Sunday, March 27, 2016

\ˈbrau̇n\ \ˈskin\

lil niña by yoli manzo

in the early years brown skin came accompanied by a spanish accent and a loss for the right words. it came with insecurities and a deep desire to be lighter and more capable of conversing and laughing at the jokes i could not understand. i spent countless afternoons in front of the mirror covered in my fair-skinned mother's white face powder and a few brief moments of pretending i was someone else.

one hungred

it's one HUNdred

one huuuungred

no, no, no... you have to say it right or they won't respect you, my father would belt.

in class i would sit cross legged amongst my peers and watch them present their show-and-tells. my teacher's last name was the spanish word for heron but she couldn't understand a single word i said so i wouldn't make a sound. i desperately tried to soak in all of their words and match them to their expressions. i would sing along to the ABCs and for an entire year could not figure out where the letter elemeno was on the alphabet wall. in the mornings i would follow along to the pledge of allegiance by making sounds that i thought matched those around me. i felt like the class's pet parrot with no idea on how to process these feelings.

all i wanted so badly, was to belong. to let my father know that everything he went through was worth it. to honor my parents' sixteen hour work days. to be the reason both felt they had made the right decision. i wanted to be their american daughter.

it didn't take long in retrospect for me to be fluent and almost accent free by the time i was seven. the thing is, my skin was still brown, and truly always will be. nothing will hide or mask my roots and nothing can come close to making up for the feelings of isolation; nothing should.

i cannot keep wearing my skin as a layer. for though it shouldn't define who i am as a human being, because of what it's brought me, it does.

i am beautifully brown. beautifully unapologetic. beautifully human.

Saturday, March 19, 2016


he handed me the heaviest of five drums and as i began to place its harness over my head he asked why i was so drawn to it. i paused as the weight of it settled upon my already aching chest and back. i paused long enough to close my eyes and remember.

     the rooms were often dark and unoccupied, the walls bare and depressing. everything was always still and quiet up until it wasn't; until something would make the volume abruptly blast with crashes and screams and shattering mirrors.
     when i was younger, the only thing that would distract me from the sounds of breaking glass was pretending that my pounding heart was a bass drum; the pedal hitting harder and faster as the seconds slowed down... the breaking glass mere cymbal crashes. everything around me was orchestrated and if i could get myself to play along, i was no longer a victim, but rather a participant.

i opened my eyes and tried to smile as he handed me my mallets. 
i guess i just like trying new things, i answered. 
i took my mark. i looked up and around in search of faces i knew i would not find. 
my heart, still pounding. but this time, i was the bass.