The Longest Mile - Tassiana Willis

Tassiana Willis, 24, is a poet, singer, and actor from San Francisco. Tassiana has been writing and performing since they can remember and performed at their first Youth Speaks open mic at age 12. Since then Tassiana has performed at venues ranging from the Herbst Theater to the Warriors halftime show at Oakland Coliseum. Their work with The Bigger Picture has led them to write for other health campaigns, such as editing health systems scenarios for the Reos Partners Health Equity Lab in Canada. “The Longest Mile,” is bookended with an anecdote about running the mile in school, but what Tassiana really wants you to take away from the piece is reflecting on the “tragic traditions” low income families are often forced to practice when some of the most marketed and accessible sources of joy are unhealthy foods.

I wish my emotions wasn’t so invested
so I could write the most eloquent poem about type 2
tell you all its facts
hit you in the gut with reality

but the stats don’t tell my story

How I could feel the sun kissing my face
hear my grandpa trod up the creaky steps
the smell of oil
and dough
and joy
my breakfast everyday before school
was a dozen donut holes

my grandfather
created a tragic tradition
rarely said I love you
but made a sanctuary out of saturdays for us
took the long way to mcdonalds so we could giggle
and gather up our hunger
learned to find i love you in white paper bags
instead of his lips
see, I loved food out of ritual

This about how I starve myself before blood work
Praying it doesn’t pick up the candy from my last time of the month
This is me praying I don’t forget diabetes knocked
2 uncles off their feet
And one is barely standing
This is my battle between diet and dialysis
About being stuck between two burger kings
And never having it your way….

When reflecting on their inspiration, Tassiana says “For me, writing this piece came from looking at my relationships to food and how that was related to my relationships to my family. So much of our habits around eating are built from family culture which is influenced by what’s available.”