Sinai Cota began to reflect on her role in the community when the Black Lives Matter Protests broke out in 2020 and began writing poetry to heal herself and support her community.
“I realized that I was really scared to go out and protest, but I wanted to help. I didn’t know how to, so I started writing. I wanted to write to heal, and I realized that I needed to do some more healing and inner work so I could figure out how to give back. I wrote poetry, to heal myself, to share my story, and to encourage others to share their story and to heal themselves,” said Cota, 32, advisor and program coordinator in the Graduate and Education Postdoctoral Affairs Office at UCSD.
Cota grew up in the heart of Barrio Logan, a lively and culturally vibrant community tucked under the Coronado Bridge. She knows of hardships firsthand; she became homeless at the age of 11 after her biological mother was deported to Mexico. With the help of neighbors, classmates, and mentors, Cota became the first in her family to attend a four-year university, earn a master’s in Higher education Leadership studies at USC, and pursue a doctoral degree in higher education.
She reconnected with the City Heights Nonprofit UrbanLife, which works with students from under-resourced neighborhoods to help them develop as leaders, and where she was once a Mission Bay High School student.
During her high school years, Cota enrolled in AVID, a program that prepares students for college. Guest speakers from the Barrio Logan College Institute came to visit her class and taught students ways they could afford to pay for college.
Through this program, she met Nancy Brusch, who became a strong parental figure and helped Cota move into San Diego State University, where she earned a bachelor’s in religious studies and a minor in communication.
“She made me like paper bag lunches when I met her in high school. She will let me do laundry at her house. She did she took me prom dress shopping,” Cota said. “She helped me buy my first car and her husband taught me to drive.”
During the first year of her Master’s Degree program in 2015, Nancy Brusch passed away. Cota, alongside Brusch’s family and friends, donated to Urban Life, but the money remained untouched in an account.
Cota shared ideas with Urban Life that same year on how the donation should be used, and it was decided to establish a scholarship fund to honor her memory, and extend her spirit of generosity.
Cota met with the Brusch family in 2020 once details were finalized to talk about coordinating a scholarship for students of color who are immigrants or refugees. During this time, Cota was a fellow at RISE San Diego, a leadership development program also in a leadership program, in which she decided to write poetry to fund the scholarships.
She self-published a poetry book titled “Pink Poems Tan Thoughts,” available on Amazon or in Barrio Logan at The Art Hub in the Thirty & Flirty Shop.
All the profits from her poetry go to Urban Life to support the scholarship fund. Since 2020, Cota sold 1,500 copies of Pink Poems Tan Thoughts and raised $3,500.
With the help of more than 30 small businesses based in San Diego, Los Angeles, and across the country, Cota has been able to fundraise more than $3,000 on her Instagram page Pink Chicana Poet for college scholarships for students.
“When I think about my books, they were born out of love. I needed to heal and this was a way to cope with my past and be set free, but it also gives the reader a chance to be a part of this movement and raise funds for scholarships,” She said.
Since 2020, Cota has authored Mujeres in Movement: Poems About Self-Love, Activism, and Community, a collaboration with three San Diego poets: Fabiola Bagula, Leah Goodwin, and Theresa Palafox.
“I was really wanting and asking the universe for a writing community. I decided to reach out to these women I met through the RISE leadership program. I asked if they would be willing to donate their gifts of writing to give back,“ Cota recalled.
The women held poetry reading sessions in the community and writing sessions at an elementary and high school that works specifically with young mothers.
“It was super cool to be in those spaces because that had become a dream of mine—to see one of my books be a part of a curriculum and be a part of a classroom,” Cota said.
Cota has also published Pan Dulce for the Latinx Soul: Poems to Open the Heart and Heal the Soul.
All three of Cota’s books are available for purchase on Amazon, locally in Barrio Logan at Thirty Flirty Shop and Libelula Books Co. as well in New York City at Word Up Community Bookshop, Quimby’s Bookstore NYC, and Kew & Willow Books.
Cota has poured her talents into designing notebooks in 2022 fundraising for other nonprofit organizations. She has collaborated with Café X: By Any Beans Necessary, a black-owned coffee shop located in Sherman Heights, to support the Black Women’s Resilience Project, which serves as an economic and justice tool to address the racial and gender inequalities that impact Black women.
She has also created LGBTQ inspired notebook and is donating the proceeds to the San Diego LGBTQ Latine Coalition. Cota’s most recent project was in collaboration with a small clothing label in Los Angeles called She is Limitless to design a notebook and raise funds to defend a woman’s right to bodily autonomy in Texas.
Cota will release a new poetry book, “Sana Sana: Latinx Pain and Radical Visions of Healing and Justice”, in July 2023.
Cota welcomes collaborations, to get in touch with her you can do so at: https://pinkchicanapoet.wordpress.com