PRIDE AND APIDA HERITAGE MONTH
By Ebo Barton
As we come to the end of APIDA Heritage Month and enter into Pride Month, we would like to share something written by Spoken Work Artist, Ebo Barton, as they identify with each of these communities:
“We are the vision and the star, the quietus of pain; we are the terminals of inquisition, the hiatuses of a new crusade; we are the subterranean subways of suffering; we are the will of dignities; we are the living testament of a flowering race. If you want to know what we are WE ARE REVOLUTION!” – Excerpt from “If You Want to Know What We Are” by Carlos Bulosan, 1983
I wanted to open with a quote from an English-language Filipino novelist and poet, but also a labor organizer and farmer who immigrated to America. I was drawn to it because this is a Filipino poet and because his poems’ themes are not much different from mine and many other poets. That, although Carlos Bulosan wrote this poem in the year I was born, I would not be surprised to find it on my YouTube feed with other spoken word artists in 2022.
As a mixed Black and Filipino American writer, and even as a Queer writer, I find that these months of celebration are integral to honoring the labor and inspiration that generations of people who have adorned the tapestry of American history and culture. In May, we celebrate Asian and Pacific Islander heritage, but we must distinguish the differences and complexities of the labels “Asian” and “Pacific Islander.” While we celebrate, we should also recognize the difference between ethnic groups of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, their different historical relationships to America, and class and migration histories. In June, we celebrate LGBTQIA+ Pride. While we celebrate, we should also recognize that Pride was first, a riot, led by Black trans women and drag queens who were so angry with the way they were treated and lesbians and queer folks caring for our community members dying of AIDS because of public neglect. Yes, celebrate, but also honor our origins and roots.
When I told my family that I wanted to be a poet for a living, my mom and uncle chuckled because they remembered my great grandfather. As a self-proclaimed poet, my great grandfather wrote poems in our native language, Tagalog. And to ensure that an audience received his poetry, he often made my mother and uncle, as children, sit in their kitchen in Cavite, Philippines, to listen to them. This fact has always tickled me. There is an excitement in my heart that means that poetry is part of my lineage.
This is what it means to be Filipino-American to me; to know that our history is multi-layered and complex and that we tell our story, by any means. Important Filipino poets that are telling their story by any means that you should follow are :
Troy Osaki [@troyosaki] does incredible work as a community organizer, attorney, and poet. You can read more about his work on his website: www.troyosaki.com.
Dujie Tahat [@dujietahat] is a phenomenal writer, whose book, Balikbayan, should be on your May reading list! www.newmichiganpress.com
In one of my poems, “Freedom, Cut Me Loose” I tell the story of when I came out to my mother.
“When I came out to my mother
Her first reaction was to comment on the volume
Of my voice when I said,
As if being myself in public wasn’t already loud.
I lowered my voice.”
This is what it means to be Queer and Transgender in America to me; to know that my identity is the loudest silenced voice in the room at all times. Important LGBTQIA+ poets that are telling their story by any means that you should follow are:
Janae Johnson [ @creativesoftie ] is a multi-media artist and writer who just debuted a collection of poetry titled, “Lessons on Being TenderHeaded” June reading list?! www.janaejohnson.com.
Golden [ @goldenthem_ ] is a photographer and wonderful poet that tells stories from the intersection of Blackness, family and gender. www.goldengoldengolden.com.
Neon Entertainment provides programming that educates and brings awareness to the significance of this subject. Check them out below and contact your Neon agent for availability and booking!
Freedom, Cut Me Loose
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