With the media’s silence around the disappearance and subsequent death of Bronx dominicana Maylin Reynoso, it’s been her community, online and on the streets, ensuring her story is told and life unforgotten. Some, like the feminist skate crew Brujas, who held a memorial for Reynoso last week, knew the 20-year-old Latina. Others, like poet Elisabet Velasquez, never met the young woman but were moved to action regardless.
Velasquez learned of Reynoso last week. She was captivated by an image of the skater’s smile and coiled hair, inspired by her radiant energy before even clicking on an article and learning of Reynoso’s tragic tale. The Brooklyn-based Puerto Rican mother was instantly impacted. “I did not know Maylin personally, but we all know a Black or brown girl who reminds us of Maylin in some way,” she told us.
Saddened by the loss and angered that it did not generate the media attention it deserved, Velasquez took to her pen and paper to dedicate a poem to Reynoso and all other girls of color who disappear or pass away without media attention
“My poem, ‘To The Black And Brown Girls Who Go Missing Before They Go Missing,’ came from a place of anxiety for me. I have a 16-year-old daughter, and I work with brown and Black girls. I want the world to change, for them,” Velasquez, 32, said. “Oftentimes, our youth of color are ignored, treated as missing even before they go missing. I hope this poem allows us to reflect on how we are or are not showing up for our women and girls of color. I hope it opens our eyes to how we perpetuate society’s stereotypes against them. Most of all, I hope it inspires us to show them how bright they shine and for that reason they are always deserving of light.”
For her, community art is essential when mainstream media ignores its afflictions and misrepresents its stories.
“When a Black or brown girl goes missing, immediate reactions look to place blame on the victim,” she said. “Oftentimes, as in Maylin’s case, the victim’s mental status is brought into question, as if having a mental illness justifies a less thorough investigation. I would demand timely, fair and accurate reporting and dissemination of information regarding our missing black and brown girls that does not divulge criminal, sexual, mental or medical history of the victim.”
That’s why she believes it’s necessary for communities of color to use their collective voices, platforms and art to bring attention to the underrepresented.
“When mainstream media fails us they will have no choice but to hear our voices,” she said.
Read Velasquez’s powerful poem below.
To The Black and Brown Girls Who Go Missing Before They Go Missing