Real Leo. Taylor Lytle x Issa Rae
“Everybody Knows That Time Will Pass You By.” Written by Taylor Lytle. Performed by Issa Rae. Taylor is all smiles as she owns her pronounced presence in the world and continues exercising her “revolutionary” methods as a criminal justice activist.
“Writing is too rewarding to ever think of a life without it.” – Taylor Lytle
Find Taylor on Instagram at @shesobeasty.
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Issa Rae, Tyler Lytle, Daniel, Walter Thompson-Hernandez
Issa Rae 00:04
Like the 22 years on earth that I’ve been, like all the scenes that committed created from the corruption within like when we were children, but now we’re grown what happened to the millions I was promised in my throne. They say no struggle lasts too long, but mine’s is a marathon. Everyone knows the time will pass you by. So I stand up for what’s right. But I achieve what’s wrong. That’s normal stipulations for a child with no home, for a child that was forced to be grown. Let the truth be known. Everyone knows the time will pass you by. So I rise and shine to a sunny day. But it ain’t a sunny smile on my face. So then I stop and pray. God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things that I can and the wisdom to know the difference. And then I stop and listen. Still no response. It’s just a little faith that I have in him. But it keeps our bond because everybody knows the time will pass you by. It was a time in this world when my voice didn’t matter. It’s a time right now where people’s voices don’t matter. Minority dreams shattered, jails, institutions and death served to us on a platter but please don’t let time pass you by.
I’m Walter Thompson Hernandez. And this is WRITTEN OFF. That was Issa Rae. Another ally native. You probably know her best for her award-winning HBO show. Insecure. insecure, though, is a last word I ever used to describe writer Taylor Lytyle, whose piece Issa read. Taylor rode up to the IOW offices on one of those line brand scooters. She’s bumping mood swings, song by pop smoke on a portable speaker. It was loud. And we heard it through the walls before she even knocked on a door. I’ve learned that’s very Taylor of her. She likes to make herself not just known, but celebrated. Taylor’s definitely a presence. She’s got it from her face down. Keep a tie fade on the sides of her head with twist on top. And it’s almost six feet tall. Can’t miss her. She’ll tell you it’ll probably make you cross the street. But that’s on you. Because Taylor has more love to give than all your mom’s hugs rolled into one. She knows about the lows better than most. And only wants to see her and others avoid that. Today, Taylor is an activist working for the California Coalition for women presence. You can tell she’s got an energy about her that draws people in. Because the minute she walked in, we can barely get Taylor to sit down. I mean, everyone wanted to give her a hug. Make sense? She’s a family.
What’s it feel like to hear your work? And your poem?
Tyler Lytle 04:14
Honestly, I’m all smiles. I love Issa, shout out to Issa, and she mastered it I loved I always wonder as a poet can someone really like convey what I wanted them like everything that it means is so personal you writing, so the tone the way you say it. Even though it’s more of a singer kinda and I can’t sing. So it’s kind of funny. But I loved everything about it.
When you were writing, what were you thinking? What were you going through?
Yeah, yeah, a very rough time in my life for sure. And I remember it was, I was inspired by your IOW teacher. She came in taught a class. I remember she like performed a piece that highlights thinking incorporated in it. And I’m offering new challenges, something I never done before. So I was like, I want to try that. And I was living on the streets and living a double life, to be honest. So I was being committed to IOW but still having to survive once has stepped out of here, that consisted of me being downtown selling drugs, and, you know, not being honest and upfront about everything. It was like me wanting to commit to this process and wanting something more about the realities of outside of these rooms. I had to survive. And yeah, I was emotionally torn, I was accepting that things wasn’t gonna get good or better. Or at least at that moment, it wasn’t, I can say, I’m always a hopeful person. But at that time, I think I lost sight of that ever been in reality or my reality. And it’s kind of crazy, because I’m so not that way mentally now. And yeah, I love everything about the piece. Yeah, I love it. I always loved me, as a writer, I always believed in me as a writer. Like I said, I was silenced our whole lives when I felt that outlet. And people liked it, and noticed me for it. It was something I couldn’t stop. So yeah.
Walter Thompson-Hernandez 06:26
When you say your silence your whole life, and you found writing, what do you mean by that?
Yeah, former foster youth when I’m 11 years old, before that, the fifth child of 12 kids, so get never room for my voice. And I’m a Leo. So I’m very opinionated and always had something to say, but never heard in foster care, from our physical abuse that I went through in a foster home, to not being heard during that process and being sent to juvenile hall and not being heard during that process. And I recall, like vividly, just wanting people to hear me out, like, I could talk for myself, like I’m being abused. This is not, you know, just me trying to bully the girls in the house saying them, you know, being able to defend themselves. So I feel like a lot of people’s clueless our times, not everyone in juvenile hall committed crimes and was bad. You know, I haven’t went from my leg is gang members, not every gang member is a killer, you know, but, you know, really trying to educate people about the differences and these type of people from our community, because I’m all of them. And I’m so much more.
You mentioned that you grew up in foster care. And I’m curious, like, if you ever found home in writing, right, like if writing became, became a sort of consistent home for you throughout the years?
Tyler Lytle 08:09
You’re for sure. It did. Yeah, that was the only thing that was consistent, it was stable, there was, you know, everything needed at that time, things I wasn’t receiving in foster care just took me off to juvenile hall. So really, I was raised in juvenile hall. And because of IOW, I had an opportunity to write a lot. So it was always in front of me, it was always opportunity. And it was something I was always respect the force. So it was easy for me to do. And I really did say that I had like a gift, or a way of expressing myself on paper. So maybe in you know, someone that said that’s the secret, sort of say, always needed that validation. So I just wanted to better myself every time. Just a little compliment from our teacher every week in the class was something you know, that was, I need it, you know?
Was this sort of like a moment where you actually started writing? Like, how old were you like, you remember that day, that morning? That night? Whatever it was?
Yeah, I feel it’s kind of funny. I nine years old, I wrote a poem, and it was called, it’s my birthday. And it’s funny. I don’t remember it at all. But my little sister happened to remember my whole poem. And I was like, really sweet mommy, because it’s like, how did you remember something I wrote back. I didn’t consider myself a writer. I didn’t realize how good I was at that time. It was 15 years old. When I met […], […]. And it was just originally me going into her classes and trying to get up the unit. And then as you know, friendship, this bond, someone I really played a significant part of my life. From the age of 15, up into now, it was heard that was like, you’re good, you’re talented. And then I was blessed to be in her class at Eastlake juvenile hall, and reminds I wasn’t just so much that she knew me so when Alumni Association started, more people, you know, heard my work and appreciated it. And I was like, you know what, my writer, I could do this. And I got published first short story, at the age of 17. It was a lot of things in my life where, you know, writing was being a part of it, and it was benefiting me financially and alive, as far as my healing process, too.
Walter Thompson-Hernandez 10:36
It also seems like you use a repetitive way of really instilling an idea and thought into your piece, you know, I think you say, everybody knows that time will pass you by like, three, four or five times, is there a reason for that?
I don’t think it was really no significant reason. At that time, all I would say is, is something that is so true. And I feel like one thing, we have to realize this time, it’s not going to stop for us, I realized, I’ve been in jail when I came home, and life was still going, nobody noticed that I was missing. And it’s just like, all that time I lost, time was is always been a big thing of my life, whether I was doing time, or, you know, I spent a significant amount of time homeless and struggling after foster care to, you know, right now, I’m 30. And I have limited time to, you know, start a career and is just is such a big thing to me that I feel like a lot of people never pay attention to. And I had the privilege to always be faced with that issue of time. So it’s something that’s very meaningful to me and is something that I value so much, and we don’t live forever. And that’s really the picture I wanted to pay time we’re going on when we die. And there’s one on why we live in. So just get your head in the game and don’t waste it. Don’t waste time.
Walter Thompson-Hernandez 12:08
I want you to imagine for one second that you never became a writer. Or that writing wasn’t introduced into your life. What does your life feel like? What does it look like?
Wow, I can say I would be a victim still, I wouldn’t have liberated as much as I’ve had to be honest. I feel like that means no IOW that means, you know, not learning myself and not having an outlet to go to every time. I felt like my voice was stripped from me. That’s having still no voice and possibly never finding it. That’s a life I don’t desire was a life prior to 15 years old. I know that it wouldn’t have been healthy for me and everything I was going through. So crazy. I smile while I say this because it’s like, I wasn’t happy at all for a long time. And then, you know, I fell I writing. And the attention I got some way like, give me happiness, like, people really like seek me to write a piece for them for something. Never been needed in a way like that, you know, never made money of you know, just writing something that is so easy for me to do. And people really appreciate, is too rewarding to ever think a life without it. You know, to be honest.
Walter Thompson-Hernandez 14:11
Are you still writing?
Of course, I just worked on a 32-page monologue project for ex-IOW teacher named Jesse Bliss. She got this big project she’d been doing for the past two years. I’m not only formerly incarcerated voice, and it was a very tough project. I’m not gonna say tough because I couldn’t write it. It was tough because I was going through so much, my car accident recently, but I wanted to show up and be you know, she’s one I support my craft beyond anyone else in my life like she tries to really, you know, uplift me as an artist and a writer so I just turned it in about three days ago she came and picked me up. So it felt good to be able to come through for her and I, you know, delivered as I always do. So I’m really sought after, in a way for my craft. And I do IOW classes every Thursday. Yeah, most definitely writing is still very active in my life.
So we’ve been talking a lot about writing, but I want to know who you are as a person. Like, what you read. What you listen to how you got here today?
Oh, wow. Awesome, because I am a genuine person. Honest person. I’m a Leo. The real type. The lion Leo’s you hear about.
What’s the real type?
Everything I’m about to describe just wait. I’m a rebel at heart, an evolutionary. I really believe in the power of the people. If we ever believe in the power of ourselves, I believe in playing fair. Fairness is a big thing. In my life, my Chinese horoscope says that I am a person as big on justice. And it was so funny to hear that because everything was just so accurate. Yeah, anywhere there’s injustice, you’re gonna hear me out there demanding for better. I am an organizer for a nonprofit that work with formerly currently incarcerated women called California Coalition for women’s prisoners, CCWP, these people is just like the greatest people in the world. The reason why I got a place the reason why I had a car, the reason why I’m at where I’m at, in life, the reason why I ever got on an airplane and traveled to six different states in this country, the people that really believe me, this is the work I want to do.
Tyler Lytle 17:12
I would have liked to take a maybe a legal law sort of say route, I would really love to really defend people and become a lawyer. And that was really something I know my life should’ve led to, but me accepting where I’m at today. I just want to stay on the ground in insert myself wherever there’s a need. And there’s injustice done and I want to just stop the evilness like, big old me just want to stop the evil. It’s funny to be here now and be like, see, I’m not those things. I’m this I’m the rare breed always consider myself a rare breed because I am from the streets. But the streets don’t consist of just produce one type of person. And I’m really just all about empowering people and believe in yourself to everything up to you. Everything you won’t, could be, you know, accomplished or it could be done. I’m a huge fan.
Tyler Lytle 18:19
Youth and foster care, everything else suffer from I know, my child traumas is a big part of the way I am today how I operate and how militant I am in my thinking. But I don’t think that’s a bad thing necessarily. Because, ultimately, I know I’m the good guy. And I put up the good fight, I fight for the good thing. So just knowing that I live in comfort, I live smiling. I’m good. I’m, you know, the University pays me. So I’m fortunate. I have sisters and brothers that is, I mean, nowhere close to where I’m at in life. And that’s just the reality of things, you know. So everything I went through I feel plays a big part of who I am today. So I’m gonna take nothing back, honestly, you know, I just want to prevent other people from going through it.
That’s great. Thank you so much.
Thank you. That was good.
Thanks again to Taylor, who’s now working on a monologue project titled matriarch 2021. She’s also keeping up her activist work alongside the California Coalition on women’s prisoners and the ACLU. Move at what you heard today. Moved by what you heard today? Want to do more? Follow and support InsideOUT Writers Workshop at insideoutwriters.org and click on ways. To get involved personally in the work to end mass incarceration in California. Check out the work of ARC, the Anti-Recidivism Coalition at antirecidiviesm.com. Next week on WRITTEN OFF, writer Daniel Biswano.
Oh, I don’t know. I just sounded cool to hear the way he expressed it in the way he talks, you know, because he’s very calm. And like collected in me. I’m like, woo, 0 to 100. So like I put a lot of emotions into it, but I like the fact that he just stayed kind of monotone and away and just, you know, he read it really well
WRITTEN OFF is a co-production of Lemonada Media and Black Bar Mitzvah. Our producer is Claire Jones. supervising producers are Xorje Olivares and Kryssy Pease. Executive producers are Aaron Bergman, Jay Ellis, Jessica Cordova Kramer and Stephanie Wittels Wachs. Music and sound design by Xander Singh. Mix and scoring by Matthew Simonson. Special thanks to all of our contributors, and InsideOUT Writers, you can learn more about them at insideoutwriters.org. If you like what you heard, help others find us by rating the show and writing a review. Follow us at @LemonadaMedia across all social platforms. To support WRITTEN OFF and gain access to exclusive bonus material. Like additional conversations with the writers and producers of this show. Subscribe to Lemonada Premium, only on Apple podcasts. And for more of my work, visit my website wthdz.com. I’m Walter Thompson Hernandez. Thanks for listening.