How poet Ariana Brown became the Afro-Latina role model she needed

How poet Ariana Brown became the Afro-Latina role model she needed

PBS NewsHour

Corinne Segal, Online Arts Reporter/Producer

Poet Ariana Brown. Photo by Christopher Diaz

Poet Ariana Brown is the role model she needed.

Growing up in San Antonio, Brown said she struggled to find other representations of herself — an Afro-Latina woman from a working class family — both in her community and literature.

“I remember reading books and being so invested in the characters and the story, and then I would get to a certain line in the story where it would describe what the character looked like. And then I would realize, this book is not talking about me,” she said. “Part of my work is to always go back for little girl Ariana and figure out what it is she needed that she didn’t get.”

In high school, Brown picked up the autobiography of Malcolm X. He was “someone who was also working class, from a poor family, a family of color, who didn’t have access to opportunities, who came from a neighborhood where you weren’t expected to excel,” she said.

Reading about the way Malcolm X used language to command attention gave her a road map for her own future, she said…

…Brown’s poem “Inhale: The Ceremony” speaks to her relationship to her ancestors, a history that she said is often unacknowledged or disrespected. “I’m never racialized as Latina. I’m always racialized as black. My whole identity isn’t acknowledged [and] I’m assumed to be an outsider in almost every space I enter. That is a very isolating feeling,” she said…

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