“I want to be the person I needed when I was younger. I want to encompass what I needed to see when I was growing up,” New York native Danyeli Rodriguez Del Orbe said.
This was one of the main messages of Del Orbe’s spoken word performance and writing workshop Tuesday night during La Raza’s event, Spoken Word Poetry as a means of healing and resistance.
La Raza is a student association which focuses on the experiences and struggles of young people who identify with Chicano/a and Latinx cultures. La Raza described the event as a “healing and resistance platica,” or “talk” in Spanish.
Growing up with English as her second language, Del Orbe faced many challenges and insecurities along the way to becoming a spoken word performer. Del Orbe says she does not consider herself a writer, but rather a performer because of the nature of her writing.
“I still cringe when I call myself a writer,” Del Orbe said. “I consider myself a performer because I think a lot of poetry is meant to be read and there’s poetry that’s meant to be performed. Where my writing may struggle on its own, it’s my performing that gives it life.”
Del Orbe said she introduced herself to the world of spoken word by watching Youtube videos and attending shows to observe performances.
“I went to an open mic one day and my friend signed me up and I was already there, so I ended up slamming,” Del Orbe said. “I slammed that night because I wanted to do something that would push me to learn.”
Slamming is a term used to refer to competitive spoken word. Del Orbe’s slam that night led her to eventually become a part of a competitive spoken word team.
During her writing workshop, Rodriguez asked attendees to reflect on a time in their lives when they endured a hardship and to write a letter to their past selves.
One of the audience members who shared their reflection piece, southeast Los Angeles teacher and poet Marie Lau said she came to the event because she was excited to meet another Afro-Latina writer.
“As a mujer [woman] that identifies as Afro-Mexican, I usually don’t get Afro-Latina representation out here,” Lau said. “I knew I had to come and I’m so glad I did because I feel validated, I feel empowered and I feel excited to write and do some healing.”
Event organizer and fourth year sociology major Sarita Lendechy also related to Del Orbe’s struggles with representation and appreciated the messages that she gave to aspiring people of color performers.
“It’s really inspiring to see someone wanting to be a better person and sharing their knowledge with us,” Lendechy said. “As POC students, we don’t tend to believe in ourselves, so I’m really proud that Danyeli came through and inspired the POC community at Cal State Long Beach.”
Del Orbe performed four of her own spoken word pieces that detailed intimate aspects of her life including the relationships she has with her ex-boyfriend and mother.
All of her performances were peppered with different languages, references and music from her Afro-Dominican heritage.
Throughout her performances and workshops, Del Orbe emphasized to the audience the importance of sharing their spoken word on a public platform.
Growing up undocumented, Del Orbe said she felt like she seldom heard influential people of color sharing the same experiences as her. She stressed that it is vital for others to share their stories and remind themselves that they are talented in what they do.
“Representation matters because it allows you to see yourself in that position,” Del Orbe said. “We need people of color to realize that their stories are valuable and that there’s space for them in the creative world.”
Watch our video coverage here:
Tashfina Rahman and Brenna Enos