A Poetic Profile of the 2020 Voqal Fellowship: Collective Self

In light of the ever-increasing uncertainty posed by the coronavirus outbreak, many of us could use a break from the 24-hours news cycle. On that note, we are happy to bring you the second installment of this year’s Voqal Fellowship poem, Collective, from Voqal consultant and artist of the people, Molina Speaks.

I. Collective Self

We are the products of immigration and colonial propaganda:
professors and philosophers in one culture,
then mechanics and janitors in the next,
imagined kings and queens in one land,
then pawns when we are forced to flex
our survival muscle. We are always on the move.

We come from the slavery of the north and south.
We are prize fighters for our Pride.
We escaped the KKK,
played the game,
placed some bets,
found that we couldn’t game the system
like the privileged do.
But we persisted,
unapologetically Black
reclaiming time, land and space.

We come from campesinos, across imagined borders
from the highlands walking north,
millions of footsteps marching through the desert
beyond our fears, resettling familia
under new urban clouds,
claiming our porches and our stoops—
new villages on the “American” spaceship.

We are from Plymouth Avenue, that history,
from the Midwest, the riots,
the classics, the Cadillacs,
learned lessons in the racism and classism of empire,
where we learned to hustle and game and steal
like the founders who stole and destroyed people,
land, culture and dignity.
We are the formerly incarcerated and the presently FREE.
We make vows to change and we follow through.

We are searching for our ROOTS,
weaving our ways out of the hatred of white supremacy,
the illegitimacy of genocide and slavery,
schisms of the colonized and colonizers.
Did we mention we are all fighters,
searching for meaning, reaching for a place of softness.
We are the essence of flowers and the energy of plants:
the redefinition of God—
the martyrs, the realists, the sinners, the saints,
All in one. Hands, feet, heads, hearts: God Body.

We are from parents. From love, marriage and divorce,
broken and failed traditions. We raise ourselves up
through the rubble of identity, our queer bodies
the intersections, the groundwork,
the rivers, the bridges. We transform out of labels:
“juvenile,” “dropout,” “homeless,” “addict…”
We are so much more, and we transcend
rupture and rapture, making broken worlds whole,
reforming shape, creating at the edges
a radical love story.

We might find ourselves within privilege in one reality,
and impossibility in the next, a sea of Brown
excavating the tombs of our ancestors,
learning and understanding that beyond our research,
we must still write our own stories.
We search through the scrolls,
the churches of privilege,
the untouchable reality,
the greatness and the fallacies
in the pyramids, the blind spots in the mirrors.

We are a radically honest vision,
an action, an intention,
a bold and golden spear
piercing through lies and illusions.

We are LA riots, wild style poetics and 90s era graffiti,
the anti-model-minority,
young single mothers self taught,
community builders, shot callers,
one story removed from another failure,
“fuck that we made it,”
we are runners, a victory lap, a marathon,
conversations in circles becoming spirals,
we, la cultura, la cura,
the creators, decision makers and documentarians.
We are moonshine, a bootlegging spirit for justice,
game players, odds makers,
storytellers, world creators,
the gospel of truth,
the gospel of love.

We are the healers of ourselves,
spiritually and sexually liberated,
the organizers affirming “Me,” building “We,”
body lifting cars and throwing them
through the windows of oppressive systems
in sexy ass bikinis…
(we could go on and on),
in the libraries of our temples,
in the nakedness of our roots,
the balance of light and dark,
the deconstruction of castes,
the dismantling of the castles within (the bricks, the cannons, the walls
that separate us, dissolved).

We are the collective, the art,
the practice, the praxis, the process,
the spark.

Learn more about the Voqal Fellowship and the 2020 cohort on our fellowships’ page.