An extension of an earlier blog post, Why I Turn to Lit and Art When Times are Hard.
Recently in Pinay Lit, we were talking about M. Evelina Galang’s One Tribe, and specifically, why the character of Isabel Manalo being a drama teacher and photographer was important.
In the face of death (there are two significant deaths in the novel), in the face of unwavering, all-encompassing, and normalized negativity, in the face of the myriad ways we tear one another down and destroy one another and our own, when others try to shut you down, silence you, belittle you — make art, create, create something new, something else, dream a thing of your creation into being, envision something other than what we are given.
We spend a lot of time being petty and mean. People are shitty to one another. People try to shut you up. People say disparaging things to one another in order to make their little selves feel big, and act as though there are no repercussions. Like how emotionally battered we are. Like how erased, how tiny you can make someone feel. Like how you can kill a person inside, kill their spirit, just shit all over their tiniest light that has now has no chance of ever growing into something so raging and strong.
This is why I am a poet. Despite those who have tried to take me down, shut me up, break my spirit and fight. It’s made me stronger; I used to be fearful, and this fear made me unsure. But now, I’m pretty damn sure why I do what I do. This is why I do what I do for community. Know that every step along the way, folks want us to be invisible. They can’t stand to see such confident brown girls so full of fire, so good at what we do, so seemingly brave.
I am in a place to encourage bravery. I am in a place to encourage growth. For those who come to trust me, I am in a position to challenge one towards growth. I know that some folks aren’t interested in being challenged. I know that some folks don’t think they have anything more to learn. I don’t know yet where they belong in my world. What I do know is I am not interested in taking people down, breaking them. Maybe I just have to bahala na and move on, save my energy for those with whom I can practice kapwa, reciprocity, mutual sharing and support. As a fellow writer recently said, what we do is “tending to the tribe.”