From Sonia Guinansaca-TEDxCUNY Disappoints!

sonia profileNote from Mamita Mala : Maegan E. Ortiz

Last night, Sonia requested I post her statement on my blog so that she could share it. In solidarity and support of her I have done so.

Statement

My name is Sonia Guinansaca and I am a migrant queer poet activist and organizer.

I was invited to speak at TEDxCUNY talk whose theme is borders and belonging. I was one out of a few migrant speakers, formerly undocumented and queer. I was excited for this opportunity to share the resistance, resilience, and creative work of my migrant community. Problematic, oppressive, racist, misogynistic behaviors and lack of professionalism has forced me to out of this opportunity.

I was contacted about this event on very short notice and followed all protocol to ensure this talk went smoothly. My goal was to center undocumented, migrant, Trans, Black and people of color with humanizing depth. From the very first rehearsal, on the date of November 6th I performed my poem and read my suggested script. The TEDxCUNY committee was very supportive and enthusiastic, stating that I made good points. No other concerns were stated. My script was again shared in a document with the committee with no feedback received. On the second rehearsal which happened on Tuesday, Nov. 17 just three days shy of the event, I was only met by one person, a man of color, from the staff who once again approved my content and structure.  An email was sent to me later that night by a white cis man who had not been present at the rehearsal, and previously touted that he was “from the suburbs,” in regards to the content of my talk and how it no longer aligned with TEDx structure. In this email, he stated the following:

tedx excerpt

After this email exchange, I made it clear that I had every intention to continue with my talk without revisions, and confirmed my presence for the dress rehearsal taking place on Thursday Nov.19 that evening. I also pointed out that there were larger concerns regarding professionalism, tone, and privilege. Throughout this whole encounter as a queer woman of color migrant, primarily a cis white man did the email exchange, which was uncomfortable and triggering. In spite of having a predominant staff of color and women, the primary contact person was a tactless white cis man. Throughout this whole endeavor, I continued to give them the benefit of the doubt only to be met by hostility, which escalated at the dress rehearsal. The dress rehearsal ran late. As soon as I got up on stage, I was met with disinterest and defensiveness from the team, which made me feel cornered and targeted. It was apparent they had no interest in hearing my talk. As soon as I finished doing one run through, the same white cis man and his team in the presence of other speakers berated me. He continued to talk at me for over 10 minutes regarding palatability of structure for TEDx audiences. He repeatedly stated that my talk was worth “1 sentence”, that there was no need to give me 15-20 minutes on stage. He described my talk as not being “innovative”, that “no one wants to hear a list about migrant artists”, that people want to hear a “heroic” story. I stated it was important and simply responded “Can any of you name ten migrant undocumented artists?” The room was uncomfortably silent. I was open to feedback but it was clear that the goal was not to uplift my speech or my talk, but rather shame and belittle my efforts, my content and the voices I wanted to center. After this excruciating exchange, where the interrogating white cis man rushed out, I was approached by one of the guest hosts, a woman of color, who acknowledged the abrasiveness of the room, stating, “Your poetry is so amazing, it would be just a loss to lose you.”

What they continued to ask of me was a bootstrapped, singular narrative that just isn’t the reality nor lived experiences of migrant communities. My intention was to center Black and people of color, Queer, Trans, migrant artists’ voices. I feel that the structure of my talk was something that highlights the work of collectiveness, demonstrates the work of undocumented and migrant qtpoc that doesn’t operate in a vacuum. I named collaborators, engaged more than one heroic story that showed a lineage of work.  In an individualistic society we are taught to be ashamed of our collective, and our collaborations. Supposedly, we’re magically to escape our connections with the right accomplishments, respectability, & assimilation of our success. I’m not invested in this divisive model of scarcity and the harmful white racism disguised as diversity sessions.  I was asked to either cut the entirety of my talk or to minimize my time to poetic contributions. This devalues the time I spent on this project and speaks to the larger issue of how we treat artists in society. The only options given to me were to cut a bulk of my talk or simply perform two poems. In doing so, the integrity of my work is reduced as supplemental art or as an accessory.

What is striking is that at an event housed under the concept of borders, one of the few migrant and formerly undocumented women of color would be limited in time and directed to move forward with neither her version of the story or her own strategy of self-determination that centers her community. Instead given no other option but initiatives that do not represent her work and her choices.

I wanted to make this interaction and my experience transparent and public. I would like to hold accountable the parties that are responsible and again highlight the labor of queer women of color and the total disregard of agency of migrant speakers in a migrant-themed space. The goal is not to sell an idea; the goal is to tell our stories. Our lives are not ideas that you can edit, minimize, and recycle for your social appeasement and entertainment.

Our stories are not a competition but a disruption of the rampant violence we face.  This entire situation has again emphasized that my community’s perspective is central to my work and that the experiences of migrant and undocumented lives must come from the community within. I was affirmed yet again of the fragility of white american masculinity and the ongoing commodification of migrant stories in a particular, comfortable and sellable package that does not disrupt privilege, white supremacy, and misogyny. This ordeal was a razor-sharp example of this. White masculinity righteousness directed at queer femme women of color and setting examples of migrant lives is not considered brilliance or noteworthy unless we’re a heroic exception or specimens to squander & minimize. It was communicated to me that “The way that it is, the talk is just not working.” I was lectured that TEDxCUNY is “not interested in stories, but ideas.” If one wanted to say, innovate ideas, to actually transform humanity, how innovative would be to actually hold a queer women of color migrant with dignity & respect as opposed to succumbing to flagrant racist and misogynist tropes already perpetuated by American society? What about uplifting her by honoring the trauma & strategy it takes in multiple fold to give a speech such as this? What about trusting people with the experience to be the strategists & pioneers of their own embodied savvy?

Do you know what’s not new? Demeaning & pummeling (verbally, spiritually, or physically) someone living in multiple struggles as a blanket of good white intentions that’s supposedly for our benefit.  Many migrant, undocumented, queer, transgender, Black, and femme community face deplorable and aggressive racism by fragile whiteness systemically and individually on a day-to-day basis. What an opportunity this could have been for TedxCUNY to rise up, set an example, and demonstrate that they could actually embrace diversity not with the obsolete single-issue approach of shame and dehumanization, but rather an honest wholeness of experience that invigorates their talks?  This would be a raw mirror, one that echoes the need for collective & endeavors multiple migrant lives in wholeness, a model well deserved for our own society at large. It is not uplifting to erase the stories and agency of undocumented and migrant people of color. Who exactly does this benefit and at what cost?

 

 

Un Año Que Viene, Otro Que Se Va

It’s that time of year, time to wrap presents, make coquito, and look back at the year that is just about to come to a close and what a year it has been. I’ve traveled more for work more than ever. I committed more time to blogging and writing and relationships ended and started and not in that order. A ver los cambios y plans….

blogging

First off, you will note that I am not even at my mamitamala.com blog because I can’t!!! It’s been a little frustrating pero hopefully in the new year I will have my own domain and server and get back on the mamita mala blogging track. One of my resolutions this year was to blog everyday here  pero I was battling techinical difficulties, work, mamihood, and struggling with how much to reveal/not reveal in this space, including being unusually quiet about things I would normally scream about or the equivalent of screaming on a blog anyway. Me thinks that this new year I will have my own domain, server space and a new design pero also a new lease on returning to my roots as la Mamita Mala, meaning unapologetically honest and naked porque that’s what this space was created for. Not for you who choose to read but for me who needs to write and kind of likes being an exhibitionist.

So I will be working to make this more a regular space, especially now as I enter in single mami’hood again. I want this space to be about negotiating my mami’hood identity with my puta identity with my poeta identity and yeah maybe make some progress on this damn book. At one point during this year

Relationships

Ay so much to say here with so many concerns about privacy and others’ feelings. So mcuh of my blogging this past year was censored. No one requested that it be that way, it was something I chose to do to protect people’s feelings and at one point my own physical safety. In this past year I went from cohabitating, to being physically abused, to having what would be called “an affair” I suppose, to separating and becoming a single mami again. And it’s even more complicated than it sounds.

Pero in all of that I strengthened my own identity. I was able to bond with other radical woc in Detriot, I survived and then some  thanks to the circle of sanity in Denver during the DNC. I recognized how tenuous and superficial some relationships with other artists are especially when they question your Latino cred. I realized how little I have in common with the so called white attachment parenting anti-racist community. I realized how little I want to be a feminist when I am so much more than what that label could ever hold.

My own relationship with myself has come full circle. I disappoint and amaze myself. I fall in and out of love with myself and alot of it has to do with if I am true to myself or not and I spent so much of this year not being true to myself. When I did start to open up to what I really wanted, needed and deserved, the shift in feeling was amazing. That’s not to say that i am not working on a million parts of myself pero I almost killed Mamita Mala this past year, not the blog pero that whole side of my identity because I thought it would be easier than dealing with the backlash. Pero then I realized that I, Mamita Mala was too important to kill off, that I have so uch more to do with so many people. So as I tie up a few loose ends in my life, like making sure I have a roof over my kids’ heads, in 2009 Mamita Mala will rise again.

Writing and Reading

This past year my writing has taken me all around the country, speaking to college students and organizations, speaking at political events and recording powerful poetry. I was inspired to write in Spanish and then translate to English for the first time ever pero no I still haven’t written my damn book pero in the new year it will be because it has to be. I already have readings lined up for January and am working on Feburary and I am planning on maybe speanding the summer out of the city to write away with less distractions.

May the new year bring happiness, light, clarity and justice and love (and some good sex would be nice too).

I’ve been Away

I took a vacation. A time away from the craziness that is the logistics of a breakup. A time away from the need to post a certain number of blogposts per day in order to reach a certain number of hits, a certain amount of money. A time away from the constant demands of mami’hood and responsibilities to communities.

Vacations are pure escapism yet my vacation in a super secret location was also about living painful realities, sitting with them, hiding from them, and facing them again. It was about sleeping in and witnessing patterns of daily life you dreamed about. It was about long walks under moonlit skies, wine, coffee, nakedness, food, familiar sounds coming from unfamiliar places, breathing in new air, mourning and then hoping again only to mourn some more.

I made a game about not telling people where I was going, about being all clandestina when it wasn’t a game at all, rather a request, a courtesy, a respect for myself and others and I guess a need. A need I still am not content with and resent the same way I resent all the compromises i make. I have started to question when consideration for someone else trumps your own path to happiness and if it should.

Now I brace for the long winter of change, emotionally sleep and hibernate, using my stores of knowledge and experience to survive and wait for the spring hoping it will remain true to its promise of new beginnings and rebirth.

Mi Vida es Mi Trabajo

My work is not my life pero my life is my work.

It is an extremely privileged position to be in, to make my living with transforming my life into words. It’s a meager living in terms of money, no doubt, pero I didn’t choose this life for the money. I chose this life because I wanted my daily routines to be rooted in me and my values and my community. I am so so grateful for this gift.

That said I am behind on my work. I am behind on my life. I feel like I have wasted time in bad spaces with negative people and influences and I feel that only now am I opening my heart and soul wide fucking open. It’s not easy. It’s even painful at time, not just to me pero to people around me as well. Just as we write and then edit, we live and then reflect and move forward.

My dear prima said I seemed happier and more focused than ever, and she’s right. I am.

Just to share one of my most recent intersections of life and work. Last weekend I was honored to read from a blog piece published in Just Like a Girl.

You can see pictures of the amazing evening here.

You can read the original post here.

What was so amazing that night was that women weaved their tales about their bodies, their loves, their hurts and we all in some way make our lives our work.

Gracias to all who came and supported and the new people I met.

It bugged me out being asked to sign books, sign on the pages where my name was printed. I still need to learn to take ownership and pride in my life/work, tag my name on the paths where I walk porque coño, my life/work leaves its mark. I need to make sure it’s my mark.

Tonight la Mamita Mala Acts Just Like a Girl

Soy pura mujer: Esa chica walking into the bar that you couldn’t resist, la madre de tu hija x2, twitterputa, blogfresca, Puerto Rican poeta. I am honored to have a tiny pedazo of me inside  Just Like a Girl:

Just Like A Girl is a rough-and-tumble, sassy, kick-ass travelogue through the bumpy, powerful, action-packed world of GIRL. A world where girls and women know how to pick themselves up and brush themselves off. These are the clever girls. The funny girls. The girls who know there is no sin in being born one.

Tonite in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, home of many Malaventuras,  join editor Michelle Sewell and contributors Kelly Zen-Yie Tsai, Maegan “la Mala” Ortiz, Sara Herrington, Jade!, Ellen Hagan, Tanisha Christie, Penelope Laurence, and K. Coleman Foote for a sizzling, provocative, and boundary pushing reading.

Saturday, October 11, 2008 – 7:00pm
Bluestockings Books
172 Allen Street
New York, NY

Y mira, not for nothing, the piece I have in the libro, came straight from my blogging, and is hot. Hope to see some of your there.

M