I wanna take a moment to give the East Bay some love. Because, too often, talk about the Bay Area's lively literary scene fails to reach beyond the limits of San Francisco. Because some of the liveliest, realest, most engaging literary artists I know hail from across the bridge. And because some of those artists have put together a really exciting night, the first of its kind in Oakland. Tomorrow night, July 7th, is the first annual Beast Crawl (get it? "East Bay" is "Beast" in Pig Latin). Beast Crawl
is Uptown Oakland’s first literary “pub” crawl, a free
festival featuring more than 125 poets, writers and performance artists in a single night, spread out over three hours and 25 local galleries, bars, restaurants, cafés, and storefronts.
One glance at the schedule
and you'll see that Beast Crawl is full of fabulous events. Leg 1 begins at 5 pm, and your choices include Cave Canem fellows at Lyrics & Dirges
, jamming with the Three Times Bad Band
in the Giant Burger parking lot, and more
. Leg 2 is at 6:30, with chances to witness the cultural exchange and inter-generational dialogue of Generations Literary Journal
, a special collaboration between Saturday Night Special and Grinder
, and more
. And the final readings of the night will start at 8 pm for Leg 3
. I'll be reading at Leg 3's Hella Soulful
, which is shaping up to be a dynamic, spirited, provocative event. I just can't wait. And the night still won't be over - the finale will be the after-party at Paradiso
, kicking off at 9 pm.
Visit the Beast Crawl website
for more information, including venue map, full event schedule, and author bios.
I already know Hella Soulful
's gonna be a great event, because I've done events with two of the other readers before. Safiya Martinez is co-host of one of my favorite local readings, the Living Room Reading Series, where I read last year
. Around the same time last year, I was a feature
at Saturday Night Special. My co-feature was Nathan Jones
, another Hella Soulful reader, and trust me, you don't want to miss a chance to hear him read. The rest of the Soulful line-up includes poet Jessica Dailey, artist Mica Valdez, and musician i.Ameni, with host Roger Porter.
Check out this video of a soul-shaking performance by i.Ameni for just a taste of what the night will bring.
If you've been reading this blog recently, you already know what's up - it's Wellness Wednesday at CUAV, and this week I'll be helping facilitate as LGBTQ survivors of violence gather for food, games, and art. Visit www.cuav.org for more info. Wellness Wednesdays are new to CUAV this fall, and so far, one of the best things about them is that they're so much fun. You might say that we have so much fun playing games, sharing food and creating art that we forget it's all for the sake of healing. But it's not so hard for me to believe. One big lesson I've learned from working with everyone from the community movers of POWER (People Organized to Win Employment Rights) to the young folks of The Beat Within is that creating social change can, indeed, be a whole lot of fun.
At CUAV, we're building community power and helping each other heal, all with smiles on our faces. It's a beautiful thing.
I love knowing that you can change the world and have fun doing it.
Having fun reading at
The Living Room Reading Series
Laughter is a big part of my life these days, and I wouldn't have it any other way.
I've been feeling free to write with more humor, and that work has been showing up at readings such as Saturday Night Special and the Living Room Reading Series. In fact, I think doing readings is part of what's been pushing me toward humor. It's great to feel the audience respond, and if that response comes after the reading in the form of applause or compliments, that's great. But it's even better in the moment to feel the room on a journey through the work, and hearing laughter is one of my favorite ways to feel that. And I've been engaging more directly with humor through the Hermana Sisters, the comedy duo I've created with my good friend Elaine Gavin.
While preparing for our debut performance at That's What She Said!, Elaine and I tackled some hard questions - How can we challenge what's offensive through humor without being offensive ourselves? Where do we draw the line between censorship and awareness? And what's more funny - Viagra or laxatives?We ended up taking on some of the subjects most important to us, all while laughing, and without crossing those lines we believe shouldn't be crossed. The most important thing, we reminded ourselves nervously as our debut drew closer, was that we were having fun. Still, there was a sense of something larger than that, an awareness that we would be both laughing with our audience and sharing perspective. Our tentative version of what the show's feature, Morgan, delivered in this hilarious, poignant stand up set from her point of view. See how we did as the Hermana Sisters here
. It's easy to think that doing hard, heart-breaking work, like trying to help improve the lives of the world's most vulnerable people
, would be a downer most of the time. Sometimes it is pretty sad. But the thing about creating change is that we're creating positivity, spreading the good news of better days just like we spread our smiles. Looking forward with laughter.More fun this week - Tomorrow, November 17, I'll be attending InsideStoryTime Twists and Turns, featuring an amazing lineup of Ishmael Reed, Frances Lefkowitz, Sona Avakian, Kenton K. Yee and Matthew James DeCoster. And on Sunday, November 20, I'll be celebrating my birthday with an afternoon reading at The Clattering Loom!
I owe this blog a recap! I've been keeping busy with a variety of events
, including some exciting new projects, so here's a quick recap of all that's been going on. Deeper reflections to follow.
Regie Cabico reads at
Lit Crawl for Matrices
- Matrices Press. Matrices Press debuted during Lit Crawl 2011, the final night of the literary festival Litquake, with a reading by the writers of Matrices: Origins. Writers included myself, Regie Cabico, Laura Wolfe, Willy Lizárraga, Antonio G. Fernandez, and the anthology's editor, Rajshree Chauhan. I mentioned that I needed to have fun that night, and it was indeed a fantastically fun evening. And even more than that, it was an event that made waves.
As co-host and collaborator of the next Matrices anthology, I felt unbelievably honored to be there as the event unfolded. The other readers' work was just breath-taking, and the sense of how vital this work is resonated throughout the audience. And the waves are continuing to flow. So far, we've received submissions
from Canada, France, Africa, and throughout the United States for inclusion in our next anthology. It's going to be amazing. Catch some video from the event here
, and visit the Matrices website at www.matricespress.net
to learn more about the project and how you can submit!
The cast of That's What She Said,
hosted by Wonder Dave
and Caitlin Gill
- The Hermana Sisters. The Hermana Sisters also made their debut in October, at the all-female variety show That's What She Said! Actress Elaine Gavin and I joined forces to take on cultural appropriation, women's roles in the art industry and more, all with a sense of humor.
The entire show was just magnificent, and it was so much fun to be a part of it. You can watch all of the second night performances here
. Folks have asked if the Hermana Sisters will perform more in the future, and the answer is yes! Check back soon for more information.
Wellness Wednesday participants helped
create this altar for a
Dia de los Muertos event with PODER
- Wellness Wednesdays. I've been part of the circle of CUAV members putting together Fall Wellness Wednesdays at the offices of CUAV (Community United Against Violence). And it's been absolutely wonderful to see what grows each week as LGBTQ survivors of violence come together for community fun, healing and food. Learn more about Wellness Wednesdays at CUAV's website.
I dressed as Gwendolyn Brooks
for Saturday Night Special
- Growing as a reader. I've been having so much fun at readings. At Hollie Hardy and Tomas Moniz's Saturday Night Special, I featured with the incredible Nathan A. Jones and readers in costume brought their best to the open mic. And at the Living Room Reading Series, I read among such great writers as Dan Langton. It was an unforgettable experience.
I feel that I've been growing in general in my writing, but especially in the realm of being able to read my work. It's a really good feeling, to be able to use such tools as humor, honesty and imagination to create work that can both draw a response from a room and feel true to my voice. I'm really looking forward to my next reading, at the Clattering Loom on November 20th. Find the details on my events page.
Anhvu Buchanan and Safiya Martinez
welcome poet Arisa White to
the Living Room Reading Series
Today I get the chance to read at one of my favorite literary events, the Living Room Reading Series
. Around this time last year, I blogged about why I love it so much (“Creating Welcoming Spaces”
), and I’m really honored to know that this time around, my words will be a part of making the Living Room Reading Series what it is. Find event details here
I’ve been reading at a variety of events during the past month, and it’s a good feeling, knowing that someone’s hearing my words, especially in those poems I’ve written with social change in mind.
I have to admit, with all of the action
that’s been going on lately at the Occupy protests, I’ve had to take a step back and examine my own feelings about how to go about creating social change. Like many others, I had my doubts
when Occupy began, wondering what, exactly, the protesters were setting out to accomplish, and whether or not this was the right way to go about getting it. Still, there’s something about knowing that people are out there making a direct call for change, risking their own safety to stand face to face with the system I find so flawed, that makes me wonder if I’m the one with the wrong idea about how to make change. Sure, I believe in the power of words, but am I really doing all that I can to make a difference?
If nothing else, these protests are creating some very important conversations. Even those who wonder skeptically about what this is all about are forced to take a moment to try to figure that out, which requires listening to others and probably hearing from some kind of perspective they’d never considered before. I feel that I’ve been learning a lot about social change recently. Here are some of my insights: Change is a direction, not a destination.
I heard, at one point, a simple explanation as to why Occupy’s goals may seem a little unclear – “This is a movement, not a campaign.” It makes sense that there is no end point at which all demands will be met, because the Occupy movement isn’t calling for a specific law to pass or leader to be elected, but for an entire shift in our priorities, from profits to people, as we realize just how many folks are suffering under our system the way it is today. The protesters are accomplishing something every day, as they create conversations and prompt everyone to consider, if even just for a second, what the world would be like as they envision it. Whispers of revolution
show that yes, the change they aim for is huge, not just for our current climate but for many days after today. Anyone can create this kind of change.
Okay, so maybe this isn’t just a recent insight, as I’ve been blogging about it for over a year. But it’s become so much clearer to me lately. If all of us are part of the system that needs to change, that means that each of us can make simple changes in our own lives to make a difference. Check out this list, for example, of 11 Things You Can Do
to contribute. And, of course, my view is that we all have power within our own bodies – we can write, dance, or create other forms of art to add strength to the movement. Of course I’m not the only one who knows this – read Michele Elam’s “How art propels Occupy Wall Street.” We can’t have thoughts of change without thinking critically.
Again, not an entirely new insight, but one that’s been particularly relevant. Between the slant of the media and the influence of police, it can be hard for those who aren’t on the front lines to get a clear picture of what’s really going on. So let’s remember to think critically, to get our news from the people and not the pundits, and to resist blindly swallowing anything we hear from any side of the situation. Remember that this movement is still learning about its body as it moves along, so yes, mistakes will be made, adjustments will be necessary. Let’s stay open to conversation and remember that we don’t all speak with one voice. It’s essential to recognize, as Rinku Sen does in this essay
, that this movement isn’t the same for everyone, so listening to folks from all walks of life is necessary to create a positive change for all of us.
So with these insights in mind, it’s time to reflect on my place in this movement. What can I do to move in the direction of change? What can you do?
Today I'm feeling antsy, because tomorrow I'll be reading, and writing. That, of course, doesn't sound any different from any ordinary day, so I should specify that I'll be doing it in front of a live audience. Scandalous, I know.Each month, the Portuguese Artists Colony
hosts a reading featuring live music, local writers, and the part that's fun for you as an audience member, and terrifying for me as a participant -- live writing. That's right, that means I'll be writing on a topic I don't yet know, to then read in competition with my fellow writers as the audience determines a winner. Fun, yes? Terrifying? ...Yes. But mostly, I'm really excited, because I know it'll be a good time. My competition will be fierce -- Jesus Angel Garcia, David Corbett and Evelyn Pine.
I'm calling myself the underdog, because while they can say "refer to my book(s) and multiple awards for proof of my writing skills," I'll be using the line "refer to my blog, where I regularly demonstrate my live writing skills by posting the first words
that pour out of my head in the morning." There will also be featured readings from writers who are not to be missed, including Shideh Etaat
and Matthew Siegel
. Plus, music by Erma Kyriakos
. It will be quite a night! At least if I'm terrified for part of the evening, I'll be entertained for the rest. And I'd love your support, if you're around the Bay Area and can make it out to the reading.
Here are the details
Sunday, April 24
Doors open at 4:30 pm
Show at 5:00 pm
As for tonight, I'll be getting cozy with some creative inspiration at one of my favorite reading series, the Living Room Reading Series
. Read this post
to learn why I love it so much, and if you're interested in attending check out the details on Facebook
. I hope to see you at some point during this lively weekend of literary life!
Today is National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. With the disproportionate rates
at which black communities are affected by HIV and AIDS, I'm thankful that we have a day designated to pay attention to a health issue we should keep in mind all year long. Here are some ways you can recognize National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, whether you're a part of the black community or not:
- Get tested. The simplest, most effective way to fight the spread of HIV is to know your own status. If each of us knows our own status, we can reduce the rising cases of those who spread the virus without even knowing they have it. Find a testing site here.
- Attend an event. There are events happening throughout the country to honor Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, to support those who are living with HIV or AIDS and to hear from community leaders who are making a difference in the fight against AIDS. San Francisco is having a march and a candlelight vigil. Visit the NBHAAD website to find out about events in your area.
- Create or appreciate some art related to the cause. You know I'm all about how we can get art or poetry involved. Here are some options. Check out Visual AIDS: A Gallery of Art by HIV-positive African-Americans. As far as film goes, you can watch this trailer for "All of Us," a documentary on HIV and AIDS among black women. And for literature, read Fingernails Across the Chalkboard: Poetry and Prose on HIV/AIDS from the Black Diaspora (my favorite note: it includes the work of local Living Room Reading Series veteran Arisa White!). Or create your own art. Take a few moments to consider the role HIV and AIDS play in your world. What can you create to fight back? This work can be just for you, but remember the impact it can have when others see it. Let's begin discussions, build momentum, and never lose another life to lack of awareness.
I really can’t believe 2011 has arrived already. But I guess I should get used to it. So, like everyone else I’m spending my day reflecting on the past year, thinking about the next one. For me, 2010 was full of highlights, and I hate to reduce it to a silly top-ten list, but if I didn’t I might ramble on forever about my year. So here they are, my Top 10 Highlights of 2010:
CUAV’S 2010 Safetyfest
was a spectacular highlight of the year. It was great to be a part of the planning process as a member of CUAV (Community United Against Violence
), to help launch, in April, a festival of events designed to build safety in queer and trans communities. Events included everything from self-defense workshops to opening and closing celebration parties, and it was all thanks to the combined energies of community members giving time and money and resources to help empower each other. I was so thankful for the chance to lead a writing workshop and an open mic, where folks astounded me with their presence and words. Planning for Safetyfest 2011 is now underway, which is very exciting. Watch this look back at Safetyfest 2010 here
Continuing my membership at CUAV has been a highlight of 2010 in general. Opportunities have ranged from being a part of transformative Safety Labs
to reading poetry at rallies
in support of social justice. Not to mention building community, and growing as a person in all that I’ve learned along the way.
Another great part of 2010 was volunteering with the inspirational people of POWER
(People Organized to Win Employment Rights) in various capacities. They do really great work
that helps a lot of folks, and empowers folks with the tools to help themselves, and the time I’ve spent with them has taught me a great deal about organizing in ways that can really enact change
· U.S. Social Forum
This was one of the great opportunities that came with being an active member of CUAV – the staff invited me to be a part of the delegation that attended the U.S. Social Forum
in Detroit. The USSF was a conference of activists and organizers who brought knowledge and open minds to share with each other tools for making change. For example, a workshop with the Black Alliance for Just Immigration
(BAJI) featured a panel of folks speaking on immigration and shared BAJI’s findings
on black communities’ involvement in immigration rights movements. There were so many workshops at the USSF that it was hard to choose which to attend, but being me, I tried to pop into as many of the arts-related workshops as possible. Workshops like “Art is Change”
with Anasa Troutman were enlightening, and I was inspired not only in my own writing
, but also by the power of words
to move others, as I saw people like Anasa making a difference in folks who would carry her words across the country and to the rest of the world. I’m grateful still for that time spent in Detroit, especially because now we continue to share what we learned and what we shared with others while we were there.
In an exciting milestone for my writing, in 2010 I got a short story published for the first time. Transfer Magazine
published my short story “The Single Woman’s Guide to Surviving a Miscarriage” in Transfer 99, and gave it the Leo Litwak Award for Fiction. Whoo!
· Quiet Lightning/sPARKLE & bLINK
Some of my most thrilling moments this year were all thanks to Quiet Lightning
, a local reading series that’s given a great range of writers a place for their words. They gave me a place during Litquake
in October, and again in November
, and I’m so thankful for those unforgettable experiences. Hell, I’m thankful just for Quiet Lightning, whether it includes me or not, because Rajshree Chauhan
and Evan Karp
are doing something wonderful for the San Francisco literary community
. And with Quiet Lightning, of course, I’m also grateful for sPARKLE & bLINK
, the publication featuring each month’s readers (which they also generously offer for free on Scribd
· San Francisco Lit Community
I’m thankful that this year has introduced me to the thriving literary community
that’s such a lively part
of the Bay Area right now
. I’ve had such a great time at events like Quiet Lightning, Literary Death Match
, the Living Room Reading Series
, 14 Hills
events… I could go on, and there are plenty more I’ve yet to see as well. To say that it’s exciting to witness and participate in such a vibrant scene
hardly captures how thrilling it all is, and I can only hope for what the next year will bring as we walk through the doors that are opening for writers in and around San Francisco.
· HIV prevention
I feel like I can’t not mention my so-called “day job.” If my writing is the side of me that is the wild, unstable artist, then I guess my stable side is what has me walking the streets of the city at odd times of the night in an effort to prevent HIV. Working as a study recruiter for the AIDS Office
of the San Francisco Department of Public Health has been challenging in some ways, but it’s been a highlight of 2010 in that I’ve been a part of an extensive effort to reduce HIV infections, and for some, substance abuse, and along the way I’ve had the chance to learn about other people by connecting directly with them.
· Writing Ourselves Whole
Another that can’t go unsaid – I’ve participated in several of the incredibly transformative workshops of Writing Ourselves Whole
, and recently I’ve had the pleasure of working with the workshops’ facilitator, Jen Cross, with some of the duties that help her efforts to reach others move forward. This is another of 2010’s gifts for which I’m immensely thankful, and I look forward to connecting more with Writing Ourselves Whole in 2011.
· Graduation / Grad school
And I can’t leave out, of course, my graduation in May from the Creative Writing department of San Francisco State University
. I feel like I’ve taken a long journey
through school, so I had a whole lot to be thankful for upon reaching graduation. And now I’m looking forward to the next step, as I apply to MFA programs. Maybe I shouldn’t count this as a highlight until I actually get into grad school, but deciding to move forward with the process has been a highlight of the year for me.
Okay, so if you’re counting you’ll know that this is actually highlight #11. But I couldn’t resist adding it, because I wouldn’t have the platform to go on this rant of reflection and gratitude without this blog. I would definitely call Inkblot a highlight of 2010 because it’s been a part of my growth as a writer, it’s helped me connect with people I admire
, and it’s been one way I can share all that I’ve learned from the thrilling and critical moments of the year.
Thanks for being a part of it all with me. Have a safe night. Happy New Year!
Living Room host Safiya Martinez
and poet Hollie Hardy
It’s not easy to face the daunting task of taking on, say, the mainstream publishing industry
to fight for inclusion of new voices. So maybe we can start on a smaller scale. Because when we connect with one another on a more personal, local level, it’s easier to keep in mind that in the real world, there are multiple perspectives to hear and appreciate.
I’m talking as personal as gathering in somebody’s living room to hear the work of artists ranging from musician Ed Ntiri
to playwright Nick Pappas. Friday night’s Living Room Reading Series
was warm and inspirational, with a lineup rounded out by the incredible Cave Canem fellow Arisa White
and Don Menn, writer and professor at my alma mater, San Francisco State University. The talent was awe-inspiring, reminding me that this is one of my favorite reading series. It takes place in the home of poet/artist Truong Tran
, who, along with hosts Safiya Martinez
and Anhvu Buchanan
, warmly greets everyone who attends. They feature seasoned performers as well as fresh voices, and there’s nothing like settling in to listen to the readers while the new friend who just poured your wine squeezes in on the carpet beside you. On Friday night we heard queer words, words from people of color, from characters who are overweight, and more. You can’t find this everywhere you go – a welcoming space where all can come as they are, and expect to be appreciated. It’s really a treasure.
And there was more bounty to be found in the city last night. My friend and much admired poet Hollie Hardy
was featured at Brainwash Café
’s weekly Ink Reviewed open mic. The friendly hosts
encourage anyone who wants to sign up and take to the mic with poetry, comedy, music or whatever else they’d like to fit into the time slot. Hollie’s words created a night of their own, and adding to them were performers including Literary Death Match
host M.G. Martin
, Oakland poet Mocha, who brought words from the East Bay with her poetry on her experiences as a young black legally blind woman, and yours truly.
I get really nervous any time I’m set to read in public, but at Brainwash I felt remarkably comfortable. Beyond having folks in the audience I knew and loved, I’m trying to figure out what made it feel so welcoming. I think it’s important to know – what makes events like the Living Room Reading Series and Brainwash’s open mic so welcoming that they successfully push past tokenism to create a space that embraces true diversity? Here are a few of the things I’ve noticed so far:
- Alcohol – So it’s not a requirement, and you can certainly have a welcoming space that’s sober, but one way to welcome people is to put the scent of wine in the air and watch the poets come. If nobody comes, add more wine. And maybe some beer. Then trust me. The poets will come.
- Food – Even if it’s as limited as a little bread to help soak up the alcohol, providing something to munch on adds to comfort and conversation.
- Smiles – No, really. This point relates to having warm hosts and an open audience. A new poet venturing to read may have trouble finding faces that look like hers, but if she finds smiling faces, she’s one step closer to feeling comfortable.
This, obviously, is just a start. What can I add? Anyone out there who’s been lurking about reading events, afraid to participate? What would help you feel comfortable enough to read?