500 words)

Breathe in. Hold. Release. 

Your breath. Your expectations. The pressure. To be “on” all the time. To be “productive” all the time. The pandemic was heavy with woe, and also opportunity– to slow down, to deepen our connection with ourselves and therefore those around us. As the world shared a brush with fatality,  I focused immense time and energy into my health. I ran, and ran, and ran. I found solace with my breath. And the perfect tree in a perfect park by a Bronx expressway where I sat for hours on end, befriending sounds of birds and passing cars. I cut out processed sugars and dairy. I ate berries. Kale, whole foods, and vegetables. I allowed myself to have faith that my body would protect me– because frankly I don’t believe anyone else could. During this same time, the news featured more murder by the police, more tragedy inflicted personally and institutionally– I did more research on eugenics, on the Tuskegee Syphilis trials, on indigenous methods of healing. I breathed in more knowledge, noticed where I held the tension in my body, and released the need to conform to any convention that was not in the well being of me, my family, or my community. As I learned so intimately as a first generation U.S. citizen and child of an extremely hardworking single mother– if we want change (both internal and external) it’s up to us.

Breathe in. Hold on. Let go.

Let go of previous definitions of normalcy. Let go of desires that do not hold prominent meaning– for life is too short to be wasting any second. Find stillness in your mind, and the answer will flow through you like a river. In 2020 I began my PhD journey. Prior to this, I was a youth program director for a girls center in Harlem where I taught a comprehensive and holistic sexual education program, organized college mentorship opportunities, and had conversations around art and resistance. “I can’t believe I get paid for this,” was my common thought as I worked there. Once March hit and we transitioned online, the programming continued– only now we had muted mics and floating icons. Today, I still mentor these girls (I don’t think I will ever stop) but I prefer one on one calls. I am using this opportunity as a PhD student and an adjunct professor as an opportunity to teach future teachers the critical tools and knowledge necessary to prioritize connection-making in the classroom. I share articles (Freire, Kincheloe, Quintero…) and tools intended to increase youth voice and agency and decrease traditional oppressive power dynamics in the classroom. So when the world does open back up, teachers are more prepared to ensure each young person rightly feel that they matter.

This virtual space is difficult. Drawn out. At many points, simply very sad (I really miss the physicality of class). But, this is also an opportunity for transformation. To let go of what does not serve us. To hold still in this space of recreation and learning, and then exhale into a new world with more mindful people that honor connection more than ever. With their students, with each other, within themselves.

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“cease resistance”

24×30″ acrylic on canvas

Every day for months, I looked at an unfinished version of her. Blotches of exposed canvas, asymmetrical eyes. and colors that fought with one another rather than danced greeted me each rising. I did not rush myself. I breathed in the potential she could become and found solace with the process. Soon, when I was ready I would begin. The night before last, I picked up a paintbrush. Before touching her, I affirmed “there are no such things as mistakes. Mistakes do not exist here. Every stroke is meant to happen.” Over and over again I surrendered myself to the process. I painted over textures I once found beautiful, but I knew had to be reworked– transformed. In 7 hours, I finished. I name this piece, “cease resistance.” I didn’t only paint this, I let it happen.

I choose to center the process rather than the content here, but I would love to know. What does this piece mean for you? Comment below.

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“un jarrón de flores”





20×20″ acrylic on canvas,

worked and reworked.

the beauty of acrylic is nothing ever has to stay still– my paintings can evolve and grow alongside me. I finished the first version of this painting last year. I added some grapes in July. Surreal leaves in August. A little grey in September. Brown spheres in October. Streams of golds, greys, & metallic blues last night. this was a dream slowly realized. an initial distaste revealed then reimagined.

“cielo morado,” “untitled,” & “rebirth”

I’ve finally decided to share some of my visual art on here. IMG-4189 (1)

“cielo morado” 36×24, acrylic & gloss on canvas

I was so happy when I made her. The colors poured from my paintbrush without second thought. The golden core of this sun reflects the tiniest bit of light at night. It’s difficult to photograph but this painting wears many faces as the light around her shifts. My brother called dibs.

IMG-4188 (1)
“untitled” 24×30, acrylic on canvas

I worked to create something I wanted to look at over and over again. I didn’t mind if she looked at me back, so I started with the eye. And the irregular shapes began to form on their own. I have her above my bookshelf, the earth tones beautifully match the spines of my collection so I won’t be giving her away.

IMG-4185 (1)
“rebirth” 30×24, acrylic+soil+pebbles on canvas (2018)

I was dreaming of snakes during this time .. and one night with no blank canvas I chose a self portrait I made the year before. I painted her entirely in copper, bronze, red, & brown. I added a silver snake along the middle & lined the top and bottom of the canvas with soil I brought back from Peru last year, repurposed & glazed. She is reborn.

I will post 2 more paintings this week

Thank you!

little lessons

little lessons

I could go on for pages on the ways in which Life interrupted my plans to post, but I won’t. Simply, I’ll apologize and move on. I messed up. I’ll do better.

The professor looked in our direction, put their elbows on the table and told us if we could do something else, we should.

If we were able to enter a different field, shift academic trajectories, choose another program we should. If we decide to stay… if we believe this is what we were born to do…  “my condolences.”

I’m forced to be smarter here. I am in constant state of reeducation. I walk slower now, making sure I don’t “pull” when I should “push.” I adopt mannerisms, study ways my peers talk to the professor. I study outfits, diction… Durkheim.  As a graduate student in this prestigious program, I am aware both by nature and training of those around me. The air here is dense with complex text and discussion. Therefore, I breathe with intention. At a pace. I am learning. I can feel it.

I’m forced to be selfish here. I let a love be momentary once again. A fatal combination of free time and emotion led me there. And here. On my bed. Writing. I’m at peace. The goodbye was necessary, yet I remind myself it takes more than one to measure a relationship’s worth. Twenty two with two jobs and a thesis on the way… I need to be selfish in love. I am in a constant state of reeducation.

I’ll do better.