#QTPOC Of The Week | Latiana Blue, Poet & Visionary
My mother named me Latiana. I shuddered at the sound of my full name for many years; it was shortened to "Tiana" for most of my life. But the older I became, and the more folks said they saw me in "Latiana," the more I started to mold my identity, which is what ya'll see today. I'm a poet, visionary, and born and bred New Yorker from The Bronx. Those three things are the beat behind everything that I "do."
What’s your background?
I love repeating that I'm from this city! I grew up in Parkchester and Castle Hill. Rumor has it I lived on the same block J.Lo did before she left the BX! Can't prove it, though, so I just plug it as a fun fact. I've been an artist my entire life. I was a very curious and quiet child. I remember questioning a lot and being the nerd that constantly raised their hand to read aloud in class. I was quiet, but I was a strong enunciator and wanted my voice to be heard. (And that's still true!)
My middle school teacher tells me I was always reading and writing and had an evident sense of humor. This fervent love for language and expression has carried me through many dark periods in my life.
Eventually, I studied Print Journalism at Penn State with dreams of starting a wellness magazine. Before hitting my senior year, I felt a deep, intuitive shout to return back home to NYC, where I continued my studies at Pace University. Without a doubt, my life would be unimaginably different if I hadn’t made that difficult decision.
What do you enjoy the most about “what you do”?
As Gwendolyn Brooks beautifully puts it, "Art hurts. Art urges voyages -- and it is easier to stay at home." Truthfully, I don't like describing my passions as something that I "do." I believe this phrase makes passion sound mechanical. I have a greater message to share with the world before I die. Carrying the same ideals as when I was a child, writing and performing allows me to claim my space and be heard. I enjoy writing because I could not function without it. I wake up with a fire to read, write, and study words. I commute home with lyrics and poems in my hands. Then, I write and jam until I fall asleep at home. I am deeply obsessed with words and self-expression, which is why I can't consider it something that I just "do." It encompasses who I am, and I'm gearing up for a long future as a writer, performer, and (budding) songwriter.
What is the most challenging thing about “what you do”?
To describe the most trying times of your life in poignant detail is more than maddening. You have to be the good kinda crazy to pursue it with an eagerness to improve your craft and strengthen your technique. I created bklynprose.com to hold space for writers and non-writers who wanted to learn about poetry.It started out on Meetup.com and was a gathering just for women. But it quickly evolved into a hangout where women were divulging their grief, troubles with motherhood, and the like. I decided poetry workshops weren’t enough. I wanted to create an intentional space where folks could collectively talk and write about their mental health. As I came into my queerness, I knew bklynprose should welcome all female-identifying and gender-nonconforming people. (Issa patriarchy-free zone.)
That’s what bklynprose is in its barest bones.
Describe a real-life situation that inspired you?
I’m not shy to talk about my experiences with sexual violence, as it is a pertinent piece to my activism. I was raped during my first few months of undergrad. During the initial shock of understanding what happened to me and my body, another intuitive shout told me my voice would one day find its purpose as an activist of some sort. Today, I use my poetry and my blog to candidly do so. I’m excited to expand into other mediums.
What is your dream project?
My dream project is to own a facility that’d turn bklynprose into a physical space. I foresee a lot of details that I won’t share here for the sake of originality ;-)
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
“Why aren’t you writing?”
The recurring theme of my mother’s advice revolves around not letting go of my gifts. I’m lucky to have met multiple teachers (I’m still in contact with a few) who have influenced my growth as a writer. But above all, my mother wouldn’t allow me to stop. Throughout my life, if I was ever in a funk of not creating, she’d question me into restarting. Her persistence in pushing me to stay focused brings tears to my eyes.
Name something you love (outside of what you do) and why.
I started skateboarding during July 2017. I met a well-known New York skateboarder named Nina Moran. I was on the platform waiting for my train home with my roommate when Nina started talking to us. She stood on her skateboard, passionate and glowing, talking about how more women like us need to start skating. Nina brought us to Skate Brooklyn, and I was immediately hooked. Now, I own two boards, one of which I purchased as a birthday gift to self (instead of the usual perfume I ask for). Skateboarding has granted me relative freedom from anxiety. It’s become a coping mechanism for me, especially during depressive periods. It’s taught me an infinite amount about persistence, physical and mental balance, and not giving a fuck about what people think about you. Skating has helped me make awesome friends. It also keeps your entire body strong and alert (including your feet!), and there’s an indescribable excitement felt when you learn something new. Some of my most vivid memories of the summer involve being on my board.
What should we look out for and how can we keep up with you &/or your work?
Look out for me. Dassit.