Editor’s Note: This article features explicit language.
“I’ve got a question for you, Princess Anonymous – What exactly does ‘a Hispanic’ look like,” asked Carlos Andrés Gómez in his poem “Juan Valdez.”
Gómez, 33, is an award-winning spoken word poet and stars in the HBO series “Def Poetry.”
Gomez and others gathered at Hoff Theater in the Stamp Student Union to express a variety of personal and social experiences through poetry.
The poem “Juan Valdez” references a moment in Gomez’s life when a woman asked if the name he was given at birth was his stage name or his real name. The woman said: “I’ve never met a Hispanic who looks like you. So, what’s your real name,” according to Gomez.
Gomez emphasized that one should not judge a person’s cultural identity based on preconceived conceptions. A person’s attire, career and language proficiency should not factor into cultural identity, he added.
“I have met Latinos who look like Juan Valdez and can’t speak a word of Spanish,” said Gomez. “Others who look like Hilary Duff with a mother who looks like Hillary Clinton that are from Paraguay and teach Spanish grammar in Puerto Rico.”
Sophomore government and politics major Cristy Negón understood Gomez’s message, but said she’s never been offended by questions regarding her cultural identity.
“A lot of the time people will say that I don’t look to be Hispanic,” said Negón. “However, I’ve never been personally offended by their judgments.”
The event also featured world-renowned poet George Masao Yamazawa, Jr., 24, who simply goes by “G.”
Yamazawa is a National Poetry Slam champion, two-time Individual World Poetry Slam finalist and has toured throughout more than 50 countries.
Yamazawa also referenced cultural identity in one of his poems that he wrote as a guidebook for Japanese-American youth.
He noted Asian-American youth are sometimes referred to as Bruce Lee, Jet Lee or Jackie Chan. However, Yamazawa suggested for one to “laugh along with their ignorance,” because “it will give you strength.”
“When you smile, they’ll try to ridicule your eyes for being smaller than usual,” said Yamazawa. “Remind yourself it’s only because America has a tendency of wanting to see through you.”
“When they call you Chinese, correct them,” Yamazawa said. “Upon correcting them, tell them your full name in your native dialect. Remind them of your parents’ birthplace. Remind them of Hiroshima and Nagasaki until the conversation feels nuclear.”
Sophomore public health science major Richard Lee could relate to Yamazawa’s pieces.
“My parents are also Asian-American immigrants so I fully understood the messages behind his poems,” Lee said. “The concept behind his poems were creative, relatable and socially necessary. It was very encouraging to see someone represent a group of people that are practically absent in this art form.”
Yamazawa has written various poems throughout his career. However, one poem in particular is the most sentimental, Yamazawa said. This poem was dedicated to his grandmother. In it, he praised his grandmother for all the hard work she put into supporting her family.
“In the poem to his grandma, I really liked the part when he said that his grandma held him and said that she was afraid to die but knew that it wasn’t her time,” said sophomore public health science Stephanie Choi. “The entire poem just made me realize how much I love and appreciate my grandma for how much she’s been through.”
Yamazawa believes his ability to see through “the artistic lens of the world” allows him to easily express himself through poetry and spoken word. He is able to see through this “artistic lens” because he was “born with two tongues,” he added.
“Every single person in this room and in this world, in fact, defy ignorant preconceptions and stereotypes people have about us every single day,” Gomez said.
Feature Photo Credit: Carlos Andrés Gómez performing at TerpSlam in the Hoff Theatre of Stamp. Carlos is an award-winning poet, actor, speaker, and writer from New York City and a former social worker and public school teacher. He noted that, “53.2% columbiano and 35% go fuck yourself” is his prefered response when asked what “percentage” he is. (Cassie Osvatics/Bloc Reporter)
Joel Valley is a sophomore journalism major and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.