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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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Poetry Comes in All Shapes & Forms.

What is up, MI GENTE!?!!?  

So far, so good. - From last week to this week, its been a great time to be involved in writing and poetry. I discover new stuff all the time and so, I hope to share that with you here. - Thank you, Obrigado, Mil Gracias to A. Raa - for the comment. I replied back. (YEA!!! - at least one person reads this thing!!! :) )

Let's get the things going. 

THE TEASE: 

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The VALLEY INTERNATIONAL POETRY FESTIVAL -

NOW in its 6th year- the Rio Grande Valley (the RGV) plays host to a spectacular weekend of poetry, literary celebration and homage to the written word. The organizers, Daniel Garcia Ordaz and Brenda Nettles Riojas, the actual founders have done an amazing thing by creating this event. They have worked in as many different facets to include registered poet, the community at large, fans of poetry, professors, college students, teachers and kids - hell, they have even managed to host a poetry reading across the border. This will be my first time at the festival and I am completely giddy in anticipation for this event. I have been given a sort of run down of the events for the weekend- and I am sworn to secrecy until we get closer to the date, so stay tuned. 

These are the details as I know them so far: 

Date: 
April 25th  - 28th, 2013
Location:
All across the RGV

If you want a bit more information, including locations and bios on featured and registered poets, then take a look at the festival site, here.

The organizers have even put together an annual anthology for the event itself - BOUNDLESS. Then, on top of that, they also end the entire event with a Sunday visit to the gravesite of Gloria Anzaldúa, who was a Rio Grande Valley Native  So, if you have time, take a trip to the valley and check it. 

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AND NOW... a NEW DISCOVERY!!  (not really that I discovered..but)

So I noticed on a friend's Facebook post, they had a link to an audio recording of Gloria Anzaldúa (Thanks Georgina!!), and so I took a look-see and liked it. I decided to take a further look and you know what, the Univ. of Arizona's Poetry Center has an impressive collection of audio and visual recordings of poetry and poets. You should check it out!

I have included a few of them:

A 1977 reading from Phillip Levine (it goes into the intro first, then flips to the next audio file) 

A 1993 reading from Benjamin Alire Saenz

A 2011 reading by Kazim Ali

A 1991 reading by Gloria E. Anzaldúa

Really pretty awesome stuff and very easy to sign up for!!  Enjoy!!  here is the link to sign up:
University of Arizona Poetry Center

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YOU SHOULD TRY TO MAKE IT TO THIS SHOW!!!

a dear friend, OUTSPOKEN BEAN - (go to my links and check his site out!!) is up and running with his one man show. Here are the details: 

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Outspoken Bean is a tremendously talented spoken word artist and writer. So try to make it to his show!!  I will be there on Sunday, - so hope to see you there.

Here are the details:

Date & Time :  Saturday, April 20th - 8pm
                        Sunday, April 21st - 3pm

Price:  All tickets pre-sale, $12 - at the Door - $15
Where: Freneticore Theatre - 5102 Navigation Blvd. , Houston, TX

See you there!!

GET READY!!

If you remember last week, we talked a little bit about the WORD AROUND TOWN POETRY TOUR. If you are just joining the blog, no worries, just click on the title and it will take you to the site. SO, now we are ready and waiting, hoping we get as many poets to participate in the POET DRAFT for the WAT tour. This year, we have selected 9 poets (a hard decision to make, might I add) to rejoin the tour, leaving 7 spots open to be filled by newer poets (new to the tour that is).  Last year, we had the event at Khan's Wine bar in mid-town, but this year, we felt we needed a little more elbow room. - This year, we will bring the POET DRAFT to TAFT STREET COFFEE HOUSE - one of the original venues for the tour!!  Taft St. has always had a long running open mic on Tuesdays, and its gone through its share of hosts (many thanks to Millie Fiori, Joey, and  Jessie for all your hard work in running that open mic in the past!!) and so on April 30th, we will take over the night and run the draft. ALL POETS ARE WELCOME TO COMPETE FOR A SPOT ON THE TOUR!!  (unless you are already selected, you can come and support!!) 

Make sure you bring one poem to read in front of the judges. Make it a good one. 
Here are the details for that night- 
Where: 
Taft Street Coffee House
2115 Taft St, Houston, TX 77006

Time:
8 pm

Contact: 
713.522.3533

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Bueno, con eso, se acabo la bloga por hoy. But, I will leave you with a tease:

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The Writers Speak for Those Who Can Not

Hey Gente,

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?!?!!?!

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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.

If both of these gentlemen think that was impressive - they have not seen anything yet. We are in the media. We are political. We are moving fast, and hot. ¡Aguas!, ¡Aguas! Ahi les llegamos...

And now, for the Tease:

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