Tassiana Willis Oakland, CA

Tassiana Willis (Performer/Gallery) is one of the inaugural Emerging Arts Fellows at Youth Speaks, Inc. She is an accomplished writer, actress, and singer and has been a leader in YS programs such as SPOKES Youth Advisory Board, Brave New Voices Team Bay Area, and Future Corp; the engine that runs Brave New Voices International Youth Poetry Festival in a rotating US city each year. She has recently been chosen by the Emerging Arts Professionals SF/Bay as one of their Fellows, and has just completed the historic run of Anna Deveare Smith’s Notes from the Field at Berkeley Repertory Theater as a facilitator for their community engagement process that worked with over 12,000 audience members during the 24 show run.

Tassiana’s poem for The Bigger Picture Campaign is below.

I went to roosevelt middle school
my daily routine was to
wake up hungry
walk to the bus stop
pass mcdonalds
the liquor stores
pass popeyes pass the first burger king
catch the 38
to the second burger king
order my favorite round hashbrowns
and watch the young brown bodies drool
and I dont know if we loved burger king
or just loved not being hungry anymore
b/c breakfast before school wasnt a requirement
but having to focus through 6 periods

During PE I remember we had to run the mile, but luckily my first year that turned into laps on our medium sized area on the roof
I jogged, skipped mostly
but my second year
we had to run a mile around Rossie Park
I had already alerted my teachers that
this going be my revolutionary act
to walk the mile
truth is,
my asthma woulda finished me before i could finish the race
I lost friends by the block
in the end
it was us; the fattest girl and fattest boy in the class
he chose silence
i chose comedy
so by default
I had more friends than him
“ tassiana” they screamed
you better not let him beat you!
we looked at each other
and began our interpretation of running
go tassiana
go tassiana
i could hear a few of his friends
go wilson
I beat him
I wasn’t slow
I was just fat

that is the only other time i could think of me running
other than from this poem

by luck I escaped type 1
I feel like I’m always
1 soda away from type 2
that’s like dodging a bullet
and committing suicide with a gun
my kitchen feels a lot like the shooting range these day

feels a lot like the mile these days

I wish my emotions wasn’t so invested
so i could write the most eloquent poem about type 2
tell you all its facts
hit you in the gut with reality

the stats don’t tell my story

How I could feel the sun kissing my face
hear my grandpa trod up the creaky steps
the smell of oil
and dough
and joy
my breakfast everyday before school
was a dozen donut holes

my grandfather
created a tragic tradition
rarely said I love you
but made a sanctuary out of saturdays for us
took the long way to mcdonalds so we could giggle
and gather up our hunger
learned to find i love you in a white paper bags
instead of his lips
see, I loved food out of ritual

this is about me
and obesity
how those concepts arent always separate
how to measure myself, from my measurements
not panic when my friends park close to the curb
cause i don’t just tip the scale
i tip the car
this about how i starve myself before blood work
praying it doesn’t pick up the candy from my last time of the month
this is me praying i don’t forget diabetes knocked
2 uncles off their feet
and one is barely standing
this is my battle between diet and dialysis
about being stuck between two burger kings and never having it your way
this alot like middle school
like running
like wilson being diabetes
and me praying i beat it

The Bigger Picture

The Bigger Picture