Ysanet Batista


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How I Learned To Embrace My Blackness as a Dominican Woman

Article public on HipLatina.com

Dear Papi

Happy New Year Ya'll!

I have not posted as many blog posts as I hoped to last year and I want to change that. In March, I was invited to cook for a group of women, writers of color participating in a writer’s retreat called Sankofa Writer’s Retreat, organized by Alicia Anabel Santos and her amazing crew. I was there to nourish these writers with healthy food and they nourished me with their writing and laugher. One of the writers there was Vanessa Mártir (her work is dope, check her out!) and she created the #52Essays2017 writing challenge, which I am participating in. I am going to be writing what is in my heart and I am excited/scared to share it on this blog. I woke up today with my Dad in my mind. He is celebrating his birthday today and I can’t call him so I wrote him a letter.

Dear Papi,

Today you turn 47 years old! I am sitting here wondering all the ways you would celebrate your day. I wonder how you would have brought in the new year. I can imagine the turn up and gozadera you would have. Probably combining NYE, New Year’s Day and your birthday into a week long celebration. Con la güira in one hand, y una copa de Brugal in the other. Being the comedian of the night, making people laugh till they cry or pee their pants and dancing with everyone (mostly the women) in our living room. Papi, when you dance with me everyone watches and I feel so proud that you’re my Papi. Charlatan and all, you hold and take care of me.

I imagine that at this age you would have gotten your shit together and would be más tranquilo, —like those people that reminisce on the old, wild days—and now claim to be a man of God. This would probably be after you did a couple years in federal. You would have realized you are not about that life ‘cause the outside is too good to get locked up again. You probably would have taken a job working as an electrician, or a similar trade job. I always heard abuela and tia saying how good you were at fixing everything in the house. They say “No, Segui sabía arreglar de to’!

I imagine the life you would have if you like your name, Segundo, the system would have given you a second chance. If the system would recognize their wrongs and pardon you for trying to survive in the hood. A second chance because as an immigrant Black Latino man, who did not speak “good” English, and had barely made it to high school you took up the opportunity that was presented to you. A second chance because these opportunities were brought to you and our people by the same system that imprisoned you and any alternative opportunity for a future. I imagine how many Black and Brown people would be living life fully if the prison industrial complex would not have them enslaved.

I imagine how different my siblings and I would be if we were getting ready to take you to dinner for your birthday. Instead, you find yourself in a holding prison getting ready to be transferred to a federal prison in Arizona. Yo, Papi… this is like your 5th transfer, you’re on your own cross country trip. Portate bien en esta, maybe they’ll give you a second chance after all and send you back to the Dominican Republic like they do other non-US citizens. Maybe they won’t, because they make too much money off of you and your fellow inmates. But let’s not think about that. Please continue to stay positive and remind yourself that God has a purpose for you being locked up until 2049. You met someone in there battling cancer and you pray with him for a reason. You mentor a young man and advise him to make a different life for himself when he gets out for a reason. You fight for respect from other inmates for a reason. You get sent down to solitary confinement, pal' hoyo, for a reason. 

Mira, by the time you get released I will have house in a campo in the DR with a hammock and a garden for you to chill at. I will be married and have nietxs for you to tell jokes to. We will throw you a 3-day fieston for your 79th birthday that starts on NYE and cook a chivo in honor of your second chance at life. Pues si, sigue pa’ lante. I am out here organizing for your and our liberation.

Happy Birthday, Segundo Batista 

Con mucho amor,

Tu hija -- Ysanet Batista

Ysanet Batista