Finally home: But for how long?

Finally home: But for how long?

In the past two weeks, two amazing things have happened: I moved into affordable housing that I have been waiting for years to achieve, and I started my new position as the Communications and Development Coordinator at the Community Alliance of Tenants here in Oregon. It seems like a weird twist of fate that I would move on to do both in the span of 7 days, but justice has piercing vision.

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My husband’s dating profile while we were still married.

 

 

By this point, many of you have heard my story and I’ve practiced telling it hundreds of times. I feel compelled to tell it because every time I do I feel freer. I used to feel condemned to silence, to my own discomfort, but the more I shared my story, the more solidarity and strength I have found and offered.

Years ago I was the wife of a wealthy British expat. I met him in Berlin when I was 22. I was married young, the same year I met him. He moved us to America, back to Portland where I went to college. Once he had secured American residency, I was driven out of my home and threatened with retaliation if I came back. I felt like a dog that someone didn’t want anymore. There was no fight, or lead up. I was just told to pack a bag and abandoned by a man who claimed he loved me. I had gone from rags to riches to rags again, having started my time in the United States as a Salvadoran refugee.

The rental crisis in Portland was in full swing when I found myself houseless in late summer 2014. Airbnb run amock, private developers eyed corners were beggars could scarcely sleep at night without being harassed by the City. I was scared. My husband asked me if I thought I was “too good” for the life I had left behind.

news-12west-aia-awardNo. I was afraid. Just like my parents were, just like I was when I was a child. How horrible it was to not know where to put my head. Other women my age were cuddling their first-borns, just getting married themselves. My wedding dress was stuffed in my husband’s closet while other women asked him “Did a woman used to live here? Do you have a wife?”

There is a corner of my life I still do not understand – the futility of understanding a man’s cruelty. When rents skyrocket the way they do here in Portland, and in the Bay Area, women like me, like us, fall into desperation.

We don’t frequently think of poverty as a women’s issue, per se, but the face of poverty is female. Mothers with children, Black women, trans women, disabled women, women escaping domestic violence: these are the women who cannot afford to live alone. These are women who are coerced through capitalism to live and stay in the arms of men who make more money than them. Through no fault of their own, these women are given the choice to be homeless or go back. Rent control and the rental crisis are women’s issues.

When I was alone and picking through my last things in the luggage I lived with, I remember begging my husband to let me go home in voicemails. He deleted them, threw my letters away, but I cried out to him to please help me go home. When the pain grew too heavy, I tried to check myself into a mental health clinic for suicidal ideation. That is when I learned my husband had cut my health insurance. I was still married, still his wife, but I had no other thoughts than “he is trying to kill me.”

I often kick myself for the sense of loss I have for that man. I can still close my eyes and see him like it was yesterday. There is not a single day I don’t think about him: my husband. The only one I ever had. If there was ever a case for fate or a higher power, it was that I clawed myself out of the hole he left me in and that I am housed today.

The concierge he treated so poorly saw his actions. The neighbors he dismissed reported back to me. The baristas, the women he accosted in bars and online, many of them searched out his name and only learned who he was because of my decision to write it all down.

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Not knowing where I was going to sleep next was one of the most distressing ordeals of my life.

 

Years later, one of the women recognized me. She was the property manager of a new building with affordable housing. She told me I would finally have a home. I cried because I had not known that feeling for so long. I do not know where I would be now without it.

The work I am doing now represents the work that made me whole. I am letting you know that Oregon needs rent control and an end right now to no-cause evictions and extreme rent hikes. If I could have found affordable housing after my husband abandoned me, I would have been able to re-establish my life more quickly. One of the biggest indicators for whether women overcoming domestic violence can thrive is if they can find a home. You’re even more likely to find a good job if you have a stable place to live. It’s a catch 22, but it’s the reality for thousands of women in Oregon every year.

Even if you own a home, I hope you will help me spread the word about HB2004, also known as Stable Homes for Oregon Families. Please make sure other women like me stay housed. Write or call your legislator and tell them why this matters. But go beyond that. Figure out where people are living when they lose their homes near you. Where do they go? Where do the women who suffer go? Who is profiting off their sorrow and pain?

17861920_1665967807045068_1438011596778990259_nI challenge you to follow the trail of money. See who is making money when a family loses their home. Look up how much money it is. Look up everything you need to know and do something about it. Challenge the people who kick women out to offer affordable housing and support rent control. We cannot continue to treat our poorest people like this. We cannot thrive as a society when we are hemorrhaging our young people who cannot afford to buy homes like this. Our elderly cannot simply be thrown into the streets because of profit margins. Limitless growth for the property management industry is not possible.

Our lawmakers work for us – remember that. Hold them accountable for what they do to the meekest of your peers.

Fundraising for PFLAG Portland Black Chapter

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It’s not news to any of you – much less those who have been close to QTPOC in any capacity, that the past month has been full of violence and triggering events. The bloodshed, the loss of so many Black lives, has put a special drain on organizations catering to Black folks, especially Black LGBTQ folks, since Orlando.

As an Afro-Latina, I live at the intersection of many of these identities. My partner is trans, I am queer, and my life matters too.

One of the organizations that has helped me and people like me the most in Portland has been PFLAG Portland Black Chapter, the first chapter in the country to cater specifically to African American and Afrodiasporic LGBTQ communities.

I work as their Communications Specialist, and organize regularly with them to ensure our united communities feel at home, and are cherished while we are alive here and now – instead of later, once we’re a hashtag, a viral video, a ribbon, a picture at a vigil.

So tonight at my dear friend Sara June Woods’ book launch party for Careful Mountain, a group of us collectively decided we would donate copies of our work and other books to a raffle. The proceeds from the raffle will go to PFLAG Portland Black Chapter and to providing advocacy, legal support, youth programming, and more to local QTPOC.

 

I will be reading, alongside Sara, Manuel Arturo Abreu, Irene Milsom, Ines Falcö, Prairie M. Faul, and Stephanie Stiffler. You will have a chance to win a copy of my debut chapbook, No One Remembered Your Name But I Wrote It Down.

Please join us at 7 PM at the People’s Food Co-op in Southeast Portland.

I am grateful to my community, and yes, I have been writing endlessly and creating in our names. I don’t want to wake up a hashtag.

I will close with a video that has spoken to me during this time, Sleep, by the Roots.

Meet the Author

Meet the Author

Join Cooper Lee Bombardier, Geeta Lewis, Kate Caroll Deguetes and me at the Portland Q Center on Tuesday, June 14 from 5 to 7 p.m. for a special Pride Northwest Official LGBTQ Meet the Author event!

I’ll have copies of my book there and more information about collaborating together. Each author will have the chance to contextualize their work with their lived experiences. I can’t wait to see you there!

I am likely reading at the Jade Lounge afterward with my partner Phoenix Singer and I’ll definitely be involved in a lot of Pride Northwest events here in Portland, so stop by and say hello!

I know spring is coming and I’m ready

I know spring is coming and I’m ready

yellow-typewriter-arrob.440.305.sIt’s been quite the past month here in Portland and now that it’s almost spring I’m overdue to share some of my latest work. As some of you know, I was the Arobb@ digital blogger in residence at Duke University’s Program for Latino Studios in the Global South for the month of February. The program allowed me to focus my energy on a short set of pieces concerning the nature of femininity, oppression, and race in migrant America. If you haven’t had a chance to read them yet, they shouldn’t take you more than 8 minutes to go through.

March also meant some big changes in my career. I left the Portland Observer and experienced a milestone that many writers will not share – I had my byline lifted by an editor. When I learned that this wasn’t unique to me  – that dozens of writers I spoke to spoke of both having their wages withheld and the writing misattributed intentionally, I decided to speak up. I shared a Love Letter To Future Writers at Medium on my experiences and am working still to recover both my wages and create community accountability.

Fortunately, when I left the paper, I found other platforms ready to work with my writing. I am now moving forward on a new beat on decriminalization of marijuana over at Potcast PDX, which is set to be a half hour variety show about cannabis and its unique effects on intersectional communities launching sometime in the next 40 days. I’m setting off to start on one of my first interviews for them today, focusing on what is happening to convicts living with records for a crime that may no longer exist.

I’ve  also been following the election and considering the open fascist tendencies of our government across the board – not just by Trump or Hilary, but by the nation. My concerns about white supremacy not being new but being expanded in different ways this election are over at The Establishment, where it was part of a five-part series on the election.

Another big jump for me has been joining the Portland QTPOC Talk Collective, where I am going to be a regular voice. The talk show runs on KBOO the third Tuesday of every month, with the next show airing Tuesday, March 15th from 6 to 7 p.m. Listen to our first episode if you didn’t catch it live.

Aside from my published pieces in the past month, I have a few readings coming up.12801386_815299662552_5884806195737183253_n.jpgCatch me tonight at Death Rattle Hum – Portland Edition, where I’ll be reading alongside local poets Jamondria Harris and Michelle Peñaloza, and wandering poets from Idaho Griffin Birdsong, Diana Forgione, Marshall Harris, Dig Reeder, and Alex Yann. The entire event was put together by local poet and professor Mike Young, who I have really enjoyed working with in the past several months. The reading starts tonight at 7:30 p.m. at Post 134, 2104 NE Alberta in Portland.

If you can’t make it tonight you’ll have another chance to hear me read this Monday at Powell’s for Smallpressapalooza 2016. The lineup is impressive: Screenshot 3:10:16, 11:51 AM.jpeg

I’m right there in the middle at 8 p.m. and you’ll be able to score copies of No One Remembered Your Name But I Wrote It Down along with everyone else’s chapbooks and small press releases right there after the reading.

I’ll have new pieces coming out shortly – so stayed tuned and let me know if there’s somewhere I should be reading next. And as a bonus for reading to the end here’s this week’s Notable Portland column, full of literary events to check out this week.

 

 

February is Full of Love

February is Full of Love

Hi! I’ve been very busy kicking off a few things this month but I’ll just share a few things out to you while I’m here this wonderful Saturday night.

First of all, my first post over at the Arrob@ Blog for Duke University’s Program in Latino Studies in the Global South marks the beginning of my February digital residency there.

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Read the rest at Arrob@ now.

The piece follows the life of a young migrant woman who washes ashore in southern California seeking to become human, by which I very much mean American. She loses her tongue and crosses borders for the chance to see the man on the other side of the billboard. More as always to come, but this is the first one I got up there and I hope to share a variety of other stories that bring foreign girls together with mythology around the sea and ghosts. After all, everyone loves a good sprite, siren, or spirit.

Over at PFLAG Portland Black Chapter, I’ve helped launch our new #BlackLoveMatters campaign, which urges everyone to celebrate the black people in their lives who have made a difference, be they siblings, spouses, children, or friends.

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Belinda Olive-Beltran remembers her brother and his historic heart

Then, this week I followed the story of Oregon’s first heart transplant – which was possible because one young black man – and his family – passed forward the gift of life. Bobby Olive, who died in 1985, has since brought two families together, survivors who are learning to cope with losing loved ones, through the gift he didn’t have the chance to see given.

I’m also pleased to say our Notable Portland column is still running well and our latest issue is out, if you’d like to figure out who’s reading the rest of this week here in Portland.

And last but not least I was recently featured over at Brooklyn Magazine letting folks know about my favorite 2015 reads. Figure out who I chose and why “the Other woman” isn’t my enemy – discourse I’d love to see more work around.

Get your calendars ready for my next readings: Grief Rites on Monday, March 7 (location TBA) and Smallpressapalooza #9 at Powell’s City of Books on Monday, March 14 (page to come!). See you soon!

 

 

Exciting 2016 News

Exciting 2016 News

It’s January and that means epic new posts on my life because ~new year new me~ right? I won’t bore you with resolutions because the only thing I plan to do differently this year is stop hating myself for falling into comforting human habits, like buying myself lattes when I’m cold or tired. Also, I love January because I love buying stationary and it’s a great excuse to get artsy calendars and motivate yourself to do something meaningful with your life regardless of how difficult that might seem. In 2016, I want to get into graduate school. Let’s see how that goes!

Now here’s some cool news – I’m the new Communications Specialist at PFLAG Portland Black Chapter and I’m ecstatic to help them grow this year. You can read my full interview with them here.

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My interview with Sandra Cisnero’s focuses on her latest book “A House of My Own” along with her relationship with ghosts, surveillance, and Latinidad.

I’ve interviewed a number of people in the past few months and those interviews are just out now – namely a new exciting interview with Sandra Cisneros that was published in the Rumpus this week.

I also interviewed Leila Hofstein of Black Lives Matter Portland for the Portland Observer’s MLK Special Edition and highlight how the organization has grown this year especially.

The MLK Edition also features an exclusive interview with Know Your City’s executive director and long-term activist Cameron Whitten, along with a spotlight on the two winners of the first ever Portland Youth Poet Laureate competition, Sekai Edwards and Alexis Cannard.

There were all wonderful bylines to have but one of the most exciting announcements I have I’ve saved for last – I am really excited to say today I was contacted by the director of the Program in Latino/a Studies in the Global South at Duke University and invited to be their February Arob@ Visiting Resident Blogger. The blog is curated by a different artist, scholar, activist, or public intellectual each month, and past visiting writers include artist Pocholandia – AKA izelvargas.com, novelist Patricia Engel, food journalist Victoria Bouloubasis, and most recently Margarita Azucar. I hope to live up to the wonderful work of my predecessors this February – and if you want to learn more about the blog you can check it out now!

And if you haven’t scored a copy yet, order one of the limited remaining copies of my chapbook, Nobody Remembered Your Name But I Wrote It Down (Impossible Wings, Dec. 2015). I’m eager to do readings and get you copies, workshops, and speak to your friends about it.