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Monique Letamendi, Multidisciplinary Artist



Born and bred in Bushwick, Brooklyn, Monique "Orisha Love" Letamendi has been the mouthpiece of her community for more than a decade. Nicknamed “The Mouthpiece” by her peers, in 2010, Monique found her calling, with a sight on activism and providing for her community. In an attempt to extend herself into other fields, Monique began to teach poetry and literacy in various state funded programs and non-profit organizations, such as viBe Theater Experience in 2014 and Sankofa Empowerment Program in 2010. Monique became program director at viBe Theater Experience in 2015, and directs, produces and collaborates with high school girls from the tri-state area to create full length stage plays and albums. Monique started directing viBeStages, viBeStages residencies in Achievement First High School in Bushwick and Brooklyn High School of the Arts in Fort Greene, viBe Songmakers and viBeCompany and was named viBe Theater Experience’s first Artistic Director in October 2020. Monique created and performed in original plays such as “Are You Trippin?” and “Monolith to Monarch with viBeCompany, as well as in 2020, Monique performed her original one-woman play virtually named La Limpieza and self-published her own poetry book named “Resonance: Being a Black Woman in America” and has published her second poetry book “La Limpieza” with DominusVir Publications. Monique has extended her talents to various social reform movements and campaigns such as #fightfor15, reclaiming the black woman’s body with Black Woman Blueprint at the Roulette Theater, unconstitutional stop and frisk policies with MTR in Bushwick and #sayhername with the African American Policy Forum for an Evening of Action at Pratt University. Monique has facilitated workshops with NBWC at Medgar Evers, Face to Face Conference, Artists Striving to End Poverty as well as for independent artists. Monique has performed at various universities all over NYC such as Pratt University, NYU, Hunter College and Barnard College in Boston as well as performing original work at Brooklyn Museum, MOCADA Museum, BRIC and most recently at theSHED in POWERPLAY, where she was an artist in residence alongside other artists to create a play about power and our relationship to it. In 2018, Monique co-curated and hosted a bi-weekly black and POC centered open mic with the VooDoo Lounge Underground in Brooklyn.


TAP Work:


"I am catching up, but also very happy to be apart of these workshops! I've met amazing people here and have learned many new things to work into my own teaching practice."


Most Memorable TAP Moment:


"The salons, getting to experience another teaching artist in their element and learning new ways to engage with folks in probably my most favorite part. my group (shoutout to PERIOD MEW MEW) were always extremely supportive and loving and our moments together always filled me with joy, being able to just feed off of energy that had nothing to do with work was refreshing as well. I felt like a student again, and I want to bring that into my teaching as well."

"Cuchifrito"


Going into the cuchifrito as a morena is an experience.

It’s noticing the drool fall from the lizard’s mouth.

Dancing salsa without enough space.

Cramped.

All eyes on me.

They make you wait.

Your internal timer goes off.

You start to think about how you’re going to order your food.

They make you wait.

They look over you.

You notice all eyes are on you.

And they aren’t friendly.

You want to get out.

So you yell out in your native tongue. You feel the confusion being stuffed in your

pockets.

They get closer.

The lizard’s mouth is smiling now.

The woman behind the counter relaxes.

The woman behind the counter tenses up.

You’re polite, but they thank you with a side-eye.

Or a, “de donde eres?”

You become a history lesson.

Or a deep secret.

Something that shouldn’t have seen the light of day.

You want to get out.

But you don’t want to prove them right.

So you stay.

You answer questions.

There’s laughter scattered over the sounds of bachata and giant rice spoons.

You hand them your money to pay.

They put your change on the counter.

Then, I go home.


"Black like..."


Black like empty bucket of lace.

Black like inherent messiness.

Black like, ain’t nothing wrong with this messiness,

Why do I have to tidy up MY strings?

Knit MY ends together?

Black is like living frayed.

Living outside of your morality.

Black is morals.

Don’t steal out of granny’s purse,

No matter how hungry you are.

You so Black you got gold seeping underneath your fingertips

Black like coming out scathed,

Coming out unscathed.

Black like get out of my way.

Black like show you the way,

Stomping.

Black like lifeline,

like bottle opener.

like peanut butter.

like brooklyn in 1998.

like poem.

like song.

Black like embodiment.

Challenge.

You so black, you so vulnerable.

You so black, that you dead.

Black like urgency.

Black like guidance.

All up in it and coming out.

Black like maduros,

Like mix them with brown sugar,

Like butter in your oil,

PA QUE NO SE QUEMA.

Black like sofrito.

Black like ajo molido,

Achoite calientada,

Arroz con gandules.

Black like open fire hydrants.

Plastic bag over tims,

Fifty cent cafe,

Bien dulce,

Sweet like Senora carmen,

Black like sweet.

Like mango.

Like cherries.

Black like fruit.

Black like roots,

From above.

Black like birds eye view.

Like confusion,

Like exertion,

Like energy.

Black like exhaustion,

Misundastood,

Like unexplained fear.

Black like indulging.

Black like chalkboard,

Black like chalk.

Black like outlining my body.

Black like don’t own my body,

Black like politicking,

Black like open mouths.

Black like instinctual;

You gotta do what you gotta do.

Black like lifting yourself up from the dirt.

Black like unearthing.

Black like cleansing.

Black like divinity.

That strikes fear in those that don’t understand it.

Black like keeping it together.


Black like calm.

Black like full.

Black like change.

Black like present.

Black like torch.

You so black you wrought with sadness.

You so black you heal everything you touch.

Black like ocean.

Black like water.

You so black you bounce back.

Black like resilience.

Black like light.

Unbending.

Underneath.

Black like reclamation.

Black like barbershop.

Black like owning your own narrative,

And braids,

Like heat.

Black like home.

Black like church.

Black like hosanna.

Black like ase.

Black like something worth fighting for.