When Abram Fernandez, senior philosophy and history major, was in high school, he found a book entitled “Here Lies Lalo,” an anthology of poetry of the Mexican-American poet Abelardo “Lalo” Delgado. Fernandez found these poems powerful and said they spoke to him from a Mexican-American perspective, which he related to as a Mexican-American himself. This piece of literature ultimately aided him in understanding himself as he transitioned from high school to William Jewell College.
“Probably the most alienated I felt in college was the first few months, at least the first year, because there aren’t a lot of Latinos or Latinx students around,” Fernandez said. “I don’t really have a lot of brown pride with me and I come from a family and a location where there are loads of people that look like me. In reading Abelardo Delgado, I came to grips with what my identity was.”
Fernandez explained that Delgado was a member of the Chicano Rights Movement and the Mexican-American Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s.
“Some people think of it as a reactionary movement, but really it’s a big identity politics movement for and by Mexican-Americans to argue for their civil rights,” Fernandez said. “It should have been given to them by other civil rights cases, but weren’t. A lot of it was focused on education reform, labor reform and government reform.”
The literary aspect of this movement is what initially drew Fernandez into creative writing, specifically poetry. He cites Rodolfo “Corky” Gonzáles and Abelardo “Lalo” Delgado, who were prominent poets in the Chicano movement.
Through this, Fernandez was able to realize that racism is as persistent today as it was when Delgado was writing in the 1960s. He began writing about the racism that he and his parents had faced, as well as the micro-aggressions he saw on Jewell’s campus.
“Now my poetry is just an extension of [these experiences],” Fernandez said. “A lot of them are lived experiences from me that are not just particular to me, but particular to any marginalized person of color, I think. Especially immigrants.”
For Fernandez, protest poetry is best conveyed through the spoken word.
“You get to notice the author’s rage, the author’s pain and their lived experiences, because protest poetry is a lot about a person’s lived experience,” Fernandez said. “There’s something, for great writers, that can convey just through words and a reader reading that poem. It speaks more to the fact that someone can see that someone has been hurt, that someone is angry and they’re saying it through their words. You can send shivers down someone’s spine with your words.”
Family is a recurring topic for Fernandez in his poetry. Both of his parents are immigrants, and he wanted to reflect the struggles they have endured in his poetry. His poem “Para mis padres” speaks of immigration, racism and the gratitude he has for what his parents have done for him.
Graduation does not mark the end of writing poetry for Fernandez. Poetry has allowed Fernandez to put his emotions into perspective and keep himself grounded. Attending open mic nights is an activity Fernandez finds rewarding.
“I want to get my name out there, at least in the Kansas City scene…As much as I love the intellectual aspect of what I do with history and philosophy, it doesn’t satisfy that creative need that I have,” Fernandez said. “I’m just going to keep on writing poetry as long as there are topics to write about, as long as there is still injustice happening to any marginalized community, especially my own immigrant Mexican community.”
One of Fernandez’s poems was featured in the anthology “Desolate Country: We the Poets, United, Against Trump.”