I was born in a city that is badmouthed by outsiders. To an onlooker peering in, I’d say “you are too far removed to see this city’s greatness.” For years I proudly mentioned my ‘roots’ and wore it like a sweater I never want to take off. Because in this city I saw my family’s history, of migrants from a small island that settled here. They brought with them recipes, remedies and a resilient attitude. In the buildings and parks, I see the places where my family lived and survived for decades. Through the other migrant enclaves, I was blessed to never feel too different… until I left. Returning years later offered me prescriptive distant lenses. I saw a different place. Where white people ran in yoga pants and walked their dogs in neighborhoods previously demarcated dangerous. I saw erected concrete and steel adorn a modicum of the city, which welcomed tourists and closed local businesses. Never would I imagine Newark to be a tourist destination or a dwelling for New Yorkers to squat at for cheaper rents. Until they found their next trendy city. This process displaced so many communities. In their gentrified beauty, I peek through and scratch beneath the polished façade. It’s all a perfectly painted picture for few to watch in amusement while we’re the ones who maintain its polish… we are the No-rkers.
Keishla Rivera-Lopez is a poet, writer and scholar. She received a PhD in American Studies from the Graduate School-Newark at Rutgers University where she was a 2019-2020 Dean’s Dissertation Fellow. She was born and raised in Newark, NJ to Puerto Rican migrants and reflects on what it means to be a child of diaspora in her scholarship and writing. Currently, Dr. Rivera-Lopez is an Assistant Professor of English and Latinx Literatures and Cultures at Millersville University. Keishla enjoys writing poetry, short-stories, and essays from her travel and everyday experiences as a Puerto Rican woman. She also enjoys experimenting with different sazones and sofritos, hiking, dancing and traveling. She can be found at https://twitter.com/Ohh_Kei