COMMUNITY ARTIST GRANTS 2016
Join us as poets, writers, and scholars gather in the Faculty Room at Columbia University’s Low Library to pay tribute to one of the luminaries of Latino/a literature and American letters.
This is the first of a series of events planned in memory of Jack Agüeros, which will include a new production of one of his plays at El Museo del Barrio.
Scheduled to appear:
Martín Espada, Jesus Papoleto Meléndez, Mike Veve, Lauren Schmidt, Robert Hershon, Donna Brook, Urayoán Noel, Chris Brandt, Peggy Robles-Alvarado, Julio Marzán, David Unger, Patrick Rosal, Ruth Irupé Sanabria, Rich Villar, Natalia Agüeros-Macario
Born in New York City in 1934, Jack Agüeros was a community activist, poet, fiction writer, playwright, and translator.
Low Library, Columbia University
535 W 114th St, New York, New York 10027
Columbia University Graduate School of Arts and Sciences
Institute of Latin American Studies at Columbia University
Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity at Columbia University
Department of Latin American and Iberian Cultures at Columbia University
El Museo del Barrio
National Urban Fellows
The Medicine Show Theater
La Casita Artist : Manny Vega
This summer I was part of La Casita at Lincoln Center’s Out of Doors free outdoor performances. La Casita is a program intended to celebrate the oral traditions of the Caribbean, Africa, the United States, Native America, Spain, and Latin America through music, poetry, storytelling and dance. The event is co-curated by Bill Bragin (Lincoln Center Out of Doors), Melody Capote (Caribbean Cultural Center), Lillian Cho (Consultant), C. Daniel Dawson, Caridad de la Luz, Claudia Norman (Claudia Norman Management), Richie Villar (Acentos Foundation), and Shawn Termin (The Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian). This year’s event was hosted by my friend and fellow poet Simply Rob.
When deciding which poems to recite I settled on performing the poems that began my career as a spoken word poet and writer. I selected the poems that reflected my story as a survivor of physical and emotional abuse because I wanted to honor this full circle moment where the events that could have made me stagnant did, in fact, bring me to a Lincoln Center stage. It was a moment to praise the strength in my scars.
Saturday, beneath a shady canopy of trees at Hearst Plaza, the audience (that included a group of my family and friends) enjoyed diverse performances and celebrate this moment with me.
Sunday at Pregones Theater, as I was making my way through the street I was quickly ushered into the lobby by and George Acevedo and George “Urban Jibaro” Torres. There I had the pleasure of meeting an icon, Mrs. Miriam Colon Valle, an award winning actress and founder of the Puerto Rican Traveling Theater (better known to many as Scarface’s mother).
I gave her both my books and she enthusiastically asked me about each one. As I shared my story she shared hers. She even stayed to watch me perform although I went on late in the evening. Her warmth towards me and my story was humbling.
Again, as I have expressed several times before, I have found beauty in my scars and know for certain that I was destined to heal.
Join me for this free act of protest!
Friday September 21, 6:00pm – 8:00pm
New York City’s Latino literary community will converge to participate in “50 for Freedom of Speech,” a national day of action protesting the de facto banning of Latino literature in the state of Arizona (with similar legislation poised to pass in other states as a result).
Reading by banned Puerto Rican author and award-winning poet Martín Espada and readings of other banned book texts by some of New York City’s top Latino academic, literary and spoken word talent.
Organized by: Librotraficante, Sangre Viva Arts Alliance and Acentos, Latino Rebels and La Casa Azul Bookstore
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.
A special thanks to Stella Lee for being my road trip buddy and photographer for the day!
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…