Hi, I’m Nastasia Minto. I use pronouns she, her, they, them, and sometimes he, him; it all depends on how I’m feeling. I’m originally from South Georgia. I’ve been in Portland now for almost three years. I’m an artist. I’m a painter. I paint sometimes. I do a lot of poetry, writing, and spoken word stuff and essays. I would say for me, that my identity is fluid, that’s why when I said the pronouns, I said she, her, they, them, he, him., it is fluid. Sometimes I don’t—for me, personally, I don’t really hold firm to them because I can feel many different ways in any split of the moment. My identity is really shaped by that, and it shapes my perspective of the world. That’s how I see people: they are fluid and that we are changing and we’re ever moving, and it’s not linear, you know?
Who I am can genuinely not be defined by how people see me on the outside. I think we’ve discussed that a lot about people calling me butch, or saying that I look a certain way because of how I dress. Then getting to know me is, I’m probably the most feminist person you’ve ever met. I know I switch back and forth. I identify as queer. I was thinking about that this morning, with identity and labels and stuff, and how most people would be, “No, you’re a lesbian.” I’m, “No, I’m pretty...” I feel I’m queer. I think that gives me a lot of room and space to be who I truly am, but also my poetry, if you’ve already read some of it, or if you purchase my book, you will see how it really influences a lot of the things that are right because of my perspective and how I moved throughout the world.
My book, Naked: The Rhythm and Groove of It. The Depth and Length to It was published last year. It is a collection of poetry and little short prose. Pretty much with my book, the title, I want it to be, naked and meant to disclose a lot about myself that I could have that freedom I was searching for. I didn’t necessarily think I was going to name it, title it naked, but on a long trip, I was coming back, and I told my friend that I wanted to be free and free meant to not feel I was holding back anything or hiding anything from anyone. I really wanted to be naked.
Yeah, since Naked, I have really had the opportunity to sit in love and figure out what that means and what it means to allow someone else to love me. So this next collection that I have, and it’s more talking about the heart and talking about ways of love and expressing love and showing love in many different forms, you know?
The new stuff that I’m working on is more about allowing the heart to indeed be open, allowing the heart to feel, and not being afraid of it. Now looking back, I know that I had to become naked, I had to write naked and get all of that stuff out of me, that I can show this different side of me, I don’t know, I would say softer. Still, it’s really not even all that soft, it’s allowing love to come in and not being afraid of it, not pushing it back and not scaring it away at the same time. That’s new stuff that I’m working on; a lot of poetry and a lot of essays. Who knows, I might have a memoir coming up soon, a few different things that I got into work. I’m really excited about where it’s all going at, where it’s heading.
For a lot of Black people, which, you know, I can’t speak for the entire souls of all Black people, but I believe that most of us because we’ve been through this many times, many years. I think about my grandfather, who’s 84, and how much he’s seen in his lifetime.
“Oh, okay, you know, this is happening again.” But the momentum behind it, the protests and how big it is, I know my work has always been influenced by because regardless of my life of sexual preference and me dating women, people notice I’m Black first. Even if they don’t assume that I’m anything else, they know, and they see the color of my skin, regardless of whether they want to admit that. My work is heavily influenced by that because I’ve experienced many different things, whether it was racism or the great people you who come into my life. I’m, “Yeah, let’s help you. Let’s push these voices.” I mean, you were doing this before this was even a hashtag thing. I really appreciate that: amplifying voices—marginalized voices. Please pat yourself on the back for that one.
I stand with the protesters 100%. Although I’m not marching myself, due to some physical stuff, I stand 100%, andI’ve been questioning myself about my work and what I am doing? What is my protest? That’s what I think my protest is: my writing. Me being true to myself and being raw and being honest and not being afraid to step on somebody’s toes or hurt somebody’s feelings or being called out because that’s what people are going to do regardless of if it’s really good or terrible, someone’s feelings is going to be hurt. People are joining in and standing with Black people because I can only imagine how exhausted I feel. The people were out there physically marching, how exhausted they feel, and giving all of that energy. So for all the allies who are standing, “No, we are tired.” There’s no other way that I can put it. But to see people standing with us, I genuinely think that it is giving us the strength to be, “Okay, we got this we can keep going, we can keep going.”
My hope and desire are that for this momentum that it continuously moves forward, and we find some sustainability with it. We find some organizations, we find plans, put in place policies, everything that’s going to continue to move this forward and not in the next month or two, we see another shooting, or we hear about something else...Maybe we will, because I know it’s going to take time. Also, I know that things are changing. I know it with everything inside of me, things are changing, and things are shifting. I feel it deeply. That’s what I’m doing here in my house is sending out prayers and energy and oils and everything for people to be, “Keep going, keep going. Things are shifting, things are changing.” change does take time. That time is right now, that time is happening. A writing prompt: love in the time of Corona. What does that mean to you? What does that mean for you? That’s the main one that I pick up every single day. The next one I usually start with—and I get these from my workshops, and I use them every day when I’m not in studios. The next one is ‘Today I am.’ I know it sounds simple, but today I am feeling blah, today I am hurting a bit, today I woke up and was having spasms. So, you know, really being honest and truthful, and then writing from that. If today I’m feeling a certain way or if at this moment, I’m feeling a certain way, I may not be feeling that way in 30 minutes or the next day or the next hour. What does it look like to live in a time in Corona when everyone's super guarded and super unsure? We don’t know what to say. We don’t know how to treat people. All these uncertainties, what does that love look at this time? That’s one of my favorite prompts for this time. Another prompt I have is, what does it feel stepping on broken glass from the past?
I didn’t choose to be born in this skin. Mocked, criticized, and tormented for this vibrant brown color that I’m laced in. Faced with the most challenging trials passed down from my ancestors to me. But I hear my grandma and my great-grandma call out, they speak. Remember? Remember the wooden sheds, ripped flesh, cotton fields, and bloodshed. Leftovers from their tables, collard greens, and cornbread? Remember the many nights, no lights? Bring out the candles and the flashlights, kerosene heaters for all those cold nights. Remember?
Remember the day you shared one room, three bodies in one bed? A two-bedroom house that 12 people shared. The white walls and concrete floors of the project housing, but we were glad because we were able to take showers and baths without boiling our water. Remember?
Remember the Goodwill and Salvation Army, wash clothes and iron clothes, and make them look brand new with your Payless shoes? Remember?
Remember the days you lashed out and got suspended? Next day, cuss the teacher out, ISS and detention? The teachers who didn’t give a shit, you couldn’t be fixed, and all they saw was another badass Black kid in prison without the fence. Do you remember?
Remember the straight A’s, the right teachers you praised, the ones who saw your demons but they stayed. The one college English teacher who was not afraid to promote your strength and helped you along the way?
Remember all the days you were hungry in college and didn’t want to continue on? The days you wanted to give up but know it wasn’t a choice because you couldn’t go home. Remember?
Do you remember moving from couch to couch all the homeless days from your car to house, from the floor to the couch to the bed? Remember when you got your own place because you didn’t feel safe. That was something new. But child, remember that someone is profoundly trying to love you. Grandma, I remember. I promise, I remember.
Every time you want to give up, child, and all the nights, you may cry, look back at the reason you started this journey, and never forget your why.
My message to all Black people, to all people of color, because, you know, this is affecting all of us. Honestly, all of us. Let’s never forget our why, never forget why we started this journey, never forget why we began our creative journey. Even if we’ve had months and days where we haven’t been able to do anything, look at something, and remember why you started. For me, my writing, as I was writing yesterday in the workshop, I was thinking about the fact that my grandmother, I’m not going to cry, but she couldn’t read or write. I have the opportunity to do this for her, something that she always wanted to do — write. I’m telling you that if you listen to this, remember why you started your journey. Remember that thing that wakes you up in the morning, even if you have a hard time waking up, remember your why, why you create, why you paint, why you read, and why you write, and why you cook. Remember the whys of the things that you do. Why you started protesting. Why has your writing turned into protesting? What is your mission? What is your statement? That’s what I want to leave for people, is to remember their why.