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Tonya Ingram, L.A. poet and ‘lupus warrior,’ dies at 31


Tonya Ingram, a beloved poet, psychological well being advocate, mainstay of Los Angeles’ close-knit efficiency poetry scene and self-described “lupus warrior,” who spoke candidly about her sickness to 1000’s of on-line followers, died late final month at 31.

Her shut associates and neighbors, Matthew “Cuban” Hernandez and Alyesha Wise, instructed The Times that they had discovered Ingram unresponsive throughout a wellness verify at her condo round midday on Dec. 30 after not listening to from her for just a few days. The poets introduced her dying in an Instagram put up on New Year’s Day. “There aren’t many humans like Tonya, with a heart and energy like hers. And we’ll love our little sister forever,” learn Hernandez’s put up.

Ingram printed three books of poetry, together with “Growl and Snare” (2013), “Another Black Girl Miracle” (2017) and “How to Survive Today” (2019). Much of her writing, printed in retailers starting from Vice to BuzzFeed to the New York Times, circled themes of continual sickness, Black girlhood, love and psychological well being consciousness.

Since her dying, shut associates and supporters have flocked to Instagram, sharing posts in regards to the influence of her friendship and her poetry on their lives. With greater than 20,000 followers, Ingram had shared her journey via sickness alongside her poetry.

Born in Cincinnati and raised within the Bronx, Ingram had her begin as a youth poet in New York City, the place she was additionally a founding member of SLAM! at New York University alongside poet and classmate Safia Elhillo. She traveled and carried out broadly throughout her twenties, competing as a spoken phrase artist in school slams; a number of of her recorded performances reached tons of of 1000’s of viewers.

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But it was in L.A. that Ingram discovered her tribe, after shifting West to earn a grasp of wonderful arts at Otis College of Art and Design. She grew to become an everyday attendee at Da Poetry Lounge in West Hollywood, the place Wise and Hernandez assist co-host one of many nation’s largest weekly open mics. She toured with DPL’s nationwide slam crew (fellow alums embody Yesika Salgado) and rapidly established herself as a number one voice in L.A.’s efficiency neighborhood.

From left: Alyesha Wise, Matthew ‘Cuban’ Hernandez, Tonya Ingram, Poetic Moment, Jasmine Williams and Kito Fortune.

(Jireh Deng)

Up till her dying, she was nonetheless organizing and planning public occasions, together with the “Poetry in Color” sequence in collaboration with the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Launched in 2020, “Poetry in Color” featured poets who wrote items impressed by public artwork at LACMA. Ingram’s objective was to make each poetry and artwork accessible to wider audiences.

Her dying additionally shook a following that had gathered round her incapacity and psychological well being advocacy. She didn’t shrink back from voicing her opinions on the issues of an American medical system that left her and 1000’s of different transplant hopefuls ready for organ donors. In 2020, Ingram went reside on Zoom with Rep. Katie Porter (D-Irvine) to debate flaws and mismanagement amongst organizations charged with procuring donated organs.

Ingram was on the kidney donor wait record for 3 years. In an interview, Hernandez stated he believed her dying was preventable. Ingram’s final Instagram put up shared together with her followers that she had been having hassle respiratory. In the months main as much as her dying, her hospital visits had develop into extra frequent and pressing. Hernandez and Wise stated that at occasions she was despatched house earlier than she was absolutely recovered.

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Hernandez stated the medical trade had been “nothing short of derelict of duty” whilst Ingram’s issues mounted. “She was tired.”

Ingram had been prioritizing relaxation and quiet in recent times, in line with Wise. “We both were always on the train, hustling and bustling and constantly moving [in our youth], so our snail life was well deserved,” Wise stated in an interview. “We talked about [how], as Black women in this world in this time, we deserve to have that.”

For a self-described introvert with a debilitating sickness, Ingram was a persistent and vibrant presence throughout town. She had a dinosaur costume to match her nickname, “Tonya-saurus Rex,” and a few of her social media posts featured her dancing in it round the lounge. In latest years she was studying to surf, and she or he was an lively participant in outside collectives for individuals of colour, equivalent to Color the Water and AdventureCrew, bringing visibility to Black and brown individuals having fun with nature and wildlife, together with in an advert marketing campaign for Nike. Among the accolades listed in her bio, Ingram famous that she was a winner on “The Price Is Right.”

Hernandez and Wise, who’re married, had Ingram as a roommate for 3 years and an across-the-street neighbor afterward. On their frequent walks in North Hollywood, Ingram spoke usually to Wise about desirous to fall in love deeply, develop a household. Dream tasks included a motion to carry poetry and artwork to very sick hospital sufferers and different, even loftier aspirations.

“She wanted to get abducted by aliens,” Wise remembered. “She also said as soon as she gets her kidney, she wanted to leave the country. She wanted to go to Europe.”

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Hernandez and Wise are dealing with funeral preparations for Ingram, who had shared with them her want to have a inexperienced burial beneath a tree. Family and associates are elevating funds to have her buried on the grounds of Hollywood Forever Cemetery below a California Oak. With these funds, Hernandez and Wise plan to fly out Ingram’s household from Cincinnati and Brooklyn, N.Y., for the ceremony scheduled for Jan. 27.

So far the pair have raised round $30,000, which covers the prices related together with her burial. They’re nonetheless taking donations, hoping to construct a belief to ship Ingram’s 15-year-old youthful sister to varsity, keep her printed and unpublished work and advocate for enhancements to organ donor packages.

In a latest episode of the podcast “So Life Wants You Dead,” recorded in July 2022, Ingram spoke candidly with host Nora Logan in regards to the medical discrimination she confronted as a dark-skinned Black girl — and likewise about studying to simply accept the potential for her personal dying.

“I do not invite death, but I am not afraid of it. Meaning when it is time, I am at peace with it,” Tonya stated. “I don’t fear it… I just have such a deep peace knowing that this body will rest.”


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