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

    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 hundreds of on-line followers, died late final month at 31.

    Her shut buddies and neighbors, Matthew “Cuban” Hernandez and Alyesha Clever, informed The Instances they’d discovered Ingram unresponsive throughout a wellness test at her condo round midday on Dec. 30 after not listening to from her for a number of days. The poets introduced her loss of life in an Instagram publish on New 12 months’s Day. “There aren’t many people like Tonya, with a coronary heart and vitality like hers. And we’ll love our little sister perpetually,” learn Hernandez’s publish.

    Ingram printed three books of poetry, together with “Growl and Snare” (2013), “One other Black Lady Miracle” (2017) and “The best way to Survive Immediately” (2019). A lot of her writing, printed in shops starting from Vice to BuzzFeed to the New York Instances, circled themes of power sickness, Black girlhood, love and psychological well being consciousness.

    Since her loss of life, shut buddies and supporters have flocked to Instagram, sharing posts concerning the affect of her friendship and her poetry on their lives. With greater than 20,000 followers, Ingram had shared her journey by means of sickness alongside her poetry.

    Born in Cincinnati and raised within the Bronx, Ingram had her begin as a youth poet in New York Metropolis, the place she was additionally a founding member of SLAM! at New York College 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 a whole bunch of hundreds of viewers.

    But it surely was in L.A. that Ingram discovered her tribe, after shifting West to earn a grasp of positive arts at Otis School of Artwork and Design. She turned an everyday attendee at Da Poetry Lounge in West Hollywood, the place Clever and Hernandez assist co-host one of many nation’s largest weekly open mics. She toured with DPL’s nationwide slam staff (fellow alums embrace Yesika Salgado) and rapidly established herself as a number one voice in L.A.’s efficiency group.

    Six young adults smiling outside a building covered with graffiti.

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

    (Jireh Deng)

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

    Her loss of life additionally shook a following that had gathered round her incapacity and psychological well being advocacy. She didn’t draw back from voicing her opinions on the failings of an American medical system that left her and hundreds of different transplant hopefuls ready for organ donors. In 2020, Ingram went dwell 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 listing for 3 years. In an interview, Hernandez mentioned he believed her loss of life was preventable. Ingram’s final Instagram publish shared together with her followers that she had been having bother respiration. Within the months main as much as her loss of life, her hospital visits had turn out to be extra frequent and pressing. Hernandez and Clever mentioned that at occasions she was despatched house earlier than she was totally recovered.

    Hernandez mentioned the medical business had been “nothing wanting derelict of responsibility” whilst Ingram’s issues mounted. “She was drained.”

    Ingram had been prioritizing relaxation and quiet in recent times, in accordance with Clever. “We each have been all the time on the prepare, hustling and bustling and always shifting [in our youth], so our snail life was effectively deserved,” Clever mentioned in an interview. “We talked about [how], as Black girls on this world on this time, we should have that.”

    For a self-described introvert with a debilitating sickness, Ingram was a persistent and vibrant presence throughout the 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 recent times she was studying to surf, and he or she was an energetic participant in out of doors collectives for individuals of coloration, resembling Colour 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 many accolades listed in her bio, Ingram famous that she was a winner on “The Value Is Proper.”

    Hernandez and Clever, 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 Clever about eager to fall in love deeply, develop a household. Dream tasks included a motion to carry poetry and artwork to very in poor health hospital sufferers and different, even loftier aspirations.

    “She needed to get kidnapped by aliens,” Clever remembered. “She additionally mentioned as quickly as she will get her kidney, she needed to depart the nation. She needed to go to Europe.”

    Hernandez and Clever are dealing with funeral preparations for Ingram, who had shared with them her want to have a inexperienced burial beneath a tree. Household and buddies are elevating funds to have her buried on the grounds of Hollywood Without end Cemetery below a California Oak. With these funds, Hernandez and Clever plan to fly out Ingram’s household from Cincinnati and Brooklyn, N.Y., for the ceremony scheduled for Jan. 27.

    To this point 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 current episode of the podcast “So Life Desires You Lifeless,” recorded in July 2022, Ingram spoke candidly with host Nora Logan concerning the medical discrimination she confronted as a dark-skinned Black girl — and in addition about studying to simply accept the potential of her personal loss of life.

    “I don’t invite loss of life, however I’m not afraid of it. That means when it’s time, I’m at peace with it,” Tonya mentioned. “I don’t concern it… I simply have such a deep peace figuring out that this physique will relaxation.”