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The Day after Independence, You should write.

Hey gente, - I hope you had a relaxing/drunk/family/bar-b-que/firework/picnic/light-show kind of day for your 4th of July. Around my house, things were quiet. The wifey and I have been trekking around separately for about two weeks and we needed some down time. We got each other caught up on new details and ideas and my life is much richer for it. Today's tease is really bad ass - makes me really proud of what we stand for:
 
SO, here is the Tease-  

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So, for over a year, my better half, Jasminne Méndez has been painstakingly working with several communities in collecting school supplies for a school. It would be bad ass enough to say that this writer/educator/spoken word artist was doing all this for a school in a Houston neighborhood, but no, she thought about her roots. That's right, lady mine took that all the way back "home", the Dominican Republic. 

Here's how it came to be:
  
So way before my wifey was a glimmer in anyone's eye, her GRANDFATHER - Angel de Jesús Durán was a teacher en los campos, afuera de la cuidad de Santo Domingo, the capital city of the Dominican Republic. He taught for roughly 10 years in a one room school house from about 1971 to 1980. He was a dedicated teacher. There were no in-service trainings, no faculty meetings, no state tests, no teacher's union. It was him, a principal, who also taught and kids ranging from 1st to 12th grade.
 
After talking to the wifey and my suegra - la gran, Sonia Rosario (formally, Sonia Durán), I found out that the original school burnt down and that Sr. Angel was instrumental in raising funds to help rebuild the school. It was, in time, but soon after, around 1986 or 87, he passed away. My wife was 2 or 3 when passed away. I wish I could have met the man. He has left a remarkable legacy.  -See the story doesn't end there.  

About two years ago, when Jasminne's folks went back to make a visit to the DR, they were pleasantly surprised to find out that the school was rebuild even larger and dedicated to Sr. Angel de Jesus Duran. That's right. The community he once taught honored him for his service. At the time, the building was just a single building. So when my suegros came back stateside, they filled us and soon, I say the wifey's eyes light up and a funny smile creep in.
 
Jasminne came up with the idea of collecting school supplies for the students. So, for the next year and half, my darling consentida worked with several folks, including the students and student council officers at her old job - Cristo Rey Jesuit, where she was a theatre teacher. She planned the trip and picked up all the supplies. 

Once there, she said the school was even larger, with several buildings, a computer lab (though no internet), and served several communities from pre-k to 12th grade. She traveled with my suegros and met with the principal of the school, who was overjoyed at their efforts. There was assembly and poetry presentations planned for the next day, which brought my suegra and family members a few tears. - The best part, according to Jasminne was being able to give the supplies to the kids and listening to some of the teachers, some of whom had worked with her grandfather and some who HE had taught. She said the kids presented several styles of poetry, acrostic poems and even a  former student who is now a police officer did a spoken word piece that day. 

So, with that done and this third trip to the DR done (for my wife), Jasminne has said that she plans on creating a new memoir about her background, based on each time she has had the opportunity to travel back "home".  I am ever so proud of my bad ass wife. She's a keeper, huh? 

Some things, you just need to check out!! -
 
If you have some free time this evening and you are in the Houston area, do me a solid and go by the East End Gallery later today!!! 
 
Here are the details as I know them: 
 
THANK YOU HOUSTON!! -GROUP SHOW , July 7th, 2013
EAST END Studio GALLERY, Ste. C - 708 Telephone Road, Houston, TX
12- 5pm

Join us in celebrating the culturally diverse and rich art scene in Houston. This show is our way of saying thank you to this wonderful art community.

This is a one day show only with a special presentation by Anat Ronen.

We have invited some of Houston's most talented and promising artists!

Anat Ronen
Daniel Anguilu
Gabriel Dieter
Kelly Kielsmeier
Julie Zarate
David Pilgrim
Alex Barber
Jamey Franklin
Patricia Thündercat Oun Corron
Valerie Gudell
John Paul Luna
Michael C. Rodriguez
Blue OneThirty 
D.j. Twinkle-Toes Browncoat
Krystlle Bazan
Stephanie Guajardo 
Armando Castelan
Cathy E. Payne
Nesreen Hussain Alawami
Sue Donaldson
Lee Carrier
NoL
Jeremy Walker
Catfish Perez
Blue Rooster Customs
Katsola
Carolina Guzman
Bryan Cope
Joseph Walker
Felipe Contreras
Heather Gordy
Marco Guerra
Erik Martinez
Brandy Black
Cutthroat Art
Patricia Torres
Lizbeth Ortiz
Angela Obenhaus
Leslie Roades
Kentra Gilbert
Ack!
Wiley Robertson
Robin S. Silvers
Mandy Peyrani
Bryan Lee
Beau Pope
Jessica Pope
Rafael Villarreal
Isaias Crow
Jessica Glover Guerra
Dae one

Try to make it - it should be fun!!!  

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NOT INTO SO ART? HOW ABOUT FILM?
  
So I am gonna give you some info on two film makers, both of them named Jesse!!
If you can, check out their work. 
 
Jesse Salmeron: 
 
Jesse Salmeron was brought to the United States undocumented at the age of three during the Salvadorian Civil War. He went on to study English, Theatre and Film at the University of Houston.

While at the University of Houston, Jesse excelled in his dramatic writing and his collegiate accomplishments include his stage play “Shedding My Skin” being chosen by three-time Pulitzer prize winning playwright Edward Albee for his annual Playwright’s workshop. In his senior year, his screenplay “Celeste,” a screenplay based on an undocumented immigrant student, was a semi-finalist in the Chesterfield-Paramount competition. He completed his Senior Honors Thesis, the first half of an episodic novel, under the late Dan Stern.

In 2007, he completed his first feature documentary, “Undocumented” about the 2006 mass mobilizations for immigration reform. That same year he rewrote "Celeste", a screenplay he originally wrote as a senior in college. In the summer of 2008 he produced and directed the feature film now titled "This is America".

As of 2011, he unveiled his latest work - "Dreamer". It is an excellent film and already making the rounds around the U.S. Here is the preview for the film. 

If you want more info on Jesse Salmeron and DREAMER, click HERE . Its an amazing film and worth the money. Jesse is an amazing film make with a true message that needs to be heard. 
 
Jesse Bainbridge: 
 
Jesse was born & raised in Houston, TX. He earned a BFA in Photography & Digital Media from the University of Houston and later received his educator license. He taught 4th grade bilingual (English/Spanish) where his students always got a thrill out of knowing "Mr. B" was also an actor & would tell him he should move to Hollywood. In 2009, Jesse decided to leave the classroom to pursue his acting dreams.

Currently, this Jesse is in L.A., doing the damn thing - building a career and working in film. Most recently, he wrote and co-starred in a short film "CHICKEN ON THE HILL". Jesse is a buddy of mine - an old friend from my theatre days, who has always dreamed of working in Hollywood. I love his work ethic and his determination - though I will always give him shit for his choice in favorite movies, bad jokes and music. He's a class act and working to make his mark.  Here is the film. 

If you would like more info on this Jesse, then check out his site - HERE.

Both of this caballeros are amazing examples of the talent that comes out HTX. Support local artists!!  Send them a message or go their films.  

 
NOW FOR SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT . . . 
 
Scriptwriters/Houston - 10 X 10 Showcase 2013 Showcase
 
So every year Scriptwriters/Houston hosts a remarkable event, the 10 X 10 show, 10 plays that are 10 minutes long. Its an exciting roller coaster of theatre, each play written by a different writer, directed by 10 separate directors and all with completely separate casts.  I participated in this a while ago (2003) and it was a ton of fun. If you get the chance, you should go - its a great way to support local the local theatre scene and a way to appreciate local writing talent. 
 
Here are more details: 
The directors helming the selected plays this year are Steve Carpentier, Haley Cooper, Rachel Dickson, Keshia Lovewell, Scott McWhirter, Joey Milillo, Elvin Moriarty, Amy Pope, Lauren Tunnell and Devan Wade.

Seven performances - Thursdays to Sundays from July 11th - 20th.
 
If you want more info on the project, check the site HERE


KNIGHTS of WAT?!
 
So, we are just about one month before the WORD AROUND TOWN POETRY TOUR (click on the name for more info) and we are growing!!  Here are some details:
 
 

Knights of the Word Around Town Fundraiser
July 20, 2013 – 7 to 10pm
at
MECA – Multicultural Education and Counseling Through the Arts - 1900 Kane St. Houston, TX 77007
presented by Word Around Town, MECA & MAKE.PLAY.SPEAK

Houston, TX - The Word Around Town (W.A.T?!) Tour, now in its 8th year, brings a uniquely organized fundraiser! The planning team has brought together the KNIGHTS of the WORD AROUND TOWN – a few of the originators of the WAT?! tour eight years ago for a one night only event. In addition, with the gracious assistance of MECA the public will not only get a one of kind poetry show, but will also get a chance to visit an artist fair. There will be more than 10 artisans on hand before the poetry performance. The public will get a chance to mix and mingle with poets, artists and the MECA community.

Knights of the Word Around Town Fundraiser Location:
MECA –
Multicultural Education and Counseling Through the Arts - 1900 Kane St. Houston, TX 77007. MECA has had a long and true tradition of supporting Houston poetry and has previously been a venue during the WAT?! tour on several occasions. The organizers would like to thank the administrators at MECA for serving the poetic arts community once again.

Information for Interested Vendors:
 
Venders can purchase table spots for $25. This price includes admission for one person for the poetry event. Vendor tables are 6 ft. long and will be located inside the auditorium for the duration of the evening. 

How the event will work:

On Saturday, July 20th, 2013 from 7 – 8 pm, the public gets a chance to walk through the artist tables at the artist fair, partake or purchase from artists and network with MECA, the poets and the artists. Then, from 8 – 10pm, everyone will get a poetic taste of what stated it all, as a few of the original poets from the first year of the WAT?! tour take the stage.

Entry is only $5, as all proceeds go to help with promotional costs of putting on the FREE Word Around Town Poetry Tour ’13.

THE TOUR this is year is from Sunday, Aug. 4th through Saturday, Aug. 10th, 2013.  

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So with that done, I think its time to close out this post. Hope you guys had a good week and are ready for next week.
 
Here is the TEASE:

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Words Rise, Over the Skies, Out of Your Breath

¿Que Pasa, Calabasa? -

Thanks for reading up on this blog again. I am a few days over due (like a week) just ignore that. I promise to be on time for the next one - look at it this way - you will get the next blog really close to this one... great stuff, ¿no? 

ON WITH THE TEASE

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So this lovely book - EVERYTHING BEGINS AND ENDS AT THE KENTUCKY CLUB - is Benjamin Alire Sáenz's latest work. I think I mentioned it before in another blog post, but I wanted to get more in depth with it. (MY copy is on its way. One day, I will get it signed by the man, making sure I do not act all geeky or aguitado in front of him and more like a grad student, unless he says "hello, sure I will sign it" or "not a problem, hombre, give me the book", then all bets are off as I will probably pass out. - The guy works at my UTEP - PICKS UP!!!) Saenz's book, won the 2013 PEN/Faulkner Award - it is the first time any Latino writer has even done so. Its pretty bad ass!!  I for one can't wait to get my hands on it - and hopefully one day, I get to take class with the man. 

Here is bit of a blurb from the news from UTEP's website!!
- Renowned novelists Walter Kirn, Nelly Rosario, and A.J. Verdelle served as judges for the prize, considering more than 350 novels and short story collections by American authors published in the United States in 2012. Submissions came from 130 publishing houses, including small and academic presses. First awarded in 1981, the prize is named for Nobel Prize winning novelist William Faulkner, and Sáenz is the first Hispanic writer to receive it.

“He's one of the most prolific writers I have ever met, sometimes producing two books in one year, like he did this year,” said Saenz’s colleague Associate Professor of Creative Writing Daniel Chacon. “Both of those books have gone on to win amazing prizes and to get positive critical attention.”

In speaking about his experience as co-host of KTEP-FM’s (88.5) “Words on a Wire” radio program with Sáenz, Chacon said, “We have the chance to talk to some of the greatest writers in the country, and together we are able to extract a lot of valuable information and advice from these writers, but the ironic thing is that Ben himself is one of the country's most distinguished writers.”

Judge A.J. Verdelle praised Saenz’s mastery of language.

“In Everything Begins and Ends at the Kentucky Club, his 20th published book,

Benjamin Alire Sáenz shows how decades working at your craft gives birth to might and mastery ... He presents a rendering of reality that is lush, tender, expansive, inclusive and profound. The author takes stunning care with language — English, Spanish, and the languages of sunlight, daylight, dimlight, night light — twisting and tumbling with the whispered language of the human heart. Sáenz also devotes impressive attention to rendering communities on the borders of the United States and Mexico, on the boundaries of sensual and sexual expression, on the edge of despair, and on the cusp of redemption.”

SO, there you go. Oh yeah, here is one last bit. - 

TEXAS, RISE... TESTIFYING TO SAVE ETHNIC and GENDER STUDIES!!

Ok, so let me catch you up on why I am little late with my bloga duties. I wouldn't have missed it for anything else, really - but sometimes battle plans and actions must happen quick as lightening. Wednesday, the same day as I would plan on working on the blog, also became the day my compadres y comadres in the LIBROTRAFICANTE MOVEMENT traveled to Austin, TX to hear the presenting of HB1938 - the twin to SB1128 - both bills would seek to change up a 1955 law that requires college students to take 6 hours of Texas or U.S. History courses to fulfill the requirement for getting a degree. This new set of bills, if passed would want to see students take courses that meet the requirement so long as the classes were about "a comprehensive course of U.S. or Texas History". The problem:  1) No one, including the creators of the bills have defined what "comprehensive U.S. History" is 2) the creators of the bill - including Sen. Dan Patrick (R-Houston) and Congressman Giovanni Capriglione (R-Southlake) both Tea Party Republicans have both used a scary report created by a heavy handed Republican group - the National Association of Scholars, named Recasting History: Are Race, Class and Gender Dominating American History?  - with a name like that, and the research results within, it makes comments they make - that they aren't after ethnic studies or cultural relevance in U.S. History, all the more disingenuous. 3) if the bill succeeds, then gateway classes that may lead into women's studies and ethnic studies, may be turned into electives, signifying that their importance would be minimal. Basically, if you want to study history from the perspective that includes African- Americans from Slavery to Civil Rights, then do it, but it wouldn't count for credit to your degree... let that sink in. Riiiiiiight. 

So, the bill was heard on Wednesday- and I have to say Thank you, Mil Gracias, Obrigado to my principal, Diana Del Pilar. I came to her and asked if I could take the afternoon off to go testify against the bill and without batting an eye - "Mendez, you need to go, our kids need you to go". It says a lot about where her priorities are for our school community and her respect for me as an educator. I will forever be in her debt.  - We packed it up from Houston and along with 22 other folks testified on the bill (3 for, 19 against- 2 of which were people Capriglione brought himself and a 20 yr. old kid dressed up as Paul Revere), and it was an amazing moment to be an American. The House Committee on Higher Education eventually figured out that the majority of us came from OUTSIDE of Austin to speak against the bill and they were impressed. - But the work is not done. The bill was left pending - so now, WE must call (yes, this includes you if live in Texas) and let them now that the bill is no good - that they must vote NO on HB1938. Here are the numbers to get a hold of the members - 

Dan Branch - Chair
(512) 463-0367
(512) 322-9935 (fax)

Diane Patrick - Vice Chair
(512) 463-0624
(512) 463-7275 (fax)

Roberto R. Alonzo
(512) 463-0408
(512) 463-1817 (fax)

Travis Clardy
(512) 463-0592
(512) 463-8792 (fax)

Drew Darby
(512) 463-0331
(512) 499-3978 (fax)

Donna Howard
(512) 463-0631
(512) 463-0901 (fax)

Armando "Mando Martinez
(512) 463-0530
(512) 463-0849 (fax)

Jim Murphy
(512) 463-0514
(512) 463-8715 (fax)

John Raney
(512) 463-0698
(512) 463-5109 (fax)

and click here if you want the link to the video of that meeting. - You have to see and hear all the testimony - get popcorn and fast forward to Paul Revere, that guy was a hoot. (Mas Puto) WARNING - the meeting itself lasted from 2pm til 10:00pm - yep, and HB1938 was the last bill to be heard. So we stayed. That's What's Up. 

¡ME VOY A UNA QUIENCEÑERA!

So, 15 years ago, April 22, in 1998, a young Tony Diaz and a few friends started a new venture: let's start highlighting Latino Literature, Latino Poetry and the folks who write it. Let's do it in the party room of Chapultepec Restaurant. Let's talk about "our words" - NUESTRA PALABRA. - and so it went and it is still going. I am proud to say I am a 14 year veteran of the group and I wouldn't trade it for the world. It has given me the opportunity to meet, discuss and argue with some of the best Latino writers in the country and it has helped mold me into the kind of leader, writer and poet I am today. I am forever grateful to Tony and the gang for all the energy, all the diversity of thought and all the bad -assness we bring, from the book tours, to the showcases, from the book festivals to the radio shows, from the literary throw-downs to educational forums, seguimos adelante. Always mas, mucho mas.  - 

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This Sunday, I invite you to join us in Baytown, at the Yepez Vineyard - a Latino owned and operated business as we celebrate our 15 years of Latino Literary work.

HERE ARE THE DETAILS - remember, it is a fundraiser as well (we gotta pay some bills): 

You're invited to the 15th anniversary celebration of Nuestra Palabra "Latinos Having Their Say" on Sunday, April 21 from 3:00-6:00 p.m., at Yepez Vineyard. $50 per person or $80 per couple (any pair a couple) Includes Hors d’oeuvres, dessert & wine. Attire is summer casual. 

RSVP by April 17 to Laura Acosta at lacosta4040@gmail.com or text 832-414-3651.

Pay online-
$50 per person:
https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_s-xclick&hosted_button_id=BZYBBQ34DR3WS
$80 per couple: 
https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_s-xclick&hosted_button_id=PUE3SE4WXMJ3L

HOPE YOU CAN JOIN US!!!  
I will be serving as the OFFICIAL NUESTRA PALABRA POETRY BUSKER - that means that you give me a topic, idea or feeling, and I will write you a poem on the spot. 

I'MMA SLAM YOU!!
Ok, so a few weeks back, I took part in amazing poetic process - I served as a judge at a poetry slam- but not any poetry slam - THE POETRY SLAM, the one that decides the next team to serve as the HOUSTON VIP POETRY SLAM TEAM (when I say this, you have to all collective yell "the treatment", right after, trust me it hilarious - get it? VIP, treatment? Shuddup!) Truth be it known, that was an amazing night and I got to see a plethora of amazing performance and slam poetry and create history. SO, I wanted to take the time and include the members here. Right now, I only have a few bios, so what I will do is give you what I have, and then little by little spot light the rest of the team (Rooster, if you read this, give me your bio, duh). 

First up:
DULCIE DAVID - Dulcie “Digh” David is a singer-songwriter, poet and teacher. She is the co-coach for Meta-Four Houston, and teaches Creative Writing to 9th graders at Sam Houston MSTC. A 2008 Teach For America alumni, Digh spends most of her free time trying to convince people that kids need slam poetry in schools. She holds a Bachelors in Arts degree in History and Creative Writing from Texas A&M, Corpus Christi. **** Dulcie is as beautiful as she is smart, witty as she is a bad ass. 

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IN JUST A FEW HOURS -

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If you are in Houston and are looking something booky to do, then head over to the Menil - the HOUSTON INDIE BOOK FEST is pretty neat. Today, I get host a table for NP and show off some of my wifey's poems and art work by Lizbeth Ortiz - here are some details about today:

The Houston Indie Book Festival is hosted by Gulf Coast and the Menil Community Arts Festival through a collaboration with The Menil Collection the Council of Literary Magazines and Presseat Menil Park ( view map).

The 2013 festival will be on Saturday, April 20 from 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. The event  is completely free and open to the public and remains the only one of its kind in the Houston and Austin areas, featuring a variety of nationally-distributed literary journals and small-press books alongside local booksellers, book and magazine publishers, small presses, literary organizations, and writers.

Click HERE, to get more info.  Show up!!!  Let's talk!!!

LAST BUT NOT LEAST - A WAR OF WORDS (KINDA...)

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This is now a tradition - see we have friends - fellow bad ass poets from Baton Rouge who make their way to the Houston Indie Book Fest and since we first met them, we worked on sharing some drinks and some words on a stage - thus the INTERSTATE POETRY SHOWDOWN is a hot minute of fun! This year, reppin' Houston is remarkable poets Stephen Gros and Chris Wise and from Baton Rouge Vincent Cellucci and Chris Shipman. Should be awesome. YOU SHOULD COME BY!! everything starts at 6:30, so get it together... 

With that, I get to close out the blog post, but of course, not with out one last thing: 

THE TEASE - 

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