I’ve always had a smart mouth. To this day, it is a machete, you hear me? With any level of bullying or brutality, I’m quick and can say something in rebuttal, and then it can slice and dice you, too. With or without cuss words. It worked even more when I was younger. The fact that I would say something as such a young person, it stunned people for a minute, and that was enough.

Rhyme is sonic. It’s more immediate and molecular to us than nonrhyming poems, because you learned the English language through rhyme scheme: the ABCs, nursery rhymes. When you think of “Little Miss Muffet sat on a tuffet, eating her curds and whey,” you’re supposed to see all those things. It’s the same with a poem that doesn’t rhyme: It’s still language that’s used to paint a picture. It’s just that one may use primary colors and the other uses metallic.

The way I do my name is honoring what bell hooks and e.e. cummings did with theirs. In reading anthologies and seeing their names in lowercase, I thought, That looks cool, it’s hidden. I used to say it’s humbling, but I don’t think that’s it. It’s an aesthetic thing.

The greatest art in the world is things people will never see. Sometimes you go to people’s houses and see a photograph that’s just absolutely beautiful. Somebody just took a picture of their aunt or grandmother, and it’s of this lady sitting in a chair. We can’t think of art as only housed at institutions.

I feel sad for people who stay perpetually angry. I have an anger drill like you have fire drills. I tell myself to tell the person what I’m angry about. Once I do, it’s not on them to make me unangry; it’s on me to release the anger. It’s just like when you tell somebody they’ve done you wrong: Expecting an apology will fuck you up, because if they don’t give it to you, you still don’t let that shit go.

If someone is screaming at you, just start singing, “I believe the children are our future —” “You fucking idiot, you’re so fucking immature!” “— teach them well and let them …” Because then they start laughing and realize how silly they are.

People say practice makes perfect. No, practice is for purpose and not perfection. Perfection is usually unachievable, because fuckup will show up in too many different ways. Practice is so that when fuckup shows up, you know how to navigate around it.

There’s a difference between responding and reacting. I’ve told this to so many Black and brown children. Reacting is absolutely beautiful because there’s no filter. It’s exactly what you’re thinking and what you want to do in the moment. The difference between responding and reacting is that responding has a whole thought process that will keep your ass out of the Hamilton juvenile detention center or 26th and California. Black and brown folks don’t get the luxury of reacting.

You have to leave your block. That’s how you gain empathy. That’s how you figure things out. That’s how you know what to advocate for. No matter where you live, you have to leave your block, and then you find out what the world actually has to offer.