Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Thank you, Cambridge & Boston! Had a great time at East Meets Words!

Hello beautiful peoples,

I know, I know--I'm sooo behind on posts.  Been a crazy busy month.  But I wanted to make sure I got a post up about the awesome time I had at East Meets Words on August 9 :)

That Friday was a a very rainy one in Cambridge and Boston.  Here's a pic of Boston from the day before.  You can see how cloudy it was.  It mostly drizzled on Thurs, but Fri the skies opened up and poured.
Traffic was extremely heavy through Cambridge as I was driving to East Meets West Bookstore. Before the open mic, I was supposed to lead a poetry writing and performance workshop at 6pm; the workshop was sponsored by Boston Progress Arts Collective and MataHari: Eye of the Day, a community organization based in Boston that works with women of color, immigrants, domestic workers, and trafficking survivors for social justice and human rights.  Due to the rain, people were running really late--Monique Nguyen, Executive Director of MataHari--did a wonderful job contacting people and getting folks to participate in the workshop.  We were able to start at 7pm with 6 people: Monique, Kai (an amazing spoken word poet who lives above the East Meets West Bookstore), Payal, Andres, Alan, and Natalia.  I hope I spelled everyone's name right! :) Oh, and my kids joined the fun too :)

Here are some pics from the workshop:
 Everyone was so awesome!  Lately I've been workshopping with a poem by Chrystos, who is Native American, called "Ceremony for Completing a Poetry Reading."  It's a great poem about the writing/reading/sharing/performing of poetry being a selfless, community-building act.  I've only ever seen the poem published in This Bridge Called My Back: Writings By Radical Women of Color, but I've used it for workshops that I've facilitated for youth as young as 8-years-old, for teenagers between 14-18, and for adults.  And it works wonders every time.  So that's the poem I shared with this group as well, and it generated a thought-provoking conversation about the purpose of spoken word poetry, the importance of having a performance philosophy or performance approach, and inspired some performances--and even new poems!--which earnestly connected with each poet's emotions and heart.  Can I say it again?--it was AWESOME! :)

After the poetry workshop, we opened up the doors for the East Meets Words Open Mic Series.  Payal continued to work on her piece from the workshop to perform in the open mic (didn't I say AWESOME?! :)
Here's a pic of the crowd waiting for the open mic to start (and my daughter making friends):
My children had such a blast!  Everyone was so great to them.  They were excited to play with some of the musical instruments that were in the music studio and to just feel welcome and included in all of the activities during the evening.  Vanessa absolutely adored Payal :) And Victor was super-excited about David Kong (founder of East Meets Words and Boston Progress Arts Collective) and Scooter's musical group XLB, which stands for "Extra Large Brothers."  He liked their performance during the open mic so much--especially Scooter's bass-guitar solo--that he exclaimed later: "It was so intense, I almost threw up!"  Which in nine-year-old-speak is the best compliment ever! :)

Here are pics from the open mic.  Note pics of participants from my poetry workshop killin' it on stage! :) And Jeff frickin' beat-boxing on a flute--on a FLUTE!!!  It was the coolest thing ever!
The energy all night was uplifting and inspiring.  As I hope you can see from the pics, people were happy to share the stage with others, taking in being creative together, syncing their energies with each other and the audience.  I felt blessed and honored to witness such a heart-warming display of community and connection. Echoing David's words about the night: It was epic! :)

The open mic ended with a group freestyle--exuding so much fun and joy:
Thank you, everyone, for such an amazing experience! :)  My feature came after the open mic, but alas, I have no pics of my own to share :(  But some of the audience gave me a standing ovation! :) And I'm grateful for everyone who talked with me before and after the show. There are more pics of the event posted on the Boston Progress and East Meets West Bookstore FaceBook pages.  Please visit these 2 links:

But even when it was over--it wasn't really over!  People stayed to hang out well after I finished my feature.  And another freestyle jam session ensued:
   Finally (for this post anyway :), visiting the Boston-area would not be complete without giving a shout out to my friend Giles Li.  I was able to talk with Giles a bit the next day; we were chatting for his podcast.
I've known Giles for something-like 12 years.  We talked a lot about the early years of the Asian American spoken word poetry scene.  Some of it is fun and nostalgic to think about now.  But some of it makes me feel wistful--like, we really had the chance to accomplish something truly great as a community . . .  But that's all behind us now.  Best to keep it moving forward--And I'm so happy and thankful I had this opportunity to meet some wonderful people doing great and important work in Cambridge and Boston.  Special thanks to David Kong and Boston Progress Arts Collective and to Monique and MataHari.  Big hugs to everyone who participated in my poetry workshop, were at East Meets Words, and stayed for my performance.  Warm thanks to Giles for talking and reminiscing with me on Sat.  Much love to my children.  And lots of love to all you beautiful people :)


PS--Next performance is at the Kennedy Center in Washington DC, August 30! :)