‘Grateful for it:’ Voces Unidas, Glenwood Springs nonprofit, hosts Colorado’s poet laureate
Bobby LeFebre wore a necklace with large, red cylindrical beads over a gray cardigan and although he was sharing his story and poems virtually, audience members could feel his words resonate as if he were in the same room as them.
“My great grandparents’ generation, they were like ‘well, this name seems kind of like it can also be kind of gringo, like we could fit in a little bit better than maybe others can like a Martinez or Ramirez, or other Spanish surnames that are more common,’” LeFebre said. “You could do a lot with this French name so they started pronouncing it with more of this English sounding way to kind of like blend in to whiteness and this culture that was dominant and attached to power and privilege.”
Local nonprofit Voces Unidas, which is run for and by Latinos, hosted LeFebre Tuesday in their Charla series where they bring in prominent leaders to speak to and with the community. Charla means chat in Spanish. LeFebre was named the Poet Laureate of Colorado by Gov. Jared Polis in 2019 and is the youngest and first person of color to hold the role ever in its 100-year existence.
“I think it’s incredible that I’m here and I’m grateful for it, but at the same time I understand that I’m not the most qualified young person or amazing person of color in 100 years that could have occupied this position,” LeFebre said. “So, then we have to start to ask ourselves why in 100 years has there not been an indigenous, a Black poet, a Latinx poet, an Asian poet, a young poet, a trans poet, queer poet occupying this space. Why is that?”
Jasmin Ramirez, Program Coordinator and Leadership member for Voces Unidas, said the intention behind the Charla programming and bringing in a speaker for the first Tuesday of every month is to encourage locals to see people who look like them and sound like them in prominent roles.
“Every time I’ve spoken to him or heard him do poetry like it’s just so relevant to some of my experiences. I think even in just speaking with him, some of the things he touches on — you know, like assimilation and our history, our ancestors, reclaiming our identities — all of those things are real. … To plant seeds across the state that these opportunities are attainable for us as Latinos,” Ramirez said.
Gabriela Alvarez Espinoza, an attendee of the event and local artist, asked LeFebre how he found his talent in poetry, something she said is challenging for young people to do when they’re growing up.
“Follow the fire, because you feel it first. You find it inside of you. It comes from you. And it’s also external. … I started trying to do (poetry) myself. And then you connect with it and before you know it, you’re doing it. … When you find that spark, when you feel the butterflies, when you feel the excitement … just follow that,” LeFebre said.
Voces is still planning out who’ll be speaking for the summer months, but more information will be posted on their website when it is available. To hear LeFebre’s poems or learn more about his story, search for him on YouTube or visit his website here.
Reporter Jessica Peterson can be reached at 970-279-3462 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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