For as long as he can remember, Dario Serrano’s life was all screeching tires and echoing gunshots, babies’ cries and barking dogs, a symphony, as he puts it, of “hood rats and gangsters,” of “vatos and payasos” — dudes and numskulls, loosely translated.
By high school, he’d pretty much given up on himself. He bounced around between three schools. He started selling pot, though he always seemed to smoke more than he sold. His GPA fell to 0.67, which is about as bad as you can get and still be showing up.
Literature, it is fair to say, was not resonating. “I mean, ‘The Great Gatsby’?” he says incredulously, and when he puts it like that, Lincoln Heights does feel pretty far from Long Island.
When a friend suggested that poetry might be his thing, Serrano scoffed. Grudgingly, he started tagging along to a poetry club, and one day last year he took his lunch break in a classroom where a teen troupe called Get Lit was holding auditions.
Get Lit’s artistic director, an African American artist named Azure Antoinette, performed an original composition called “Box,” a denunciation of anyone who would define her by the color of her skin, who would lump together, thoughtlessly, faces of color: