Cindy Bautista-Thomas


Cindy Bautista-Thomas is an Afro-Latina Bronx-born, Dominican American writer, mother, social worker,  and doctoral candidate.  She is committed to educating, inspiring and moving people to find their gifts, talents and abilities to live a purpose driven life.  She is also a co-founder and transformational trainer at Velocity Visions, Inc. Cindy is working on her novel, Born to Live, a story about an Afro-Latina from the Bronx, a coming of age story, set in the 90’s.  It is a novel about tragedies, resilience and triumph.   She holds a BSW from the State University of New York at Stony Brook, an MSW from the State Universtiy of New York at Albany and is a PhD candidate at the CUNY Graduate Center, Urban Education program.  For more of her writing visit her page at

“Hey, Young World”

 “Renatta!  Renatta!” Eva’s loud voice woke me up. I was in a deep sleep and having a wonderful dream where Julio Reyes and I were walking hand in hand in Mullaly Park.  Julio Reyes is the cutest boy in my 7th grade class, in my opinion.  His black wavy hair stood on his head perfectly. He got this hair cut where part of his hair laid on the left side of his head and across his forehead. My favorite part about his cut was when it laid right above his eye and he moved his head to the side so that his almond-shaped eyes would shine through. His dimples - oh how I loved his dimples. They perfected his look. Of course, I didn’t think Julio even knew that I existed but I absolutely adored him. Every chance I got I would crack jokes near him so that he would laugh and notice me. 

“Renatta! Renatta!” Damn, they disturbed my dream of Julio. Why does Eva have to be so loud? It was early October and my birthday was only about a week away. It was still kind of warm outside. My sisters Eva, Sonia, and Rocio had been outside since early that morning jumping Double Dutch and they wanted me to go downstairs.   

They probably needed something or someone to laugh at because I did not know how to jump Double Dutch.  I know, I know.  How does someone grow up in the Bronx, in the Projects and not learn how to jump Double Dutch?  I have no idea.  I tried.  God knows I tried to figure it out. I kept trying anyway and never gave up. I don’t know if it was an eye-hand coordination thing or if it was my voluptuous self that made it tough for me to jump but every time I jumped in, the ropes messed up.

I blamed the ropes each and every time, knowing that it was me but it made me feel better to blame the girls turning the rope or the rope itself as to why I wasn’t quite getting it. 

“Ok! Ok! I will be down in a minute,” I yelled back out the window. 

“Hey, young world… the world is yours,” I sang along.  Man, I loved that song.…

I heard “Hey, Young World” by Slick Rick really loud from someone’s window.  And they played it on repeat.  We lived on the third floor and our bedroom window faced the sidewalk where the girls of the building jumped Double Dutch every day after school and during the day on the weekends.  

I had butterflies in my stomach just thinking about my upcoming birthday party that I wanted to have and needed to ask my mom about. I really wanted to invite Julio.   I looked for my sneakers and couldn’t find them. They were always getting lost in this maze of a room.  I don’t know how we managed to find anything.  Everything was thrown all over the place. I mean, imagine...Four girls in a room, two bunk beds equal a recipe for a disaster of a room.  The topping on the cake is having a mother who loves clutter and stuff. So, she didn't quite set an example of what our room should look like as her closets looked as crazy as ours did and let’s not talk about the linen closet.  You couldn't find anything when you needed it. 

I finally found my blue, high top sneakers.   My mom and dad couldn’t afford the Reeboks everyone was wearing and we wore whatever she bought us.  She bought these sneakers where she bought the house detergent, wash cloths and soap - at the neighborhood discount store.  I wore my sneakers with pride.  I loved the color and it matched my blue shirt that Mami got me from Santo Domingo that year. 

I couldn’t get enough of that song and I felt like I had to yell the lyrics, “Broad and deep... Why don’t you listen and learn Love mean happiness…That once was strong”

“Y que el diablo tú canta?” she yelled from across the kitchen to the bathroom.


“Una cancion.  Mami, me voy con las muchachas,” I yelled as I was washing my face in the bathroom.  I had gone upstairs to get something to eat but then I fell asleep.  I was so tired but I was ready to go back downstairs. 

“Ok, con cuidado que tu sabe que esas morenas son jodonas...,” she always said the same thing about the black kids and being careful.  Like really…was something really going to happen in front of our building. 

Before she could get on her tangents about our black neighbors, I stopped her.  “Mami, todos los niños molestan no solamente los morenos.”  We lived in a building with mostly Black and Puerto Rican families and Mami and Papi had something to say about everybody.  I wasn’t sure what to think about the things they said. I mean…we looked a lot like those “morenos.”

Who brought you up right… and who loved you since your birth?” I sang my way out the door. 

I closed the door and she locked it right after me.  I opened the hallway door and was struck by the stench of the urine that, if it were a fist, punched me in the face.  Why do people do that? Piss in the stairwell.  I don’t quite understand that.  I was careful not to step on the puddle of pipí

that was on the top stair.  I ran down three flights of stairs but not without stepping on at least 10-15 crack vials, all sorts of colors, red, blue, and green.  They had become so commonplace that I was no longer alarmed when we saw them.    I finally got to the first floor and was greeted by one of my mother’s friends who had just walked in the elevator.

“Renatta, tu si estas gorda!  Y tu mama, como estas? Dile que me llame,” she said this in a packed elevator as the door was closing. 

Oh great.  Everyone in the elevator needed to know that I was fat.  I know I am fat.  I think at this point everyone knows that I am fat.  Whenever my family came over, I always tried to wear something that was loose…thinking that somehow the fat would disappear and they wouldn’t notice and then wouldn’t say anything. 

“Estupida,” I said when the door closed shut.  I hope she didn’t hear me.  I would be in serious trouble if she heard me and then told my mother. 

“You know what, you know what, you know what, you know what?” I sang along as I skipped down the stairs, wearing my souvenir shirt from Santo Domingo with palm trees, my blue Reebok wannabees and my very tight, coral-colored acid washed jeans that hugged my rounded belly and were so tight that when I took them off they left a ring around my stomach evidence that I was fat, too fat. 

We like to party, like to party,” I landed in front of Eva and sang and danced in her face. 

“You ain’t no Slick Rick, Renatta!  Finally!! What took you so long?  You said you were going upstairs to get something to eat.  It has been like two hours.” Of course, Eva always had something to say. 

“I was so tired.”  I rolled my eyes at her. 

“Well, if you weren’t up all night reading then maybe you wouldn’t have been so tired,” said Rocio.

“Look who's talking Rocio, you stay up late reading too,” said Eva.

They were taking a break from jumping.

“Where is everyone else?” I asked.

“They also went upstairs to eat, but I hope that they are not going to take a nap like you did.”  Sonia was the reporter and always had all the details.  She was so nosy and knew what everyone was doing all of the time. 

“Here they come.” I saw the three Williams girls come out of the building.  They were Black sisters that lived on the 7th floor, along with their five brothers.  They were the only other family in the building that had more kids than my mom. Their parents were drug addicts and they spent a lot of time outside.   We played Double Dutch with them sometimes, although there was this awkward tension between us because they poked fun at us.

“Hey Rocio, how come you guys never get your hair braided,” taunted Shonda.  She was the oldest, also. 

“I don’t know. My mom takes us to the neighbor to get our hair permed,” Rocio responded, shrugging her shoulders. I really didn’t understand what the big deal was about our hair although I often wondered what my hair would look like braided.  Sometimes I got my hair permed and my scalp was burned. In between getting my hair done, I didn’t know what to do with my hair. 

Some days, I dreamed about having a braided style or keeping my hair in its natural state.  I didn’t even know what that was since Mami has been perming my hair since I was 10. 

They asked us questions about our hair and blackness.  Half the time, I didn’t know what they were talking about.  They insisted that we were black.  As far as I was concerned, we were Dominican.  We told them time and time again that we were Dominican, not black, but they would insist and persist.  

“Ok, whose turn is it?” asked Shonda, the oldest.

“It’s Renatta’s turn..she was upstairs before.”  Eva always kept track of people’s turn, making sure everyone had a chance to jump.   

“Oh God, the one that doesn’t know how to jump is going first,” said Latoya. 

“Hey, stop making fun of my sister,” Rocio scowled.  

I was already not wanting to play, dying to go back upstairs to read the rest of my VC Andrews book. 

“Well, I don’t have to play, I can go back upstairs.”  I was hoping someone else came along to play.  I was done with the humiliation. 

“No, Renatta, you are jumping.  How else are you going to learn?” Rocio exclaimed.  She was persistently defending me. 

“Ok, ok fine. But, she is not going to be on my team.  She could be on y’alls team.” LaToya seemed to be the one in charge.  

Ok, fine. 

The two girls took the jump rope and started turning the rope like magic.  The snapping of the rope on the pavement excited me.  I loved to see the rope turning the way it did and loved when someone jumped and perfectly made it in and continued jumping.  I longed for the day that I would get it right.  

In the distance, I could see Shaquana, this girl I would occasionally see in the park bullying other people.  What the hell was she doing here?  I hope she wasn’t coming to hang out with her friend, Monique.  

Oh damn, there she goes.  She sat on the bench and just stared at us with her friend whose name I couldn’t remember. 

“La’Toya, you playing with the Spanish girls?”

“We’re not Spanish, we’re Dominican.”  Rocio exclaimed. 

“Whatever y’all are you think you better than us?  Just cuz y’all go to that Catholic school?  Y’all ain’t better than us.  Y’all black like us… And look at her damn blue sneakers!”

She was yelling this so loud. 

 “And this one right here she hangs around with that girl in the next building and they think they are so cute. Your friend wears Jordans and you wearing those. And your mother has like a million kids. Your father be walking around here drunk sometimes too.”  I couldn’t stand Shaquana!    Her friends started laughing along with her.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              

“So what, at least I have a father!”  Bam!  It was like I hit the first punch.  Shaquana jumped off the bench seat and grabbed my soft moño from the top and punched me in the face. I did what I thought I was supposed to do and hit her back.  I had no idea what I was doing but I knew I had to fight.  She started pulling my hair to the floor and I grabbed her ears and pulled them towards the floor.  Then we started scratching each other. 

“Get off of my sister, get off of her,” Eva tried to get in between us, trying to save me as usual. 

“Eva stop I got this!”  I wanted to show my sisters that I can handle it on my own, that I didn’t need them all the time.  This battle was for me to fight right now.   

“Renatta, get off of her,” Soñia insisted. 

“She shouldn’t have said what she said,” I protested.

 “Well, you were saying stuff, too.” Whose side was she on anyway?

“Mami! Mami!” Soñia shouted towards our third floor window like my mom was really going to do something. 

“Mami, estan peleando con Renatta!” she continued.

“Coño, dile que su maldita madre,” and then my mom did the inevitable.

“Fucka you moda, you moda fucka!”  my mother yelled from the 3rd floor window, through the safety bars and you could vaguely see her index finger in the air.  She was obviously mistaking her index finger for her middle finger. 

Eva started laughing uncontrollably.  “Did you see what Mami just did?” she said to Sonia.

“Eva, would you stop? This is serious. Renatta is fighting.”  Rocio couldn’t control herself either… she started to laugh.  Meanwhile, I had no idea what was going on.  I was going in.  

“Tengo que bajar?” she called out hesitating from the window.

“No!!” we all said in unison. 

By this time, I was on top of Shaquana and she was squeezed on the sidewalk.  This was the first time that my size was in my favor. 

“Ok, Ok, get off of me, your fat Spanish ass is in my face,” Shaquona gave up. 

“I am not Spanish, I am Dominican. Do you promise to leave us alone?”  I was ready to sit on her all day if I had to.  My moño was undone and my hair was standing on my head, half down, half up.

“Fine.  At the end of the day, your ass is Black. Fine. I will leave y’all alone.  Get off me.” 

She picked herself up from off the floor and she left.  And I had some of her skin stuck in my nails. I claimed victory. 

“Get ahead. And accomplish things You’ll see the wonder and the joy life brings,” and I danced along.

“Hey guys, I am going home.” 

“Ok,” they said in unison.

 “Renatta, you ok?” asked Rocio. 

“Yeah, I am ok.  I beat her ass, didn’t I?” 

“Yeah, you did,” agreed Eva.

“Did you see what Mami did out the window, Renatta? Fucke you moda.”  Sonia put her index finger in my face.  I couldn’t help but laugh.  She knew the right moment to bring up jokes. 

“I can’t believe I had my first fight.  I am going upstairs.  Why does she keep talking about us being black.  We’re not black.  We’re Dominican.  She is so stupid.”

“Renatta, she has somewhat of a point.  We must have African roots looking how we look.  I am going to look into that,” the researcher, Rocio has spoken.  She looked up in the air, looking for what, I don’t know.  Here she goes with her philosophical stuff. 

 I was dying to go back to my book. 

“Hey young world, the world is yours. Hey young world” singing, I skipped up the stairs and walked up the three flights.  I didn’t want to risk seeing any neighbors. 

When I got home, I felt really good because this was the first time that I had ever had a fight and I think I won.  I felt like a champion. 

I knocked on the door and I just knew she was going to have something to say.  She opened the door and stared at me for a second before she started yelling. 

Coño Renatta! Y porque estaban peleando - tú y esa morena?” she asked. 

“No se,” I responded.  No se in my family was a way of saying that there is so much to say and you know the other person wouldn’t really understand…so you say nothing.  You keep it to yourself.  There was no point in telling my mom what really happened.  She wouldn’t understand.  She wouldn’t be able to comprehend that Shaniqua had something against us Dominican girls and when we saw her she had something to say to us about everything.  She was a bully.   How was I going to tell her that she was dissing her and Papi and that I loved them so much that I had to defend them.  As far as I was concerned, Shaniqua had that cocotaso coming to her.  And I was glad that I was able to do it.  It felt good. 

Mami didn’t even ask me if I was ok. Perhaps it was because on the way up the stairs, I put my hair back in the bun and it looked like nothing had happened.  The adrenaline flew through my body that I made it up the stairs in record time.  My heart was beating so fast and since I was feeling so hype, I worked up the nerve to ask my mom if I could have a house party for my 12th birthday. 

“Mami, yo quiere un party para mi cumpleanos” I said with confidence, both hands on my hips, knowing she would say yes. 

“Ta bien.  Pero ustedes tienen que limpiar ese cuarto que parece una posigla de puercos.”  She returned to the kitchen where she was preparing dinner for that evening, with all the ingredients sloppily placed across the kitchen counter. 

I walked to my room and began thinking about what Shaquona said about us being black.  I thought being black was only for people whose roots are in the U.S., who are connected to the slaves.  Are we connected to the slaves?  I guess that would make sense.  I will ask Rocio.  She has the answers to everything. 


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