When I moved to Los Angeles over a year ago, I was lucky enough to get a column on Univision/ABC’s English language website, that we now know as Fusion. The NYRican in LA column charted my experiences adjusting to life in the City of Angels and living with my hijas and my pareja after years of single mami’hood in Queens, NYC. It was an amazing opportunity and practice to have a byline every other week connected with a major national network.
However, “luck” is probably the wrong word. It means by chance and not because of my own work as an independent media maker for years. When I began writing publicly online as Mamita Mala, no one paid me to do it. I didn’t do it for attention or in the hopes of getting a book deal. I did it because as a struggling political single mami I had things to say and I knew there just had to be others out there feeling, thinking the same things. Before social media was social media, my online writing was a way to connect. Many of the things I wrote about related to my personal life, including probably way too intimate details of my puterias, but even those stories were deeply connected to the artery of a larger community of women of color reclaiming our own voices. That is a very conscious political act that can get very easily lost when you move from writing essentially for yourself and your chosen family to writing for a larger broadcast outlet, at least for me.
Writing a column was not easy and I wasn’t perfect at it. I had pretty much free range of topics and wasn’t heavily edited, so I retained my voice which is a rare gift. However writing a column requires a certain amount of discipline I will admit I am not always good at keeping. I can and do get derailed by stressors in my life.
My first year living in Los Angeles certainly was filled with stressors: a cross-country move, leaving my family behind, the bumps that come with a blended family, work.
I also have to admit that I got comfortable with writing for a major network. I didn’t write for myself anymore. I didn’t keep up the blog that was a large part of my success. I didn’t even write on my own personal blog where “Mamita Mala” was born. I saved all my writing energy and ideas for the column. Everything else was locked away in the pages of my personal journal. There was no other output.
So when the column suddenly ended without really an explanation as to why (although I have my speculations), I became stuck. I was depressed by the lost opportunity (not so much the income as it never paid enough on it’s own). Another political blog I wrote for stopped using freelance writers. I applied for blogging and writing positions on other websites and was not getting them. So I just stopped. I ignored the spaces I helped to create. I became convinced that no one wanted to hear from a woman like me, a Rican mami with years of experience, a unique voice but undereducated and perhaps over-opinionated.
That was a huge mistake. It was giving up and giving in to the widely held message that my voice and voices like mine don’t matter, that my experiences don’t matter, that my existence doesn’t matter.
This right here is the next step. I have to make writing my public practice again and not just because I’m getting paid.
I will continue to write personal pieces like this one on my Mamita Mala blog as I did for oh so many years. I will also write posts about being a NYRican in LA here as well because well even though I have been here for over a year, Los Angeles never ceases to amaze me.
I will continue VivirLatino. There is still a need for independent new reporting and analysis, not to mention sharing the wonderful work of so many other people.
As for my future as a professional, meaning getting a paycheck for my writing, I never wrote thinking of it as a career even though that is what it is. I’ve had and will work to continue to have opportunities writing for national publications and outlets. I will continue to look for those opportunities.
I also believe we can create our own opportunities. My own life is proof of that. It’s why I created Mamita Mala Media to not just promote myself but work with organizations and individuals on media creation and strategies.
All of this has to be grounded in the number one rule. Writers write, be it for themselves or for publications that will give them a byline. It’s been years since I have written or performed poetry and it is something I miss and want/need to return to.
Now it’s a time to become radical again, return to root – raiz. I am writer so I will make my own opportunities, create and foster my own spaces while pushing to make existing spaces more inclusive.