7.13.2017

Literary DJ

On June 17th, I was jazzed to be a small part of this reading. I'm jazzed about the new resurgence in my DJ life, in particular how I have become a sort of literary DJ.

On Sept. 29th, 2017, I will be DJing at the Philadelphia Museum of Art for their Word Up! evening event featuring Yolanda Wisher.


I wrote about politics and DJing for The Baffler


EARLY IN THE NIGHT, I made nervous jokes about not wanting to DJ a funeral. For one thing, I hadn’t really thought about the possibility of losing—at least not in terms of what it would sound like. Would I play break-up songs? “Shake It Off”? “We Belong Together”? “You Give Love a Bad Name”? Or would I just pack up my equipment and leave, reminded of why I generally stay away from electoral politics?
Thankfully, that’s not what happened. Not long after the polls closed, I found myself providing the score for some next-level remix of Rocky, co-starring the women, queers, and people of color who had coalesced around Philadelphia district attorney candidate Larry Krasner, a thirty-year-long ally who had always walked the walk and who unequivocally tied his campaign, with its slogan “Justice Makes Us Safer,” to local and national movements for social and economic justice.
It was so fucking beautiful. We wanted this. We needed this. I heard it in every cheer, saw it every face, and felt it in every hug. The race had been looking good, but even so, we surprised ourselves. Conventional wisdom said our candidate was unelectable, but here was proof that a politics of dignity for all can win—and win big. On May 16, Krasner garnered more votes than the second and third place finishers combined, and hundreds of people turned up for his election-night party. We packed into the courtyard and community room of the John C. Anderson Apartments, one of the first LGBTQI mixed-income housing projects in the country, to celebrate a historic primary victory that should now, in a city where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans seven to one, set the stage for general election success in November...

1.15.2017

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised by Gil Scott-Heron and remixed by me for #writersresistPHL

Originally, it was suggested that I read a selection from Whitman, but then I was told I was starting the readings off after a Bob Dylan song-- so I suggested that two white guys in a row probably wasn't the best foundation. The organizers of Writers Resist Philadelphia agreed, and after some back and forth they suggested that I read "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised" by Gil Scott-Heron. To me, someone who doesn't really have a TV, it seemed that the poem (which I did know prior) needed some updating to bring it to the present day. The following is what I came up with. I tried to stick to Gil Scott-Heron's original energy and not have the focus be "my" writing. Also-- because of time pressures I shortened it.


REMIX of The Revolution Will Not Be Televised


You will not be able to stay home, brother
You will not be able to plug in, turn on and drop out
You will not be able to lose yourself on skag and skip
out for a beer during commercials

Because the revolution will not be televised

The revolution will not be televised

The revolution will not be brought to you by facebook
In 4 posts of disinformation

The revolution will not be brought to you by twitter
140 characters starring Kanye West's confusion and an internet troll's delusions

The revolution will not be brought to you in cat antics or other cute memes and filters
on instagram or snapchat or tumblr or whatever
This is not a role-playing gmae you can turn off or re-set

The revolution will not be televised

The theme song will not be written by Springsteen, Jay-Z, Drake, Poo Bear or the ghost of Amy Winehouse, nor sung by Beyonce, Rihanna or JLo

The revolution will bot be right back after a message about a white tornado, white lightening or white people And it will not be colorblind And it will not be in black and white

You will not have to worry about a germ in your Bedroom, a tiger in your tank or the giant in your toliet bowl

The revolution will not go better with a Coke or a Starbucks fair-trade double espresso 

The revolution WILL put you in the driver's seat

The revolution will not be televised

Will not be televised

There will be no re-run brothers

The revolution will be live. 

1.09.2017

January 15th 2:30-5pm #WRITERSRESIST


Jan. 27th at Brandeis University panel on responding to mass incarceration in the U.S.

Ending Mass Incarceration: What is Being Done and What You Can Do
Friday, Jan. 27th, 12:00-1:30pm
Mandel Center for the Humanities Reading Room 303

We should all be ashamed of the state of incarceration in America, but since shame doesn't really help the millions of men, women and children impacted by this embarrassment, what does? Or what might? This discussion features educators, activists and artists who are trying to address the gross injustice of the so-called justice system that disproportionately incarcerates and monitors along class and racial lines and then is slow to "forgive" anyone with a criminal record. Panelists will explain how they got involved, then give advice for approaching this work and an overview of the range of work that needs to be done.

11.13.2016

Fall 2016 was productive

In addition to the ones I already posted about, the following were events that I was jazzed to be a part of in Fall 2016: 


  • On Friday, November 18th, I read with James Belflower, Matthew Klane and Elias Rodriques as part of the Charmed Instruments reading series. I really appreciate this space and series and was glad to share some new poems. More info here: Charmed Instruments
  • On Saturday, December 11th, I was honored to read with Sham E-Ali Nayeem, Seve Torres, Cindy Arrieu-King, Lillian Dunn, Margaret Waters, Kirwyn Sutherland, Patrick Rosal and Cynthia Dewi-Oka at the Village of Arts and Humanities as part of an event called "Who We Are, Who We Could Be" that asked: "In these challenging times, many of us are grappling with the question of who we are as a people, as many peoples. What is this we? Who can we be, co-habiting this movement and moving forward?





  • On September 26th, 2016, I was chosen by Billy Penn for a short list of "Who's Next: Arts" in Philadelphia. This project sponsored by the Knight Foundation. 
  • I spoke at Temple University on October 10th, 2016. I'm still amused that the only thing that was supposed to convince people to come to this talk was my head in clouds. Ha. It was a great visit. 



11/10 THOUSANDS PROTESTED IN PHILLY against sexism, racism and the worst of America in one bro






This is what Thread Makes Blanket is up to lately. Ha. I'm so proud to have shared the stage with a great friend, ally and TMB author: Cynthia Dewi Oka. 

Thousands came out to protest the election and the amplified assault on women's bodies it represents. 

By necessity because so many people turned out and many could not hear the speakers-- I turned the notes for my speech into a call and response. It was beautiful to hear so many people repeat my words as passionately as I said them. Still, I was shaking afterwards.
When I have a chance I will post those notes here. Here is one of the best things I managed to say:

We will pivot. 

Go in a new direction. 

We will not go backwards.


The top picture, by Linnette Kielinski, is a pretty great photo of Philly and the moon and the spirit of the evening-- but it convinced me this accidental (long story) blond hair had to go. Despite the fact that it is very Latina-- ha. I just dyed it back to something like its natural color. Promise: I've never wanted to pass. I am proud of my Mexican roots. And I commit to doing all I can to defend others. I've joined a call put out by New Sanctuary Movement here in Philadelphia for trained volunteers for their immigration raid defense network. And I will continue working on the many other projects that I am involved with that center people of color-- especially those who are most vulnerable--and ongoing struggles for human rights and dignity.

Artistic Responses to Black Lives Matter November 14th at Community College of Philadelphia




I am jazzed to have helped organize this discussion with some of my favorite colleagues: Debonair Oates-Primus, Lucia Gbaya-Kanga and Faye Allard.  

Monday, November 19th, 1:50-3:30, C2-28, 
building at 18th & Callowhill in Philadelphia

A panel discussion about the pressures, complications, and frustrations these four Black artists navigate AND about the successes they've managed. How does their work engage with the racism and injustice that the Black Lives Matter movement addresses? How do they feel about questions of audience? What changes do they want to see in art? What are their strategies for staying something like honest?

Featuring award-winning Philadelphia based artists Kara Springer (visual art), Lela Aisha Jones (dance), Kirwyn Sutherland (spoken word), and Rashid Zakat (film and photography). Moderated by Nehad Khader. 

Kara created the "white people. do something." piece above and two of Lela's performances are documented in the other photos. 

OYO and PHILALALIA closing events


On September 23rd, I was part of a panel about politics and poetry featuring Anthony Romero, Mariame Kaba, Mark Nowak and Sam Gould. This event, at the Slought Foundation, was also the book release event for the Organize Your Own catalog which I have two poems and an essay in. One of the poems is below. The book includes work from: Amber Art & Design, Rashayla Marie Brown, Emily Chow Bluck, Billy “Che” Brooks, Salem Collo-Julin, Irina Contreras, Brad Duncan, Bettina Escauriza, Eric J. Garcia, Maria Gaspar, Thomas Graves, Robby Herbst, Jen Hofer, Alethea Hyun-Jin Shin, Mike James, Marissa Johnson- Valenzuela, Jennifer Kidwell, Antonio Lopez, Nicole Marroquin, Fred Moten, Matt Neff, Mark Nowak, Edward Onaci, Dave Pabellon, Mary Patten, Rasheedah Phillips, Anthony Romero, Frank Sherlock, Amy Sonnie, Hy Thurman, Thread Makes Blanket, James Tracy, Daniel Tucker, the University of Louisville’s Anne Braden Institute for Social Justice Research, Dan S. Wang, Jakobi WIlliams, Mariam Williams, Rosten Woo,Wooden Leg Print & Press, Works Progress with Jayanthi Kyle, and Rebecca Zorach


More info about the book is available from Soberscove.




15 Years This Corner

Little Monica told me
she would lay
out her outfit
the night before
And mine
is a different
corner
from the one
she sold on
but both have
chickenbones,
loosies, and
debilitated men
So I could’ve taken
her advice and laid
my clothes out
It’d make me better
with timing, with
attention to detail
More like the woman
in the park
refusing
the man begging,
saying she doesn’t
do that to women
she likes
Meaning to herself
Meaning he ain’t it
Meaning it’s not
personal
when probably it was
Streetology
Degrees in
Pay up or pay me
For generosity
of spirit
For the consultation
required
in the audition
all the notes
taken
And the symbol
may be
ice cream
The increase
in ice cream
American ice cream
Because Yoga left
She was replaced
by records
I don’t want to buy
Meaning
it’s even
Meaning
not really
Nowadays
just a different
problem on
the opposite corner
that shit bar a hotter
uninviting scene
when many of the
leather cut bikers
didn’t have bikes
When all queers
were ageless
Nowadays
Abdul Faruk is dead
But forget him or his
carpeted sidewalk
scene? Never
On top of that matted
brown square:
Sofa-bed, coffee table
and dresser
with streetlight lamp,
Chinese store
as kitchen, and the
neighborhood
the TV
Better step
into the street
because to walk
through his living
room
is rude
And that day
it rained he,
wet and unlucky,
cold melted
into the couch,
such a contrast
to his first day
in the sun—
evicted—
my heart wanted
to take him in out
of the depression
But he was mean
On her only hit record,
Nonchalant said
ya better get
yourselves together
Don’t just stand there
on the corner
watching
things change
without you
But do what about
the click of heels
and their mothers’
on the sidewalk
going to the beer
going to heaven
going to graduate
soon
so fast forward
through this part
it is all the corners
in America
you gotta let
them play
Don’t tell me
there’s something
me and my
keloid don’t know
about living despite
opulent violence
This is love mama
this is love—
people and place—
that has nothing
to do with the fact
there are fewer
tiny plastic bags
fewer shells
and stroller
after stroller
Stroller armies
and hey, I like
kids even though
I kill them
There has always
been black fabric
for death and fashion
And I don’t mind
the changes
at the state store
it’s the reason
why, the whiter
reason why
the remodel
But Peking Inn
and Choy Wong
stay bulletproof
and open
Someone is still
eating
Generous
car system
subwoofers
reflecting
sound waves,
24hrs a day
Meaning there
are sounds
I don’t want
to wake to
bitch beat bass
and crying
Once, when I
was breaking up
on the front steps
we’ve come
to the end
of the road,
still I can’t let go
it’s unnatural…
rolled by
and we both
had to take
a moment
a pause
In so many
I’ve known
on this block
And I wanna
be bulletproof
In the search
for honesty,
One + One
dollar store
became
One + Five
In the search
for coffee,
likely a long line
of unhappiness
or patience—
it’s all about who
you are—
and six people
you’ve known
before
Bricks in need
of pointing
More dogs
on leashes
Monuments
to thieves
Elena burnt down
and left,
and her soul
I still mourn
She had
Hennessey
She had
real possibility
She had
range


Over 300 people came out to the closing event for Philalalia. ICA Gather: I Wonder What Else Could Be Different Around Here featured readings by Yolanda Wisher, Dick Laurie, Natalie Diaz and Christian Campbell on the terrace.

These were preceded by a series of "pop-up" readings in the gallery by Nico Amador, Thomas Devaney, Lucia Gbaya-Kanga, Kirwyn Sutherland, Lauren Yates, Alina Pleskova, Stan Mir, Warren Longmire, Sara Grossman, Cindy Arrieu-King, Cynthia Dewi-Oka, Marie Alarcon, and Faye Chevalier. These readings included ekphrastic poems written in direct response to one of the works of art in the The Freedom Principle exhibit.





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Support radical small books.
TREASURE: My Black Rupture
Nomad of Salt and Hard Water
and more are now available from akpress.org

7.11.2016

View of fireworks through clouds from a kayak in the rain.



"Gay for the Stay and Straight at the Gate: Women's Jail, Sexual Fluidity, and the Five-Paragraph Essay"

an excerpt:
But I quickly learned that in women’s jail the numbers flipped. When I treated the women like any other class, out of ten students, I’d have two with me and the other eight would be in some stage of quitting. And, frankly, their resistance was more vocal. More personal. At times their backlash consisted of pointed and cruel reminders of how so many women have learned to defend themselves against the threat of other women. Sure, I’d dealt with such before, by no means is this dynamic limited to jail, but the volume! The intensity of nothing left to lose. The wounds they could not hide, and we could not heal. It was exhausting. It was emotional labor.

"Gay for the Stay and Straight at the Gate: Women's Jail, Sexual Fluidity and the Five-Paragraph Essay"

This is the second essay in the series I am writing on incarceration. Continued thanks to Philadelphia Printworks for their support (and patience).