A native of Puerto Rico, writer and associate professor, Yomaira Figueroa, was raised in Hoboken, NJ, and is a first-generation high school and college graduate. She earned her Ph.D. and M.A. in the Department of Ethnic Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. Figueroa works on 20th century U.S. Latinx Caribbean, Afro-Latinx, and Afro-Hispanic literature and culture. Her most recent book Decolonizing Diasporas: Radical Mappings of Afro-Atlantic Literature, focuses on diasporic and exilic Puerto Rican, Cuban, Dominican, and Equatoguinean texts in contact. She is currently writing a book on Afro-Boricua Histories and audiovisual archives.
“The quotidian moments captured in the photos of Frank Espada’s Afro-Puerto Rican subjects and in Girmay’s poem “You Are Who I Love” are the facts of everyday Blackness and Black life and survival in the diaspora. The everyday moments that Espada documents invite a form of listening to what Tina Campt calls the “quiet register”; it is listening to the quotidian and the intimate as a central part of the human.”
Oral presentation on the essay “Afro-Boricua Archives” or the poem “You Are Who I Love.”
“These images and stories are works of poetry that refuse dehumanization and accusations of cultural pathologies. Instead, Espada renders his subjects through a lens of love, celebration, and dignity.”
How can we interpret these Frank Espada photos from Figueroa’s perspective? What elements stand out? What stories they suggest?
“Both Frank Espada’s photography and Girmay’s poetry allow Puerto Rican, Afro-Puerto Ricans, and other people of color to see themselves rendered beautifully as survivors and resistors. These bundles of photography and poetry can be cleaved together (but not apart) because they are visualizations of the human.”
Pick a line from Aracelis Girmay’s “You Are Who Are Love” that matches well with Espada’s photography project. Explain your selection.
Girmay and Espada create an archive of who is loved. Who is loved in these poems and in these photographs are: colonial subjects, diasporic peoples, those resisting coloniality, and practicing old/creating new ways to love one another. Within Espada’s work, we must bend our ear to listen to the poetics of the image, in Girmay’s work we must conjure and imagine the people, the bodies, and the immense love she writes about. We can listen to his images and read her poetry and behold an indispensable way to see communities that have been disappeared by the archive, coloniality, and erasure.