We had the good fortune of connecting with David A. Romero and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi David A., let’s talk legacy – what do you want yours to be?
The poets chosen have come from Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Colorado, and California. The most recent winner, Cydney Brown, is the Youth Poet Laureate of Philadelphia. Cydney was chosen by five judges from a field that included applicants from Southern California, Florida, and Puerto Rico.
A senior at Abington Friends School, Cydney is an active Girl Scout, volunteer at her church, president of Abington’s Black Student Union, president of Abington’s Poetry Club, co-president of Abington’s The Literary Magazine, and has been published in The New York Times, Apiary, and The Philadelphia Inquirer, among other publications.
I created “The Romero Scholarship for Excellence in Spoken Word,” inspired by Nestor Rodriguez, Chairman of the Hispanic Alumni Council at the University of Memphis, who works tirelessly to provide scholarships to incredible students every year. I met Rodriguez when I was chosen as the keynote speaker for a banquet at the University of Memphis one year with the Hispanic Student Association. I was personally asked by him to donate funds to the Hispanic Alumni Council. I did, and the very next year he sent me a picture with a student holding up a check that was made possible due to my contribution. This sparked a fire in me to finally move forward with ideas I had for many years of starting my own scholarship.
Like Rodriguez and the thousands of dedicated volunteers like him, working to help students reach their dreams of attending college, I want to be able to look back upon decades of work in helping students. A few of the awardees of my scholarship have been kind enough to send me updates over the years, telling me colleges they have been accepted to, and have chosen to attend, and also telling me of journals and anthologies they have had their poetry published in. These students are so intelligent, talented, giving, and hardworking that they may have been able to accomplish many of these things without my contributions. Still, it is good to know that I have had an impact on the lives of these students in a more direct and lasting way than I could have achieved through writing, performing, and teaching poetry.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
As a Mexican-American poet and spoken word artist, I’ve performed at over seventy-five colleges and universities in thirty states in the US. I’ve received honorariums to perform in more states than most Americans will visit in their lifetimes. That’s pretty neat. I’ve performed in both “red states” and “blue states.” I’ve gone to a lot of places other poets and spoken word artists, especially political ones, might be scared to go to; often for good reason.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I would advise anyone, especially those of Mexican and Latinx descent, from out of town to visit Boyle Heights and East Los Angeles. These are the historic communities my parents are from and ones that have had a huge influence on my poetry. I would advise you to check out Mariachi Plaza, all the shops around there on First Street, especially Espacio 1839, and then go down the escalators there to the Metro station and check out my cousin Sonia Romero’s huge mural “Hecho a Mano,” depicting among many things, people holding up banners calling for justice and photographs; with images of our grandparents’ wedding day and childhood photos of our fathers and uncle among them. Once you’re done with Mariachi Plaza and First Street, I would recommend going to eat at Manuel’s El Tepeyac, where you can find the best Mexican food on the planet!
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I have to thank my own parents for spending so much of their hard-earned and long-saved money to send me to college. I wouldn’t have been able to attend the University of Southern California without them. My father took out a couple of the loans solely in his own name. He did this knowing he had cancer. I was worried he wouldn’t live to see me graduate. He did, and then died a little over a year later. When he died, a number of the loans he took on his name were forgiven. Thanks to his intelligence and generosity, and his urging of me to apply to scholarships benefiting Latinx people at USC, I was able to pay off my student loans in a fraction of the time that some others have been able to. My mom made a number of my loan payments on my behalf, in the months, even years, in which I wasn’t able to make ends meet following graduation. I know that others aren’t always as lucky to have parents as generous or fortunate as mine, and even if they do, thousands, if not millions, out there can still use a helping hand when it comes to being able to afford higher education. My parents will always be my example in doing that.
Photos by Gina Duran, Brody Salazar and more.