Monday, January 16, 2017

Limited Edition Lyric Shirts, Hoodies, Stickers, and More


A friend recently asked for permission to create a handful of designs using my lyrics. They turned out pretty cool, and I'd love for people to check them and maybe pick up some 2017 armor. The site offers a variety of designs and sizes, but they'll all only be available until January 30. Here are the options:

"There is no light at the end of this tunnel/
so it's a good thing we brought matches."
--from Sifu Hotman's "Matches"

"To every ancestor who kept my song alive/
I swear on your unmarked graves, I will sing it 'til I die."
--also from Sifu Hotman's "Matches"

"We are more than the sum of our parts/
They are less than the sum of our fears."
--from Guante & Big Cats' "To Young Leaders"

You can find the songs themselves here as well.

Friday, January 06, 2017

Three Reasons to Check Out the 2017 Be Heard MN Youth Poetry Slam Series


Presented by TruArtSpeaks, #BeHeard17 starts in January in multiple venues, including a bout in Duluth (click the image for the full schedule) and ends with the Finals slam on March 25 at the Walker Art Center. This is the five-year (!) anniversary of the Be Heard series.

If the idea of a poetry slam is new to you, here's a good introduction. Be Heard is also a powerful introduction to the culture and the spirit of slam. Here are three quick reasons to check it out:

1. If you're a youth poet in MN, you can still register
Before we get to the reasons why people should show up, let's talk about why people might want to participate. Poetry slams are, after all, about creating space for all of us to be in community with each other, tell our stories, and share our work. So if you're a poet with a MN address and are between the ages of 13-19, Be Heard is an opportunity for you to perform for a big, supportive audience, meet other young people doing this work, sharpen your craft, and just have some fun. It's not about "winning," but if you do end up as one of the top six youth poets in the state, you'll join a cohort that will write and perform together, as well as rep MN at Brave New Voices. Get more info and register for any one of the five preliminary bouts here.

2. For everyone else, let's listen to young people
Poetry slams aren't the only spaces where young people-- especially young people from under-or-misrepresented communities-- can tell their stories and loudly affirm their values, opinions, and ideas, but they are one of the most public. And for those of us who are not youth anymore, it's really on us to make sure that we're listening-- especially right now. These young people are the experts on their own experience, and have wisdom to offer anyone who cares about community, social justice, education, and a wide range of other topics.

3. The point is not the points; the point is some really incredible poetry
I probably say this every year, but the poetry shared through Be Heard isn't just some of the best "youth spoken word" in the state every year, it's some of the most thoughtful, well-crafted, challenging art being made by anyone in Minnesota. Of course, poetry slams are democratic by nature, so some participants may just be starting out, or finding their voices. But every year, the series contains moments that rank up there with the most powerful arts experiences I have, anywhere in our community. A few examples:

2016 Be Heard team members Duncan Slagle and Eshay Brantley performing on BNV Finals stage at the Kennedy Center in Washington DC:


One of my favorite poems by Donte Collins (I'll be hosting his book release party on 1/20 too):


I could share a bunch more videos, but I'll end with this, a very cool feature on Be Heard and TruArtSpeaks produced by Ryan Stopera for the Twin Cities Daily Planet:

Monday, December 26, 2016

2016 Wrap-Up Post: Songs, Poems, Writing, etc.

A 2016 wrap-up post, featuring some of the stuff I created or released that you may have missed:


1. I Wrote a Book
I've been working on this for a long time, so thanks so much to everyone who has already picked up a copy, and to Button Poetry for the signal boost. Here's the official blurb:

One part mixtape, one part disorientation guide, and one part career retrospective, this book brings together spoken word poems, song lyrics, and essays from the past decade of Guante’s work. From the exploration of toxic masculinity in "Ten Responses to the Phrase 'Man Up'," to the throwback humanist hip hop of "Matches," to a one-act play on the racial and cultural politics of Eminem, "A Love Song, A Death Rattle, A Battle Cry" is a practitioners eye-view of the intersections of hip hop, poetry, and social justice. Get it in-person or online here.

2. New Album: Guante & Katrah-Quey: "Post-Post-Race"
Katrah-Quey and I released an album all about race, racism, and solidarity, featuring a bunch of my favorite local voices. You can get the whole thing here, but here are a few highlights:



3. Sifu Hotman's "Matches" on Vinyl (Plus a B-Side with Tall Paul)
I'm very glad that we got to do a vinyl release for this song, which is both my most successful song (thanks to its being featured on Welcome to Night Vale) and one of my most personal, meaningful songs. Get it here. I'm also proud of the b-side, a remix of "Embrace the Sun" featuring Tall Paul:


4. 8 Million Views for "Ten Responses to the Phrase 'Man Up'" on Facebook
This was a great surprise to close out the year with: Button Poetry posted my poem (which is a few years old now) as Facebook video, and it took off. It's nice to see that the message of that particular piece is still resonating with so many people, especially this year. See the video, and read more about the poem, here.

5. A Handful of New Videos
Between my own page and Button Poetry's, we released a few new poems and a few updated versions of older ones, plus a couple of songs:

6. Some Writing and a New Zine Project
While most of my writing focus this year was on my book (and finishing grad school), I did post a couple of pieces:

7. I Finished Grad School
A few thoughts on what I did there and how it impacts my work moving forward, plus a link to one real-world resource that came out of my research: a list of 100+ spoken word poem videos for use by social justice educators.

8. TruArtSpeaks Contines to Grow
Under the leadership of Executive Director Tish Jones, it was another great year for TruArtSpeaks; I'm both honored to have been able to be part of that and excited about this coming year. The Be Heard MN Youth Poetry Slam Series starts up again in January!

9. Shows, Connections, and Reasons to Be Excited About 2017
This year was bad in a lot of ways, for a lot of people. I'm grateful for the opportunity to travel, to perform, and to work with people from so many different communities on issues that matter-- from the ArtChangeUS Design for Equity Conference, to the MN Campus Sexual Violence Prevention Summit, to opening for Marc Lamont Hill at the UMN, to Brave New Voices, to a bunch of college/university visits all over the country-- it's clear to me that as dire as the situation in this country might be, there are still a whole lot of bold, brilliant people doing the work. As I think about 2017, I'm trying to figure out how best to use whatever resources I have to support those people.

I'm excited about local politics-- 2017 is going to be a huge year in Minneapolis with regards to city council races. I'm excited about Jillia, Jeremiah, Andrea, Erica, Phillipe, and all of the sharp, community-minded people running for seats; I'll be posting more about this as the caucuses approach. But even if you're not in Minneapolis-- this is going to be a BIG year for local politics in general-- that's the level at which so many battles are going to be fought, and we can win them. Get involved.

Related to that, I'm excited about the potential for artists to meaningfully plug into movement-building work, now more than ever. Will be sharing thoughts and resources (beyond what I've already written) very soon.

My excitement is not to say that things aren't scary, or that people aren't going to be hurt by what's going on in this country. Our fear is valid. But so is our courage. I'm excited to see more and more people start to realize that there is no "neutral," that change starts with us, that plugging into activist organizations and getting involved is a key first step in creating the world in which we want to live, no matter who is in office. It's going to be a tough year, but I believe in the power of this movement.

Finally, as for me, I've got a new music video coming out right away this January. I'm also booking for both Spring and Fall 2017. Also working on some new projects. Just want to say thank you for reading and connecting. Let's keep building.

Friday, December 09, 2016

For People Who Want to "Do" Something But Don't Know What to Do (Downloadable Zine + Text)

UPDATE: One quick action to help fund this project! Printing isn't cheap, and it's important to me to be able to give out as many of these-- for free-- as possible. So rather than set up a kickstarter, I've decided to do this: for the rest of the month, ALL proceeds from my name-your-price sampler album will go directly to printing costs

Design by Olivia Novotny; words by Guante
I shared my post-election thoughts a while back, and here's something a little more substantial. As an artist who routinely gets up in front of hundreds of people and talks about activism and power, and as someone who also has lots of friends who do that same thing, in some way or another, I've been trying to think more critically about how we USE that platform.

Because talking about issues is good and important, but so many of those performances or conversations end with "talk is not enough; go do something." And for those of us who have had a political education, we know what that means. We may still struggle with the specifics, or experience anxiety about not doing enough, etc., but it's a statement that makes sense.

For a lot of people, however, I'm wondering if "go do something" is a little too abstract. Especially for young people, or people with no prior activist experience, or people who are isolated due to identity or geography-- how can we make "go do something" really mean something concrete and specific? How can we use the platforms that we have access to to cultivate a culture of organizing, to promote activism not just as some weird hobby that a few hippies do, but as something that everyone can and should and must do?

That's the impulse behind this zine project (text by me, design by Olivia Novotny). It's nothing revolutionary; just sharing what I've learned about action, power, and change, while highlighting concrete action points and plugging people in to existing networks. The image at the top of this post links to a PDF of the entire document (which needs to be cut and folded a particular way to become a book, which I'm sure you can figure out). The basic text is included below as well.

Monday, December 05, 2016

A Million Views for "Ten Responses to the Phrase 'Man Up' " in Two Days

(edit: nine million now)



On Friday, Button Poetry posted their footage of my poem "Ten Responses to the Phrase 'Man Up' on Facebook video, and it reached a million views in just two days (the original version on YouTube is almost up to a million as well, but was posted three years ago; there's also this version, with the full text as well, on my own page, which I think is the highest quality audio/video).

Obviously, numbers don't mean everything. But it is cool to see a poem with a message like this resonate with so many people. I doubt that a million views means a million people watched, but one number that does matter to me is those 25k shares. I figured I'd use this opportunity to both say thank you for all of the shares and reposts, but also to share a couple of thoughts on the poem itself:

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

Post-Election Thoughts and Resources

First of all, I think it's worth noting that whatever emotional response you might have to this is valid. I'm not trying to push anyone right into "this doesn't matter; let's just get to work" mode. Similarly, I like the twist on the classic Joe Hill quote "don't mourn; organize." It's possible to do both. It can be necessary to do both.


In that spirit, just wanted to share a few links/thoughts that have been helpful for me; maybe they can be helpful to you too.

1. Space to Support Each Other: First of all, a timely thing: since I know a lot of UMN students, I'm sharing a link to this space for dialogue, processing, and community-oriented self-care today, for anyone who might need it.

2. This interview with Mariame Kaba (@prisonculture on Twitter):
"[We] have to think and imagine bigger and understand that these things take a long time and we’re not going to end things in this moment, we’re not going to rebuild the entire world in seconds, and that we’re part of a long struggle." - Mariame Kaba

3. Real talk from Jay Smooth:
"I don't know if we will survive; I don't know that we'll be okay. But what I know, is that we will resist."



4. A Note on the MN Activist Project:
I put together this database of local activist organizations a few years back; it feels like it's time for a major update. If you have notes for me, get in touch. Either way, I'm going to work on adding to this and making it as useful as it can be. A focus on local struggles is going to be an important tactic for the next four years.

I'm also adding this link, to a big bank of resources regarding legal matters, health stuff, etc. that could be affected in the next few years.

Again-- I wouldn't dream of telling people how to process, or how to grieve, but it is worth noting that change comes from organized movements; now is a great time to get involved. Whether that involvement is showing up and working, supporting that work through donations, signal-boosting and leveraging networks, or something else, it's key.

5. My Thoughts:
I don't think it's helpful to just tell people to "relax." Or, really, to tell people to do people anything. Let's listen. Let's be there for each other. Especially today. Check in on your people. If it is helpful for you to vision/brainstorm about activist plans, do that. If it is helpful to use this as an opportunity to more fully commit to a particular cause or movement, do that. If it is helpful to just hang out with friends or read a book alone, do that.

This matters. It's bad. But I'm reminding myself that everything that we (and I'm thinking about the "we" who cares about equity and justice and empathy) told ourselves we'd have to do under a Clinton presidency is still the work that has to get done under a Trump one. It might be tougher now, and there might be other things that come up that will demand our attention, but again-- I believe in this movement. I believe in us.

Sunday, November 06, 2016

New Video for "Action" Up at Button Poetry + Some Connections


Thanks again to Button for the signal boost-- but especially for posting this poem, right now, in this climate/context. A few notes:

1. You can find the full text here, and this poem is also included in my new book, available online through Button or in person.

2. This is one of those poems that is about a specific topic, but has more going on underneath too. On one level, it's about men's responsibility to talk to other men about gender violence and sexual assault preemptively and proactively. This is not to say that men are always the perpetrators, or that men can't be victims, or that sexual assault only occurs along the gender binary-- none of that is true. It is just to say that statistically, it's important that men bring these conversations into spaces to which we have disproportionate access.


But on another level, this is a poem that attempts to think critically about the concept of allyship, or a framework that only allows for heroes and villains. It's about how much anti-oppression work of any kind is about relationships and the community/culture we build through both our actions and inaction. I hope that we can read/hear this poem in that context as well-- especially with everything going on in the world right now-- the election (my thoughts on that here), #NoDAPL, the continuing struggles against mass incarceration and police violence, and a whole host of other issues. What does it mean to challenge ourselves to do more than just "be" on the right side of an issue?

*EDIT: a handful of post-election resources relevant to this conversation*

3. I got to perform this poem at the United Nations last year, which I think is testament less to the poem or to me, and more to the work that so many have been doing-- on campuses, in communities, on social media, and everywhere else, to fundamentally move the conversation around sexual assault forward. In MN alone, I have to shout out SVC, the Aurora CenterMNCASA, and everyone doing that work.

Please feel free to share. A couple other resources:
  • I put together a list of poems on consent and rape culture as part of an even larger list here.
  • Another relevant poem of mine up at Button: "Consent at 10,000 Feet." 
  • You can find my booking info (for performances, workshops, conferences, etc.) here.