My Power Ranger Had One Leg :
The Open Borders Youth Radio Project
Transcripts of Audio Stories
Listen to Glenda Vargas, “My Scrapbook, My Father” [4:11]
Listen to Devon Aponte [2:14]
Listen to Vanessa Rodriquez [1:51]
Listen to Tatyana Rodriquez and Micaela Hernandez: Gregory Taylor Interview [5:23]
Note: These transcripts accompany the article, “My Power Ranger Had One Leg.”
Glenda Vargas, age 16: My Scrapbook, My Father
My name is Glenda Vargas, and this is my story. I have an album. It is very special because it is filled with letters from my father when he was in jail. This album holds six years worth of letters to my mother and me. During those six years I felt that my father missed a big part of my life. But these letters make me believe that no matter how far away he was, he was there for me and watched me grow into the girl that I am today.
In these letters he would remind me of the games we would play and the jokes we would make. He would write about the cartoons we would watch, like Hey Arnold or Tom and Jerry. He would always remind me that he’s coming home, and once he does we’ll play and watch cartoons together again. That always kept me happy and waiting.
My father never missed my birthdays, but when he was put away, he wouldn’t be able to spend my birthdays with me. But he would draw me birthday cakes and send me cards with cartoon characters like Mickey Mouse or Daisy Duck drawn on them as a gift. It made me feel that he didn’t miss my birthday and he never forgot about me.
This album has many love letters to my mother, and it makes me see that he really did love her and that they were happy. There’s one letter in this album that I cherish most. When you hear my dad read his letter, you’ll understand why.
Hi, baby. I want you know that you are very special to me. You are the greatest, the smartest, and the most beautiful girl in the world. I love you and mommy too—a lot. Cookie, lo siento mucho no haber te dicho donde yo iba ese día, que me fui sin decirte nada. Pero tenía mucho miedo decirte, por que me dolía en el corazon, tener que dejarlas. Y no quería que sufrieras, quizás yo lo hice mal en no decirte—I’m sorry. Tu y yo volveremos a jugar. Voy a estar allá para ti. Pumpkin, me hagas trampa. Cookie, es cierto que yo estoy mujo lejos, pero si te prometo que estaré pronto contigo. El día que yo vaya será para estar siempre juntos, tu y yo. Cookie, I went away because I did something very wrong, but I promise you that I’m not going to do bad things again any more. You are my little girl and you’ll always be my little baby. I remember you, I always love you.
This letter make me cry every time I read it. And he kept his promise to me. My dad has been spending time with me for the past four years, and it couldn’t have been better.
I take this album to be a memory to me, of my father and his true feelings for my mother and me. I also take it as a sign that I was thought of and cared for during the hardest time of his life. This is my story about my dad and the one thing I cherish most.
Devon Aponte, age 17: My Power Ranger Had One Leg
As I sit here in the depths of my mind, I think about when I was five living in a homeless shelter. It’s hard for me to talk about because all I have in my mind are small scenes and little memories. In my heart I chose to forget about those long horrible days of feeling like a fist is squeezing acid from my stomach, of feeling like I’m sleeping in a shoebox and wishing I had a home of my own.
The reason I had to move into the homeless shelter was because my grandmother was evicted, and my mom, my brother and I were living with her at the time. Since the day we moved into the shelter, I knew things would never be the same. I remember going hours, even days, without eating until my stomach was content. I remember when my brother and I would wait for my mom to come back from work. We behaved like two puppies waiting for their owner to return. I remember my first day of kindergarten living in the shelter. I had on a pair of Batman sneakers with the lights on the bottom. My jeans looked like I was playing baseball, tripped and fell on my right knee. I was young, so I wasn’t ashamed, but when I think about it now, my face gets hot and my eyes water. The kids in my class looked like they were advertizing new clothes with their bright shirts, clean white sneakers and perfectly pressed pants. My toys were the kind of toys that kids would throw away. My favorite toys were my one-legged Power Rangers and my armless Incredible Hulks.
Not too long after we moved into the shelter, we moved out. My mother applied for housing assistance and, shortly after, we were in our new home. The feeling that I got when I walked into the front door was of a rubber ball bouncing off my rib cage. I was home. The smell of fresh paint and new rugs filled my lungs when I took my first breath. Home at last!
I’ll never regret being homeless. It makes me appreciate everything I have. Ever since I could remember I was taught to earn my own things. Today I’m doing just that and I’m proud. Twelve years later I’m working two jobs—one at Open Borders and one at KFC—so that I can support myself. Being homeless gave me a good sense of responsibility. And I am determined to graduate high school, go to college and have a career, so that I won’t ever have to live like that again.
Vanessa Rodriquez, age 15: Rained Out at the Ballgame.
It all started at a baseball game, just me and my dad. I couldn’t wait for this day. Not because it was my first game, because I really didn’t care about the game. But because I was going to spend some time with the only man I ever really cared about. He was a stern, typical traditional Mexican father who really never showed any type of affection towards me.
As soon as we arrived at the Phillies stadium, I felt a rush of nerves and excitement build up in my stomach. As we sat down in our seats the game started. Then the best thing ever happened—drops of cold water fell on my cheek. Thunder crashed and the tarp was rolled out. The game was delayed.
The next thing I knew, my dad and I were talking like never before. Usually when we talked, we talked about the bad things I would do—like getting bad grades or staying up late. But this time it was different. We talked about me and guys, about him not letting me have a lot of liberty because he was scared of letting me go. About how he came to this country so I could have a better future. Things we didn’t know about each other, things that connected us in a special way like no other. I felt like a little girl who had just learned how to speak, a little girl who could not stop talking.
The baseball players were all positioned. The drops had stopped and so did me and my dad. And I suddenly stared at my dad. Then my father asked me if everything was fine. I said, “Yeah, Papi. You know something? I love you.” He responded, “I love you to, mi’ja.”
From that moment, I knew my father really loved me. Despite the fact that I’m one out of three sisters, despite the fact that we really never connected before, nobody can ever take away that day and those five words my father said to me: “I love you too, mi’ja.”
Micaela Hernádez and Tatyana Rodríquez, ages 14 and 18: Interview with Gregory Taylor, A Local Hero
Micaela: This is Tatyana and Micaela, from Open Borders. A father. A father to play sports with, a father to go to when mommy says no. A father to be daddy’s little girl. A father to have when boys no longer have cooties. Many teens have had their fathers miss half of their lives. This Meet Me Half Way.
Tatyana: I remember the day my father was arrested. I remember because it was the day I took my first breath into this world. It was the day he left my life. Before I was born, my father left with the promise to my mother that he will come back and support us both financially and emotionally. The streets called his name, and the streets was his first answer—hustling which brought him money. My mother cried as the doctor performed the c-section. Hours later the phone rang and my mother knew her life would never be the same. He’s still in jail after these fifteen years of my life. Me in this world that, yes, seems so alone to me. I wish I could have a real family—maybe my pillow is more tired of the tears than I am. I never knew growing up without a father was so hard. My mom raised me by herself—an independent woman who I know as my hero. We went through a lot. I needed a father figure in my life.
Micaela: Here is the story of a man who, like our fathers, went to jail and was separated from his family. Gregory Taylor spent four years of his life on a drug charge. When he was released, he found himself working at a local MacDonald’s. He later heard of the Philadelphia Comprehensive Center for Fathers, a center that trains fathers who have been incarcerated by teaching them life skills and helping them reconnect with their children. This center opened many doors for Gregory. Today he is the manager of outreach programs and services. He has four children and a wonderful wife. He finds his job very fulfilling and has peace that he is helping make a difference in the lives of many fathers. Although Gregory was incarcerated, separated from his family, and stripped of his freedom, he was able to rise from his ashes and create a new life. Here is his story.
Gregory Taylor: I never really expected to be in jail. When I was young, I always wanted to be a chemist and a fireman. I never thought that I would be an ex-con. You know, I guess things work out in a strange way. But at the same time I will have to say that it was probably one of the best things that could happen to me, because it really gave me a chance to sit down, stay sober, and think about the things that I was doing before I got locked up. And it really gave me focus to move forward in my life. And I don’t like to say this sometimes, but I think that jail really showed me the light. A crazy experience, though. Crazy. I wouldn’t recommend it for anybody. When they tear you away from your family, it’s hell. I cried a lot. I cried a lot, when I was down. But they came to visit me and it was a wonderful thing every time I saw them. It was beautiful. It also made me realize how important it is for a child to have a father in their life. In order to be a father you have to be a good teacher, you have to be a good listener. There are so many things that it takes to be a father, and I know I don’t have all those qualities, but I’m definitely working on them. And I guess being at this job and seeing the things that go on here with the other fathers that surround me, I can pick up some things and use them back at home. So that’s what I pretty much do—come to work and steal some techniques and take them back home for my family. I really want them to make their own decisions. I hope that I can guide them in the right way to take care of that and achieve their goals. Our relationship is great. My oldest son—inseparable. The rest of my kids—the last three—are inseparable. When I come home, they climb on me like monkeys and they stay attached to me until I wake up the next morning. It’s a good thing. My relationship with my children is great. I feel like as long as I’m making the right choices, God’s always going to bless me and send me in the right direction. And I really don’t know where I’m going to be next year, but I know that I’m not going to let myself fall. If I do, then my kids do—and I can’t let that happen. You don’t know how valuable freedom is until they take it away from you. That’s what I thought about every night. How valuable freedom is—it’s very valuable. Without it, you could wither and die.
Micaela: This is the story that many people can relate to. Gregory’s story had a happy ending. One we hope to share with our fathers one day.
Listen to Glenda Vargas, “My Scrapbook, My Father” [4:11]
Listen to Devon Aponte [2:14]
Listen to Vanessa Rodriquez [1:51]
Listen to Tatyana Rodriquez and Micaela Hernandez, Gregory Taylor Interview [5:23]
Mark Lyons is co-director of the Philadelphia Storytelling Project, which uses digital storytelling in their work with teens and adult learners in summer workshops, computer courses and ESL classes. Participants write stories or interview others about their immigrant experience, record, edit and mix their stories, and create short audio stories. He also does workshops with teachers on doing community oral histories. He is the co-editor of Espejos y Ventanas / Mirrors and Windows, Oral Histories of Mexican Farmworkers and Their Families, which is published in Spanish and English. He developed a theater piece from the stories in the book, which was performed by local people at the Border Book Festival in New Mexico.
He has worked in the Latino community for the last twenty five years, as a health worker and community organizer. For eight years he was the director of the Farmworkers Health and Safety Institute, a consortium of grass-roots organizations in the U.S. and the Caribbean. The Institute trained farmworkers to use theater and other popular education methods to train other farmworkers concerning health and safety issues such as pesticides, field sanitation, housing, drinking water, HIV/AIDS and workers’ rights. He also worked for several years in a community health center, as a provider and health planner.
Mark’s collection of short stories, Brief Eulogies at Roadside Shrines, was published by Wild River Books in 2014. It was chosen as a Kirkus Reviews Book of the Year. He has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, is a recipient of Pennsylvania Council of the Arts fellowships for 2003 and 2009, and the J.P. McGrath Memorial Award from Whetstone Magazine. In addition, one of Mark’s stories was performed at the Writing Aloud Literary Series at the Interact Theater in Philadelphia.
ARTICLES BY MARK LYONS
Dreams and Nightmares: Notes from the Editor, working with Liliana Velasquez
Dreams and Nightmares/Sueños y Pesadillas
The Ecuadorians of Upper Darby
Espejos y Ventanas / Mirrors and Windows: Nuestras Historias en Español
Espejos y Ventanas / Mirrors and Windows: Our Stories in English
My Power Ranger Had One Leg: The Open Borders Youth Radio Project
The Youth Radio Project: Transcripts of Audio Stories
Welcome to Open Borders
Wild River Books
Brief Eulogies at Roadside Shrines – Arnold’s Roadside Café: Route 80, North Platte
Brief Eulogies at Roadside Shrines – Holy Roller
Brief Eulogies at Roadside Shrines: Security Risk
A Celebration of Shrines
Introduction to Brief Eulogies at Roadside Shrines: The Borders That Divide Us Are the Places We Find Each Other
Brief Eulogies at Roadside Shrines: Tlaxcala Red