Poet Christian Robinson was an 18-year-old senior at Oak Park and River Forest High School when he competed in the Louder Than a Bomb Youth Poetry Festival in the Spring of 2011 representing his high school.
Identifying with both his African-American background and his Mexican background, Ode to the Spanish Language explores how the two cultures affect Christian’s everyday life.
I’m on the border
of two identities, but if I choose black,
I can blend with the wide-nosed
dark-eyed people I resemble,
without your crooked eye-brows
questioning if your accent makes me valid.
Holiday dinners with mom’s side of the family
won’t come with complimentary sides
of Is he really one of us?
Like when my father walked through
the door for the first time
clinging to my mother’s hand,
her palm licking the sweat from his wrist;
the taste of first impressions.
Yes, soul food erases
the aroma of my Hispanic background.
But I still catch myself gripping
my mother’s hand like a child separated
from deported parents.
Cuz I feel like I’m committing suicide
every time I decline to order Mexican food
at some taco joint.
Each week, WBEZ features a poem from the Louder Than a Bomb collection that explores the issue of race. We offer the poems as part of Race: Out Loud, a collaborative production of WBEZ and vocalo, which aims to get us talking to each other about race. Louder Than A Bomb is Chicago’s teen poetry festival. It brings teens together across racial, gang, and socio-economic lines in a friendly competition that emphasizes self-expression and community via poetry, oral story-telling and hip-hop spoken word. Each year, Chicago Public Media invites festival finalists to record their work.
Click here to hear nearly 200 Louder Than a Bomb finalist pieces recorded over the past eight years.