Speaking Culture w/ Activist, Author, Filmmaker Elisha Miranda
For the months of June and July, All the Blog's a Page (AtBaP) is looking at how culture plays a role in writing. This week, I'm featuring a woman I have come to admire; her passion and compassion to fully represent herself and her culture in a positive way ignites me to want to do the same: activist, author, filmmaker Elisha Miranda! You cannot read her feature and nottaste the love she has for her culture and its representation in the media.
About The Sista Hood: On the Mic:
4 Girls, One Mic and Lots of Drama
When Mariposa (aka MC Patria) meets Ezekiel Matthews (aka MC EZ1) they quickly become best friends; together they have the best summer tossing lyrics and rhymes. After the summer ends, Mariposa realizes the only thing she really cares about -- besides becoming the best emcee around -- is getting Ezekiel to love her. Unfortunately, this realization comes at the same time Ezekiel gets a girlfriend -- Jennifer Hoffman (aka J-Ho 5), an emcee with a huge buzz.
When her school announces a talent show, Mariposa understands that this could be her last chance to impress Ezekiel. She decides to form a hip-hop crew -- enter the world of the Sista Hood -- MC Patria, Soul Siren, Pinay-1 and DJ Esa, all divas in their own way. While coming together isn't easy, they're forced to collaborate and their lives are changed forever.
Elisha gave heartfelt, in-depth responses to all the questions; we asked how important is it for her to integrate her cultural experiences into her writing, she responded:
Before heeding the muse and pursuing a career as a filmmaker and writer, I had been an educator, community organizer and emergent urban planner, working with people of various ages, classes, race and ethnicities, sexual identities and national origins and learning about a range of issues from criminal justice to public health. I have worked for the struggling nonprofit organization, and I have served the public as a teacher in public education. I have volunteered for the activist collective, and have taught classes at the university. My professional life has brought me to China and Japan, Wooster College in Ohio and the juvenile facility in San Francisco, California. I have abandoned the tourist bus to hike the back roads of Cuba, Colombia, and Mexico precisely because I’m a Latina who is not Cuban, Colombian nor Mexican.
All these different experiences have brought me a more expansive viewpoint of Latinadad in the United States. I’m a Puerto Rican who grew up in public housing between a working-class Mexican/Chicano community called the Mission and the African American dominant Hunter’s Point. I went on to earn multiple degrees at elite universities, and experienced a creative “recovery” in my late twenties in which I pursued my dream of becoming a professional storyteller.
My mother raised in public housing – herself a native of San Francisco whose father was a merchant marine from Puerto Rico and whose mother settled there from Puerto Rico via Hawaii’s sugar cane fields – raised me and my siblings by herself. I toughed out the failing public elementary and junior high school down the block where all the other kids looked liked me. But when high school arrived, I endured a daily bus ride from my neighborhood to a magnet high school where I was both a racial and economic minority.
I’m an openly bisexual woman who speaks out against racial injustice when others hide behind their fair skin. I was raised a Jehovah’s Witness and am now a practicing Buddhist who identifies as “spiritual but not religious.” I am a modern Latina, and this is why my body of work resonates not only across the differences within the Latino community but also speaks to audiences beyond it.
It is these experiences that give me the stories I wish to tell, and because I have crossed borders of so many kinds, people of all backgrounds see themselves braided in my yarn. Today many people want to write books and make films about the Latino experience. I have lived that experience and there are many stories to tell. This is not merely something I do as a writer and director. It is how I live and these experiences are very integrated into my art.
Come by AtBaP to read more of Elisha Miranda's wonderful comments on culture and writing...and to check out an excerpt of her novel, The Sista Hood: On the Mic!
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