Calladitas No More

Junot Díaz’s Short-lived #TimesUp Moment Just Got More News

After Massachusetts Institute of Technology conducted a month-long investigation into allegations that he had sexually and verbally abused women, Pulitzer Prize-winner Junot Diaz’s name has been cleared by the university. The Dominican-American author of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao and Islandborn was recently reviewed by the university after accusations of sexual misconduct and abusive behavior against him surfaced last month.

In early May, Díaz was accused of sexual misconduct by women on Twitter.

At the time, Zinzi Clemmons, author of What We Lose, released a statement on Twitter alleging Díaz had forcibly kissed her at an event held at her university that she had organized as a 26-year-old graduate student. Soon after, more women spoke out. After Clemons, came Carmen Maria Machado and Monica Byrne two women who shared experiences of being publicly berated by Díaz on two separate occasions. At the time, Machado described her interaction with Díaz as “a blast of misogynist rage and public humiliation.”

While Byrne and Machado both underlined that Díaz never physically assaulted them, all three expressed their belief that others had experienced worse behavior from him.

Soon after the allegations came out, Diaz stepped down from his role as chairman of the Pulitzer Prize board and provided a comment to The New York Times stating that he took “responsibility for my past and that he was “listening to and learning from women’s stories in this essential and overdue cultural movement. We must continue to teach all men about consent and boundaries.”

In the month following the accusations, no other accusers have come forward during the investigations that were conducted by the Pulitzer Prize board, MIT, or the Boston review where Díaz is a professor of creative writing. Recently, both MIT and Boston Review announced they would both continue to work with the author.

The Boston-based magazine published a letter explaining their decision earlier this month to collaborate with Díaz in the future saying: “We do not think that any of the individual actions that have been reported are of the kind that requires us to end the editorial relationship. To be clear: we do not condone the objectionable behavior that they describe. Instead, we asked ourselves whether the conduct they report is of a kind that—given his role and our mission—requires us to end the editorial relationship. We do not think so. The objectionable conduct described in the public reports does not have the kind of severity that animated the #MeToo movement.”

Read: The Recent #MeToo Claims About Junot Díaz Remind Us What It Means For WOC When The Giants We Look Up To Turn Out To Be Abusers

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For The Past Three Years, I Have Been Silently Fighting My Sexual Assault Case


For The Past Three Years, I Have Been Silently Fighting My Sexual Assault Case

I am a first-generation UCLA graduate and a Latina sexual assault survivor. For the past three years, I have been silently fighting my sexual assault case in the complex criminal justice system against my attacker. Today, three years, one month and four days later, I have won my sexual assault case. Today I have been deemed victorious in the eyes of the law. Still,  as I’ve come to learn in the wake of #MeToo and the countless brave voices before me, is that my story and my win are not mine alone.

Three years ago when I was 21, I was raped while in my first year at UCLA.

At 21, I had just entered a new social landscape far away from home, and as a first-gen college student—it was a space I had never occupied. While other students were balancing their studies and bustling social calendars, I faced a far different reality: navigating college as a sexual assault survivor. The cultural implications of my intersectional identity (Latino, female, first-generation, survivor) meant that I had to coexist between two foreign spaces that I had never been part of—university and the legal system.

Once I reported my sexual assault, that launched the beginning of a three-year saga that would include a lengthy and emotionally draining criminal investigation. In addition to juggling school, work, family and a social life, I had to also confront the trauma that I had suppressed for so long which would arise during the investigation. It was here where I learned firsthand just how excruciatingly long and exhaustive the criminal justice process moves. Before my case ever made it to trial, I had to undergo a preliminary hearing, which would determine whether my case qualified to make it to an actual jury-based trial. For the first time since the rape, I had to face my attacker in court and testify my story on the stand while his defense aggressively cross-examined me. Everything that I had ever conceived about myself was called into question. My story, my morals and my character were all reduced to lies. I felt pain and humiliation and for the first time in my life, I was manipulated to believe that it was somehow my fault—that I had asked for this.

Before this moment, I had always perceived my strength as an essential component of my identity, but this experience broke me in a way I didn’t believe was possible.

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I felt my world come crashing down once I lost my sense of self. In that moment I contemplated dropping the case; and I couldn’t help but wonder if this man was capable of making me believe I had caused this, how could I dare face the cold judgment of the real world? The emotional unpacking of my trauma in the courtroom is a drastic example of the type of scenarios that deter victims from ever reporting—nonetheless speaking up. In the face of fear and pain, I nearly considered dropping my case and questioned the very core of my being—my identity. I am forever grateful that I didn’t give up and that for that I thank the dedicated team of detectives, my public defender, and family who stood by my side for three years reminding me of the many reasons why I was fighting this battle in the first place.

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As I’ve come to learn, trauma is not something that just suddenly goes away with a guilty verdict, and like many survivors, it is something that I will carry with me for the rest of my life. My sexual assault case win is a double-edged sword of justice. On one hand, it’s an earth-shattering victory worthy of celebrating and on the other hand, it’s a painfully isolating experience. You want to scream it from the rooftops that you’ve put a bad person in jail, but you also have to compose yourself so as not to make others uncomfortable. There is shame, stigma, fear, and cultural factors at play that shape a survivor’s experience and at its very core, it’s an intersectional experience. My survivor experience was no doubt shaped by my traditional Latino upbringing that taught me ideas about being “fuerte” and fighting my battles. But if there’s anything I’ve learned over the years, it’s that this was never just my fight and I was never truly alone in fighting it.

It took three years to see any tangible outcome and most people don’t realize that I was silently fighting this battle in the first place. In this process, I was taught a great deal of patience and learned that acceptance does not come in all forms. I had to accept the possibility that I might come out of this with a loss. I understood that most cases don’t result in a conviction or ever even make it to trial, but regardless of this possibility, I needed to move forward, if not for me, for others who didn’t have the opportunity to fight. As uncomfortable as it was to endure this battle, it has always been at the forefront of my being to share my story in the hopes that it will make it easier for the next person to speak theirs. And while progress did not happen overnight, I can only hope that I had to endure 1000 days so the next survivor will have to endure far less.

Back when this happened to me, #MeToo did not exist in the manner that it does today.

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There were no monumental movements and sexual assault was not a highly-publicized spectacle as it is today. I am living testament that sexual assault happens and it is real. I’m also a living testament that there is hope for justice and for healing. Despite the circumstances, I built my life around the trauma and checked off milestones such as being the first in my family to graduate from UCLA, forming relationships, and making strides in my writing career. This is a new emotional beginning for myself that remains undefined, but I can’t help but feel optimistic about the growing collection of voices sharing their truth. The progress we have made is slow, but we are reaching a turning point where our stories are being heard and our voices will not go unnoticed. To those who lost: Anita Hill, Kesha, Christine Ford and so many more… I stand with you.

My win could not have been possible without the support of mi familia, my friends, community, and the many courageous survivors who came before me. Thank you, this is not my victory, it’s ours.

Read: Cardi B’s Fashion Nova Line Is Here And It Has Already Sold Out

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Latina Reads: Meet Bronx-Based Boricua Poet Gretchen Gomez


Latina Reads: Meet Bronx-Based Boricua Poet Gretchen Gomez

Gretchen Gomez, 29, is a Puerto Rican poet from The Bronx. She was raised as a pastor’s daughter and discovered a love of writing early on and has now published two poetry collections. She released her first book, “love, & you” in 2017 and dedicated it to women who have experienced painful relationships. While the first collection was about overcoming heartbreak and discovering self-love, her latest, “Welcome to Ghost Town” is about confronting the ghosts of her past. Released in October of this year, the collection of poems is a personal journey through painful and traumatic experiences as a form of healing.

FIERCE spoke with Gomez for a better understanding of her book and the process she used to write..

Q: “Welcome to Ghost Town” deals with heavy subject matter, what was the process of writing this book like for you?

A: “I have to breakdown the process because there are two parts to this process. Before ‘Welcome To Ghost Town’ became a poetry collection, it was a poetry blog series. All the first poems from ghosts 1-17 are from that collection. When I wrote those specific 17 poems, I was in a different head space. I was writing to let it out without a worry because at that time my first collection wasn’t even out and no one in my personal life really knew about my blog. Therefore it was easier to write because I was pretty much touching the surface with these 17 poems.

The second part to this process is the very much harder part. When I decided to make this poetry series into a book, I wanted this to be a full collection not a chapbook. It’s when I started playing with the idea of adding short poems to those long ones (that were featured on the blog) and also adding the ghosts that weren’t apart of the blog series. I started tapping into suppressed memories and memories that I tried so hard not to relive. I don’t like thinking things into existence. I remember being in Vermont and balling my eyes out while I wrote about 90 percent of “Welcome To Ghost Town”. Because I lived the sadness again, I lived the abandonment, the horrors, my first heartbreak, the loneliness, the abuse, these crimes that were done to me. The process was hard.”

Q: What inspired you to delve into the ghosts of your past?

A: “My synopsis says ‘you might not be a part of my life anymore but you’re still the ghosts who haunt me.’ That means various things like them visiting me in my dreams/nightmares, seeing these ghosts in people I meet or pass by, memories of them coming into my mind when I do or see certain things, etc. And so life and pain and wanting to be free from them definitely inspired me to write about the ghosts.

Is there a poem in this book that was particularly difficult for you to write? Did the process of writing help you through it?

There’s actually a whole part that was super difficult for me to write. Ghost 19: #metoo there came a point where I thought about leaving this one out because I knew it was going to open up a can of worms in my personal life (thankfully it hasn’t, yet). Writing it, owning it, telling my truth, and also letting it be apart of the book as my ‘this is my f*** you for messing up my life and you will never take anything away from me ever again’ was very freeing. The process of not only writing it but keeping it in the book definitely helped me with the collection and my truths as a whole.”

Q: In the wake of the #metoo movement, how do you feel about being so open about your experiences?

A: “Again it’s just my big f*** you to these people. ‘Welcome To Ghost Town’ only talks about one experience which is the ghost mentioned above. I’ve unfortunately have gone through that more than once and talking about it is like me reclaiming what has always been mine. My voice, my body, my mental health, my strength, me. All of me. And so every time I open up about these crimes committed against me, I am letting myself know that I am not a prisoner and it feels liberating.”

Q: Mental health and trauma aren’t often talked about in Latinx culture, what would you like to see change and what would you say to someone who has experienced similar trauma?

A: “I would love to see more accessible resources to the Latinx community in regards to seeking mental help. I feel like because mental health is such a stigma within the Latinx culture, it’s something we don’t really talk about or push because we worry about offending our loved ones. I think talking about it, having positive discussions about mental health would be an open door.

I would tell someone who has experienced similar trauma as me to seek professional help if they can. Regardless of how similar our trauma is, our healing journey’s can be vastly different. Find peace within yourself and know that it was never your fault. You are not guilty of your trauma’s. There is no going back and changing time but there is forward and creating your future.”

Q: What was the most challenging part of writing this book? The most rewarding?

A: “The most challenging part of writing this book was the thought of people reading this and the unknown that came from that because I know there isn’t a book like welcome to ghost town out in the market right now. Therefore when it came to editing this book, I was very torn with keeping the collection or throwing it out.

The most rewarding has been the conversations I’ve had with people in my life and finding more healing from speaking out. I had a conversation with this person who I hold very dear to my heart, knowing some of her story and her telling me that she has courage to be bold because of welcome to ghost town was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever experienced in my life. Because knowing that I touched one person’s life and they broke out of whatever is holding them back, weighs a lot more than a negative review where someone couldn’t relate to my book. And that is rewarding.”

Q: What would you like readers to take away from this book?

A: “Say your truth boldly no matter how awful it is. Don’t ever let anyone take your voice away because it is one of the most powerful things you have. Be brave, be courageous, and know that you can make it through. Tomorrow is another step further from your present pain.”

Read: Alabama Just Passed a “Personhood” Law That Gives Unborn Fetuses the Same Rights As People

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