Thursday, April 20, 2017

How this brown girl got woke in America

Self-described “Woke Brown Girl” Prisca Dorcas Mojica Rodriguez seems an unlikely one to hold a masters degree from Vanderbilt University divinity school. 
Prisca Dorcas Mojica Rodriguez
“Many of my peers went on to be preachers.  I went in a Christian and came out a pagan.  I came out like this to religion,” said says, flicking her middle finger upward.

A storyteller and writer who created a platform called Latina Rebels, Rodriguez last night articulated her struggle to define herself on her own terms at a Rhodes College gathering organized by Latinx Student Association.

Rodriguez warns the audience that she is abrasive and disruptive and tells jokes -- and she says “fuck” a lot – all designed to bust out of how parents, professors and white people want to corral who she is. 

Rodriguez was born in Nicaragua, the daughter of charismatic Pentecostal preachers – “I grew up in a hyper–religious household.  If it didn’t elevate the name of Jesus Christ, it was garbage.” 

Her family came to America on visitor visas and just didn’t go back.

They lived in “Pequena (little) Nicaragua” in Miami. 

“We lived in the hood, but I thought we were filthy rich,” Rodriguez said.  “We sent money back to our family in Latin America.”

Rodriguez says she had a learning disability and could not read at age nine.  But, by high school, she was pushing her mother and a guidance counselor to let her take AP classes.  The counselor said, You are setting yourself up for failure.  Her “mami” told her in Spanish, He may be right.

But, Rodriguez interpreted to a dubious counselor, “She says put me in AP classes.”

“I went to college.  You know, go to college, change the world.  But I got told, your degree isn’t going to get you a job.  You will need a graduate degree,” Rodriguez said.

“I didn’t know what graduate school was.  I had gone to a commuter college 15 minutes from home.  I was like Elle Woods (in Legally Blonde) when she says, I’m going to law school. “

Her parents, however, thought the proper path for a good girl was next to get a husband and make babies.

“I was dating two guys,” she said, and she made a list of pros and cons.  “I met him in January, and I proposed in August.  In December I got married.  I’m divorced now.”

Rodriguez figured out that to get into graduate school she would need to take the GRE test – but that it was not required by divinity schools.

 “I Googled, where is divinity school and found Vanderbilt.  I thought, Where the fuck is Vanderbilt?”

“I refer to Nashville as a white city.  Nashville is where I learned racism,” Rodriguez said.

She explained her parents with a story, “My mami and papi do not get me.”

“I do not say that with resentment.  They controlled everything.  In grad school, I became this weird person who confused them.  What I am comes into conflict with who they are and what they believe.

“I got invited to the White House – Obama’s White House last year,” Rodriguez said.  “I thought, My mom’s going to love this.  I thought it would be best to text her rather than call her, so I texted, ‘Obama invited me to the White House.’ “

But mom did not respond. 

“My dad is a well-known Pentecostal musician.  He called me and said, ‘I need help with my bio.’

“Did you see about the White House?” she asked.

“Oh, yeah, congratulations,” her dad said.  “How about my bio?”

“So, fuck those people, I hate them all.”

Rodriguez said her brother was named teacher of the year at his school in 2004, and showing the bias against females achieving, her mother exalted that with magnets and paraphernalia while not seeming to be particularly impressed about the going to the White House business.

“My sister said, ‘We’ve been telling everybody.  Father from the pulpit.'

“I thought, still, fuck those people, cause they can tell everybody in the congregation but they can’t tell me?”

Rodriguez, who continues to live in Nashville after grad school, has been touring and lecturing at colleges and conferences in the U..S. and Canada.  She writes for Huffington Post Latino Voices, SupaDaily Latina, Mitu, TeleSur English and Philadelphia Printworks. 

Now that Hispanic persons are “entering their spaces en masse, they’ll try to make us forget who we are.  They try to force us into corners.

“We can see through that.  We are sick of being lied to.  Whiteness can make you forget.

“I have to remind myself that brownness is beautiful.  I have to remember that whiteness is meant to keep us down and docile.”

While Rodriguez leads with her audacious side, it is evident that her self-esteem and identity have run a gauntlet of pain to get her to a place where she talks about her sexuality, complains about whiteness -- and says fuck a lot.  She is an example of being smart and aware becoming a curse of sorts, because one becomes hyper-aware of the bullshit and how she is getting screwed over rather than accepting the prescribed route.

She channels her anger, which clearly has not burned out.

"Anger is beautiful and wonderful," she says.

“I got a divorce in grad school,” Rodriguez said.  “I did not want a boyfriend.  I’m not going to take a white man.  Then I got on Tinder.

“I met this guy named Brad,” Rodriguez pauses as she makes as much as she can out of a one-syllable name.  “Why couldn’t he be Carlos?  He was hilarious and smart and charming.”

Brad hanged in there through Rodriguez dating someone else for a year.

“I wrote a public letter.  I said, I am a white boy’s worst nightmare.  If the dishes are dirty, I will point and say, You took my land.

“I will not teach you Spanish.  I want my girlfriends to make you uncomfortable.  I want them to ask you, Is this the first Latina you have dated?  Is this a fetish?  I want to see your true colors, because your friends will call me caliente.  I want to see if you care for me as a person.

“I will expect you to say my full-born name in my accent – Prisca Dorcas Mojica Rodriguez.  My name is never said right…

“My people will love the color of your eyes…You will know when the queso fresco needs to be crumbled.

“These are things you will have to understand because you are dating a Nicaraguan immigrant from the hood.  Every time one of my friends rolls her eyes at white boyfriend, an angel gets her wings."

Before she transformed in grad school, Rodriguez was “a self-loathing Latina for a long time.  In ninth grade I saved money to buy color contacts – green ones and turquoise ones.  It was a long journey to move through the world. “

“With my peers in grad school  -- Chas and Becky – I got a masters in divinity.  But I also got a masters in white supremacy.  Being first generation is horrible.  It is excruciating.

“Then, I looked in the mirror and said, You are wonderful and you did this.  I wrote, Dear Woke Brown Girl, You are unstoppable.  Your wit is sharp.  You feel loads of pain because you had to question everything.  Once you have heard your chains rattle, you can’t go back.

“You complicate respectability politics, and you don’t give a fuck that you are doing it while you are fearful of your fearlessness.  You belong entirely to yourself.  No one can hold that much glitter…

“You had to become the scariest, smartest, strongest person in any room, because you had no choice.
"Keep brown girls around you."

“Brown girls, we need each other.  Keep brown girls around you.”

--de Gary Moore, 
para mis amigas Latinas 'woke'  

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