Friends, poets and writers gathered to honor Mireyda “Mia” Barraza Martinez with an open mic poetry reading and candlelight vigil on Tuesday at Fresno City College’s main fountain.
Barraza Martinez, 29, died on Nov. 20 in a car accident. She was a student in Fresno State’s masters of fine arts (MFA) program in creative writing, a graduate assistant to U.S. Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera and a Fresno State teaching associate in the English department.
Dr. Jennifer Dorian, faculty coordinator for PASS Program at Fresno City College (FCC), helped organize the vigil, which encouraged attendees to share their poetry, stories, music and experiences in remembrance of Barraza Martinez.
“Mia was an incredibly powerful driving force on this campus,” said Dorian. “She inspired students who have been told time and time again that they weren’t worthy of an education or they would make it anywhere in their lives.”
Dorian said Barraza Martinez was the PASS leader who helped the program realize its potential, value and worth.
“That’s the legacy that she is leaving at this school. That’s why we’re here today – because we want to not only honor Mia, but to continue her legacy of empowering others,” said Dorian. “That’s why I think it’s so fitting that we are saying ‘Rest in Power.’”
About 40 people attended. Among them was Monique Quintana, a recent MFA graduate from Fresno State who spoke fondly of her memories of Barraza Martinez.
“We were dancing in Minneapolis at a nightclub where they filmed ‘Purple Rain’ so I will never forget that. It was a purple Prince party, and we went there for it,” Quintana said.
She said Barraza Martinez lived every day with a lot of conviction, and was a great poet, scholar and activist.
“But most importantly she was a really good friend. Every day she honored her ancestors, her friends, her family and her feminism,” Quintana said.
Both women held back tears as they mustered the strength to make remarks about Barraza Martinez.
One by one people took the mic to share their thoughts. Various poems described Barraza Martinez as a brilliant, passionate, kind and sincere person.
“From the moment I met you, I was inspired.”
“You knew what you wanted, and you worked for it.”
“You empowered and educated each person you reached.”
Dorian addressed the crowd: “To those of [you] that have come from Fresno State or elsewhere in our community, we thank you for being here with us at Fresno City College where Mia’s legacy lives on.”
Staff writer Jessica Johnson contributed to this report.