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A Voice from the Underground! A Women's Movement Within...

I met her on March 31st, 2007, performing at a community event for teen and pregnant moms in the South Bronx. She was wearing a green vest that matched her army camouflage hat which hid the curly hair that she would puff into an Afro before every performance, giving homage to all the revolutionary women that came before her; iconic symbols of black feminism and Latina womanist like Angela Davis, Assata Shakar and Lolita Lebron . Her voice and the Afro combined resurrected the female goddesses within every woman at her events and workshops. It became the symbol of women’s liberation and empowerment of both the hip hop scene and social justice movement of New York City.

I would see her again three months later at the United States Social Forum under the Peoples Tent, singing to over 10,000 people, “La Mujeres en la lucha no nos pueden parar suban su bandera al alto vamos a representar, the women in struggle can never be stopped , I get in my guerilla zone ready to die for all my people”. The song “ Otro Guerillero”, penetrated Atlanta and all the young women became soldiers in her army, ready for the war she was waging against this unjust world!

Where ever I saw her, the people would be mesmerized at the conviction in her voice and the power of her spirit when she held the mic and looked you in the eyes. It was as if she was singing into your heart preparing you for the revolution. Except, the war she was preparing for was not the war outside of her, instead, the conviction in her voice was the war that was being waged inside of herself.

Teresita Ayala Nunez is her name but she has been hiding behind “Lah Tere” her performance name for the past five years. “Teresita Ayala sings but Lah Tere is a rapper. Singing is a natural talent, it’s my own health care system my emotional release, I sing because it heals me, rapping however, is an acquired skill I use it to capture peoples life stories, and pull youth into other outlets instead of drugs and alcohol,” explains Teresita, 31 year old organizer activist and artist

Lah Tere is one of three members in the group Rebel Diaz in the South Bronx, internationally known for their ability to use hip hop as tool in the larger struggle to fight oppression. As a performer Lah-Tere has traveled all over the world empowering women throughout Germany, Spain, Venezuela, Guatemala, Puerto Rico and Chile , connecting global and world movements to the local inner city issues of Detroit, Atlanta, the South Bronx and Chicago where she was born. Lah-Tere has been interviewed by hundreds of people internationally. She has been described as a powerhouse, an Afro-Boricua sister whose voice is a mix between Queen Latifa and La India all rolled up into one. She sings about gender inequality, domestic violence, immigration, housing, rape, police brutality, environmental justice and against the many wars on women’s bodies , minds and spirits.

However, at more than 300 pounds Teresita doesn’t believe what anyone writes about her because when she looks in the mirror she does not see herself that way. “ I am a performer, what people see is an amazing theatrical skill, a performance, inside though, I am thinking about how am I going to get my family out of poverty, alcohol and drugs” says Lah Tere “What people don’t know is that my biggest challenge is my weight, I have had to transcend sexism in the male world of hip hop, it hasn’t been my looks that got me here. For all the interviews I have done no one really knows me, Teresita Ayala Nunez “, adds Tere.

Tere as her closest friends and family call her, is the girl that takes five hours and ten outfits later to get on the stage. The girl that throws her clothes against the wall, the girl that wants to give up and has to fight the voices in her head before every event. What people don’t see is the girl that cries to sleep, prays to her ancestors and struggles because she believes that she is not worth the Freedom she sings about.

Tere is the daughter of once, prominent community members, teachers and activist, Puerto Rican immigrants who fell prey to and became victims of the system. At 31, she stares at me with teary eyes trying to capture and find words to describe the reality she has been running away from for so many years. “This is hard because in my music I tell other peoples story and now I am learning how to tell my own”, Tere says. Homeless at sixteen, she had to leave for college without any support because she would be less of a burden to her family. A month before graduation Tere had to leave college to support her alcoholic mother and heroin addicted dad from death and relapse, never returning to graduate and hold her diploma.

Since then, Tere has lived in over 10 cities, creating extended families wherever she went. Her experiences have resulted in two mix tapes, three Women in Hip Hop annual events under the founding of Momma’s Hip Hop Kitchen in New York and the Rebel Diaz Arts Collective (RDAC) in the Bronx where she links popular media examples of violence against women too often normalized and naturalized in popular culture to women issues globally. She is an inspiration because she is the voice of the underground.

“Move to the rhythm that we call resistance, dance and move, freedom comes through…” these are lyrics to her remix of If I can’t dance I don’t want a part of your revolution.

That is what she wants for herself adn women all over the world she wants them to move and dance, to be free. She believes her music can liberate women. “There are so many women in my situation, without choice, so I decided to let the world educate me and in turn I could gather stories and use my voice to help women find out their cultural heritage, to give their stories voice. I want women to know where they came from because education is something no one can take away from them”, adds Teresita

There is silence in the room before she adds that she has nothing to loose, that’s why her voice is so big, “it’s easier to speak for other people even though inside I’m voiceless.”

This article is part of a writing assignment for Voices of Our Future, which is providing rigorous web 2.0 and new media training for 30 emerging women leaders. We are speaking out for social change from some of the most unheard regions of the world.

Comments

Dando's picture

Great Job

I admire Teresita for her courage, her work and love for singing..

you are such a talented writer and wishing you all the very best as you venture in this journey of uplifting the voices of women..

with Love.

Dando

vivian's picture

I could sense the passion in

I could sense the passion in your tone for your woman. I love her strategy of reaching out to the people through singing.

Well done, your piece is inspiring.

Vivian

''Every woman have a story at every stage of Life''

Ruth Beedle's picture

Amazing...

I always am amazed at the women whose voice is so huge and so inspirational but who still feel undeserving and insignificant and unloved inside themselves. Why of why is it easier for women to take care of and encourage others than it is to do the same for ourselves.

Personally, I think that is the secret to this 'war'....... we have to negotiate a lasting peace inside of ourselves and THEN we will be able to help save the world from itself.

Thank you for this lovely writing and introduction to this woman. I will be googling her for more information. you made me hungry!

R

Potter's picture

Brave Introspection

Teresita is one wise woman who recognizes that speaking women's challenges is the key into herself. She was a great choice for a VOF profile. I'm sure evey reader will identify with her whatever their personal issues might be. Thanks for bringing her into our community!

jadefrank's picture

Great interview!

I loved reading this piece, as it stirred a fire in me, and allowed me also to see various sides of myself within Teresita, which as Jana commented, I think many women can.

As I was not before familiar with her art, I am eager to listen to Teresita's music and join her chorus for change.

I love your writing - it is full of expression, of poetry, truth, and power. Thank you for sharing Tere with us.

Love,
Jade

SLaw's picture

Beautiful Writing!

You have done a BEAUTIFUL job writing this article. Your writing style is strong and vivid. I hung on to every word.

My heart reaches out to Teresita, a woman who has committed her life to reaching out to others through her voice.

Well Done!

SLaw

Amani K's picture

Great Piece, beautiful message

Until every woman finds herself, until every woman unlocks the prison door inside of her, the whole world remains imprisoned - for, the liberation of the world as we know it is intricately interlocked with that of women worldwide today!! . That is why it is so important for women to speak now - their own individual story and the collective stories - ALL need to be told, heard and KNOWN so that women find their voice and come out of the inside-self-hood prison or the world is doomed.

In 2011 I want my actions to create a legacy that inspires others to dream more, learn more, dare more, do more, become more and BE more.

Let us make 2011 a year of BEING for the liberation of all humankind. WorldPulse has given us the tool!!

AmaniK

Dr. Karambu Ringera
Founder and President, International Peace Initiatives
Vice President, Global Ecovillages Network (GEN) Africa
Advisory Board Member, Women Human Rights Institute, University of Toronto
Member and Delegate, Soroptimist Internationa

mrbeckbeck's picture

Very nicely done...

You show us so much in this piece. You show us Tere's internal struggles, her public passion and fire... you show us how she spoke to you in a personal way.

I really enjoyed your writing... you've got a great talent for story-telling. Your words connect the specific to the general in a way that lets the reader connect personally.... it's quite powerful!

Keep up the great work in 2011!
Scott

Scott Beck
World Pulse Online Community Volunteer

Frances Faulkner's picture

Layers

Wonderful that you and Tere together reveal layers of her life, illuminating her struggles, sharing her vulnerabilities, and in turn allowing her to be human and therefore deeply real and inspirational to all women. Your piece reveals the underpinnings of a performer as much as it does on her external actions, giving it a great depth and weight.

I very much agree with others, that for Tere, believing in her own self-worth, and having confidence to trust and love herself, are the seeds of true healing and compassion. Sounds like she is on her way. Thank for profiling such a courageous woman.

Frances

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