Barrio Writers 6th Edition – Editor’s Note @ BW

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Barrio Writers 6th Edition – Editor’s NoteIf you would’ve asked me in 2009 about the future of Barrio Writers, I would’ve said, “I just hope the youth show up.” Today, I know the youth always come through. We have served over two hundred youth in Orange County, California, Austin, Texas, and Phoenix, Arizona.

Barrio Writers continues to strive to raise substantial support in order to publish more youth, keep growing our programs through community partnerships and writing advisors. For the last two fall semesters we have been providing free workshops at Resistencia Bookstore in collaboration with the Travis County Juvenile Probation Department in Austin,Texas. Additionally, we have partnered with the Mexican American Studies Student Association (MASSO) at the University of Houston and dedicated professors at Stephen F.Austin State University in Nacogdoches, Texas to launch two new chapters summer 2015.

Since our beginning at El Centro Cultural de Mexico in Santa Ana, California five summers ago, we have evolved into 1-week intensive programs on university campuses and published five summers of writing in our Barrio Writers anthologies. We couldn’t be where we are without such a formative beginning.

As is the case with any book, the publishing process has been an overwhelming experience. But every time I witness a Barrio Writer stand behind a microphone, share their own words while holding the Barrio Writers book, the struggle seems small in comparison to the pride they exert. When SFA Press accepted the Barrio Writers book as one of their publications, I couldn’t help but gasp with excitement and cry with happiness. Every year has been a challenge to collect enough funds to get the books to print. So it is with great pride and appreciation that I write this now. I am inspired by all the youth writings that paved the road for this 6th Edition. There are many people to thank in the last six years—too many to name but their dedication, donations, and generosity are found in the words of our youth.

Although we have incurred some losses and many changes along the way, it hasn’t gone without a lesson and forward momentum. My personal goal is to get the Barrio Writers books in classrooms across the nation. I also strive to establish a way to support our volunteer writing advisors. Summer 2015 will be the first year the Center of Mexican American Studies (CMAS) at the University of Texas at Austin offers a stipend for a student to volunteer as a Barrio Writers Writing Advisor. It has been our history with CMAS, that once they set the trend other universities step forward with support as well—CMAS was the first to host Barrio Writers on a university campus. Additionally, we hope our book royalties and community partners will continue to provide funds for bus passes, supplies, and snacks during the workshops. By providing access to such resources, our writing advisors stay focused on engaging our youth and developing mentoring opportunities. With consistent financial support through donations and book sales, the Barrio Writers program will continue to develop writers, leaders and scholars through youth empowerment and community building.

I am personally motivated by the words of Barrio Writer Ivan Dominguez to continue with these goals. He presented his writing at the UT Poetry Center as one of two Barrio Writers opening for award-winning authors ire’ne lara silva and Octavio Quintanilla on April 23rd, 2015. Just a couple days after we received notice that the Barrio Writers 5th edition was a finalist for the “Best Educational Young Adult Book” by the International Latino Book Awards and Ivan was one of the writers in the collection. In a follow-up panel discussion, CantoMundo Founder, Celeste Guzman Mendoza asked Ivan how writing impacted his life, in his response he said,“Barrio Writers made me a better adult.” I was taken back by his statement and immediately reflected on my own actions and frustrations as a writer. I realized I kept writing because I insist on empowering the youth to write. So in a way, we all must share our stories to be better adults and invest in our community.

As a community, we will bridge the gap between our youth, cultural pride and higher education; through collaboration we will cultivate diversity in and out of the classroom, raise role models, and offer a new voice in literature. After all, we wouldn’t be Barrio Writers if we let the self-named “high society” dictate what and how we write. So in the spirit of Barrio Writers, we must “throw up on paper,” challenge stereotypes, and deliver a counter narrative to reinstate our existence—through the outstanding beings and valid experiences of our youth, because in their words we discover our future and a reflection of ourselves.

Sarah Rafael García
Barrio Writers founder