The Wise Latina
by Efrén Paredes, Jr.
protected by the colossal frontal columns
of the nation's Supreme Court
that were once like prison bars
seeking to lock you out of its halls —
before the blinding glare
of flashing cameras
bouncing off adorned walls
absent any images celebrating
your likeness —
there you stood,
the Wise Latina.
Your confirmation hearing
the true identity politics,
the underpinnings of tilted scales,
an indictment of a racist patriarchal system
that stains justice
with its misogynist ways.
attempted to relegate you
to a footnote in history,
as a child of affirmative action,
as another marginalized brown face,
like the ones they built the wall
along the Mexican border to keep out.
Somebody forgot to tell them
didn't do your homework,
didn't graduate you summa cum laude from Princeton,
didn't edit the Yale Law Journal for you,
didn't make difficult choices
or bequeath you wisdom.
Your strength and poise made us proud
as we were fixated to television screens
at viewing parties
in skyscrapers and barrios,
inspired by your courage,
displaying your buttons and posters,
watching you deflect
the barrage of attacks
you bravely endured
to become the nation's
111th U.S. Supreme Court Justice.
The eyes of many Latinas y Latinos
filled with tears,
as their exuberant smiles
brightened the morning sky.
Your detractors never gained an advantage,
even in their failed attempts to diminish you.
They couldn't erase our illustrious past
or replace it with illusions of inferiority.
They coul dn't write our Quinceañeras
or love for arroz, maíz y frijoles
out of our rich culture and heritage.
Carrying a legacy of struggle on your back
you transcended the tide of ignorance,
the protests and intimidation,
and rallying cries for your defeat.
The impotent Kyls, McCains and Sessions
couldn't change destiny,
they could only fulfill it.
It was the Wise Latina who prevailed,
who captivated the world.
Speaking loudly through your elegance
and quiet strength
you silenced your critics,
scattering them like the winds
of a fierce Summer storm.
At that moment
we all briefly touched the sky,
danced in the sun's warm glow,
and summoned the Ancestors
to celebrate your victory.
Efrén Paredes, Jr. is a Michigan prisoner who has been wrongly incarcerated for over 20 years since the age of 15 for a crime he did not commit. To learn more about Efrén's case visit http://tinyurl.com/FreeEPJ. Click here to download a PDF version of this poem which contains images that correspond to its text.
"I have sought to inculcate in others the importance of weaving a tapestry of unity and awakening their consciousness about their intrinsic value. Through this process we can spawn perpetual growth and rescue humanity from the cycle of despair that evaporates hope." —Efrén Paredes, Jr.
A special thanks to our friend Dorinda Moreno for bringing Efrén's poem to the attention of Nina Serrano.
Below is the e-mail that was sent out yesterday advertising the show.
Tonight Efrén Paredes, Jr. will appear on the KPFA 94.1 FM Berkeley radio show "La Raza Chronicles" speaking with celebrated poet, storyteller and independent media producer, Nina Serrano. The focus of the interview will be his newly released poem, "The Wise Latina." The show will air at 7 PM PST (10 PM ET).
To listen to the show over the Internet click here to download the file "gen-mpegurl.m3u". Once you download the file open it in Windows Media Player to listen to the show. If you miss the show an MP3 recording of the show will be available to listen to the following day.
You can view Efrén's poem, "The Wise Latina," below or download it from http://tinyurl.com/lewjtg.
Cynthia...Thanks for the poem (how beautiful!!!) and links.
I wish I could sign the change.org petition but it's only for US. Meanwhile, I'm checking out the other links you have supplied.
Cynthia: Thamks for the poem. It is very beautiful. I will also check out your links and sign the petition because I am from the US,
Cynthia, it is a lovely poem. I wish Judge Sotomayor well in her new position as a Supreme Court Justice. I hope that Judge Sotomayor will use her seat on the High Court to place people above process, unlike what happened in the Jeffrey Deskovic case. No innocent people should spend years behind bars over a minor technicality.
Judge Sotomayor did not take part in deciding on Troy Davis getting an evidentiary hearing, but we certainly hope that she would have decided in favor of justice, which means TRUTH AND FAIRNESS TO PEOPLE OVER PROCESS.
Unfortunately, many judges and district attorneys do not view innocence as being relevant in handing down or upholding prison sentences or even executions. Read the views expressed by Supreme Court justices in the High Court's August 17 ruling wherein Troy Davis was granted a hearing before another Georgia federal judge. Some of the judges disagreed that he should have any chance to prove his innocence before execution. See why below:
WINNERS -- “The substantial risk of putting an innocent man to death clearly provides an adequate justification for holding an evidentiary hearing," Justice John Paul Stevens wrote.
But Antonin Scalia, joined in the minority by Clarence Thomas, was unconvinced and unmoved.
LOOSERS --"This Court has never held that the Constitution forbids the execution of a convicted defendant who has had a full and fair trial but is later able to convince a habeas court that he is ‘actually’ innocent. Quite to the contrary, we have repeatedly left that question unresolved, while expressing considerable doubt that any claim based on alleged ‘actual innocence’ is constitutionally cognizable.”
As his fellow justices noted, Scalia’s position allows no legal avenue for even an obviously innocent person to have his or her case heard. ~ Jay Bookman Blog
It is fortunate that some of the Supreme Court justices have qualms about imprisoning and executing people who are "obviously innocent" without a hearing. My question is, why would an "obviously innocent person" even need to have his/her case heard? If one is "obviously innocent," release is in order. Suppose the judge does not like the accent, skin tone, or demeanor of the "obviously innocent" convicted person and rules against him?
Like Justice Scalia and Justice Thomas, there are many judges and prosecutors across the country who feel it is perfectly acceptable to imprison and execute innocent persons as long as the accused parties had their day in court. These judges and prosecutors seem to miss the point that the entire judicial process is intended to discover the truth of a matter and execute justice. Justice is never served by ignoring the truth of a convicted person's innocence because it arrived late or because reversing a wrongful conviction would be inconvenient to a prosecutor's career, costly to prison profiteers, or burdensome to the court process.
Apparently, our so-called "inalienable rights" to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are really quite alienable. All it takes to cancel them is false arrest and poor legal defense that leads to wrongful conviction. After trial, regardless of your innocence or even your ability to irrefutably PROVE your innocence, the High Court's statement above indicates that you have no automatic right to present your proof and escape prison or execution. "Actual innocence" has never been determined to be constitutionally cognizable.
Civil court is more fair about late arriving evidence than criminal courts. Civil court judgments that were rendered as a result of fraud or perjury are automatically void. Such judgments are not merely voidable, but already void. Furthermore, there is no time limit on setting aside such wrongful judgments. Obviously, lawmakers consider protecting litigants from wrongful monetary loss in civil court above the possible loss of innocent lives in criminal court. I wonder why? Could the reason be that money matters more than people in America? If the fairness applied to monetary matters in civil court trumps justice for accused persons in criminal court, how far does that concept go? How much more important is money than criminal justice to our lawmakers and judiciary?
QUESTION: IF INNOCENCE REALLY DOESN'T MATTER, WHY HAVE COURT?
Could the reason for having trials be merely to satisfy the "due process of law" requirement in Amendment 13 to the Constitution? The trial process is a prerequisite to supplying more slaves for the prison industrial complex - America's plantation system that was born immediately after the Civil War deprived the elite of their legal slaves. The emancipation of the Negro was the first time in American history when the elite had no slaves. Before Africans, poor whites were imported from Europe's ghettos and debtors' prisons to use their youth and vigor enriching America's elite, and Native Americans were also enslaved. The earliest Asians in America worked very menial jobs for slave wages. Many Latino workers do that now, especially those who are kept in their places by fear of the justice system due to their illegal alien status.
Congratulations again, on your seat on the High Court, Judge Sotomayor. I hope you agree that if the Constitution does not already protect innocent people like Deskovik and Paredes, it needs work.
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