In-house visiting artist and employment specialist at the Carlos Rosario School, Tatiana Figueroa Ramirez, led students in spoken word workshops through storytelling and self-reflection as a part of Hispanic Heritage Month. The two workshops, “This is a Love Story to Me and My People” and “Practice” took place earlier this month at the Sonia Gutierrez Campus.
In these workshops with Tatiana, students explored how to find their own voice in their writing while celebrating and emphasizing parts of their identity that have been silenced.
“First, we must know who and what we represent,” Tatiana explained. “Then, we need to learn how to show love for that representation.” During the workshop, Tatiana shared the collective poem “This is a Love Story” by alumni of the Voices of Our Nations Arts Foundation. Using this work, the facilitator highlighted different ways to tell a love story and encouraged students to think about ways writers often conform their writing to a mainstream, predominantly white audience to whom poetry is usually addressed.
Through writing exercises and discussion focused on writing a unique narrative, students discovered their own love story. “It was good for me to express my emotions and feelings. It is great to have people listening to you, paying attention to what you have. I think expressing what I have makes others express themselves,” Yahia, an ESL 8 student from Morocco said.
Born in Puerto Rico and raised in mainland United States, Tatiana Figueroa Ramirez recently completed the Poetry Teaching Artist Training Program by the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities and led by DC poet, Jonathan B. Tucker. Additionally she completed an artist residency in Santo Domingo. Artists like Tatiana address issues that need to be talked about, but do so in a way that is entertaining and engaging for audiences. “It was interesting. We had the opportunity to express ideas that we normally do not because we are overcome by nostalgia. It is a good way to express what you feel,” Kelly from El Salvador said.
The aim of connecting Carlos Rosario School students to this kind of art form during Hispanic Heritage Month is to help grow the knowledge base of students and community members, making for a well-rounded education. “Part of poetry is also the delivery of the message being shared, so poets will also practice reading their work aloud to develop the performance and social aspect of their poetry,” Tatiana said.
Tatiana’s workshop provided a platform for students and faculty to feel akin to the struggles and triumphs faced by various communities of color, allowing those who felt the power of her art to take one step closer to bridging the gap between writers of color and others. “We are all immigrants in a different country and sometimes we feel alone. It gives us the opportunity to share and makes everyone know that we are all the same here, we are strong together,” said Yahia.