Latino poet performs work for BC


Lizette Chavez

Juan Felipe Herrera meets aspiring poet Vianey Padilla after the event at the Indoor Theatre at BC on March 29.

Lizette Chavez, Reporter

Bakersfield College hosted Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera in the Indoor Theater on March 29. Herrera began by introducing himself to the audience, something he believed to be very important. “It’s so beautiful to be acknowledged, that is why I am here to acknowledge you,” he said. “Poetry is an acknowledgement of you and life itself.”

Herrera then started sharing about his background, experiences and how education and art had shaped his life. He spoke about his family and their experiences as farm workers and how this was one of the main reason he decided to become an activist in support of migrant and indigenous communities.

“Imagine being 14 and starting a new life in the United States,” he said. “I remember those stories and that’s how I got to this thing about writing.”

He talked about his mother and the encouragement she gave him to involve himself in the arts. He shared how when his mother was younger she wished to be in the theater but that she was not allowed because she was a woman. “I remember her sharing this with me and she told me ‘I want you to be free, I wasn’t allowed to do it but, I’m gonna allow you to be as free as you want.”

Herrera shared poems that focused on the motivations and effects of violence, like “And If The Man In A Chokehold” and “Almost Livin’ Almost Dyin’,” which spoke about Michael Brown, Eric Garner and police brutality. Herrera also talked about his most memorable moments when it came to speaking to students. He mentioned how at his events the “theme” is always poetry but that the effect and the question he gets are very different.

One such moment, he recalled, was when he spoke about an event at a middle school where a young boy came up to him and told him that he was tired of all the hatred and that all he wanted was peace. This seemed to really resonate with the audience as Herrera looked out. After the event Herrera met with some of the audience members and took pictures. One of the guests was Diana Ramirez, who had performed Herrera’s poem “Half-Mexican” at a Poet Laureate event held in the Levan Center on Feb. 16. One guest that met with Herrera was Thomas Jefferson Middle School student Vianey Padilla, 12, who spoke to Herrera about her work of poetry.

Seeing students like Padilla being interested in poetry pleased Herrera and he told her in Spanish, “It is a good thing for our culture, words. Your voice is unique. This is very important.” Herrera also gave a makeshift Spanish lesson.