• Jasleni Brito

Attending the Dominican Writers Conference in NYC

I come from a big family of non-English speaking bodegueros (bodega owners) with no particular interest in the arts. Growing up, while my parents were supportive of my colorful imagination and creative expression, I don't think they have ever understood the wonderfully desperate need to create that fuels me.

Throughout my years, I've participated in many art exhibitions, recorded a music album, founded a graphic design business, and filled stacks of notebooks with poems, and ideas to be pursued when the inspiration strikes. In other words, I have always been an artist, but in some ways I have also always been the dreamer, the one with my head in the clouds, and dare I say it, the odd one in the family.

Being a creative person is a way of life that until recently I thought was mainly reserved for others, and in my experience, not so commonly for people like me; specifically Dominican people like me. In art school, at work, and in most of the social settings I find myself in, I tend to be the only minority, and that's just the way it's been for most of my life.

Until last week, I thought I was one of a kind. I felt like the only college-educated, bilingual, tree-hugging, artsy-fartsy, Dominican writer/artist around. Then last week I was fortunate to attend the first annual Dominican Writer's Conference in New York City, and realized I am very much not alone.

When I arrived I was overwhelmed by the amount of Dominicans faces. Faces of all shades, faces framed by curly hair, frizzy hair, straight hair, dreadlocks, and patterned head bands. I was among strangers and yet I felt a sense of familiarity unmatched by my usual circles.

Jasleni at the Dominican Writers Conference 2019

Here in Connecticut nearly all my friends are white, so aside from being around my family, I am not accustomed to hearing my native tongue; and I'm not just referring to Spanish. I'm talking about Spanish layered with a Dominican accent and a specific type of humor. I felt at home.

I learned that there are lots of other Dominican art-lovers out there (somewhere in NYC), that do appreciate writing (in both English and Spanish), and that can relate to the passion for creating that I have always felt.

The conference encouraged me to pursue my writing, something I have always been too shy to do. As a result, I built this website and began this blog! The conference made me realize that the only thing holding me back from writing is me. I've been wanting to publish a poetry book for years, and for the first time, I feel equipped for making that dream a reality.

[Dominicanish] Dominican Writers Conference 2019

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