My name is Kenya Janae Burton, Kenya like the country, Janae because it rhymed, and Burton because of history. I am from Salinas, CA in the ‘not so’ United States of America. I am 20 years old and a poet.
The first lesson I ever learned was from my mother at the age of six when one of my classmates refused to share crayons with me because I was black. In their head, it must have made sense that because I was a different color than them I was sick. Of course, I cried, not understanding what racism was or that I was very different from other people.
My mother is Mexican-American and my father was African-American so I was something a lot of people hadn’t seen before. The day I got home I told my mom what happened, crying because I could not understand what was wrong with me; was I a freak? Is that why my father was never around? Was this the reason we were given weird looks every time we left the house?
My mother sat me down, looking at me with brown eyes that were the same as mine and I finally saw, her skin was a light tan color and her hair midnight black, pin-straight, whereas my skin was brown and my hair was a nappy mess of curls. This is what people saw but I still could not comprehend why they looked at us differently, I needed to learn, be prepared so I wouldn’t experience this pain anymore.
When she finally got me to stop sniffling, she cupped my face and told me something I will never forget, “ It does not matter what they think, or what they say, if they do not have the decency to look past a thing as insignificant as color then they are not worth your tears.” Of course, I had no idea what those big words she was saying were, but even after a decade passed I keep them with me.
That is why I write, to show people I am more than what they think. I am a person who appears like a question to some and an answer to others. I write for myself and for those who feel they are unordinary, people who think they are odd or feel weird in the skin they were born in. In this place, I hope you will learn how to escape the shells your hearts were never meant to stay in.
Contact me if you would like me to speak! Here are some organizations & places I have performed at:
Voices of Monterey Bay
Salinas Valley Art and
Agents of Change
THA HOOD SQUAD
Everett Alvarez High School
Salinas High School
Women’s Caucus, Sacramento, CA
California State University- Monterey Bay
NEA BIG READ
Black & Brown Coalition
Community Before Cops
First United Methodist Church
North Salinas High School
Alisal High School