Over the past week, conversations about the construct of race have dominated social media. I won’t go into the fact that brown and black people have long challenged this construct and have paid a heavy price for it. However, few have shifted this “new” conversation that conveniently has “new” language (transracial) to shine light on the apartheid currently taking place in the Dominican Republic.
Admittedly, I have struggled with how to approach this horrific reality without imposing the judgement of developing countries that I have been socialized to believe. I have written and rewritten this piece about one hundred times, carefully crafting a statement that is informed on every level. As a Boricua, who was raised on the mainland, North Philadelphia to be exact, I recognize that I am not directly impacted by the history and continued tension between Haiti and the Dominican Republic. However, as a member of the Latin@ community, I do believe it is vital that we all stand in solidarity with all those who struggle to survive an oppressive state that often times robs us of our humanity.
We as Latinxs must address the anti-blackness that exists within the fabric of our culture and history as we again come face to face with the irrefutable evidence of the hatred it breeds. For all of us who work with and beside our undocumented family and friends, we cannot act as if our battles for freedom and citizenship here in America are not connected to the struggle of Haitian-Dominicans. It is not enough to simply place blame without understanding how the oppression in developing countries fuels a parallel experience of pain, anger and outrage. Haitian-Dominicans are suffering the very same systemic oppression that has socialized us all to believe, promote and reinforce the idea that the lives of poor people do not matter, that Black lives don’t matter and that queer lives don’t matter. Oh yes, queer folks are among those who will be facing detention and deportation in the Dominican Republic.
Our families have all courageously ventured to new land, seeking freedom and/or sanctuary. How dare we not honor our history by standing with others who have done and will do the same, others who continue to face violence for seeking these same human rights? #Not1More extends far beyond the borders of America. The foundation and promise of #Not1More must reach all corners of the earth, reminding us that humanity always trumps patriotism.
As this was going to “print”, details of the horrific act of terror in Charleston, North Carolina began to surface. And even now, it is clear that the only Black life that matters in this country is Rachel Dolezal. BBC is the only media outlet covering this at length. If you continue to keep up with this story via “popular” media, pay close attention to how media will humanize this US terrorist. Then remember that just two weeks ago, the young black teenage assaulted by police in McKinney, Texas was not provided the same opportunity of humanity.
We send love & light to all impacted by the war on black and brown bodies. We are raging with you. We are crying with you. And we are standing with you.
shaming Michael Johnson is not a prevention method. blaming him will not end HIV in our communities. ending and irradiating stigma, poverty and oppression will. all #BlackLivesMatter - yes, even Michael Johnson’s.
what if we didn’t shame grief and sorrow? what if we affirmed our rage? the same rage that carried our ancestors. what if we honored those things as much as we honor telling us that we should just “vote.”
break this poem
break this poem in two,
leave half for me
take half for you,
break this poem as please
bit by bit, piece by piece,
feed this poem
and declare a bountiful feast,
break it against chains
and prison cells,
break it against bodies bruised
with skin scars that never tell,
mask it on eyes that hide
until something from the sky arrives,
break it against feet
that are battered and tired,
break it against minds and hearts
that yearn for the burn of fire,
break it till it inspires
and gives us wings to understand
break this poem,
take this poem as means into your hands.
break this poem
break it and divide it
onto everyone you see,
take some for you
leave some for me,
break-in case of emergency,
light in on highways
to guide ways of urgency,
break it against the universe
strike it across the night,
tear it apart and use it as a shield
should the battlefield need you to fight,
break it like wood
and light dark places,
bang it against the ground
to find the traces,
left by deaths and breaths
of ancestors never found,
break it, i say.
break this poem!
louie a. ortiz