Thursday nights are lit in downtown Riverside.
Eclectic electricity is in the air with vendors, artists, dancers, musicians and poets. The creative spirit reigns mingling the inventive new with the tried and true.
When Cati Porter - Founder and Director of Inlandia, invited me to be a featured reader - there was a yes and yes that filled me ecstatic. National Poetry Month featured reader alongside Honduran social justice poet, videographer and CSUSB professor, Alex Avila, was a new adventure at the Riverside Public Library. I forgot how much I love the Mission Inn and the classic architecture of the area. There is a rootedness that is unique for the Inland Empire region, something that feels like ocean of centuries and the current wave of revolution.
Being in a library, family friendly was the tone for the evening. Alex had the audience engaged with folklore participation and poetry peppered with Spanish for flavor. I shared poems that celebrate my love of poetry and the innocence of children.
Thank you Cati Porter, founder of Inlandia, and host for the evening, for the opportunity to celebrate National Poetry Month in a delightful venue of culture, literature and kinship.
We are all gifted, that's our inheritance. - Ethel Waters
To close out Black History Month and usher in National Women's History Month, on the last Sunday in February, Inlandia Literary Laureate Nikia Chaney, along with curator Lisa Henry, coordinated a poetry reading at the San Bernardino Garcia Center, in honor of Our Ladies of Blues.
Artist Linda J. Phelps Young's vibrant depictions of blues giants: Josephine Baker, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Bessie Smith, Ethel Waters was infused with an art deco style. You could feel the camaraderie and love of life and entertainment from each framed regal blues lady.
Before the reading, I refreshed my memory with research on their lives and From Billie's rough harsh beginnings, to Bessie literally singing and dancing for her supper, I am in awe of the power and resilience of these five creative warriors. These weren't "nasty women" they were women who could stare nasty in the eye and shame him. Jim Crow's wings were amputated in their presence.
Two Conversations in Blue
Composed of Quotes from the Five Ladies of Blues
If I don't have friends then I ain't got nothin' - Billie Holiday
Billie Holiday: I've never had a chance to play with dolls like other kids. I started working when I was six years old.
Ethel Waters: I've never been a child.
Bessie Smith: I ain't good lookin' but I am somebody's angel child.
Josephine Baker: Beautiful? It's all a question of luck. I was born with good legs. As for the rest ... beautiful, no. Amusing, yes.
Ella Fitzgerald: What everyone wants more than anything else is to be loved.
Josephine Baker: The things we truly love stay with us always, locked in our hearts as long as life remains.
* * * * *
Josephine Baker: I was learning the importance of names - having them, making them - but at the same time I sensed the dangers. Recognition was followed by oblivion, a yawning maw whose victims disappeared without a trace.
Bessie Smith: It's a long road, but I know I'm gonna find the end.
Billie Holiday: I'm always making a comeback but nobody ever tells me where I've been.
Ethel Waters: We miss a lot in life because we don't know when to quit, what to leave out.
Ella Fitzgerald: It isn't where you came from, it's where you're going that counts.