In the Words of, are segments and pieces written by authors within our extended i love this place community. These young people offer their own perspective, lens and analysis of issues around societal issues, community change and their own experiences.
Natalia is not only an writer, but an introspective and reflective composer of personal and historical narrative. Through her work, she continuously challenges social archetypes, expectations and negative perceptions. A prolific and talented poet, her words do not stand alone, but are heightened by her perfectly paired visuals.
I have gained a deeper understanding of safe spaces for the arts and the impact this has in the Bronx by volunteering at Project X, a spoken word organization for Afro-Latinx communities in the Bronx. Currently, Project X doesn't have an exact location for their organization which is why they often connect with other organizations in the Bronx that can offer their space for an evening. But I am still very fascinated with this aspect of Project X because although the Bronx and Afro-latinx communities have been victims of displacement due to gentrification and a lack of belonging throughout history, Project X was able to use the idea of moving around, or being displaced, to their advantage and as a driving force to create a poetry community among young adults all around the Bronx. During this past month, I began to understand the logistical work that comes with creating and growing a fairly new organization. From budgeting, checking venue spaces before events, representing Project X at various spaces, attending the community events, cleaning up, and much more; I have grown a deep admiration for the people who intern at Project X and do everything they can to see this organization succeed. My favorite part about volunteering at an all Afro-Latinx poetry organization is the sense of belonging, culturally and artistically, with people I have never met before. I remember sitting by the admissions table at Open Mics while constantly being in awe with the stories I heard and the talent of so many young adults.
My time at The Center in Portland and at Project X caused me to start speculating about my community in New York: Washington Heights. Washington Heights is in uptown Manhattan and it is a very heavily Afro-Latinx populated community, but I often forget how little time I spend there because of my attraction to art museums in Chelsea or other sites in the Lower East Side. Personally, my time with Project X in the Bronx and my self-reflection of my relationship with Washington Heights helped me conceptualize how I can use decades of New York’s political history and my personal experiences with the city motivate me to volunteer more at organizations that are trying to change its culture. I am very grateful for my summer experience at The Center and Project X because it brought a sense of new self awareness towards what I consider safe spaces and what is under my feet.
Natalia Mercedes, 17