My uncle Juny once told me that when he was a little kid in Texas, my grandparents told him not to tell anybody his last name because then people would tie him to a relative of ours who had caught his wife cheating. She was found in the act while having sex with another man. So he stabbed her repeatedly with an ice pick and then tied her to the bumper of his truck before dragging her body around and through the town for everyone to witness before his surrender.
My mouth was a tunnel entrance waiting for a freight train to pass its shock process down my windpipe. Jaw on the floor so I don’t crack any teeth on the casual briskness of detail. The sadness of each word filled the final point like a sock full of pennies swung fast at my gut…generations of savings found one cent at a time- rusted up and salvaged from the pavements of our accidental lessons; bits of currency added up to this moment as he summed it up for me in a way that was more telling of a million other heartbreaks before this.
Juny sat back in careful consideration…eyes gleaming to the sky, mouth curled in intrigue. “Could you imagine just stabbing your wife with an ice pick? And then dragging her around town with your truck like that! Naaaaah!! It’s impossible to LOVE somebody THAAAT MUCH!”
There was the time that my grandmother asked me if a letter she found was from my “girlfriend,” then quailified the question with, “You better not be…gay!”
Or my mothers confession that the reason she had so many kids was because she thought that having kids meant you were not queer…and would hide the relationship she carried on with a woman she introduced as her “best friend.”
The time that my cousin Rudy Boy said, “Man, fuck the public defender; I’ll do that shit myself! ‘Guilty, Your Honor!!'”
The kids that thought I only got into school with them because of affirmative action.
All the times I’ve been told, “Good luck getting a job.” Because of the way that I look.
The seemingly universal connection to Ramon Ayayla’s Un Puno De Tierra, Tragos Amargos and Sies Pies Abajo.
All the thing I’ve seen or heard and am forbidden to repeat because my name could end up in a gang report as a “violation.” Could get me sentenced by a “shot caller,” killed by a “street soldier.”
I am bound and boxed in, tortured everyday by this shit; laughed at and ridiculed because I am still a Dreamer, still a believer and an activist. I am a writer, a speaker of hope and I believe differently.
I believe that I should never be ashamed or scared of my last name.
I believe that true love is unconditional and yet I still understand the conditioning of generational trauma, where how bad you hurt someone is equal to how much you love them.
I understand its not always a persons fault that they can’t name things for what they are, they were taught that way.
I also believe at some point though that we must take responsibility of our own education, we owe it to those who are learning from us. Like the way that my mother learned her beliefs from her mother.
I believe that my mother was wrong; that popping out a child does not determine your orientation.
And I believe that no matter how many parents you have or what their genders are, it’s still possible to fuck your child up.
It’s too easy to exhaust life with brutal and determined contradiction: breeding future links to the same familial abusive comforts; becoming reincarnated mirrors of someone else’s pain, fighting to overcome the very fence we link together.
I believe that people of color shouldn’t feel convicted because having hope is a bigger fucking crime!
I want all those silver spoon, trust fund kids I went to school with to know that I didn’t get to go to school with them because of affirmative action…they, got to go to school with me: because they could afford to pay for a degree that I held up to my standards.
I believe that I shouldn’t be excluded from board rooms or senior managers meetings because I’m not afraid to roll up my sleeves — forcing you to look at my past as I speak the future.
I believe that the romanticizing of death and alcoholism in foreign languages connects today’s pain to yesterday’s pain, and should be felt, con ganas. It just doesn’t have to be lived out just because it connects you to something.
I believe that gangs are armies responding to what was created by the war on drugs, the war on crime, and the systemic criminalization of poverty.
I believe that through all this, we can still heal! Come together to build solidarity in working toward lasting change; assist in the struggle to organize for principles like equity and justice.
Using each moment to build upon the last as we carry the movement with us.
More importantly, I believe that not despite, rather because of all of our collective histories- those that have came before us, have become us…through action, abstraction, and chemical attractions.
All those yesterday’s making up the past, making up what brought us to here, to today, to this moment, this poem, and it is this moment that will bring us into tomorrow.
So everyday, I tell myself that I will use today, this moment, this poem, to remind me to make tonight better than this morning, so that tomorrow is better than today.