Name: Patty Dukes
Hometown: Rio Piedras, San Juan, Puerto Rico
Where do you live? New York City
What does it mean to have a voice?
It means having a way to express yourself and believing you have something to say.
How did you find your voice?
I really started expressing myself when I would sing along to hip-hop songs.
What event or series of events led to you finding your voice?
I was born in Rio Piedras, San Juan, Puerto Rico. My family moved to the South Bronx when I was 5 years old. I had to quickly learn English and adapt to all the changes that city life brings. I grew up in the hood, with little access to good food, education, programs, etc. I grew up during some harsh times and the arts gave me hope. I took classes in music, dance, writing, theater, etc. I would go downtown on the weekends to explore the city. I knew I was different and found other kids that were different too. I joined an ensemble youth company. Hip-hop has also had a big impact on me. The music, the clothes, the culture. I am a NYC hip-hop kid and will always be.
Tell me about when you finally found your voice.
I really started expressing myself when I would sing along to hip-hop songs. I would listen to songs by Nas. I felt like I was agreeing with him, with how he saw the world and understood what he meant when he spoke on how the world saw him. Growing up poor, Puerto Rican and Dominican in the South Bronx in the 90’s was challenging. The freedom to express myself and speak up came natural, It felt like something was instilled in me. I grew up around tough people. Music gave me the power to become resilient. Hip-hop gave me courage. I started writing my own rhymes for fun. I enjoy making music with my partner Reph. It’s been an amazing journey to see how far we have come just by expressing ourselves and believing that we have something to say. We all have something to say. It’s just some voices are heard louder than others but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. I have stories to tell and I want to hear other people’s stories as well.
My father passed away when I was 19 and I’ve been on my own ever since. However, my story is still being written. I am still on the journey to discover and share my voice with the world. I plan to share my story either through a book, tv, or film because it’s just that good and it’s worth sharing. The most powerful lesson from my childhood is to keep trying and not give up. Look past the people that will tell you to stop and keep going. Don’t get bitter, get better.
How valuable is walking in other people’s shoes, or empathy?
It allows me to be a creative musician, storyteller, and writer. I am able to feel and empathize with people in a sincere way. I know what hardship and struggle look like. Listening and making space for other people to share their stories is important. We need to care more for each other. I model that in everything I do and I hope that others are paying attention and will do the same when I’m gone. To share, give and show love to everyone. The values that drive my purpose is nothing but Love and Loyalty for my people – my community, my friends, my family and myself – always.
My music group Circa’95 has songs in English and Spanish. I think it’s important for us to have language being used in a way to bring people together, not as a way to separate or divide. We don’t have to leave behind our culture, language, or traditions to become a part of something new. All those elements can be celebrated. Everything I do comes from a place of me being Afro-Latina and Hip-Hop.
How has your voice influenced others?
I’m a leader in my community and I don’t take that lightly. I care for people a lot and they know that I have their best interest at heart. It matters to me and I know it matters for them to be included and to be seen. I’m the girl that sees you in the corner hiding and will invite you to the table. I don’t ever want anyone to feel alone, forgotten, or abandoned. Life is way more important and sometimes I feel like it’s up to me to remind people of the bigger picture. If we are friends, then we are family.
As a teaching artist I’ve worked with many students and empowered them to create their own songs, poems, videos, stories, etc. It’s amazing for me to watch how they have transformed and matured into their own artistry.
Where will your voice lead next?
More sharing my music, more traveling, and running. I want to finish running the 6 world major marathons. I’ve run NYC, Chicago and Boston, I will be running Berlin in the fall and I just need Tokyo, London after that. More screenwriting, it’s time for more Afro-Latino and Hip-Hop stories to be shared. I’m working on a few scripts and I’m excited about the future on those projects. I want to laugh, smile, and eat more good food. Spend more time with creative and thoughtful people. I want more fashion and fun. I want more flowers and love. Expect to hear more from me artistically. Expect to hear and see some cool content. I love making new friends so reach out to me and say hello!
Patty Dukes is a Hip-Hop Artist, Actor, Screenwriter and Runner based in NYC. Founding member of Hip-Hop group Circa’95, a hip-hop group that makes music seamlessly in English and Spanish. Former Artist in Residence at Carnegie Hall. Brooklyn Academy of Music Artist in Residence for 2020. Artist Advisory Board member of The Bronx Music Hall. Patty is a member of WRU CREW, a running collective based in Washington Heights. She graduated from the Hunter College’s Creative Writing program and is currently pursuing an MFA in screenwriting at The Feirstein Graduate School of Cinema and was awarded the Made in NY Scholarship for the 2020-2021 academic year.