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: