Home Featured Behind TEDxUCSB: Faith Talamantez On the Negative Connotations of “Ghetto”

Behind TEDxUCSB: Faith Talamantez On the Negative Connotations of “Ghetto”

Behind TEDxUCSB: Faith Talamantez On the Negative Connotations of “Ghetto”
Illustration by Diane Kim

Tia Trinh

Arts & Entertainment Co-Editor

A stand-up comedian, poet, and activist, are just some of the things that Faith Talamantez claims title to. But now, she can add “TEDx Talk speaker” to that list. A second-year undergraduate writing & literature major at UC Santa Barbara’s (UCSB) College of Creative Studies (CCS), Talamantez was one of the student speakers featured in this year’s TEDxUCSB event. Her talk focused on the modern appropriation of the word “ghetto,” and how such use impacts its students.

The Bottom Line (TBL) sat down with Talamantez to learn more about her experience with this topic, and how she continues to make an impact whether through comedy or writing.

Illustration by Diane Kim

For Talamantez, going to high school was simply that: going to high school. She had a high GPA, took International Baccalaureate program classes, and ate lunch with her teachers. 

“I went to Bonita Vista High School,” Talamantez said on stage. “Bonita Vista translates to ‘beautiful view,’ which is ironic because Bonita has an absolutely hideous campus.” 

Despite its appearance, she notes her soft spot for the friends she met and the opportunities made available to them. But to other nicer and richer schools, there was only one thing that mattered: Bonita Vista was 15 minutes away from the United States-Mexico border. The school was “ghetto.”

Talamantez told TBL that her talk was “largely based on me and my sister’ experience going to high school — we both attended a school that was labeled as ‘ghetto’ by kids from other schools, and it played a role in shaping the vibe of the school.” 

Her TEDx Talk explained the word’s historical context and evolution. The experience that she, and so many other students at Bonita Vista High School, had is echoed across the country, and it has quickly become a topic of personal interest for her to write about and conduct research on. 

According to Talamantez, when attached to the description of a school, the word “ghetto” becomes associated with “failure.” It invokes harmful stereotypes that go on to negatively affect the students in these schools. She discussed how students are then associated with this word, which can impact their views of success for their future. Drawing from her own experiences and the research conducted for this speech, her exploration of this topic allowed her to dive deeper into her own identity as a student and a writer. 

In reminiscing about her TEDx Talk, Talamantez admitted that she was nervous throughout the week leading up to it, but was ultimately well prepared thanks to her TEDxUCSB speech coach.

Funnily enough, public speaking is nothing new to her. In high school, she actively participated in her high school’s speech and debate team, even going on to place at the Speech and Debate National Tournament. Though she joked about her experience on the team, she acknowledged that it has gone on to help her public speaking and writing skills.

As a writer, these issues and conversations have already begun to find their way into her works. “Being a writer has taught me more about the importance of words and how language is such an impactful way to communicate with people,” Talamantez explained. 

She discussed her time in CCS and the close-knit environment the program has offered. Working with peers and faculty alike on her creative works has allowed her to explore her own heritage and identity as a college student. 

She continues on to note, “Words, especially ones that have a negative connotation, can be especially damaging and a lot of people aren’t really aware of it when they are talking. Writing forces you to be aware of language and the weight it can hold.” 

Today, she’s not afraid to make up jokes about how she had to fight through drug cartels to get to class, earning rounds of laughter from the audience. Through this mix of comedy and writing, Talamantez continues to explore and educate others about the importance of language. 

Whether she’s in front of you for an interview or on the stage of Campbell Hall, it’s clear that Talamantez is prepared for any challenge that comes her way. The speech went smoothly thanks to ardent preparation and plenty of support from friends and family.

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