Its been two weeks. I know. I was doing real well with a weekly blog (more or less appearing between Wednesday & Thursday evenings), but alas, sometimes the world - se te ensima, it just jumps up into your lap, into your face so fast that you need to do something in response. These last two weeks have been tremendous, so bear with me as I bare it all. (I say this and I must also admit, that at this point, I don't even know how many people are reading the blog, it could be 5 people or like 250, hopefully somebody is, right?)
OK so to honor the little tradition of the "tease" I end the previous blog post with - I will address that first and the jump into what derailed me for two weeks. SO. LET'S BEGIN!!
WAT?! DID YOU SAY?!?!!?!
So if you are familiar enough with me and my writing (and don't worry if you aren't, today, you get in on all the info) then you know about what WAT?! is. - It is a labor of love poetry, a poetic celebration, a call to arms and poetry - all of this in the 4th largest city in the nation. The WORD AROUND TOWN is in its 7th year. It is a tour like none other and it is gaining momentum.
In the summer of 2006, just about 10 poets gathered together to celebrate all that works for poetry in Houston: the ability to read at any venue, any given night of the week in front of an unknown audience. It surprised the poets, the venues and the spectators.
The tour in simplest terms is a 7 day marathon poetry tour, where a selected group of poets go for seven days straight, reading a 7 different venues for the whole week. - It is what makes Houston unique - this so far, as gente from other major cities have told us - we are the only city that has a poetry spot for every night of the week.
Originally, the main message of the tour was to highlight and honor those poets that were dedicated to poetry on the mic; poets who were not afraid to delve past their comfort zone and read in front of unknown crowds, as well as highlight those venues who were dedicated to poetry. - The whole idea has always been to showcase the poets and the venues that make the city special.
The current incarnation of the tour is bold: there are 16 poets that are selected, along with 1 featured poet per night, per venue. In all, that's just about 23 people for 7 poetry spots. The selected poets are a true representation of the best and brightest Houston has to offer in Spoken Word, Academia, Open Mic and Experimental Poetry. - 9 poets who have been a part of the tour in the last year or two are selected and then the last 7 spots are open to a POET DRAFT (which this year will be held on April 30th @ Taft St. Coffee House). The organizers include myself, and fellow poets Blanca Alanis, Joe B, and Stephen Gros are working like crazy to get this going every year.
If you have never been to the WAT?! Poetry Tour, you don't know what you are missing. Every night is unique. This year, the tour will happen from August 4th to the 10th, 2013. We are still in the planning phases and just selected the first 9 poets. - The next step is to secure the venues and host the Poetry Draft for the last 7 spots. Do you think you have what it takes? Then come to the draft. If you want more information, then click on the banner above.
SOMETIMES THE WRITERS MUST ACT...
Before we continue, I really need you to understand that if you read my bio, I take on three parts: Poet/Educator/ACTIVIST. - I think I follow what Martin Espada eludes to - that sometimes, writers have to be the voice for the voiceless - write about those things, those topics and subjects that deserve the light, else it will never get it. With that said, I hope you can understand that I am not one to speak and not act. Me pongo las botas y le entro - I was a part of the Librotraficante Caravan that last year took a trip to Tucson, AZ to protest their House Bill 2281 - which pretty much took apart the Mexican-American Studies program on the K-12 level. They took books from children's hands. They boxed up books and told them that they were "un-American" - books like Junot Diaz's DROWN, Sandra Cisnero's HOUSE ON MANGO STREET, Carmen Tafolla's CURANDERA and Lorna Dee Cervantes' EMPLUMADA. These books are amazing reads, AMERICAN reads, written about Latinos about Latinos who had no voice, who need a voice. To have taken these books away was criminal.
We organized here in Texas. Me and the merry bunch of Latinos, con quien me junto, Tony Diaz, Liana Lopez, Bryan Parras and Laura Acosta - we planned a 6 city caravan, full of books (over 1000 = $20,000) and roughly 30 some odd gente. We packed up a bus and honored the writers and the books and the teachers and the students. - Sadly, the law won in AZ. The classes are still gone, and they only way the books now get into kids hands are by the underground libraries we organized (currently we have an underground library in Houston, San Antonio, El Paso, Tucson, Phoenix and New York, with more on the way) or in Tucson, under the direction of Curtis Acosta - he teaches a Sunday class at the Venezuela Youth Center. It will take between 2 to 3 years before the Supreme Court can rule that this law is unconstitutional, and by then, the damage will be so apparent. - A whole generation of cabroncitos won't know these writers. So this bitter pill, that as an educator, is hard to swallow - that you can have some kids that want to read books that interest them and can't, its a damn shame.
My commitment now, all of our commitments now as Librotraficantes, is to never let that happen in any shape, form or fashion any where else - especially in TEXAS.
BUT GUESS WHAT? - You have some Texas legislators working, in a round about way to try and control what books are being taught, what angles of history can be studied on the college level. - Neta, Neta, - we have TEA PARTIERS who have their eyes on "tightening up" what can be considered a study of "a comprehensive American History or Texas History Survey Course" in Texas colleges. So if your brain isn't too fried yet, then click on this link here.
Simple words huh? - If you didn't click on the link, no worries, I will translate for you: the Senate Bill (and it has a twin in the House- HB1938) SB1128 wants to basically filter what counts as the undergrad components for a basic college degree. "Big deal" you might say. So what? Its two classes in college, who cares? - But here is the implication: if legislators can begin tinkering with what counts as "good" or "bad" history classes, then what's next? How far will this reach?
It wouldn't be a scary deal if it were meant to clean up the college courses. But its not. No, see we do our homework - and if you have some time, you should read what Senator Dan Patrick (R-Houston) and Rep. Giovanni Capriglione (R- Southlake) have used to create their respective bills - hint - click here.
This report by Republican Think Tank group - the National Assoc. of Scholars, (and if you are a Red, don't make a carita, I respect your fire and practicality, just not the craziness the Tea Party brings) only looks for, reports, dissects and nitpicks the books and assigned reading that deal with RACE, CLASS and GENDER - and the report itself recommends that there be less of it. - Esto es lo que da rabia.
WE as a people, don't get to read alot a history that isn't "broad" or "over arching". I mean in college, I got half of it. - I took the standard two history classes - to 1865/ from 1865 and it was the second half that interested me the most. WHY?
Well, the prof. was the just retired PRESIDENT OF THE UNIVERSITY OF ST. THOMAS - DR. JOSEPH McFADDEN. (this was right around 1998 or so) - It was one of the few classes I didn't have to look at my watch to see how long we had before class ended. He has us in the palm of his hand - and what did he talk about? The F**kin history of BARBED WIRE!!! - Yep. MikeyFad taught us U.S. history under the lens of the creation, need and evolution of Barbed Wire Fences. It made sense. It was practical. We read about industry, western expansion, etc, but all from the context of why this invention made sense - but if you left it to mis queridos compadres in TX legislature - I would have never been able to read about this. McFadden wouldn't have been able to let us read about the dust bowl, about MLK's Letters from a Birmingham Jail, or about how the vaqueros pre-dating the cowboy...
I want this younger generation to read the US history as comprehensively as possible - one in which includes every aspect of our nation - the race, the class and the gender. You can not deny these parts of history - you can not tell history without them.
So for now, as a Librotraficante, I will fight on. We already went to Austin in fact. We even tried to meet with Sen. Patrick, but he was too busy to meet with us, so instead, he wrote about us (incorrectly on Facebook, I might add). We were even invited to speak to Rep. Capriglione - but all we got was alot of nothing - he's not ready to talk, to concede that what will happen will be a limitation and a disenfranchisement of the very people they claim they want to help. Here is the link to our conversation with the dear (sinvergüenza) Rep. from North Dallas.
Let me set that up for you. - He tells us that he can convince us that the bill isn't a problem. He says that once he is done, we will understand why he wrote it. - Our meeting didn't do anything, but help make our point - your not ready to acknowledge "Minority" relevance in education, in history or in politics. Your loss. - I will let you know this: from the minute we got a hold of the bill and the report - it took us less than 48 hours to grab 20 something people from three separate cities: Baytown, Houston and San Antonio- to converge on the Capitol.
And now, for the Tease: