Feature: Tatiana Serrato (@cupofsweettee)
#AsWeAre is Kuumba Lynx’s new blog series to chronicle our Core Creatives and catch you all up on the work they are doing around the world. AS I AM is a new initiative in Kuumba Lynx specifically working with 18-25 year olds by giving them support and opportunities to further their professional and artistic development. In this interview, we profile Tatiana and her experience as a Core Creative in AS I AM. Tatiana is a 19-year old college student starting at Illinois State in the fall. She teaches hip hop choreogrphy at Kuumba Lynx as a dance instructor and mentor. She is also a founding member of the 1Luv
What does it mean to you to be selected as a Core Creative?
I think it’s dope because I’m like the first, if that makes sense. I’m the first, I’m the guinea pig, I’m the test dummy. Sometimes people’s purpose on this Earth is to help create for the next generation and I feel like I’m definitely that right now. I feel like I’ve been placed in a position to be the test run of AS I AM to make sure in 20 years or 30 years from now there are going to be people 19 just like me who come into AS I AM and have exactly everything that they need to be who they are and get free in the way they need to. I think it’s an honor to be honest, an honor. I’ve known these women since nine years old and we weren’t even in Kuumba Lynx we were playing at the park you know? So now I’m part of creating an additional program that is part of Kuuma Lynx is just almost flabbergasting at this point.
What were your expectations coming into AS I AM?
I don’t think I had any, I knew I was never going to be steered in the wrong direction. I knew automatically to trust my mentor. My mentors have guided me into a successful place now, they would never steer me wrong so, they’re telling me “oh you’re in AS I AM here’s what we about to do, you know sign these papers” you know? Basically get it crackin’. Basically I was just ‘ok…cool, I’m down.’ you know? I’m automatically down because I trust them. I trust Darius, Mad Dog, I trust Kiela. I was brought up with these people.
What are your AS I AM professional goals?
My new set of goals for the spring, I’m putting on another show that is better than the one on January 20th, it’s going to be better than that. Really to focus my attention on my educational life, like what do I really want to do? What’s my plan for schools? That’s definitely one of my goals. And then set a schedule that gives me enough time to self-love, that gives me enough to go to school, that gives me enough time with my money, definitely setting a schedule has been one of my goals. I’m going to start learning how to fund, like what the process is like, what’s the behind the scenes work of Kuumba Lynx. That’s one of my goals, to get to know that inside instead of this being the teaching artist. I want to know what goes on in the administration part of Kuumba Lynx. I’m looking forward actually to being in charge of the international travel and the funding that comes with that. So that’s definitely one of my goals I want to hit because coming back from Cuba–I just got back from Cuba…I’m more than willing to set up another trip.
Can you talk a little bit about Cuba? How was that experience?
Cuba was absolutely, absolutely life changing absolutely. It definitely got me in touch with my inner god, my inner self, and stop running away from it and stop making excuses to why I’m not producing and to just produce. You know? Stop saying you want to be great and just be great. I think that was the main realization in Cuba. That I can’t keep playing with myself, I have to trust myself and not really trust the outside voices of my life you know? Really take control of my own life. The people in Cuba are just so beautiful, there’s no … I don’t know how to explain it, there’s no sense of ego, everybody gears towards bettering the next person. I’ve always wanted to live my life like that, what do people need, support people’s needs. Guidance without judgment you know? And I feel like Cuba was really that…if that wasn’t already in me, they definitely put that in me and pushed it. The people, we’ve known each other for 10 days and they just love you like they known you for your whole life. I really found my home in Cuba honestly. Even if I don’t live there for the rest of my life, I definitely will be considering to live in the future. I loved it… I got to go back. I wish that more people knew what Cuba was and didn’t listen to what America’s perspective is of Cuba.
What does success look like for you in AS I AM?
Exposing the youth to anything outside of the hood is definitely one of my goals. I will feel accomplished if I got to organize more trips outside of the country, because I’m already young, I’m 19 and I’ve experienced international travel. Some people don’t experience international travel in their life you know? So I think the exposure, to not only international travel but travel in general, I’ll feel accomplish because you have to be able to, if you see more you dream bigger. I know that the system is not made for black and brown folks, I’m very aware of that so sometimes you need that extra push, you need that extra motivation to be somewhere other than your city, like to be somewhere…bigger. There’s a bigger picture, I don’t want my youth to be limited to small picture, I want them be in my shoes and see everything. See everything in this world but then see everything in yourself, and what’s your potential and what you can do. And once that’s accomplished and I feel like I’ve travelled and been able to express how other places are or just take them with me! If I take them with me then I’ll feel accomplished. Because I feel like exposure is something that really changes people and their mindset.
What is 1Luv?
1LUV is an on the rise organization geared towards To create a Voice for Black, Brown, and Queer folks through artistic expression, by providing platforms and safe space where we can get free as a community. We plan to aspire and inspire through community building and critical conversation of current events.
Tell us about the driving force behind the fashion show, why was this selected as your debut as an organization?
Our biggest motive was to create Safe havens for minority students. The “transitional” period of a student’s life is motivated by their success because if a person does not feel as if they are included, it builds a sign of disbelief and doubt within themselves. We all have had our fair share of traumatic experiences, however we have learned that being able to express oneself through artistic expression can go a long way. We wanted to build a platform for students of color and queer identifying students. Giving them another way to become involved is very prominent in the success rate of four year universities. There shouldn’t be a reason that these students are not receiving the same platform to excel and showcase their talents.
I’ve learned that sometimes you have to hold people accountable with their talents. Remind them that they don’t need anything extra than the light in themselves to start something. 1LUVs TrackONE: INTRO did just that. The show was intimate. The room was filled with unconditional love and support and to me that’s what created the immense wealth of love.
How does it feel to have one of your goals completed?
Mannnnnn! I’m so happy. I’m so full! It’s very empowering. I remember feeling like I was on top of the world after I was done. I loved watching my team happy. I love watching the designers happy with how their clothes came out on the runway. From what I could see, I loved watching the feedback from the audience when the performers were performing. I loved watching the models have confidence in their walk after practicing for perfection. It was such a rush. The feed back I received was so supportive. I’m ready for the next thing.
What has been your most inspiring moment thus far in AS I AM?
Cuba definitely, of course. I think I’m inspired every day, I’m just amazed of what I can do while being in this program. I’ve watched my mentors, I’ve only got like…three mentors this year left and the rest of my mentors have had life issues, because they weren’t supported and they needed that extra support. And Kuumba Lynx recognized that so they created this program for me so I wouldn’t get lost in life. I think I’m inspired everyday by the work ethic in Kuumba Lynx, just everybody is always on the mission. I think I every day I find something and I get inspired, it doesn’t have to be anybody in AS I AM it could be my mentors, it could by the youth that come here Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, they inspire me to be honest. They tell me about how much of a healing presence I bring to them and I’m just like ‘yo, I need y’all as much as y’all need me!’ I need y’all, I need y’all to remind me what I could be as much as I remind y’all for your worth you know? I’m inspired by the interaction of people in this space to be honest.
What has been the most challenging?
I think something that I struggled with a lot is my time management because I’m somebody who’s very scatter brained and I really want to get everything done because I feel like, I’m a very passionate person. I have so many passions in so many different things! So sometimes I overwhelm myself and then I carry too many projects and then my time management is bad. So like, not saying I can’t do as many projects but I needed to learn to manage my time better and what that actually looks like and working on my procrastination, but my procrastination comes from being overwhelmed because of my time management. So it all comes back to time management, like even with the shorties like having stuff prepared but not having stuff prepared for them for the day because I had so much to do that I didn’t have time. Definitely time management, I just have to get it together in that way and start planning ahead a lot more to be in this work.
Since you’ve been part of Kuumba Lynx for such a long time, how are you managing the “bettering of self” in this work now that AS I AM is less structured?
Jacinda and Jaquanda are models for me at this point. Darius is a model too. The stories that come from these magnificent women and mentors have really shaped me honestly. Everybody is an expert in their experience, and from their experiences they have helped me, helped guide me in a way that it’s a little easier to recognize when I need to self-care. So to better myself, they have taught me to be brutally honest with myself because when you are brutally honest with yourself you cannot lie to anybody else. And if you can lie to yourself you can lie to anyone else so if I continue to stay truthful to myself and call myself out when I’m messing up or when something is not right and I know it and trust my intuition and trust my inner-god, then things seem to produce well. So I think that even though it’s a challenge that AS I AM is not so structured right now, that leeway is also good for me you know? It helps me figure things out for myself and be guided as well. So I’m sure there will be extra, more resources later in the future for AS I AM and Kuumba Lynx as a whole, but I think right now to have that freedom in that space to get together ourselves, is cool. I think that’s good enough right now.
What would you say to the younger folks interested in AS I AM?
Show up. Show up. For real, not just physically because people think you come to this space and just because I came to the space I did something, no, no. Show up mentally. Show up spiritually. Show up, like show up. Actually be here. Actually know your worth. Know what you want to do. Have a plan, don’t come in here it’s going to be sweet because it’s not going to be sweet because you’re don’t to have to be told about yourself in the space but you will be told about yourself if you’re not getting it. You know? AS I AM will be happy to tell you about yourself and really not just to call you out but to call you in and remind you that it’s all love here and that we’re here to support you so definitely show up. I think that show up for yourself before you show up for anybody else. Basically you show up for the shorties too because they look up to AS I AM people. The people that are in my cohort, we are the faces of Kuumba Lynx right now and you have to be able to show up for that, you have to be able to wear that crown with dignity. It’s an honor to be in AS I AM and give support because not a lot of people are getting it. And then spread the word, so like show up but then spread the word because there are a lot of people who, like I said, don’t get this experience and need it a lot, and need it peripherally, need it maybe more than you need it. So yeah show up and spread the word, it’s a great…Jacinda and Jaquanda have out done themselves. It’s a great, extra piece of a Kuumba Lynx’s big, big heart.
Is there anything you would like more or less of in future iterations of AS I AM?
We need funding outside of KL and I know we’re working on it, I’m about to be a part of it but we need funding. We need money to be able to provide resources and that’s any great company, every great company didn’t start with too many resources but when they got the resources they blew up and I feel like this will blow up, and it’s going to blow up one way or another. I feel like once we get the resources, everything that we deserve in this life, then this program will blow up. We need more coins to do what we love.