Future Leaders Fearlessly Explore Poetry at Millersville University

Future Leaders Fearlessly Explore Poetry at Millersville University

A young lady writes to an absent father wishing she could see him again.

An aspiring rapper seeks acceptance from his parents and struggles with a secret that pulls at his heart.

A young lady translates her pain form Nepali to English to ensure that I see the real her because she believes no one else can.

A Nepalese young man shares his three wishes and repeats that he doesn’t want to die without his dreams coming true.

A young lady from the Dominican Republic details in delicate Spanish verses how her faith holds her in times of need.

A young man writes that he only cries in the rain so no one can see his tears.

A young lady pushes past her tears and is determined to recite verses about a childhood trauma


These are just some of the themes that were explored during a poetry and spoken word workshop I conducted on August 3, 2012 at a leadership camp at Millersville University. When Inés Vega, the coordinator of migrant education, parental involvement, and special projects, contacted me I was excited and nervous as to what to expect.

I am accustomed to working with elementary school students but I wasn’t too familiar with the high school student population.


To better prepare I contacted Latanya DeVaughn.

Latanya is the founder of Urban Voices Heard, the curator of many standing room only open mic events, and the facilitator of poetry workshops at Fordham University. She offered me advice, prompts, and suggestions, but I must thank her for inviting me to one of her workshops as a guest poet. During the workshop she repeatedly reminded her students not to make any apologies or excuses. This I took with me as I entered the room filled with approximately 50 teens from various countries and in various stages of English language acquisition.



Since I have been a teacher for over a decade now, I was armed with a lesson plan, prompts for reluctant writers and a spirited opening that introduced them to my story. I left my performance for the end as per Latanya’s advice. I told the students they needed to be fearless when writing poetry because the paper will not judge them. I was elated to see students who were engaged, eager to write and participate. Some students, who initially struggled defining poetry and spoken word, tackled the prompts and wrote vignettes of their lives in English, Spanish and Nepalese in their journals. The more they wrote, the more their lives were revealed. Even counselors participated and shared memories, angst, and worries. Tears flowed as pain traveled from pen to paper. Joyce Avila, the camp supervisor and a no nonsense maternal figure originally from Brooklyn, had to step out of the room a few times to wipe her tears and those of counselors and students overcome with emotion.

These students are definitely our future leaders. They fearlessly used poetry to tell their stories and didn’t allow language, pain, or the shedding of public tears to get in the way of their message, their hopes, their struggles and their dreams.

They reminded me I must always remain fearless!

A special thanks to Stella Lee for being my road trip buddy and photographer for the day!

Making New Friends

Making New Friends
At An Evening with Maria Aponte and Friends

Thursday, July 19th I was one of the featured poets at The East Harlem Café hosted by my friend and fellow writer Maria Aponte, the author of Transitions of a Nuyorican Cinderella. The other featured artists for the evening included the beautiful and extremely gifted singer A. Lyric, and court officer by day and up and coming poet by night Mr. Peach Mcclory. The event also included an open mic component with brilliant artists like Jorgie Viento, Jaime The Maestro Emeric, and Intrest Borges.

The East Harlem Café was filled with some familiar faces, like Latanya DeVaughn, Nelson Host Santiago, Reina Miranda, and Audrey Aybar, but there were also a group of new people I had the pleasure of meeting. As the evening progressed, my books went home with mothers, daughter, friends, aspiring poets, and visual artists.

I sold every book I carried that evening, and then something beautiful happened. A young woman I never met before was very disappointed that she couldn’t purchase a book. She offered to pay me in advance if I mailed it to her the following day. I assured her that I would place her book in the mail the following morning. This led to a few more mail orders. People that had just met me, and some who only knew me as a performer on stage, trusted me enough to have me mail them a book. The cycle of abundance and prosperity had opened and I had to complete it by mailing books the next morning. This cycle began a few months back when a young woman I met named Angela wanted to purchase a book but didn’t have the money at that moment. I felt that she was trust worthy so I gave her a copy and told her she could pay me next time we saw each other. A few months later she showed up at an event I was featuring in and gave me this wonderful card with a touching message and payment for the book.

As The East Harlem Café closed its doors, the crowd was ushered out to the sidewalk to continue the chatter and goodbye hugs. One young woman, whose name I won’t disclose, approached me and asked if she could ask me some questions. She was a friend of a fellow poet whose abuela had just passed and she was now going to inherit numerous saints her abuela had prayed to for many years. She was shaky as reluctant tears flowed down her face. After sharing an intimate conversation for a brief moment and exchanging cell numbers, I gave her the warmest hug I could give a soul in need of direction. It was genuine, just like the words I offered her. She contacted me the next morning and stated that it was the first time since her abuela’s death that she was able to smile.

Meeting her was no coincidence. Again the cycle of abundance and prosperity opened up and I must continue it by sharing with this young woman what I learned from my bisabuelas, abuelas, mother, lessons from my warrior women. I was reminded that by sharing what I know, with people who really need it and desire direction, I will receive the gift of love, trust, compassion, guidance, direction, and prosperity.

I am grateful to an evening with Maria Aponte and Friends for allowing me to find new friends…Ashé…








Capicu Open Mic / Ola’s B’day: Featuring Peggy Robles-Alvarado & SIENIDE!

Capicu Open Mic / Ola’s B’day: Featuring Peggy Robles-Alvarado & SIENIDE!

After a stellar season of Poetry in the community featuring the likes of Sandra Maria Esteves, Mariposa, Rich Villar & Rock Wilk, we hope that you run with the wild chupacabras through Brooklyn and join us for the July edition of the hoodfamous Peoples Open Mic! The Capicu family will celebrate the birthday of our very own ★ Olalana Sasu ★ by inviting two very exciting expressionists!

Our Featured Poet:
Peggy Robles-Alvarado ★ is an educator and award winning emotionally evocative writer & recipient of the 2012 “Mujeres Destacadas Award”, a recognition given annually by El Diario La Prensa to the most outstanding women in the Latino community. She was also awarded second place in the category of Best Poetry Book in English by the 2012 International Latino Book Awards, and she received the 2012 Womyn Warrior Award presented by Casa Atabex Aché. Her first book, Conversations With My Skin about a pregnant fifteen year old girl’s poetic journey to redefine herself, was published in 2011, & her latest book, Homenaje A Las Guerreras/ Homage To The Warrior Women, is a collection of poetry and prose dedicated to the inherited strength of women as expressed in their labor, love, sensuality, spirituality and movement.

Our Featured Visual Artist:
SIENIDE ★ is an Illustrator, Author, Tattoo Artist, Professor and a multi-layered Artquarian. Hailing from the Bronx, NY, his life and art has been inspired by the graffiti, poverty, and tuff love New York is known for. Dozens of Sien’s masterfully illustrated murals are scattered throughout the five boros of NYC. His public works engage a younger generation of street art enthusiasts with abstract compositions and mood altering color. The reactions from the community are a main source of motivation to push his work ever-forward. As a Professor, SIENIDE is currently teaching Digital Media Arts at TCI College in New York City.

Adonde? When?
Saturday July 28th
@ LP & Harmony
683 Grand St (between Manhattan Ave & Graham Ave)
Williamsburg Brooklyn, NY 11211

Doors open at 7 PM- Open Mic list closes at 8pm
**SHOWTIME at 8PM!**

21 & Over


By Subway:
L to Grand St. (2 blocks)
G to Metropolitan

PaPo Swiggity
The Nuyo Chupacabra


An Evening with Maria Aponte & Friends – East Harlem Cafe

Aponte-Gonzalez Productions Presents

An Evening with Maria Aponte & Friends

Thursday, July 19th 6:30-8:00pm 

East Harlem Cafe 104th Street & Lexington Avenue 

Special Guests:

 Peggy Robles-Alvarado

reading from her new book:  Homenaje A Las Guerreras/ Homage to the Warrior Women.

 Musical Guest, A. Lyric singing from her new CD

Your Ears Will Thank Your Later


Mr. James Peach Mcclory, Poet

My evening at the Latino Literacy Now’s International Latino Book Awards

My evening at the Latino Literacy
Now’s International Latino Book Awards

June 5, 2012 at the Instituto Cervantes in New York City I had the honor of being part of the largest and most important Latino book awards in the United States.

The 14th Annual International Latino Book Awards!

My first book, Conversations With My Skin, was awarded second place in the category Best Poetry in English!


148 authors and publishers were honored
and the awards were presented by the following:

    • Latino Literacy Now – an organization founded to promote literacy in the Latino community in all forms: educational, financial, reading, and community awareness.
    • Las Comadres Para Las Americas, founded by Nora de Hoyos Comstock PhD. – With informal groups established around the country for over 25 years, Nora Comstock’s desire is to build community and share resources. Using her technological background she wants to take the Comadres groups to a new level using the internet as a resources for empowerment.
    • The Instituto Cervantes – A not-for-profit organization created by the Spanish government in 1991 with the goal of promoting the teaching of Spanish and to contribute to the advancement of the culture of the Spanish speaking countries.

Photographed here with fellow authors and first place winners. Gloria Rodriguez, founder and director of www.DeAlmas.org
Graciela Tiscareño-Sato Social Entrepreneur and Chief Creative Officer of Gracefully Global Group, LLC. www.latinovating.com.

Photographed here with Nora De Hoyos Comstock founder of Las Comadres Para Las Americas.

It was an evening filled with authors of various genres. Voices from Spain, Colombia, Ecuador, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Mexico, Cuba, Argentina, Guatemala, and from various parts of the United States all came together to celebrate one another.

It was a wonderful evening!

Friday the 13th…A day of many blessings!

Friday the 13th…A day of many blessings!

When you are raised with a strong spiritual foundation (not to be confused for superstition) Friday the 13th is a day of cleansing of any stagnant energy, both physical and emotional. Floors are swept, candles lit, and sweet sage is burned to calm the home and ensure blessings are received. These things were a typical aspect of my childhood. On Friday April 13th 2012 after a quiet morning of café con leche, deep breathing, and heartfelt prayers whispered into clear water to thank my ancestors, I became a recipient of the 2012 “Mujeres Destacadas Award” a recognition given annually by El Diario La Prensa to the most outstanding women in our community.

As an honoree, I was in the company of some of the Tri-state area’s most successful and influential Latinas in the corporate, business, entertainment, sports and community arenas. The celebration was held at the posh Mandarin Oriental Hotel where I had the pleasure of chatting with Amando Serrana, a female boxer, Marcela Bravo, a probation officer officer, Soledad Hiciano, executive director of the Community Association of Progressive Dominicans, Wilda Diaz, the mayor of Perth Amboy, Diana Castro, account manager for HBO, and Luisa Escalera, designer and special education teacher among many other successful women.

Honorees, both past and present, mingled, networked and enjoyed the inspiring words of Rossana Rosado, publisher and CEO of El Diario La Prensa.

El Diario also honored several young ladies with scholarship awards and the title of Señoritas De Nuestro Futuro.

This award means a great deal to me because as a child my parents would read El Diario aloud to me to encourage retention of my first language as I became fluent in English. El Diario was a family staple that kept my parents connected to current events in a homeland where they were first generation immigrants.


Not bad for this former teen mom!

“Rebirth of a Queen” awards ceremony and celebration!

“Rebirth of a Queen” awards ceremony and celebration!

I will be performing at this year’s”Rebirth of a Queen” awards ceremony and celebration!
You are cordially invited to Casa Atabex Ache’s  7th Annual Womyn Warriors Awards Ceremony & Celebration.
The date is Saturday, April 28th, 6pm to 10pm at Casabe Houses for the Elderly, located at 150 East 121 Street.
This year’s theme is “Rebirth of a Queen” and we are honoring womyn of color who have powerfully transformed their life and courageously won the battles that threatened to keep them in darkness.
This celebration is also a fundraising event for Casa Atabex Aché so that our organization may continue to provide a healing space for womyn of color surmounting internalized oppression and trauma.


$25 for Adults (in advance) | $35 for Adults (at door) | $15 for Students (with ID) | Donation for Children and Elderly.


CONTACT Monique De La Oz (mdelaoz@gmail.com) to PURCHASE TICKETS, purchase a table or provide a donation (for those unable to attend).

The Woman Of Ase Ire!

The Woman Of Ase Ire!

In December, I was interviewed and featured in the Spotlight section of the website Ase Ire. Ase Ire is the creation of Iyalorisa Efúnfúnláyò Ifákemi Easter Wood, an Orisa priestess and doctoral student in African and African American Studies at Harvard University. In the spirit of reciprocity and to share this beautiful woman’s goal to promote the power of positivity, I decided to interview her and share her purpose and vision for Ase Ire with all of you. Enjoy!

1- What is Ase Ire?
Ase Ire is a labor of love. It is a place where I can share all of the excitement and positive energy that I have been blessed to receive with my community using universal principles as conveyed through the Orisa. I pray it is a place where people can come to learn, to reflect and to share.

2- What prompted you to create Ase Ire?
As a practitioner of the Yoruba Ifa-Orisa tradition, I noticed that a lot of the websites and information out there was about ritual, practice and other very specific aspects of the tradition but didn’t address the “human factor.” How do I apply this knowledge to my everyday life? Where are the Orisa-centric principles in everything that we do? I wanted to create a space to answer some of those questions and also to engage those who may not be practitioners, but who could relate to the principles. As well, I am engaged in scholarship on the tradition and I use Ase Ire as a place from which to share some of that information with the community.

3- What is your long term goal for Ase Ire?
Long term, the sky is the limit! I’m allowing it to naturally live and evolve. I am organizing the first of what I pray will be many collaborative events with Ase Ire in April called “Sacred Healing & Wholeness in Africa & the Americas.” This is a day-long symposium that will take place at Harvard University and allow those who study and practice African, African Diasporic and American Indigenous religions the space to discuss the many meanings of health, healing and being whole. The concepts within these traditions are often very different than that expressed by Western medicine and, as I feel the world is in dire need of healing, I thought this would be a great point of focus. I’m also hosting a workshop with Luisah Teish called “The Mirror in the Water: Autobiography as a Spiritual Practice.” She is a dynamic woman and priestess and I’m proud to be working with her. These types of events and many more are what I see as Ase Ire’s present and future.

4- What is your personal mantra / life affirmation and how does it guide your life’s purpose?
My personal mantra, which I first heard from my Master Teacher Awo Oluwole Ifakunle Adetutu is that “Ifa says we should be thankful, I say we should be thankful!” which comes from the odu Ifa ose ogunda. I approach each and every moment of my life from a position of gratitude and seek always to give back to the world at least a small portion of that which I have been given.

5- Words of wisdom
Love hard, laugh harder and allow the tears to flow when they will. All are sacred. Know that nothing worth having will come without sacrifice and that the missteps are a part of the journey.

Please visit aseire.com and watch Funlayo YouTube Video.