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By: Luis Aguilar

When I was 


One. Eleven years old, Eleven years old is when friends turned to gangs, drugs, and violence. But you look around, and you’re surrounded by silence. 


Two. Twelve years old. Call it a waking depression, but what you decide to do from here only becomes a part of the question. I have no guidance, so how is it that you defeat the regression?


Three. Thirteen years old. You can’t always turn problems to a father, the lord doesn’t cut it, and you only got a mother. So you lay there asking yourself, what does it mean to be a better brother?


Four. Fourteen years old. The first time I was told by the police to go on and be a “man”.  But he gave me no fucking map, so I’m going through life trying to build on my own plan.


Five. Fifteen years old. Lucky if you or someone else even starts thinking about your future, tell me if someone cares about how you did on a test. Only people that care are the wrong people, but go ahead and keep telling me why my people are behind the rest.


Six. Sixteen years old. You know now, it’s all starting to make a lot of sense. But in all honesty, I do have to say that your honor I got a really good god damn defense. Please tell me exactly how language, culture, and race qualify as an actionable offense. 


Seven. Seventeen years old. I thought I really had it, but I only became lost. All by yourself again did anything really change? How do you explain to people and make them understand how far this is going to cost?


Eight. Eighteen years old. Everything is in my hands and I got a weight to carry. Entire choices up to me and an education that has got me really weary.


Nine. Nineteen years old. And what if I’m not someone holding the “nine”, all I know is that I need a better future with a life that I can make mine. But don’t get it twisted, it doesn’t mean I’m fine.

Ten. Twenty years old.  It’s been a decade so let me tell you about my intent. My journey seems like I am back at the first step, but I know the path, so I am here to share the story of an untold dissent. But let me warn you now that it's not just about being a little discontent, it's the story of what color and money changes the pathway and desire to ascent.



Artist Statement

The spoken word takes the story of a “decade” through the eyes of a first-generation male from one of the lowest socio-economic backgrounds. The story and identity revolves around common first-gen themes such as educational and racial issues but goes beyond into a male perspective, in particular, to highlight the roles of a lack of a father, recruiting from gangs, and mental health can play in society. The story is mostly based on experiences held but also includes general experiences observed through being the environment that others who may have not gotten through were able to share. Unfiltered, angry, calm, professional, and chaotic. It summarizes the experience and how it has felt. The choice to emphasize age is not just a timeline of the character, it’s to show how deeply institutions have failed people who cannot be expected to know better or take matters into their own hands. The dissent is not just an exploration of these sensitive topics but to show that in the journey there is also no perfect finish line, where even when leaving and avoiding this life, it only creates identity and personal issues in attempting to finish line either. It demonstrates how even success can lead to failure, and the confusion it causes. Often there are stories about success in which one is able to get into a good school and you hear of it in the news or of graduations, but how those lives developed and why there was a need to begin with is often neglected as part of that story. The song “Fear” by Kendrick Lamar inspired the idea to create something that talked about childhood and progresses into adulthood while the song “The Heart Part 5” by Kendrick Lamar influenced the spoken word and slant style in performing the storytelling. When hearing both of these songs, it can be apparent how the lyrics fit into both songs. The dissent is meant to be both retaliation and confusion, a mixture of feelings which that causes discomfort. 

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