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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.

a consumption of time

a consumption of time

February. 

Spots and splashes of yellow, purple, blue, and grey grew in vibrancy as each day passed. The bruising. The aftermath of a trauma that I failed to fit neatly under a two inch bandage. 

I fell hard. Against a marble trimming. I woke up in a daze, convinced I was no longer living. My world, muffled and translucent. I rose slowly, using my hands to help me. Oh god, I was getting blood everywhere. I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror. I should have been horrified, but I was very calm. I called an uber. I picked a random pair of clean underwear to press against my wound. A sock didn’t feel as clean. I checked myself into the emergency room. 

I left with seven stitches and a tylenol prescription. It was snowing. I swore I died that day. My head was heavy, but my feet were light. An overwhelming sensation that my angels walked me back to Earth.

I returned home, alone. Prepared a bowl with detergent and water. I prayed over it. I found a rag. I cleaned the blood off the floor. The trimming. The phone charger. The door knobs. The bathroom sink. 

June.

A few months after the stitches were removed, I fell again. This time I was in the East Village by a mural of Mickey Mouse. I remember knowing it was going to happen. In preparation, I took off my air pods, put them in a clenched fist and brought myself closer to the sidewalk. A man woke me up. I hit my head but I could still see the world clearly. I said thank you and walked myself to the CVS.

A man in the store told me I wasn’t allowed to use their restroom. I begged. He told me to go to the restaurant across the street. Instead I walked to the make-up aisle by the cotton balls and facial pads and laid down. Soon enough, I would muster enough energy to go home. I was a long way from the Bronx.

September.

It was different this time. I wasn’t alone. We were in line at a comedy show. I knew now the cries of my body, the ones that preface my falls. Maybe if I make it to that wall? I thought before falling head-first– crashing into the pavement. I was told afterwards my eyes did not close. My arms straightened. My muscles tense. My neck, stiff. I literally froze. Blacked out. Next thing I remember was a splash of water. Strangers circled around me, yelling at me. You have to go to the hospital, they’re words zoomed through my mind. I didn’t care. I’ve been here before. I just wanted to be home. I left before the ambulance came.  

The day after I was utterly, terribly, incredibly sad. Depressed. Hurt. I was attracting chaos. In one year, I passed out three times (or seized– I’m still not sure). Each time felt like death. Each time, a transformation. A cry for help. My relationship was a cage. The relationship with my lover, with my body, even with my ambition.  

I’ve learned throughout my life that the pain of my body is not detached from the pain of my mind or my spirit. My body was a crackling vessel. An earthquake emerged to the surface. A liquified state that held no structure, or sense of true self.  An inability to take the shape of any emotion, any relationship. A constant questioning and unclarity, held together through the love of a crumbling relationship. My third fall was the lowest I’ve felt since the day after my father passed away. Yet still, I had so much to fucking do. I had papers to grade. Papers to write. People to speak to. Events to organize. Students to support. Clothes to wash.

October.


After all these incidents, the gash is now a subtle scar. The bruising is long gone. Yet the concussions still showed itself in the words lodged in my throat. I burned palo santo each rising, allowing the smoke of burning wood to caress my neck. An attempt to free the misplaced words. I closed my eyes, one hand holding smoke the other my stomach. 

I felt drained, bloated, and unwell. Heavy. I was not moving my body like I used to, the world was not as clear as it used to be. I spent weeks this year in the dark, healing from head traumas. I had a lingering headache, a perpetual fog. I was in desperate need of a change. My body was begging for me to let go of what was not serving me. I held an incessant need to heal my body. This time it wouldn’t be from within, but from without. 

It was October, the day after the end. My shower lasted an hour. Sounds of thrusting water, heavy rain, and car horns orchestrated the soundscape to my steaming tub, skin, fingers. I was standing in my room now, in front of the mirror. I pulled my wet hair into a bun. I found my softest clothes. I put them all on. 


I bought strawberries. Some coffee. Ginger. Guava. Although, that was his favorite. I don’t take a bite. I had every intention of doing so, but instead I let time consume them. 

I watched a movie. I remember the words of the protagonist. She spoke of a time when she put her brain to rest. She was studying in the United States when she realized she didn’t understand the language or the culture very well. She didn’t have too many friends. She spent a lot of time by herself. It was then, when she felt free of the noise… when she began to write again. Abundantly. Quickly. 

I laid. I cried. A grieving, snotty kind. A yearning. I wanted to call him. But that wouldn’t feel good either. I tried crying more. Stretching my limbs this way and that. I stretched my jaw. Pursed my lips, stretched my neck. My shoulders. I took a deep breath. I stuck my tongue out. I closed my mouth. I got on my knees. Lowered myself . Child’s pose. I tried again. Ommm. I was gonna be sick. I walked to the shower. I bathed again. 

I covered myself in oil. Lavender and chamomile, the last few drops from the bottle we shared together. My skin gleamed, still a little pink from the hot water in which I cleansed. I watched beads of oil drip down my shoulders, my hips, my chest, my back. I reached up, tippy toes. Stretched out my joints, pouring the last few drops of the oil we shared down my back. I rubbed the scent across my legs. My toes. The space between my fingers. My face, my hair. Letting it all go. I threw the empty bottle away.

November. 

Laura told me anger is powerful. Women are taught not to lean into their rage. We should. We should yell, we should scream. We should come into community with sisters who will be enraged for us. My mother was my rage for a long time, before I ever was. My cousin was my rage, when I didn’t know if I should endure or fight through a relationship that would inevitably end. My sister was my rage. Laura was my rage. 

As I sank in sadness, in the static state of my desperation to be free of pain and sadness and woe. The women around me held on to my sorrow firmly enough to lift me up into something else. I allowed the rage in. This physical, this emotional, this spiritual pain. Impossible to neatly bandage, was in the open. I allowed it into the physical realm. These words I once misplaced rose again through my body. They were not lost, but lodged. In the back of my throat. Waiting for a good scream, a solid yell, a true release of expectation to be freed. My anger pushed me into a harsh self reflection where I inquired: how was I complicit in all of the spiraling shit that was 2021? 

A question that let me take the power of my pain back. How was I complicit? 

December.


Two days after the end of the semester, I fell again. This time, into a deep sweat. My body turned feverish, cold, hot, congested, trembling and aching from the virus. I forced myself to sleep. To eat. Then to sleep again. I slept for six days. I healed, and I am still healing. 

Two concussions and a positive covid test later, there is no neat conclusion. The metaphorical spots and splashes of yellows, purples, blues, and greys won’t fade. I won’t let them. I’ll carry these colors with me into next year, unsure what this palette will transform into next. 

Soon, I will return home. Prepare a large bowl with part water, part detergent, and part oils. I will pray over it. I will use my hands to splatter the mixture across my home. I will mop. I will burn sage. I will write more. I will paint my kitchen blue. I will pour love, abundantly. Gracefully. I will walk, confident that my angels are taking me exactly where I need to be.

“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!