Tuesday, October 20, 2009

National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality, 10/22

National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality, Repression, and the Criminalization of a Generation

Please check for rallies/demonstrations/forums in your area.

Justice for Mike Cho has passed on info in LA:

Thursday, 10/22/09

12 Noon - Gathering at Florence & Crenshaw in South LA.
2 PM - March starts, to Leimert Park (Crenshaw & 43rd)
4 PM - Rally in Leimert Park
6 PM - Candlelight Vigil

Fight Back, Wear Black!


The 5th L will be holding a discussion forum about violence prevention at Coppin State University in Baltimore.

SAVE THE DATE! October 22, 2009 @ 10:30a.m

Dr. Carnell Cooper
of the Shock Trauma Center Violence Prevention Program and
Coppin State University Presents:

"Perspectives. Suggestions. Alliances."
A city-wide panel and resource juncture to inspire unity against

Get the perspectives of a diverse panel of dignitaries, community
leaders, scholarly youth, and former victims of violence on past
successes and failures as well as future plans for impacting Baltimore
City's violence problem.Hear from an engaged audience of high school and college students, distinguished guests and concerned citizens who are encouraged to share ideas and suggestions for solution in this positive discussion about violence in our city. Your distinct presence is welcome to participate in this heart-to-heart dialogue between a healthy mix of the city's residents of all backgrounds and status' who genuinely care about the state and future of the City of Baltimore.

Forum: 'Perspectives. Suggestions. Alliances.'
A city-wide panel and resource juncture to inspire unity against

Frederick H. Bealefeld, III, Baltimore City Police Commissioner
Patricia Jessamy, Baltimore City State's Attorney
Annette March-Grier, Bereavement Counselor, Roberta's House; March Funeral Homes
Alfreda Robinson-Dawkins, National Women's Prison Project
Argin M. Hutchins, Mental Health Clinical Coor. Balto. City Juvenile Detention Ctr
Philip Leaf, Johns Hopkins Prevention of Youth Violence Center

Moderator: Terry Owens, ABC2 News

Dr. Carnell Cooper, the Violence Prevention Program
Love You Like A Sister (LYLAS)
Coppin State University
The Maryland Committee On Trauma

When: Thursday, October 22, 2009 - 10:30a.m. - 12:30p.m.

Coppin State University, Dining & Meeting Hall 2nd floor (#4 on campus map)
2500 W. North Avenue, Baltimore, Maryland 21216
Campus Map: http://www.coppin.edu/CapitalPlanning/CSUCampusMap09.pdf

The forum is free. For questions, please contact
David Ross, Coordinator for the Violence Prevention Program,
nativeson@5thl.com / 443.506.7479.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Columbia College Chicago, Wed, Oct 21

Hey-lo peoples,

Catzie and I are performing in Chi-town this Wed night at Columbia College. Details are below. Hope to see you.


Wed, October 21, 2009
Native Tongues event
Columbia College Chicago
618 S. Michigan Avenue
2nd Floor
Stage Two

Sponsored by Asian American Cultural Affairs/Office of Multicultural Affairs

Saturday, October 17, 2009

The Meaning of Friendship: Remembering Brenda McMillan

Hi everyone,

Anyone who reads this blog knows that every so often I share something personal on here, and anyone who knows me knows that I try very hard not to get personal in public. I value my privacy and don't readily talk about my family or romantic love or personal relationships. When I do share personal experiences, many times, these come in the form of confessions. I guess maybe that's what this post will be--a kind of confession. And first I'm confessing that I'm supposed to be unpacking. And cleaning. And writing poetry. But I'm not. And the reason why I'm not is because I've been thinking a lot about friendship and what friendship truly means. And I've been thinking a lot lately about one of the dearest friends I have ever had in my life, and her name was Brenda McMillan. She passed away September 10, 2006. Her death changed my life in so many ways. I miss her every day. And much of how I live, what I believe in, what's important to me, and how I value poetry and people and love and true, real friendship and connection has so much to do with the person she was and how she lived her life.

This is Brenda.

I met Brenda when I was 22 years old. I had recently graduated from Rowan College in NJ, and I was starting a Master's program in English at Temple University. Brenda was a poet entering the MFA program at Temple. We met b/c we were both Future Faculty Fellows, which was a funding and academic support program for graduate students of color, particularly for those who represent minorities in their field of study. Brenda was 10 years older than me and a single mom with a son who was about 8 years old at that time. And from the moment she met me, she just decided that I was her little sister, and that's how she always treated me.

I don't know what she saw in me. Even still to this day, I have no clue why she chose me to take under her wing. But I was a messed up kind of person--anyone who has read my post about my friend Howie knows a little about that part of me. I was in survival mode for much of my 20's and even early 30's. I grew up around a lot of fucked up people, been in a lot of fucked up relationships with men, was always questioning what someone wanted from me--what they would try to use me for. And I've been used for just about everything, from money to ideas to sex to credibility to connections to whatever. And I was distrustful. And selfish. And looking to preserve Number 1. Maybe she saw all those things in me b/c Brenda herself had been through so much in life. But for whatever reasons, she decided to care about me. So when Brenda started to give me presents for no reason, I didn't trust it. She had to want something, right? You don't just give presents to people without wanting something in return--that's what life had taught me. And she would give me everything from books to framed artwork to journals to genuine kente cloth dresses to magnets to candle holders. She gave me everything she could find of butterflies b/c she knew I liked butterflies. Later, when I had my first daughter, she wrote me a poem, gave me gifts for my daughter along with gifts for me. She worried about me not being able to support myself and my daughter b/c she knew that my relationship with her father was shaky, so she got me a job teaching part-time at Community College of Philadelphia to supplement my other teaching and what little funding I was getting from Temple. And all the while, I accepted these gifts and waited for the day the hammer would fall, and I would know the REAL reason why she was giving me these things and why she was always checking up on me, acting like she cared. Someday, I would know what she REALLY wanted.

I never gave Brenda anything. Now, I look back at the 14 years I knew her, and I try to think about what I ever gave her--what gifts did I give? And I can't think of one thing. Not one damn thing. I met her for lunch or dinner every once in a while. Does that count as a gift? I would call her and listen to her plans for the future and her doubts about being a poet and how she found teaching to be frustrating and how she didn't want to live the rest of her days worrying about her next paycheck and how she wanted her money to make itself so she didn't have to work/teach anymore. So she could travel. Dance more. Send her son to college. Live comfortably. Was listening to that giving her a gift? It couldn't have been enough for all she did for me. But she never ever asked for anything.

When I met Brenda, I was not a poet. SHE was the poet, a bonafide poet. Her poetry had received awards, been published in The American Poetry Review, Callaloo, Mad Poets Review. Sonia Sanchez was her advisor and mentor as she worked on a poetry manuscript for her MFA, a manuscript she had titled She. All her She poems were about black women, an homage to their strength and spirit and patience and love. An homage to their beauty. I watched her struggle with these poems. I watched her painstakingly revise them, submit them to poetry journals, go on poetry readings around the city. I think I only attended a few of these readings though she would ask me to come to them all the time.

When I started to do spoken word poetry and Yellow Rage instantly blew up, I honestly don't know what Brenda thought. She came to one of our performances--one that she actually helped to set up. But I don't know if she thought what I was doing was really poetry. I started to get more and more busy with gigs and traveling. I talked to Brenda less and less. She would send me emails asking me how I was doing. Asking when we could have lunch. When would she be able to visit with the baby. And I had less and less time for her.

The turning point in our relationship came when I felt like she had failed me, selfish person that I was. She had invited me to be part of a book club. I started reading the first book and was looking forward to the meeting when Brenda called me to tell me she had to uninvite me. And she kept telling me not to get upset and to not let what she was about to tell me affect our friendship. She told me that the other women in the group said the club was "for black women only" and that they told her to tell me I couldn't come. And I was upset and angry. And even as Brenda kept telling me that she had thought it would be OK b/c I was a woman of color, I couldn't stop feeling somehow betrayed. I don't remember what I said to her, but I do remember her telling me that she wished she hadn't told me the real reason why she had to uninvite me. And I know now that everything she told me was the truth--I knew that she saw me as her sister even though I wasn't black and that it wasn't her that wanted to exclude me. But I had people talking in my ear. And I came to doubt that her friendship was true b/c I felt like she should have vouched for me. But even now as I try to reach out and build across communities of color, I see and understand that vouching is not enough sometimes. We distrust folks outside our communities, and we often have good reason to. So me saying someone is "all right" is not enough for some folks--and I know that I've been wrong plenty of times to warrant caution. But I didn't see nor care about any of this back then.

I stopped talking to Brenda for a while after that. Months went by. I remember receiving a phone call from her, and she started telling me how she had given up writing poetry. She just didn't feel it in her heart anymore, so she decided not to finish She. She also was abandoning the new work she was doing which was to write poems in honor of great African American writers. I remember she had written one for Phillis Wheatley. Looking back, I'm pretty sure that she had wanted some encouragement--some comforting, reassuring words from me that she was indeed a poet and to honor that spirit. But as usual, I gave her nothing.

I'm not sure how much time passed, but the last time I saw Brenda was early 2006. I had given birth to my youngest daughter, had finished my dissertation, was still teaching part-time at CCP--the job Brenda had gotten me. Brenda was still working at CCP, but she wasn't teaching anymore, only doing advising. I was teaching in the Learning Lab at night so that I could watch my son and daughter during the day. She came to visit me in the LLab, and we talked for several hours. She had lost some weight, was going to Salsa dance clubs, had traveled to Mexico, had started dating some guy. Her son was college-age then and had moved up to Boston where her people were from. She still wasn't writing poetry, but she seemed happy. She asked me to contact her soon and make a lunch date. As she was about to leave, she grabbed my hand and held it and told me she loved me. And I told her I loved her, too. And I never saw or spoke to her again.

See, it was a lie--me telling her I loved her that night was a lie. Because except for my children whose love I knew was pure, I didn't love anybody. I was the kind of person who just didn't love people b/c loving people hurt way too much. So I told her that I loved her but I didn't mean it. And I was embarrassed that she had told me that she loved me b/c I didn't understand it, didn't trust it. It's not that I thought she loved me in a sexual way--there was no vibe like that--it's just that to love anyone, in my mind, was weakness. And to admit that you love someone was the worst thing that you could do b/c you relinquish your power to them. And I had given power to too many no-good people. And anyone who loved me would have to suffer for it.

In mid-2007, I found out that Brenda had passed away in September 2006. I was at a colleague's retirement party and I saw another teacher I hadn't seen in a while, and he and another colleague started talking about how they were sorry they hadn't been able to make Brenda's funeral in Boston. And I was in shock and asked them what they meant--Brenda was dead?! And then it was their turn to be shocked--how could I not know, they asked me. "You and Brenda were such close friends." And I wanted to throw up. And I cried all the way home. And I cried everyday non-stop for several months. And I am still crying.

I cry now b/c Brenda was the most beautiful, giving, unselfish person I have ever known. She taught me what it meant to really love and care for someone. And to love and care for someone means to love people for who they are in their moment without expectation but with faith. And what I regret is that I learned it because I lost her. I regret that up until she died, all she got from me was a lie. That when she died, she most likely believed that I didn't love her.

I'm emotionally exhausted writing this post now. I've been crying through much of it. And I don't know what to say at this point except that I try to honor her life through my own. I try to care for people in her example. I'm trying to keep her She poems alive by writing my own and dedicating them all to her. I want to self-publish a She poetry book and donate all the proceeds to organizations which help women and girls. I'm trying to keep her spirit alive, and I try to listen for her spirit in all that I do. I try to love her now after her death like I never did during her life.

As I asked with the post about Howie, please don't ever mention this post to me if you ever meet me (which some of you still did after the Howie post). I really mean it; do not talk about Brenda to me. It is too close to my heart and I don't want to be reminded that I let you all that close to my heart.

I'm going to leave you with several of Brenda's She poems. Please live life and give love always.

Many Blessings,

"Ballad of the Domestic" by Brenda F. McMillan

a colored girl had no days free
she cooked cleaned all year round
colored girl had no place to flee
she children duty bound
she took what work came and swept
had sweet sweet honeycombs
had to day work, night work, accept
had she babies at home
left them at cracking of daybreak
tripped home running the dark
left them with coughs and tummy aches
stumbled home running dark
took the late train, goodies in purse
turned the corner and smelled the flames
took the late bus, goodies in purse
turned the corner and saw the flames
the babies' scents hung lynching air
sweet sweet honeycomb screams
the babies' scents hung in the air
sweet sweet honeycomb dreams
no need to cook the babies gone
no longer day works, night
no need to clean the babies gone
no longer day works, flight
sweet sweet babies gone

"Soul Food She" by Brenda F. McMillan

snap peas
hoppin john
she can't stay still,
got travelin shoes.
she blackeye peas
cornbread kisses
sho taste good,
with greens on the side.
macaroni and cheese
hot and greasy
lord have mercy,
she can bum.
sweet potato pie
yam harvest mama
can make a strong man
scream okra.
big leg barbecue gal
sho nough spicy.
jerk chicken.
do she wrong,
she'll ring your neck.
suck the marrow
from your bones.

"Journey on the Nile (She #20)" by Brenda McMillan

She sailed down the Nile
Sailed down the Nile
And visions swept past her
like oceans running to meet the sand

Then night came
Caressing the day
While the moon sang farewell to the sun

And she slept
beneath the stars
upon the Nile
the deep, moving Nile

And she dreamed
of pyramids
and the yonder years
when Black was light
and darkness was king

Sunday, October 11, 2009

FAMILY STYLE!!! FRI., OCT. 16 @ AAI, 7:30pm

Friday, October 16:
Family Style Open Mic Series

Asian Arts Initiative
1219 Vine Street
Philadelphia, PA 19107

7:30pm (sign-ups start at 7pm)
$5-$10 sliding scale

Catzie and I are going to try our hand at hosting an open
mic series. "Family Style" is a new family-friendly, positive
space that honors Asian American artists and extended
"family" from all communities and cultures. It's a
celebration, yall!

Our open mic series will be held every 3rd Friday from Oct
until May or July (we'll take a break in Jan). Because we
are trying our best to bring quality programming to the
Inish and to the paying audience, we have established
some ground rules:


Sign up 30 minutes in advance.
Max 12 open mic-ers per show.
Honor the theme.
Respect your 4-minute limit.
Arrive 60 minutes early with tech needs.

Ahem, Catzie and I WILL cut the mic and snatch folks off
the stage if they violate the ground rules or disrespect the
space--so please give folks the heads up.

Each month's open mic includes a feature APIA artist and a
specific theme. Our feature artists for October are
musician/songwriter/poet Taiyo Na and the hip hop duo
Magnetic North. Amazing artists separately, Taiyo, Direct,
and T-Vu will be wowing AAI's open mic crowd with their
recent collabo work--seriously, yall, this is not to be missed.
The show will be CRRAAAZZZZYYYY!

Also, Taiyo's music video for his beautiful song "Immigrant Mother"
will be debuting that night, directed by Gary San Angel and featuring
folks from all over the Philly community honoring their immigrant

The Oct theme is "Tongue-ticular: A Celebration of Food, Language,
Song and Other Things that Tickle the Tongue." All poems, songs,
and other open-mic sharing should reflect the theme. Once again, I
want to emphasize that AAI wants this to be a FAMILY-FRIENDLY
space. We will probably allow some cussing (you have to with me
and Catzie hosting :P), but leave erotic poetry at home. Please.

Other than that, we would love to see you--we're all family when
we share "Family Style."

For more info, check out AAI's website:

Updates will also go up on the Yellow Rage blog.

Upcoming open mic highlights: a feature by Def Poet Kelly Tsai,
a Hapa Happy themed night, and next year, Catzie will battle it
out over who is the real "Laos in the House." =D

Monday, October 05, 2009

Robert Karimi in Philly and Jersey, Oct 8 & 9

The amazing and incomparable Robert Karimi will be kickin' it wit us in Philly at CCP on Thurs, Oct 8th and then in New Jeru at Ocean County College on Fri, Oct 9th.

The 8th is open only to CCP students who sign-up, but the OCC event is for the 2009 Mid-Atlantic College Student Literary Magazine Conference and is open to the public as long as folks register. Robert will be performing and leading a workshop. Details, including conference registration and workshop description, are below.

About Robert Karimi:

Robert Farid Karimi is an interdisciplinary playwright, multimedia humorist and poet and the artistic director of kaotic good productions. His works include self (the remix), The Cooking Show con Karimi y Comrades, Shaving time, and the Approximate Value of a Foot Bubbler. Karimi’s collaborative performances: the Edge of The World, Reverend of the DiscoChurch, and McMuertos. His awards include a National Poetry Slam Championship, an Alliance of Artists’ Communities Midwestern Voices & Visions Award, a Verve Spoken Word Grant, NPN Creation Grant, a Kohler Arts/Industry residency, Minnesota State Arts Board Artist Initiative, and 2009 Creative Capital grantee.

He creates, develops and directs ensemble based interdisciplinary performances — an exploration of the Iranian Hostage Crisis and 9/11 with Chicago youth entitled blindfolded, a performance project with mixed race youth working with special needs youth in Alaska, and he led a project with Hmong and non-Hmong artists about the negotiation of identity in new homelands entitled Hmoob-land (Hmong-land)

A San Francisco Bay Area native, son of Iranian and Guatemalan parents and a UCLA graduate, Karimi’s work has been featured from Alaska to Australia. A National Poetry Slam Champion, and Def Poetry Jam performer, Karimi’s writings have been published in Callaloo, Latino Literature Today, and Total Chaos: The Art and the Aesthetics of Hip Hop by Jeff Chang. He is currently developing The Cooking Show: Diabetes of Democracy, Farid Mercury, an exploration of Persian politics, masculinity and pop divination, and editing Punto!, a new Latina/o spoken word anthology.


Workshop Description:

"OMG. We Need to Share This. GO!"

Part motivational speech, part workshop, part crazy time-crunch creation, this workshop led by Robert Farid Karimi will guide a group to create a 'zine' to capture the moment of energy in the room.

The goal: to create a published 'zine' in our allotted time, to think about all the things that inspire us to write, to understand how to harness humor and incisiveness, and to share how our group/individual process can help us capture the energy of a moment, political or otherwise. Bring your favorite writing instrument that allows you to flow.

At Community College of Philadelphia on Thurs., Oct 8:
3-7pm in the Coffeehouse (open to CCP students only)

Hosted by the CAP Literary Magazine and The Spoken Word Poetry Club. Sponsored by The Office of Student Life.

At Ocean County College on Fri., Oct 9th for the 2009 Mid-Atlantic College Student Literary Magazine Conference:

Noon-1:30pm, Technology Building 13, Rm 1

Performance at OCC to follow from 2:00-2:30pm

Registration for the 2009 Mid-Atlantic College Student Literary Magazine Conference begins at 8:30am.

Registration fee: $5 for students
$25 for faculty/staff/public

Ocean County College
1 College Way
Tom's River, NJ 08754


Co-Hosted by Community College of Philadelphia

For more info, email me: michelle@yellowrage.com