“My mom holds her accent like a shotgun. With two good hands. Her tongue all brass knuckled, slipping in between her lips."
That’s how Denice Frohman began her powerful spoken word poem “Accents,” a proud smile stretching across her face as she recited her ode to her mother’s accent at the Nuyorican Poets Café on December 30, 2013. A video of her performance recently resurfaced, thanks to our friends at Flama. Although the poem is a few years old, the message and sentiment behind it is timeless.
In her poem “Accents,” the award-winning poet and educator celebrates her mother’s melodious accent, describing it as a “sancocho of English and Spanish pushing up and against one another in rapid fire.” Her accent is full of sabor; it cannot, and will not, be watered down.
“Her tongue can’t lay itself down flat enough for the English language,” explained Frohman. “It got too much hip, too much bone, too much conga, too much quatro to two-step, got too many piano keys in between her teeth. It got too much clave, too much hand clap, got too much salsa to sit still.” And why would she want it to?
Accents tell people where we’re from, each word like a little verbal flag waving in honor of our respective hometowns. Or as Frohman puts it when it comes to her own mother’s dialect: “My mother’s tongue is a telegram from her mother decorated with the coquis of el campo. So even when her lips can barely stretch themselves around English, her accent is a stubborn compass always pointing her towards home.”
In a day and age where public figures refer to Latinos using derogatory misnomers, expounding mistruths about them in public forums, it is especially refreshing to hear and see our fellow Latinos elevate and celebrate our voices -- accents and all.
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