When the N word comes up


Dear Reader,

One of the most eye-opening experiences about teaching college students in Houston is the international feel of the classroom.

In my English classes, I have students from countries in Africa (too many to name) Iran, India, South Korea, China, Haiti, Mexico, Venezuela, Peru and Colombia.

These students are from these countries. First generation. They know nothing about certain things.

So when a Mexican student said the word “nigger” in class the other day, it was a teachable moment I knew was coming.

Now, before you get up in arms, Dear Reader, I want you to know the context. It wasn’t in an effort to name call or to demean. It wasn’t said while saying the lyrics of the latest rap song. It wasn’t even said as a term of endearment as some have decided to use this term.

This was part of an assignment – to read essays in their textbook to find out how to write a certain type of essay. They were to do a presentation on how they think a definition essay should be written.

One of the essays in the chapter deals with the N-word. While my other American(ized) students decided to skip that word and/or that essay, this student didn’t. For him, nigger is a word like cat, or dog, or cup. It means something. There was a definition in a dictionary but it didn’t mean more than the letters it took to write it.

That word was even difficult for him to pronounce. With its double g next to the r, it took so much energy to try to say correctly. N-eh-gg-rrr. Ne-gr. Nah-ah-gar.

Hearing him say it, even with an accent, during the presentation made my skin crawl. I gasped as did some of my other students. The international students looked confused. What did this word mean? Why were some students in shock while others weren’t?

Then came the teachable moment. I looked at my international students and explained that that word, although part of the English language, means something very dark and sinister. We talked about the origins of the word, Jim Crow, and how, at one point of American history, I wouldn’t have been allowed to be their teacher.

Then we talked about the word now. The meaning could not be separated from the connotation, they were one in the same. Some use it in a positive context but it doesn’t erase what is was and still is to some people.

This moment here, this is why English and liberal arts are important. Listen, I can go into this whole tirade about why an liberal arts education is important. I can go into how classrooms need to be protected because that is one of the last forms of a pure free speech. I can politic this into next Tuesday.

But all of that doesn’t matter.

Once upon a time there was this word. And it was hurtful. And the people who said it were hurtful. And the people who they said it too, bad things happened to them for a very long time.  But now that word is a teachable moment for the next generation, the next flocks of immigrants who want to make this their home country. They learned from something that still infects society and understood that a word, one single word, is powerful. By speaking it, they aren’t just saying dog, cat, or cup, they are evoking the past, something they are not interested in repeating. What they are interested in is learning from it and moving forward.

I can’t wait to see what they will do with these essays.




On working in another genre


Dear Reader,

I can’t tell you how excited I am about this short story I’m writing! So much so that instead of writing an update post about Jennie Manning, I decided to write this instead.

At the moment, I’m in the teacher’s lounge where I usually am hours before my classes start. Usually I am here prepping my classes but with this being Thanksgiving week and all there’s very little to prep. So I brought my latest short story with me to work on before class.

Essentially, I had #wordsforbreakfast. It was glorious!

This short story is like nothing I have ever written. It is a sci-fi short story. Other than my love for all things Doctor Who, I’m not really a sci-fi girl, not really. I’m more of a geek girl who goes to cons to be among her people.  Seriously, a picture exists with me and the TARDIS.

I wanted to submit a sci-fi/dystopian story to an anthology edited by a really awesome author. I didn’t make the deadline because I had no idea what I was doing and the story was absolutely awful. But I decided to keep working on it any way. I felt it had some possibilities.

After working on it for a huge chunk of the weekend, I feel like I finally have a handle on it and I’m so into it. SO INTO IT.

Let me clarify, I’m into my story. I’m not officially saying I’m adding sci-fi to my list of genres.

I think what is bringing me to this is that the drama of the story is enhanced by the setting. Issues of humanity, race, and control are easy to explore. Creating the world didn’t enthrall me as much as getting into these issues.

And truth be told, I like not knowing what these characters are going to do next. I just throw a bunch of obstacles just to see what they do. It’s pretty exciting.

I’m going to finish it this week if not in the next couple of days. I’m excited to enter the revision stage with this one and then workshop it.

Ain’t the writer’s life grand?


Your friendly neighborhood writer,



That Latin Explosion documentary…incomplete

Dear Reader,

Sometimes being Afro-Latina comes with stomaching the obvious — being left out of the narrative.

I tried to avoid the HBO documentary Latin Explosion because I already knew what it was going to be, a celebration of Latino achievement in America.

And it should be celebrated — Rita Moreno, Jose Feliciano — their very presence started a chain reaction that allowed Rick Martin to dazzle at the Grammys or Shakira’s hips not to lie.

But where are the Afro-Latinos? Are we not part of the story?

Usually, we are not. Usually, we are the other, the dark-skinned tio in the closet no one talks about. The Afro part of being Hispanic, whether you’re Mexican or Argentine, is usually swept under the rug.

But this documentary is very music heavy. We talk about salsa and include Desi Arnez in the conversation. The Fania All-Stars are mentioned. And yet, where is Celia Cruz?

We talk about acting and yet where is the infamous Zoe Saldana who was in one of the highest grossing films in recent memory?

Continuing with actors, how about Gina Torres who has had an entire career with little recognition of her Latina roots. And she doesn’t run away from it either as we can tell from this video.

Can we also mention Laz Alonso who is an actor on The Mysteries of Laura, which was adapted from a Spanish television show?

I find it difficult that the Estefans were part of this documentary and didn’t mention their friend Celia once, or the fact that they made a living with beats that came straight from their African roots?

Like this moment never happened.

Or at the very least that her life was on Broadway. Yes, THE Broadway.

It’s harsh when not even your own recognizes you and most especially when they were your friends.

It’s obvious that the documentary made me angry but it doesn’t surprise me. I don’t like that as a people, Latinos are not united. We have the potential to do great things and yet we insist on not accepting and telling our entire narrative. We, as a people, seem to be okay to just tell one side of the story and accept it as complete — this is who we are, not that other side.

Newsflash, there were slaves in Latin America. They have last names  like Fernandez, Gonzalez, Guerra, Martinez. They speak Spanish. They dance salsa and bomba and tango. That music you are dancing to? Came from the motherland. That pride, part of that came from the motherland too. We are Latinos and we deserve to be part of the narrative of being Latino, not only in Latin America but here, in the US, which seeks to categorize us as African American.

Documentaries like this make me tired and upset. Story, my dear reader, is currency. Those with the currency have power and can frame the narrative in any way they choose.

That’s why it’s so important to tell our stories, the Afro-Latino story. It’s just as beautiful and varied as everyone else’s and it’s just as important to tell.

So, I’ll tell it.



Questioning the evil in the world


Photo courtesy of Elliott Brown via Creative Commons License. No changes were made to this image.



Dear Reader,

For the past week, I have been questioning the world and its intentions.

Paris. Beirut. And now Mali. What is going on with the world? What is going on with humanity?


My students talked about how they felt about things after the Paris attacks. I wanted to give these college freshmen space to talk about this — what they were feeling, thinking, etc. It amazed me that they were ready  and willing to talk.  They started with one question.

“Why would anyone do this?”

I couldn’t answer this question for them. I could answer how to punctuate a sentence or write a thesis. Yes, that was easy stuff but why do people hate and why do they act upon that hate as easily as ordering a latte at Starbucks…that one was more difficult.

So, I told them why English class was important.

“It’s not just a required class,” I started, their eyes looking at me in the middle of the room. “And this class helps you with thinking critically on paper but it’s not really about that either. This, these papers you’re writing are slices of humanity. This is how you combat hate. You learn to write what it is like to be a human in 2015 and use your words, not bullets, to communicate ideas. Civilizations have crumbled through the power of words, leaders have been created with the right thought at the right time. The written word is more powerful than bombs, swifter than swords, stronger than steel. Writing, words, thoughts, thinking, this is how wars are won. Not armies but words. You are in English class because your generation has the potential to change the world to something amazing. This is how you start. Words are your building blocks.”

After that, the class sat. They thought about it and their argumentative papers. I could tell they looked at their papers different because during class I was flooded with questions about their papers, specific questions. More than just please check if this is right. These questions were like, I want to make sure I’m saying what I think I’m saying.

I’d like to think that I said and taught my students more than just essay structure and thesis statements. I hope that I taught them to question and express themselves in a different way. I hope I taught them that they already have a weapon at their disposal and that it’s stronger than their fear.

I hope for them all things strong and good and fair. I hope for them a humanity of peace. I hope for them the answers to all their questions.

Even when the world is going mad, Dear Reader.


As always,


The best night of literature and words


The most brilliant women I know. They make me look good. 


Dear Reader,

I am exhausted and with good reason.

On Wednesday night, I was part of an amazing livestreamed reading. Culture, Love, and  Identity: An Afro-Latina Reading. 

It was amazing and just knocked my socks off. You know when you work on something for so long and you don’t know how it’s going to turn out but you just can’t stop to think about it. That was that moment.

Wait, it’s all jumbling in my head like a brand new jigsaw puzzle. Let me start where all things start, the beginning.

I had this idea. What if there was a writing retreat for Afro-Latina writers? Like why wasn’t there before? It just seemed to be this was a thing to do.

You have to understand, Dear Reader, that when I thought about this, it was for an award given by a lit journal. It wasn’t really thought out completely. It was half baked on its way to being fully baked, as most ideas are.

But then I won it and all of a sudden I became something more than a writer. I became a person who created space for other writers. I became a person who went from writing in the shadows to asking people to apply to spend a weekend in a Houston in Galveston, Texas. I became a person with a voice and an opportunity to do something different.

Talk about adulting.

And I took it seriously and it was amazing. The five ladies that joined in were just amazing writers and people. It was surprising how close we became in such a short period. So much so that I can’t imagine my writing life without them.

Then we did this reading. This crazy awesome reading of our work and now people are saying they were inspired. I read a section of Jennie Manning, my novel in progress, and now people are asking about my character.

And yet, this feels like my life’s work, something that I should do always and constantly. Something I should explore because there’s an answer there somewhere, I think, though I have no idea what the question is.

And so this reading happens. It happens the same week I grade what feel like a million papers. It happens the same week I get some distressing news from my past. It happens the same week I questions a list of truths I’ve grown up with.

This reading happens just as life happened. As it should.

So here, I give you the reading. I hope you like it. I hope it inspires you. I hope it fuels you.

As always I remain your humble storyteller,


Paris, MY Paris


Dear Reader,

There was always a part of me that wanted Paris.

I wanted to go some place that was different than where I was and, by extension, who I was. When I was younger, I wanted Paris for what East Harris County couldn’t give me, a world with an accent I had never heard before.

In fact, I knew about Paris before I knew about Paris. When watching Little Women (the movie) and hearing Jo utter the words “Europe? My Europe?” I knew what she meant. It was MY Europe too. I was supposed to be there and Paris, France was supposed to be a stop. I knew that like I knew my name, like I knew the blood pumping through my veins. Paris and I would be together one day, like London and I, like Spain and I. We would be together and I would have my Europe.

So certain was I about Paris that I took French in high school. While all my other friends took Spanish because it would probably be an easy A, I wanted French. I wanted to speak a third language because I would be a citizen of the world and when I traveled to France I wanted to communicate. I studied that language more than my mother tongue and more than my mother’s adoptive tongue, even going into the French honors program.

Je voulais Paris et l’Europe comme je voulais l’air.

I wanted Paris and Europe like I wanted air. But something happened, I set aside Paris. I set aside Europe and I took my place among the working and living. I set that dream, and others, aside for practicality. Somehow, I chose dreams that low hanging fruit. But the problem with low hanging fruit is that it spoils quickly and you are left wanting more, wanting what you wanted in the first place.

Paris came back to me, as well as London, last year. With a friend, we were supposed to spend a week at both cities — arts, culture, food, adventure. It wasn’t to be. Practicality won and the dream of Paris was set aside again.

Now, Paris, MY Paris, is bleeding much like the U.S. bled in 2001 and I can’t help but cry.

I don’t understand hate beyond a temporary feeling. Sure, I have an intense dislike for some people. I am human and that is a human feeling. However, I don’t plot out their death or their destruction. And I don’t understand why. Why this? Why now? Why Paris? Or Beirut? Or Kenya? Or Baghdad? Or any other country? Why?

Whatever the answer I will never understand it. How is my Paris not YOUR Paris? How is one person’s dream another’s bull’s eye? How is hate fuel instead of temporary anger?

I want to think of the world as beautiful and peaceful, that whatever separates us isn’t as strong as what binds us. I want to believe that the human existence is what will prevail against all the dark. I believe in the light, especially in people. But yesterday (and for the past couple of months), it was just a bit tougher to believe.

Practicality won. There is evil in the world. There is evil in human beings. Sometimes light doesn’t win.

And Paris, my Paris, was the casualty last night.

Does anyone know how to repair a dream?

Can you create a community that’s been there all along?

We all need community. Writers are no different.

Dear Reader,

Today, I’m thinking about community.

On a day where most of the country is voting on local elections, it’s not a bad topic to think about. What is a community? How does one form? How does it govern itself for its collective goal?

Since coming back from the Afro-Latina Writer’s Retreat, I think about community all the time. It’s mostly in exclamation points like I can’t believe how awesome that was! I can’t believe how great those women are! How did I get so lucky! They truly get me!

That last sentence — they truly get me — that sentence is what my brain continues to mull over.

Afro-Latinos wrestle and consider identity. Given. Are we more one or the other? If we are truly both, why the guilt? Or why is my culture decided for me?

Never have I felt that four strangers (one I knew before the retreat) knew me in that way. It’s usually a matter of adapting. I adapt when I’m around my Latino and I adapt when I’m around my African-Americans.

It’s not that one experience is more than the other, it’s just that’s it MY experience. That’s my super power to be able to survive. This concept is difficult to explain unless you live in a cultural duality unless you live your life straddling that line. But it doesn’t stop me from trying. That’s what my work is about, it’s about voice. However, I’m also slowly adding identity.

This reading on Nov. 18 will be amazing. Everyone will get a chance to see and hear what I’ve been talking about. There is amazing art out there that’s created by those who seek to form their own identity.

I think what I find surprising is that this Afro-Latino community exists. It does! We have Boricua Chicks doing their thing and they do their thing well. We have my girl Alicia Anabel Santos, a member of the retreat, doing her thing as a producer of a documentary about Afro-Latinos. Just discovered this new blogger (new to me). There’s a festival? Yes, there is! And even the academics are helping to tell our story. And that’s just a couple of people who are doing their thing!

There is a community out there for me and since announcing the reading, we’ve been welcomed with open arms! We even got some press on it.

Community. It’s a thing. And it’s my privilege to join it already in progress.

Write On,


P.S. Spaces are filling up fast for Culture, Love, and Identity: An Afro-Latina Reading.  Make sure you reserve your spot. Click here to do it.

Finding the truth in words

My journal, my favorite chipped mug of coffee, and my trusty computer. Lots of work and picking at wounds today.

Dear Reader,

The rain in Houston today was a chance to do something I hadn’t done in a long time, write something different.

I’m in the middle of a revamp for Jennie Manning. Lots of good stuff there and lots coming from workshopping. But today, I wanted to revisit something I began to write a couple of months ago. I’m not quite sure why. I have a feeling about these things and sometimes it’s about taking out of you something that won’t let you breathe.  

For me, that’s literal. Yesterday I had trouble breathing and needed to sit down for long periods of time. I yearned to write but had no idea what to say.

And then this morning, I knew what I wanted to do. Without planning or scheduling, I opened up the words I started months ago and read the first lines. It was the first time I had read them in months.

Wow! There was gunpowder on the page. I had written them with so much pain in my insides and then put them away because I couldn’t bear it.

Today, I must have been ready to make them into art.

I spent the better part of a rainy and flooding Saturday putting together a non-fiction piece with pieces of research interwoven in it. In addition, I’m using excerpts from my journal from the past year. As I read, I noticed something…I could track the pain in those pages. From the hopefulness to the despair, I could track my pain and unhappiness. I also saw the source of it.

For the first time, I wasn’t afraid to hurt. I wasn’t afraid of the truth in those pages or how I would feel about it now.

The past year, it was painful. More than it needed to be. People are cruel. I wear my heart on my sleeve. I know that more now than I ever have. My poor heart, it was taken advantage of by people unworthy of it. So it bled for a long time.

Today reminded me of how humans are made of elastic. We bounce back. We bend. We don’t break, not completely. Something tethers you to yourself, a version of yourself that allows you to come back. One only needs to look for it, hold on, and hope.

So I wrote and wrote and read through my journal and typed it into this non-fiction piece. A new world for me and I like it.

I don’t know what will become of this piece, but I’m glad I’m writing it, glad that I’m in the thick of it.

Until next time,

Power in numbers: AfroLatina, writing, and strength

Discover AndExperiencE ASIA

This week, I recovered from a memorable weekend. Not, it wasn’t a party type thing. This was a soul restoring thing. This was a game changing kind of thing. This was the start of something amazing.

But let us start at the beginning because, frankly, I was really bad at tell everyone what was going on when it was going on.

A couple of months ago, I was the winner of the Owl of Minvera Award, which is sponsored by the Minerva Rising Literary Journal. I won with a proposal that created a writer’s retreat for 4 to 5 AfroLatina women in Galveston, Texas.

That in itself is pretty cool. Here I was, a writer trying to revise my latest novel and now I was a person creating opportunities for other writers. What?! Yes. I became a person who rented beach houses, designed menus, thought about writing exercises, and hoped to create a space so fantastic that art would be created. It made me have a great appreciation for the people who put retreats together.

While it was one thing to plan the retreat, picking who would come to it was something different. In a quick turnaround, a call for applications made one thing clear — it wasn’t going to be easy choosing the ladies who will be part of this retreat.  There was so much talent out there. So. Much. Talent. This was crazy!

Through the process, I chose five ladies whose art was as deep as their desire to write.  I picked Alicia Anabel Santos, Guadalis Del Carmen, Maria Elena Montero, Marilou Razo, and Jasminne Mendez.

As a result, this past weekend was memorable, epic, and life changing. Yes, life changing. I have found another writing community. I have lived in my purpose and I love it.

As if that wasn’t enough, we are having an international reading Nov. 18.  INTERNATIONAL! That means that if you live in Paris, France or Paris, Texas you will be able to watch the reading!

The reading will be at 8 p.m. Eastern, 7 p.m. Central, 5 p.m. Pacific. You’ll be able to watch it on your mobile, tablet, and computer. All you’ll have to do is click on the link. To get the link, sign up below.  We’re going to be sending it out the closer we get to the event.

Please, sign up and get ready to hear some great writing.

Dear Reader: Silence and work

Dear Reader,

It’s finally here.

You’ve probably noticed the radio silence on this site. There’s a reason for that. A great, awesome, wonderful reason for that.

I’ve been putting together the AfroLatina Writer’s Retreat. What is that? Well, I won the Owl of Minerva Award that allowed me to put this together.

So, that’s what I’ve been doing. Putting it together. And it’s a small retreat. Six wonderful women.

Man, it’s been hard work. From putting out the information to reading the apps, to choosing (which was so ridiculously difficult) to picking a date, a venue, and even putting a menu together, this was not an easy thing to do.

Oh, yeah. I also teach English composition courses during the day. I am current swimming in essays and midterms.

And somehow, I was able to write a new scene for the Jennie Manning book. More on that later.

I did have some help and it’s been great. But now, it’s here. Like in a matter of hours I’ll be sitting among talented playwrights, documentarians, poets, and fiction writers. We’ll talk shop and talk existance. These kind folks will be on a plane today because they are coming to an event I put together.

No pressure, bruh. Seriously.

I’ve thought about how this could go one of two ways. It could be amazing and the start of something beautiful and wonderful and inspiring. Or it could be the worst mistake of my life. Everyone will also think so and be angry because they spent the money to be here. I’m really hoping it’s the former.

What is keeping me grounded is quite simple, this is about writing and art and community. It’s not about the logistics which are important, yes, but not as important as the opportunity to do something I’ve never done before in the name of something I love.

So, now, it’s time to be in the moment. Now it is the time to do something great. Here’s to a great weekend. Catch you on the flipside.