ARC Fellows: Gisselle Medina

Multitudes in Coexistence

By Gisselle Medina, 2021/22 Poetry & the Senses Fellow

(Undergraduate, English)

TW: Abuse and Violence

As I write and delete this page for the 100th time, I keep coming back to the Arts Research Center’s definition of Coexistence:

And I try to dissect every word. Try to align it with my thoughts and create poetry. 

Yet, I begin to think about my childhood which did not embrace coexistence with open arms. 

Instead, it forced comfortability in disillusionments that my life was accidental and worthless. 

Confounded in cycles of abuse and abandonment. 

Stuck in the darkest parts of a closet room.

Afraid of every single riot I tried to make. 

Coexistence seemed impossible. Not plausible. Absolutely absurd.

I shared space with people “family” who abused me. Who hated me for simply existing. The territories were more than just an overlap. I was forced there, to endure severe pain that caused me to dissociate more than half my life. I now struggle with memory. 

I recently had a conversation with someone who made me remember them how they used to be. maybe they never really changed at all. 

What happens when those same people cling to the idea of forgiveness in order for them to sleep at night? They forgave to forget. And they expect me to do the same. I have. But they give themselves the power to forgive people who are unforgivable. Then they tell me to follow in their footsteps. And that is unacceptable. 

I forgave because I knew that I was better than them. Because I wanted a family. Because my heart is tooo fucking huge to let 10+ years of trauma get in the way of my desire to help others. 

Right now, I am clearly angry and rambling. Trying to remind myself about that definition. But it’s fleeting in my mind. 

All I know is that I will not settle for coexistence.

Coexistence is an act of triumph. To create yourself out of nothing. 

To coexist is to exist in multitudes. To live fiercely. 

I will not put myself back in that closet room. 

Instead, this is what I am/will practice to coexist with coexistence:

  • Be a part of a generational + tight knit writer community which welcomes diversity + creativity through their poetic and artistic work.
  • Through my experiences + different identities and coexisting in places not meant for me, I’ve learned to reflect my artistic expression + continue to express comfort, acceptance + persistence to those who also want to create + fight for change.
  • I aspire to be someone that looks not at a single field for solutions, but acknowledges the need for cross-sectional (such as conflict resolution, economic development, public health + multi-level (from grassroots to policy) efforts to create a stronger coexistent world. 
  • As we move forward into the 21st century with an increasingly complex international political system + a multifaceted field of stakeholders, our language + concepts must adapt to the realities of conflict, violence, + combat. Efforts to mainstream the notion of coexistence in both peace-building + conflict resolution fields + in everyday interaction are a priority.
  • I want to contribute to these frameworks of healing in an effort for restorative justice for all communities through the power of intersectionality in the heart of language + expression. 

And here are my poetic thoughts on how we should coexist like books do:

Books are never in their right categories. 
Bookshelves sit in the ebbs and flows of a library 
Packed into corners; 
loose-leaf pages with scribbled markings, 
Bound yet beaten spines with rough edges 
Detailing words brought by fragile humans 
elements of fantastical fabrication
within veracity—
Gatsby is stacked lazily beside a heap of letters by Hamilton; 
Marx’s Manifesto clashes next to Rand + Peikoff’s Parallels;
Dickinson laughs at Whitman’s idealized America
True Grit + Do Androids Dream Electric Sheep? 
sit together in the same time period.
Nothing can keep our beloved stories apart—
The Color Purple, The Bluest Eye 
categorized as “BANNED BOOKS” 
by our active learning, deliberate wonderings 
existing along these shelves—
demanding to be heard.

Gisselle Medina’s identity consists of multitudes—a Latine, queer, non-binary from Los Angeles. They are a poet, visual artist and journalist in their final year as an undergraduate at the University of California, Berkeley. In Medina’s scholarship, they investigate the history of literature and intertwine various methods and theories into literary and cultural analysis. In their poetry, Medina writes fiercely about their restless past and our collective world, in hopes to inspire and transcend anyone willing to listen. Medina inspires to be an investigative reporter for the LA Times, a multi-published poet and founder of a non-profit organization for mental health. This is only the beginning of their journey.

Note: Over the course of the fall semester, each 2021-22 ARC Fellow will submit a short blog post relating to the theme coexistence. We hope you will enjoy these short readings! Poetry and the Senses creates meaningful opportunities for engagement, research, and collaboration. This multi-year initiative explores the relevance and urgency of lyrical making and storytelling in times of political crisis, and the value of engaging the senses as an act of care, mindfulness, and resistance. To learn more about the program, click here.