Sunday, April 23, 2017

TedxUMN Talk on April 30


I'll be giving my first Tedx Talk on April 30 at the University of Minnesota (where I recently finished my grad studies). The theme is "catalyst," so yeah, there's lots to talk about. You can get tickets here, if you want to see it live.

Also, a more general update: I feel like I've written these words before, but this has been the busiest couple of months of my life. I think it's telling--and a good thing-- that that busy-ness hasn't translated to tons of "product," like new songs, poems, or blog posts. I'm trying to consciously shift some of my energy to other kinds of work-- generally, less-visible work. That being said, there is also some new stuff on the way. Thanks for reading/listening.

Thursday, April 06, 2017

The Endowment: A TruArtSpeaks Fundraiser on 4/15

...and also one of the best Hip Hop lineups you'll see all year.


Seriously, save some money and get your tickets early. Also, spread the word! This is very much a people-powered organization.

Additionally, we just wrapped up the 2017 Be Heard MN Youth Poetry Slam Series with a sold-out show at the Walker Art Center's McGuire Theater. Here's a recap:

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

On Pushing Back: People Power, Local Elections, and the 2017 MPLS Caucuses

***UPDATE: Give-a-Shit-MPLS's website is now live, and it's a one-stop shop for caucusing info.***

A few months ago, I worked with designer Olivia Novotny to create these zines, compact guides to plugging into activism and movement-building efforts. We've given out hundreds of them already, and I think the reason they've resonated with people is because they explicitly try to focus less on the power we don't have, and more on the power we do.

One vital part of that power-leveraging process is local politics. Here in Minneapolis, 2017 is a big year for city council races. I thought I'd share some resources related to that here, both so that my fellow MPLS people can get plugged in, and to look at our local races as one example of how important local politics are, wherever you live. A few points:

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Last Reminder: The #BeHeard17 Youth Poetry Slam FINALS This Saturday



Way back in January, I shared three reasons why everyone should be excited about this year's Be Heard series, presented by TruArtSpeaks. It has definitely lived up to expectations. Catch the FINALS bout this Saturday at the Walker Art Center-- get your tickets here.

And whether or not you can make it to this event, please consider supporting the work of TruArtSpeaks. Every donation makes it possible for more young (and not-so-young) people to have access to residencies, workshops, performance opportunities, and beyond.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

VIDEO: "Our Relationship is a Slowly Gentrifying Neighborhood" featuring Jayanthi Kyle



New video! Here's the official blurb:

Guante & Katrah-Quey's "Our Relationship is a Slowly Gentrifying Neighborhood" features singer (and constant presence at Twin Cities rallies and marches) Jayanthi Kyle lamenting the deeply personal loss of something that used to mean something. While using the standard structure of a love song, the track attempts to explore the human side of an issue that, for too many, is an abstraction, or "someone else's problem," if it's considered a problem at all.

The song exemplifies the philosophy of "Post-Post-Race," an album attempting to grapple with issues of race, racism and solidarity by pushing beyond platitudes and asking deeper, more challenging questions. Over Katrah-Quey's lush, vibrant production, Guante (along with an impressive roster of guests) reaches for root causes, explores his own complicity in the system, and tries to find pathways to action.

The full album is available here
(a portion of the proceeds benefits Twin Cities youth arts/activism organization TruArtSpeaks).

The video is directed by E.G. Bailey, fresh off appearances at the Tampere Film Festival, Riga International Film Festival, and Sundance Film Festival, where his short film, “New Neighbors,” was selected from tens of thousands of entries. Bailey (along with co-producer Sha Cage) was also responsible for Guante's move to Minneapolis back in 2007, so this video represents coming full-circle, and affirming that community comes first. Full credits:
  • Director: E.G. Bailey
  • Cinematographer: Anton Shavlik
  • Producers: E.G.Bailey & Sha Cage
  • Editors: E.G. Bailey & Anton Shavlik
  • Costume Design: Trevor Bowen
  • First Assistant Director: Sha Cage
  • First Assistant Camera: Casey Bargsten
  • Production Assistant: Autumn Compton
  • Colorist: Anton Shavlik
  • Storyboard Artist: Cecilia Hsu
  • Titles: Eroll Bilibani
  • a Freeztyle film

FULL LYRICS:

Friday, February 17, 2017

New Video: DUST (Day of Remembrance + #NoBanNoWall Spoken Word)



The Japanese American Citizen's League asked me to write a piece for the 2017 Day of Remembrance (the day in 1942 that Executive Order 9066 was signed, requiring internment of all Americans of Japanese ancestry), connecting it to current issues regarding xenophobia and anti-immigrant hate.

Check out this story for a bit more background; there are a ton of other resources online as well. As the poem talks about, this is the kind of story I feel like a lot of people know about in a general sense, but that few internalize and really grapple with. And we need to be thinking about it, especially right now. Full text below.

Finally please support organizations working to build immigrant power and/or fight xenophobia, Islamophobia, and hate of all kinds. Locally, that might mean MIRAC, Navigate MN, CAIR MN, the Young Muslim Collective, or others. Find more at the MN Activist Project's database.

Also relevant, I have another new video up this week on Button Poetry's channel. It's called "How to Explain White Supremacy to a White Supremacist." A few extended thoughts (plus the text) on it here.



Friday, January 20, 2017

Our Fear Is Valid, and So Is Our Courage: On Art and Artists in Trump's USA

A nice photo of me, but look at the writing on the board. These aren't conversations I ever had in traditional arts education spaces, and I think they're ones that we need to have.
Way back in 2013, I wrote a series of pieces for collaborative blog Opine Season, alongside some of my favorite local writers-- Kao Kalia Yang, Ricardo Levins Morales, Vina Kay, Chaun Webster and others.

Using the inauguration as a jumping-off point, Opine Season just relaunched. Here's my first piece for 2017, sharing questions I want to challenge myself and others to ask regarding the role of art and artists in the current historical moment.

UPDATE: Here's my SECOND piece for Opine Season, a collaborative op-ed looking at the phrase "this is not normal," and how that might impact our actions moving forward.

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: