Dar A Luz (Giving Light to Birth) is a collaboration among WritersCorps, Ana Teresa Fernández, and me, Leticia Hernández-‐Linares. The Creative Work Fund supported my vision of developing writing about motherhood in community with young mothers and other women artists. I worked with WritersCorps teaching artist Minna Dubin and her Hilltop School workshop participants over the course of a year to exchange stories and writing prompts about pregnancy and parenthood. Ana Teresa took portraits of the young women writers and created artwork in response to my poetry. Minna, the young writers, and I prepared an event entitled Iron Mom: Not Just a Baby Mama to present our stories, our community, and the artwork. This website serves as a living document of our experiences. The photography, writing, and community pictured here is a portrait of our conversation as young moms of color and a Latina writer becoming a mother later in life, coming together in the Mission.
In Latin America, apellidos (last names) are long poetic lines representing the names of the fathers. I publish my poetry as Leticia Hernández-‐Linares because the day I became the first in my family to graduate from college, my mother asked me to include her name on my diploma so she could get credit too. In 1993, the same year I graduated from college, I began to write poetry regularly and through that writing, uncovered stories buried under my skin and wrapped around the spinal cords of the women around me. I needed to find and write the names of the mothers.
Popular images of “Latino cultures” often focus on “family” and the same rings true for the connection between Latina women and the role of la madre, the mother. For me, obtaining a college and graduate education, working in leadership, and becoming a writer were all paths that had no road maps, no connections to or expectations of me as a bilingual daughter of immigrant teenage parents.
Through this collaboration, I am interested in unveiling the new roadmaps for motherhood that Latinas are cultivating⎯as a feminist who gave birth to two baby boys, one at 33, the other at 38 years of age. During my second pregnancy, I was leading an organization that employed and empowered low-‐income young mothers and young women. I struggled to imagine my experiences of pregnancy at the age of 18, as I would talk with our participants. I recalled that my own mother was just that age when she had me. This continuum⎯from my mother, to me and the young teenage mothers in my neighborhood⎯as well as the public comment and reaction to our pregnant bodies seemed ripe for literary exploration. As women of color, we are not supposed to take up too much space, and we are often demonized for the very trait we are often associated with, giving birth. Through our writing, we have begun to expand the understanding of what it means to be mothers, and dismantle expectations and perceptions of our bodies and ourselves.
WritersCorps has partnered with the Hilltop School since 2008 to serve its students. Writer and teacher Minna Dubin welcomed me into the community she has led there to share stories and inspiration and create new work. This project connects the WritersCorps teen mothers’ stories with a wider audience, engaging the community in a conversation of relevance and significance that will challenge thinking and perception of teen parenting and motherhood.
Throughout this project, I have begun a new collection of poems currently titled Pluma: Featherpen. Minna compiled and edited A Few Things I Know, an anthology by the Hilltop School students. We have included pieces from their anthology, as well as ones we worked on together, to construct their performance. Writing together with these young mothers provided me a new level of inspiration and courage in sharing my own experiences. Exchanging poems and ideas with artist Ana Teresa created a wire between her artistic vision and my poetic musings that has tied us together. Patricia, Raquel, Tania, Veronica, Andrea, Yesenia, Malisha, Devi, Jo, Karla, Ana Teresa, Minna, and my two big baby boys helped me find my feathers. I hope you enjoy the recounting of my flight. I hope you see the beauty in each one of our journeys.