Youth Poetry Spotlight: Mirror Mirror by Julianna
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This piece was submitted to us by an incredible student, poet, and performer whose class collaborated with #PassTheMicYouth using the “Celebrating Youth Voice” lesson.
Julianna Portillo-Del Valle
on the wall.
Show me where
my color falls.
It’s interesting how quickly we turn to associating our nature,
as something existing to churn out predetermined features,
to keep throwing us into groups,
groups conveniently stacked up on top of each other.
A predetermined caste
that decides our role in society.
Have we ever had choice?
Have we ever had control?
Over what doll our sons and daughters
are going to pick up at the toy store.
Have we ever had the power,
to avoid having the conversation,
on why white is pure
and why dark is dirty?
We make jokes
We laugh it off
We learn to talk about our color
We learn to talk by staying silent
There’s not nothing they say
there’s a brown doll right there,
below the rows of white ones
conveniently placed just below my line of vision.
I can’t say I can’t see it
I can’t say I didn’t see a brown princess represented in the roundup of magical enchantress that steal the hearts and souls of children all over the world.
She’s right there,
come on you’ll find her
I’ll admit I only had to squint a little
One of these is not like the rest
One of these lacks a big pretty dress
I’m ungrateful, I’m too brash.
I can’t get everything I want,
I’m asking for something too “unamerican”
they’re doing the best that they can.
But I ask you
creators from all over
audiences far and wide
the fairest of them all
Have you ever felt unworthy?
Because you couldn’t play princess on the playground?
Because you didn’t fit the part of the role they wanted you to play.
Because even past your childhood, due to the relentless control representation plays…
You can’t believe when you see someone powerful who looks like you up on the screen
it brings you to tears.
Because someday little girls and boys will never have to feel the way you do.
If we do our job that is…
I grew up rejecting the warm inviting sounds of my native tongue
pushing away plates of mole and arepas;
standing still at the celebratory flute of mariachi and latin pop;
comparing the color of my skin to my family’s to make sure that I was as light
as I could pass to be.
Rejecting my physicality for not being more “normal”
more like everyone else I saw around me.
“I’m white, I promise”
“I was born here, I promise”
“I speak english at home, I promise”
“I hate my last name, I promise”
“Yo soy Americana”
“No reconozco esas palabras”
“Yo no soy de aya, soy de aquí”
“Háblame en inglés, no te entiendo”
I grew up believing I couldn’t be a part of my country
unless I existed on their terms.
I refused to acknowledge the bits and pieces of my heritage
that made me so special and unique and only so much more powerful.
It took a lot…
Because for a seven year old,
a tv is a mirror
a book is a picture
a doll is a role model.
It’s hard to believe your special
when nothing reflects back unto you
the way that you want it to;
the way that you need it to.
Representation is not a joke,
it’s not something that doesn’t matter.
Because on top of everything else little girls are pushed to be,
they want to feel pretty.
But the girls never looked like me
Cinderella, Rapunzel, Sleeping Beauty.
Please, I’m not picky.
and if you truly think I am.
please think back
when was the last time
you struggled to find a doll;
that looks like you;
or a character on tv
that you could relate to.
So you hear me.
you “step up”
you try and understand all that I’ve lost.
You bundle it up
make a movie with bright colors
riddled with stereotypes,
false traditions, and customs
I’ve never heard of.
You put color on the screen,
but there’s no color on your team
to trust on.
So stop making things for me,
start letting me be a part of the journey .
A world where everyone,
regardless of anything,
can be proud to be them
and everything they want to be.
I’m not seven anymore,
but still there’s a lack of representation
I have a critique for.
Can one of you please explain to me,
that you understand,
how incredibly disheartening it can be,
to see the people that represent your country
and none understanding of me.
I’m a woman;
I’m young and resilient.
Yet who empowers me?
Who motivates me to see?
That there is more that I can be
past my label given to me by society.
I’m supposed to accept that our country is not ready yet
that I should accept a president,
who not only devalues me
based on my gender identity.
Who calls my people rapists and criminals;
people who have nothing to live for;
refusing people who look like me;
trying to take away some of the basic
fundamental statues of my legitimacy.
Am I supposed to accept,
a paycheck 47% less than the white man standing next to me?
We need to see that this country needs a balance of intersectionality.
Was their work all for nothing,
are we truly gonna ignore
all the progress we’ve made in society.
Stop saying good enough,
stop thinking it
because it’s not.
We made a promise long ago to make this world
a place that everybody lives for.
But, since you are the one in charge
and you won’t speak for me;
or even shine a light
on my existence, or my being.
I’ll make it myself,
because if I can get past Disney ignoring me
I can ignore the buffoon claiming presidency.
on the wall.
Let me rise
I won’t fall.
The words of the next generation should not be taken lightly. We feature youth poetry in almost every episode of #PassTheMicYouth. Check it out!
Questions for Extended Dialogue
- How are Julianna’s multiple identities reflected in her poetry?
- In what ways does the cycle of socialization play a role in her experience growing up in the United States?
- Can you think of other pieces of art (poetry, visual, audio, etc) that reflect the artist’s upbringing in a world where people who look like them were not well represented?