In late 2015, when Sarah Gonzalez and Rich Gutierrez had just finished their zine, Knowing Your Worth, they told an interviewer that they “wanted to capture the experiences of people of color that are sacred and familiar, to make them visible, and open the possibilities of relating to others’ stories.” The two had long observed that, as people of color, their friends and students often felt their own stories and experiences seemed worthless or unimportant. The project became an attempt to counteract those emotions and instead create a space for lesser-heard voices to be noticed and appreciated.
In a larger sense, both Gonzalez and Gutierrez understand that creating connections and giving voice to people of color is not a politically neutral endeavor. They view a project like Knowing Your Worth as contributing to a process of reimagination and reclamation; the subversion of traditional perceptions of marginalized people and places appears and reappears throughout the zine. As Gonzalez remarked in the same interview, “We are always going to cause harm to each other, but connecting our stories creates the possibility to restore and reconcile. Connecting our stories is literally a life and death urgency.”
What follows are a few of these stories from three young South Siders: Angel, Jeffrey, and Luis.
Sarah Gonzalez is a Xicana-Indian writer, poet, and educator from Chicago but with strong roots in the Los Angeles area of Califaztlan. She is on a journey of deep heart excavation work, which requires her to write down memory constantly in an effort to preserve. She lives and teaches high school English in her community of Pilsen, and she fervently believes in the brilliance of Black and Brown youth and transforming generational trauma into resilience. She is particularly interested in working with young people who are gang-involved because of her own family background, and seeks to co-facilitate spaces for storytelling, identity-building, and archiving of young people’s personal histories in an effort to have a space for healing. She is not anti-gang, she is PRO-YOUTH POR VIDA!
Rich Gutierrez is a mixed brown boy, writer, musician, designer, social advocate, and artist born and raised in San Jose, California. A strong supporter of using art and writing as structure to heal
and unlearn, most of his work is centered around acknowledging fears and strengths and the importance of both. He believes in acknowledging the true beauty and duality of Black and Brown folks by reinforcing the importance of documenting our own histories regardless of how sad, hurtful, loving, or strong, and that we will create and continue to create in the face of misfortune.