Barrio Writers


So , I’m a 14 year old girl. Short, shy, awkward, quiet I have this friend. For personal reasons, he doesn’t wish his name to be
revealed. Why? Probably because I was less fortunate. In his dreams he goes places. I would change the world by proving to all those people. The smell of harsh smoke, the sound of screams. The light from the fire, I see the red. When we read, some of the guidelines that we have, like we don’t have rules but we do have guidelines to respect everybody and to create a safe space. When we read we ask that you respect everybody and the words that they use. Barrio writers is a youth writing program with the mission statement that we empower teens through creative writing, higher education and
cultural arts. So by calling it Barrio writers we are reinstating the idea of
being a neighborhood, of being a community and also at the same time
being inclusive and the sense that just because it has a Spanish word doesn’t
necessarily, it’s just for Latino or Mexican American or Chicano youth, it’s for
everyone from diverse backgrounds. We start on Monday and Monday is usually
like the the day that everybody’s a little quiet and I do a lot of talking. I always loved writing. I really never shared it to anybody until I got in this workshop. I mostly wrote songs. Hip hop songs and remixes. But when I seen this workshop I wanted to further
my knowledge of different ways to express myself and share with others not just keep it in. They will do a free writing
prompt. This is a time for you to leave everything that’s in your mind outside of this door. For you to have
freedom of expression, have a journal, have a safe space. Everybody has an
opportunity to throw up on paper. Often we need to literally get rid
of a lot of baggage that we have in our mind before we can start writing. Barrio writers focuses on giving them access to not only writers of color but topics
like social justice themes to address issues that they’re going through that
they normally cannot talk about in the classroom setting. We start brainstorming with with stereotypes and stereotype threats and we start the week with a
sunburst of like, “Okay give me words that you think represent teen or youth in our
society.” And it never fails that every year, every session that I do, that sunburst is
always negative. Who wants to read out loud? Someone’s voice I haven’t heard. Alexa, give us your voice. Today I’m gonna call and everybody so nobody’s gonna stay quiet today. Part of the traditions is that we share.
We share our writing and we also give feedback. I felt like I was five, telling her I didn’t want to finish my meal. I was embarrassed. I was so (bleep) embarrassed. I didn’t know if I was ready or not. I was ready to stop being sad. I was ready to begin a new life. As a community we tell each writer what they did well, and something they can improve on. By the end of the week they’re becoming very
familiar with giving praise and accepting criticism and how to use it to
their advantage when they’re creating their thoughts. In the writing we do, freedom of expression, which means there is no
censorship, there’s not just one language that we write in because obviously that’s
not true for everybody in our society. They can write in English or
Spanish, Vietnamese, in any language that they feel comfortable in. We focus on critical thinking and different writing styles. What is form? It’s just emotional
gratification. And what is style? The writing advisers that I’ve had and that keep coming back is simply for that emotional gratification. and because we often say, “Man I wish I
had this when I was 13.” And I was looking through my well-worn copy of the elements of style which is something I would recommend that everybody read as a writer but also break all these rules as well. It’s astonishing what happens
Monday through Friday. By Friday we’re also repeating the words your voice is
your weapon. This is how you have a voice in societies by communicating your
ideas. We realized that all of our youth end up being fifteen years ahead of us in life after the experience. I didn’t share my writing til I was 30 and so
for me to see what happens throughout the week and to read individual pieces is
very empowering not only empowers me as a writer but empowers me as a
member of our society. It’s reciprocity. It’s you know what I give
them they return it to me tenfold The needles for heroin flush down the drainpipe, washes away the hype from the other day’s fight One of the activities that I do to
create like a closure for the program and to let them know that we are an
extension of family so it doesn’t end just because it’s Friday or we have
the live reading on Saturday is I bring it back to what we did the first day so I put
these sunburst up, the one from Monday and then I create the second one and in the second
instead of putting teens and the word youth I put Barrio writers and youth and then
I have them shout the labels that they want to give this and every year it’s
always positive so by the end of the week they realized how they have
transformed their identity their stereotypes into a different place where it’s
positive, empowering and it’s their words not mine I’m six again my eyes shut, my arms
open searching blindlessly for me for my home. I’m no longer home, I’m six again. Hello again his whisper engulfs me.

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