We had the good fortune of connecting with Meta Sarmiento and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Meta, what do you want people to remember about you?
Legacy is such a weird idea to me because it requires enough narcissism to believe that even in death, I’ll remain alive. These days I try my best to thread the needle between conceit and pride. I think the way I approach the concept of legacy now is this: “What kind of ancestor do you want to be?” But I don’t envision it by thinking about a millennium from now, more like, what do I want my grandchildren to remember about me? What stories do I want them to pass down through the next few generations after me? I hope they say I was a good man who cared so much about craft that I was unable to separate the act of creating from the act of breathing. I want those who come next to say I embodied the best of us even in the worst of times; that I inspired positive transformations in even complete strangers; that my existence, though brief and fleeting, affected lasting change, whether on a personal level, or at a level that touched a community. I want my family to open up a book of poems I wrote or play a song I recorded and say, “Kids, read this. Listen to this. What do you see? What do you hear?” And I want them to respond, “something beautiful.” I think that’s what I want my legacy to be: proof that we can still be beautiful in the face of all this world’s ugly.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I write poems, rhymes, and sometimes I get on stage and yell them at people. Haha. Becoming a professional poet and rapper was definitely not easy. In fact, some days I still laugh at the idea like, “Wait, I actually get paid to do this?” There was a point in my journey when people would ask me to write things or perform stuff and pay me in iced tea and fried chicken plates. But then I became a four-time freestyle rap battle champion; a winner and finalist of multiple cypher competitions. I became a winner of the 2020 Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Award from the Denver Asian American Pacific Islander Commission; a finalist for the 2019 North Street Book Prize; a Top Finisher at 2018 WRLD UNDERGROUND MC TOURNAMENT; a recipient of the 2017 Best Made in the Marianas Award from Guam Int’l Film Festival; a winner of 2015 Spoken Word for the World in which I was flown to Paris, France to perform during the United Nations Climate Negotiations. All that among a few other things and so at some point I said to myself, “Listen. You gotta demand a little more than iced tea and fried chicken now bro.” The things that go on my resume probably mean little to most people, but the fact is, we live in an economics-based reality and my expertise, time, and energy are worth enough to provide me some semblance of financial support. Through it all, I’ve stayed true to my principles: create meaningfully while uplifting, energizing, and protecting the people I love. My journey has taught me to advocate for my self-worth. This is a skill that’s important not just as an artist, but as a whole individual.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I’m all about good eats! In a different reality, where we aren’t living in a pandemic, the first stop would be Avanti Food & Beverage. It’s a Collective Eatery with multiple levels to hang out at. There’s so many beers to choose from and really great food spots. I’d take them to Meta Asian Kitchen, of course. One, because we share a name haha! And two, because the food is really good. On a cold night, I’d take them to Sera’s Ramen Enclave for some shrimp tempura and some really good ramen. The entrance to the place is down an alley way and through a small door. It’s a small ramen joint that feels intimate and special. I’d probably also take them to a show at the Denver Performing Arts Complex if there’s a production worth checking out, and then afterward take a stroll around Larimer Square. I’m also a geek for games so I’d take them to 1-UP to have some brew and play some games. It’s gotta be the one on Colfax though, not the one in Lower Downtown. For me, a good time though doesn’t even require going anywhere. I’d definitely set aside time to just chill at the house, put some tunes on, and talk story over some Colorado craft beer. If it’s a good conversation, then it’s a great time.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Mrs. Reglos from my 6th Grade Language Arts class. Benavente Middle School represent! One day, Mrs. Reglos told me, “You write beautifully and if you keep going, I know one day you’ll be a somebody.” And that was the first time someone had ever called anything I created beautiful. It was the first time someone believed in me more than I ever believed in myself. If she never gave me those words, my journey as a writer may not have ever started. Shoutout to the whole Sinangan-ta Youth Poetry mentor and leadership team. Without them, I don’t think I would have ever understood the difference between a scene and a community or what it meant to uplift and energize the people you love most. Also shoutout to all the homies from NCS and Machanao. I learned to fight because of them boys. I use that same spirit now to fight for the things I believe in, for justice, for better education systems, for love. At the end of the day, if I never took my licks in the ville, I don’t think I would have skin thick enough to take all the obstacles that’s been thrown my way throughout my journey.
Photo Courtesy: -Michelle Franquez -GAX