Yesterday, July 25th, 2017 women writers from Los Angeles and the Inland Empire gathered at Art Share L.A. to read poems and prose at the un :: fade :: able reading to commemorate the life of Sandra Bland.
The scent of burning sage settled into our skin and wrapped itself around the chairs that were arranged in an open circle. Even if you didn't know the person you were sitting next to - you felt like you did. The reason for us being in the same room was a kindred common ground of remembering the life of Sandra Bland.
It was explained that last year's program was one of mourning the loss of Sandra Bland. This year's gathering would be to celebrate the memory of who she is to us. Before each person shared their work we recited the mantra: "My name is, _______, and I am a Poet/ a Writers / a Musician (pick one), who speaks for and with Sandra Bland. Tonight, I dedicate my work to her unfadeable memory. SayHerName, and restore her life."
By the end of the evening it was as though there was a divine connection with everyone in the room. Sandra Bland, and Fanny Lou Hamer, and tias and abuelitas and sisters and daughters and mothers from generations filled our tongues with healing and love. And my mother - July 25th was the one year anniversary of her homegoing and this was the best possible way I could honor her life, in the company of sisters honoring life.
The event was curated by F. Douglas Brown and hosted by Brittany Williams. Musical preludes provide by Loyola MPC Club. There will be more events. Check out the website if you think you might be interested.
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.
No Foolin' - this was the perfect way to usher in National Poetry Month at the Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden.
4th Sunday Claremont Poets.
I wasn't sure what to expect: A pathway lined with beautiful rose bushes leading to a proper English garden, a wafting fragrance of Bergamot tea to celebrate the first day of National Poetry Month? A tea garden of lavender, rose hips, and chamomile... where my pastel pink top could tease the other flowers? A large white gazebo where my white gauze wing sleeved top and long flowing pastel skirt could twirl in words? And there I was dreaming too much - doing too little, reciting Robert Louis Stevenson's "The Swing" over and over to myself.
The pathway to the reading was lined with indigenous plants, a variety of cacti and succulents with small, big-bellied lizards swiftly waddling around - doing those lizard push-ups (I'm sure there is some scientific explanation - but I just like to imagine that they are buffing up). I also like to imagine that - and I don't know why - squirrels are kids playing baseball... rabbits always seem to be wondering what they were doing... they pause - look about like they are trying to remember what it is they were supposed to be doing - take a couple of hops and stop again... And none of this is even part of the poetry reading yet.
Needless to say, with all of these mind journeys - I was late and got lost several times. At this event, sharing poetry in nature seemed to allow the words to seep in a little bit more, they seem more organic. The absences of the distracting hum of lights and background white noise was refreshing and the breeze and movement of nature kept the energy flowing even when everyone sat quiet and still.
Though not quite transcendental - it was definitely a refreshing reconnection to the profound peace and joy that poetry and nature nurtures within us.
An added bonus: I enjoyed the day and experience so much I bought a one year membership so that I can go on nature walks and write at leisure.
Mrs. Sheila Marchbanks is the consummate cultural event planner. When she extends an invitation to attend a gathering it is promised to feed mind, body and spirit. So, it was a great honor when she invited me to give a presentation on my book Sirens in Her Belly to the Sistah Readas Book Club.
I arrived a little early and Mrs. Loretha Nwosu graciously lead me on a tour through the pleasant, well-lit, Ontario Museum. Sistah Readas began arriving and many brought a guest with them for the event. This was one of those days where everything took its cue from the weather and the book club members made a unanimous decision and requested that the meeting be moved to the museum courtyard. As soon as the request was made, Mrs. Loretha Nwoso graciously orchestrated the arrangement of the tables and chairs.
When Mrs. Sheila Marchbanks arrived so did the delicious homemade food.
The day blossomed into a picnic with Sistah Readas. The ladies came prepared with questions; conversations unearthed emotions and explored the roots of situations in the poems, our society, and our personal lives. We closed the day with a writing exercise and future plans.
Welcome to my observations on the craft of writing, venues and writing community experiences.