Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Spoken-Word Tips and Tactics Part 4: Diving In and Getting Involved with Spoken-Word as a Culture


As always, these videos are not meant to be "guides" or teach anyone anything. I'm just sharing tools that have benefited me and the stuff that I think about and try to be intentional about. I'm no expert, but hopefully something in here can be useful for you.

This installment focuses on a question that comes up all the time: how does someone get involved with spoken-word, not just as a form of writing and performance, but as a culture, a community, and potentially even a career? That's a big question, but I share a few thoughts here.

Also, a few links to things that I mention in the video:

TruArtSpeaks (Be Heard MN Youth Poetry Slam series, ReVerb open mic, much more)

List of open mics and slams in the Twin Cities

Well-Placed Commas weekly poetry workshop

This is part four in an ongoing series. Catch the the first three installments here. More to come!

Sunday, May 17, 2015

#YesYesYes Consent-Themed Poetry Show, Sifu Hotman on Night Vale Radio, Other Updates

A few big updates:
On Wednesday, May 20, this consent-themed spoken-word show will be happening at Intermedia Arts in Minneapolis. Performers include Keno Evol, Thressa Isobel, Kevin Yang, Simone Williams, Kenny Ngo, Sophie & Ally, and See More Perspective, as well as Chava Gabrielle and me. Here's the FB event page.

Chava approached me about collaborating on this event a few months ago, and it's shaping up to be very cool. Sponsors include great organizations like TruArtSpeaks, The Aurora Center, The Sexual Violence Center, Line Break Media, and Intermedia Arts, and we'll be doing some audience-centered interactive stuff too. It's also good timing; if you missed my brand new poem, "Consent at 10,000 Feet," check it out here.


This past Friday, the Sifu Hotman song "Matches" was featured on Welcome to Night Vale. If you don't know, Sifu Hotman is a collaborative hip hop project featuring me, producer Rube, and rising indie-rap star deM atlaS. And Welcome to Night Vale, apparently, is the most popular podcast in the world. A friend suggested we submit some music, and we did, not thinking much of it. But now that they've played it, the response has been overwhelming. It's so great to have this project in particular get a big second push, because I think it's one of the best things I've ever been involved with. If you missed it during the first run, you can get it here.

Update: as of right now, Sifu Hotman's "Embrace the Sun" is also the #1 best-selling hip hop album on Bandcamp. So that's cool.

Lots of other stuff happening, as always. First of all, thanks to Daniel Rangel for the new header photo; more media coming soon. Also, we're still pushing the big #7UpForSocialChange campaign over at TruArtSpeaks, and I'm so excited about that work. Lots of new projects in the works. Lots of shows coming up, especially once we get into autumn. In the meantime, I want to plug my Twitter feed, where I try to share not only updates on my own work, but link to as much cool stuff as I can. That's the best place to keep in touch. Please do.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Watch the Best Spoken-Word Show I've Ever Been Part Of (The Loft's EQ Supershow Full Video)



So this is something really special. In April, for AWP, I got invited by Bao Phi to perform alongside a bunch of my favorite poets at the Equilibrium supershow. Thanks to the Loft Literary Center, you can watch the full show online; the link above is a YouTube playlist of 34 videos.

When I say it's the best show I've ever been a part of, that's not an exaggeration. Watch the whole thing, and if you need some extra motivation, a few highlights:
  • Patricia Smith's headlining set. Again, I'm not trying to be hyperbolic, but Patricia Smith in on a whole other planet poetically. This is the most powerful poetry performance I've ever seen, and is a must-watch for #BlackLivesMatter organizers and advocates.
  • Marcie Rendon with a MN history lesson that got a well-deserved standing ovation.
  • Khary "6 is 9" Jackson with a rare performance of "Limbs," one of my favorite pieces of his.
  • Look at the rest of this lineup: Danez Smith, Ed Bok Lee, Tish Jones, Hieu Minh Nguyen, Marisa Carr, Emmanuel Ortiz, Lorena Duarte, Diego Vázquez Jr, Christy NaMee Eriksen, R. Vincent Moniz, Jr., Rodrigo Sanchez-Chavarria, Juliana Hu Pegues, Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha, David Mura, Electric Gemini Bailey, Shá Cage, Danny Solis, Saymoukda Duangphouxay Vongsay, Robert Karimi, Douglas Kearney, Ka Vang, Nimo H. Farah, Moheb Soliman, IBé, Andrea Jenkins, Tou SaiKo Lee, Frank Sentwali, and Louis “Babalu” Alemayehu.
  • A new recording of my poem "Quicksand" too.
I can't stress enough how valuable this playlist is. Channels like Button have done so much when it comes to capturing and documenting 21st century spoken-word, but they can't be everywhere, and a lot of the poets in this playlist don't perform at slams and/or aren't super active on social media. So if you have any interest in spoken-word at all, you owe it to yourself to watch this. Again, endless thanks to Bao and the Loft for making this happen, and to our whole community for being so brilliant and inspiring.
Photo by Anna Min; that's me between David Mura (!) and Patricia Smith (!)

Monday, April 27, 2015

Guante: "Consent at 10,000 Feet" (New Video, Plus Links)


Thanks again to Button Poetry for capturing this and broadcasting it out to so many people. As always, any additional shares/reposts are appreciated. Also, be sure to check out these other poets writing about consent: Britteney Conner, Anna Binkovitz, Imani CezanneCaroline Harvey... please add more if you know any.

For any Twin Cities-area people, Chava Gabrielle and I are throwing a show on Wednesday, May 20 at Intermedia Arts called #YesYesYes that will feature poets and other artists sharing work related to consent. It's being cosponsored by TruArtSpeaks, the Sexual Violence Center, the Aurora Center, Intermedia Arts and Line Break Media. 7pm. $5-$10 donation appreciated.

The poem itself is maybe one of the more straightforward things that I've written; I wanted something that could work as a teaching tool, a resource, an additional frame for anyone doing work around this issue. In that spirit, I'd like to share a couple of links for further reading:

"Consent is a mutual verbal, physical, and emotional agreement that happens without manipulation, threats, or head games." --more on consent from Project Respect

"The idea of enthusiastic consent is quite simple. In a nutshell, it advocates for enthusiastic agreement to sexual activity, rather than passive agreement." --more on enthusiastic consent from Persephone Magazine

Book: "Yes Means Yes" from Jaclyn Friedman & Jessica Valenti

The classic "Five Ways We Can Teach Men Not to Rape" by Zerlina Maxwell

Feel free to add more links or resources in the comments. Thanks!

Full text of the poem:

Sunday, April 26, 2015

A Framework For How I Think About Social Media Supporting Social Movements + Links to #BaltimoreUprising Info

I've written about this kind of thing before, and I'd like to be clear that this framework is what I try to remind MYSELF of, not how I think all people everywhere need to operate. If other people can relate to this or use it, great, but I'm not trying to dictate anything to anyone. Especially when I think about my own identities and positionality, these points only really make sense in that context. For example, telling a Black person "you should do more to educate people" would be a super messed-up thing to say. But telling myself that would not be. So please read this spectrum with that in mind.

Also, I'm not particularly interested in being "deep" here. This isn't some profound philosophical discussion about how human beings relate to change-making processes, or a poetic exploration of the roots of racial violence; it's a concrete look at how social media practice can relate to movement-building.

With regards to the #BaltimoreUprising and #FreddieGray protests, a few examples:

1. Silence: So some people are silent because they're ignorant, or because they don't care, but there's also a case to be made, especially for white people, that silence could mean listening, not trying to take up space: two good impulses. But as the rest of this list shows, there are ways to speak up without without speaking over others, especially when we're talking about social media practice. And there's just too much at stake to be completely silent.

2. Platitudes: "We all just need to LOVE each other!" Some platitudes are innocent, but a good amount of them implicitly amount to "why are you talking about this? I'd prefer to not think about it." And then, of course, there's the "All Lives Matter" crowd.

3. "Thoughts and prayers:" The last thing I want to do is disrespect people who are authentically trying to process tragedy and injustice. But I struggle with this one. If saying "my thoughts and prayers are with Baltimore" helps you survive, then I support that; this spectrum, after all, applies to me and yours might look different. But for me, I don't give my own thoughts or prayers much weight. Sometimes a phrase like this can be an excuse to disengage, to say something when you feel powerless to do anything. But I don't believe in powerlessness, as the following points illustrate.

4. Outrage: Sometimes, this is just raw emotion, and that's fine. "This country is messed up and we need to DO something" is a great sentiment, and one I agree with. But this point is in the middle of the spectrum for a reason.

5. Outrage + links to more information: Social media can be really powerful, but not just for the vague push-and-pull of culture battles. It can be used to legitimately transmit information that can be used for the building of movements. So saying "this country is messed up and we need to DO something" AND linking to something like one of the following is more valuable to me than the previous point. A few examples:

6. Outrage + links to concrete actions or organizations
: When the question "but what can I do?" is on so many people's minds, I return to the idea that systemic problems require solutions that are bigger than just "striving to be a better person." That means organizing: joining and/or supporting activist organizations that are doing the work. Of course, no organization is perfect, and no single event can magically "fix" things. But these are vital first steps. A few examples:

7. Signal-boosting the activists on the ground
: I don't always do this, since it can be tempting to center my social media practice on my own thoughts and opinions. But I think the "tweet less, retweet more" impulse is important. I have opinions, but I'm not in Baltimore, or Ferguson; beyond that, I'm also not Black, and this movement is very much about how #BlackLivesMatter. So shout out to people like @osope, @aliciagarza, @opalayo, @deray, @prisonculture, @karnythia, @blacklivesmpls, @nvlevy, @micamaryjane, @eveewing, @blklivesmatter, @dreamdefenders, @wintanamn, and the hundreds of other activists and organizers out there. Feel free to add others in the comments.

Also feel free to add other links or resources in the comments. Thanks.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

City Pages' 2015 "Best of the Twin Cities" Observation

I hate to make other people's accomplishments about me, but this was too funny. Every year, City Pages runs a "Best of the Twin Cities" feature, honoring different local artists and establishments. I've been in it before, as have lots of people. This year, I noticed something cool; not sure if anyone else has made this connection yet:

Best hip hop artist: deM atlaS

Best female vocalist: Claire de Lune

Best producer: Big Cats

Now, aside from these artists being phenomenally talented and wonderful people whom everyone should know about and support, does anyone see the connection between the three of them? I'll give you a hint:

Me and deM atlaS made an album with Rube under the name Sifu Hotman. Me and Claire made an album called A Loud Heart. And me and Big Cats made two albums together, the most recent being You Better Weaponize. Click the links to listen to and/or buy them.

ALSO, the Re-Verb open mic, organized by TruArtSpeaks (the organization I work with as comm director and as a roster artist), was awarded best open mic!

All of this is less about how much impact and influence I have, and more about how good I am at latching onto talented people before they blow up, haha. Congratulations to everyone!

Friday, April 03, 2015

Power Youth Voice with #7UpForSocialChange and TruArtSpeaks


1,429 donations of $7.00 will raise $10,000 towards the sustained programming, mentorship and artistic spaces for Twin Cities youth to engage with in with quality artistic practices that challenge them to view themselves and the world differently. Be part of the change in our community by changing the lives of the youth who shape it - Donate by July 1st, 2015 and Power the Movement.

I got to host the Finals slam this year (which was sold out), and just last night hosted our weekly open mic (which is free, all-ages, and routinely packed). From the big events, to the small events, to the workshops and in-school residencies-- this has already been an incredible year for us, and we are just getting started.

This is about grassroots support for youth voice and youth power. We appreciate big grants and wealthy patrons, but a thousand people each donating a little something means much more. This is about more than just raising money; it's about claiming our collective power and building something that matters together.

Donate $7 at the link. Spread the word!

Also, you can get TruArtSpeaks shirts and chapbooks here!