Art & Activism, Lisaury Diaz Wins National V-Day Competition

V-Day Foundation Contest Winner
Rhode Island College Impact

“I became a feminist during my first year at RIC,” says Lisaury Diaz. “I realized I was a feminist because everything I wanted to do went against patriarchal beliefs and I wanted to learn as much as I could to dismantle those beliefs.”

A poem written by RIC rising senior Lisaury Diaz won the V-Day Foundation’s national art contest in which participants were asked “how they would dismantle the patriarchy.”

“Dismantling the patriarchy,” Diaz explains, “means abolishing those things that take power away from women, those ideologies that limit women to a specific role in society.”

“I was brought up in the Dominican Republic, a society that is very patriarchal, a society in which binary gender roles are followed based on gender roles in the Bible. I never questioned it, until I had the freedom to choose for myself,” she says.

That freedom came at age 18 when Diaz immigrated to the United States with her father. She broke cultural barriers when she met girls her own age who weren’t restricted by the same rules. 

In her winning poem, “Poder” (Spanish for “power”), Diaz addresses the issue of patriarchal control over a woman’s body. She writes with an intensity that strikes at the heart with each line.

Diaz explains that “this poem was inspired by three sisters, the Mirabel sisters, who were killed in the Dominican Republic by the dictator Rafael Trujillo who raped girls. These sisters fought against the dictator and were killed. Since then, the International Day of Elimination of Violence Against Women was established.”

Designated by the United Nations General Assembly, the International Day of Elimination of Violence Against Women is held annually on Nov. 25 to raise awareness around the world that women are subjected to rape, domestic violence and other forms of violence.

“More than 350,000 girls under the age of 17 are raped in the United States each year, with 60,000 of them resulting in pregnancy,” Diaz says. Violence against women is prevalent worldwide.

“In my poem I write: “el amor todo lo soporta,” meaning love bears all; it’s a verse from the Bible. It means that love means taking whatever someone does to you, no matter what they do to you. That’s what I was taught as a child. I don’t believe that anymore.”

By Lisaury Diaz

They took away poder from me
Poder yes
That they decided to take from me
Poder they took when they told me the boy in my class bothered me
because he liked me
Poder they took from me
The day they prohibited me from showing my legs
Because he could not control what was in between his
Poder they took when they said that “el amor todo lo soporta”
Poder they took from me when they decided
All by themselves
That my no was not enough of an answer
Poder they took it off my hands
The day they told me my opinions were not rational
Because it was my time of the month
And that changes me
Poder they took away from me
The day they decided that because I was a mom, I couldn’t do it
Poder they took the day they told me I could not do anything right
And I stayed quiet
I believed them
They took it from all of us
When they abused her and blamed her
When they killed her and nothing was done
Poder, poder they took away from her
Poder they took from me
Or at least they tried to
They have tried to a thousand and one times
And some of them I admit yes
They have been successful
But no
The modesty they taught me
does not vindicate me
My body can be touched when I decide so
My smile comes out whenever
With whoever the fuck I want
My body
My rules
My life
My decisions. It is that simple.
Poder they took it off my hands
I take it back.

V-Day is a global activist movement to end violence against women and girls. The nonprofit raises funds and awareness through the use of art and activism. Diaz learned about the V-Day Foundation contest through Assistant Professor of English and Gender and Women’s Studies Janice Okoomian, while enrolled in her “Feminist Inquiry” class. Diaz is an anthropology and gender and women’s studies major.