Featuring Judy Grahn, Jewelle Gomez, Avotcja, Arisa White, Leila Weefur, Angela Hume
A dinner conversation, in honor of Audre Lorde and Pat Parker, and in support of The Women’s Building. With emcee, Tatiana Luboviski-Acosta
Supported by a grant to the Academy of American Poets from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation in support of Poetry Coalition programs
• Please consider making a donation to The Women’s Building, a women-led non-profit arts and education community center located in San Francisco, which advocates self-determination, gender equality and social justice. Founded in 1979, The Women’s Building has been the site for historic Poetry Center events: significantly a landmark 1986 reading by Pat Parker and Audre Lorde, a solo reading by June Jordan in 1993, and a rare Bay Area appearance by Nicaraguan poet-priest Ernesto Cardenal in 2001. We are pleased to renew our connections and to help bring public support to this vital institution.
Funded in part by a grant to the Academy of American Poets from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation in support of Poetry Coalition programs. Copresented by The Poetry Center, KADIST, Women and Gender Studies–San Francisco State, and The Women’s Building.
The Poetry Center at San Francisco State University, as part of a nationwide series of Poetry Coalition programs under the shared rubric “I am deliberate / and afraid / of nothing”—Poetry and Protest, dedicates Thursday November 5, 2020, to honor the legacy of poets Audre Lorde and Pat Parker. Tonight’s dinner conversation brings together six writers and artists, gathering after and in honor of the work, spirit, and continuing influence of these two Black lesbian friends, dedicated movement workers, and outstanding, outspoken poets. Three renowned Bay Area writers who knew and worked with Lorde and Parker—Judy Grahn, celebrated poet, essayist and teacher; poet and novelist Jewelle Gomez; and poet, musician and public radio stalwart Avotcja—will be joined by three younger writers with strong Bay Area ties: poet and teacher Arisa White; artist, writer and curator Leila Weefur; and poet and scholar Angela Hume. With emcee for the event, poet and artist Tatiana Luboviski-Acosta.
Pat Parker’s Complete Works, followed by Sister Love: The Letters of Audre Lorde and Pat Parker 1974–1989 (both edited by Julie R. Enszer, for Sapphic Classics, A Midsummer Night’s Press), are recent facts in the world. There is great and widespread awareness of Audre Lorde’s work and its international influence—and the sudden appearance this year of Audre Lorde: Dream of Europe, Selected Seminars and Interviews 1984–1992 (ed. Mayra A. Rodriguez Castro, from Kenning Editions, 2020). Also, online for the first time, we have the remarkable video of Lorde’s and Parker’s landmark February 7, 1986 reading at The Women’s Building, alongside Lorde’s earlier 1974 reading for The Poetry Center—as featured in ‘Black Women in the Archives,’ a collection of historic original videos selected by Arisa White, at Poetry Center Digital Archive.
This event is one of some 30 Poetry Coalition programs taking place across the US during 2020 under a common heading, “I am deliberate / and afraid / of nothing”—Poetry and Protest, after a line from Audre Lorde’s poem “New Year’s Day.”
Judy Grahn, renowned poet, activist, scholar, is the author of works that fueled both the Feminist and Lesbian-Feminist movements, in the US and numerous other countries. Her mythic-history Another Mother Tongue (Beacon Press, 1984, 1991) was vital to the Gay movement during the 1980s and 1990s. Blood, Bread, and Roses: How Menstruation Created the World (Beacon Press, 1993) has been influential to scholars working on ideas of human origins, and was the subject of a 55 minute film, Poomaram, by notable Indian filmmaker Vipin Vijay. She has published more than a dozen books, more recently the autobiography A Simple Revolution: The Making of an Activist Poet (Aunt Lute, 2012), and Hanging On Our Own Bones (Arktoi Books, 2017), the latter collecting over forty years of what she calls her ‘contemporary lamentations in nine-parts,’ among these the landmark 1973 poem “A Woman is Talking to Death.” The Judy Grahn Reader, a large compendium of prose and poetry, was published by Aunt Lute in 2009. Grahn received her Ph.D. in Integral Studies with a Concentration in Women’s Spirituality in 1999, from the California Institute of Integral Studies, doing her dissertation research in Kerala, India, comparing goddess rituals with menarche rituals. She lives in Northern California with her wife. In a 2009 essay for the Boston Review on the poetry of the women’s movement, Honor Moore spoke of hearing Grahn read her epic poem “A Woman Is Talking to Death” in the early 1970s: “With this poem the whole political enterprise of feminism was subsumed by poetic means into an understanding of the complexity of the stark power relations that involve gender, race, and sexuality.” More here.
Jewelle Gomez (Cape Verdean/Ioway/Wampanoag) is a writer and activist and author of the double Lambda Award-winning novel The Gilda Stories, from Firebrand Books. Her adaptation of the book for the stage, Bones & Ashes: A Gilda Story, was performed by the Urban Bush Women company in 13 US cities. The script was published as a Triangle Class by the Paperback Book Club. She is also author of Forty-Three Septembers, a book of personal political essays (Firebrand Books, 1993), and Don’t Explain, a collection of short fiction (Firebrand Books, 1997). A former Director of The Poetry Center and American Poetry Archives at San Francisco State University, she has also worked in philanthropy for many years, recently as Director of Grants and Community Initiatives for Horizons Foundation, and is former President of the San Francisco Public Library Commission. More here.
Avotcja, poet and multi-instrumentalist, has opened for Betty Carter in New York City, Peru’s Susana Baca at San Francisco’s Encuentro Popular and Cuba’s Gema y Pável, played with Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Bobi & Luis Cespedes, John Handy, among many others, and shared stages with Sonia Sanchez, Piri Thomas, Diane di Prima, Michael Franti, Jayne Cortez, and Jose Montoya's Royal Chicano Air Force. She is a Bay Area icon with her group Avotcja & Modúpue, and her decades of on-air deejay work with listener-supported FM radio stations KPOO, San Francisco, and KPFA, Berkeley. Avotcja was the opening act for Pat Parker the last three years of Parker’s life. A former Artist in Residence at the Milestones Project and San Francisco Penal System, Avotcja is a proud member of DAMO (Disability Advocates of Minorities Organization), PEN Oakland, California Poets in the Schools, and the International Women’s Writing Guild. avotcja.org
Arisa White is a Cave Canem fellow and the author of Perfect on Accident, You’re the Most Beautiful Thing That Happened, Black Pearl, Post Pardon, A Penny Saved, and Hurrah’s Nest. Her poetry has been nominated for a Lambda Literary Award, NAACP Image Award, California Book Award, and Wheatley Book Award. The chapbook “Fish Walking” & Other Bedtime Stories for My Wife won the inaugural Per Diem Poetry Prize. She’s the co-author of Biddy Mason Speaks Up, the second book in the Fighting for Justice series for young readers, and forthcoming in 2021 from Augury Books is her poetic memoir, Who’s Your Daddy? Arisa is a member of the Jack Jones Literary Arts’ speakers bureau and is an assistant professor of creative writing at Colby College. arisawhite.com
Leila Weefur (She/They/He) is an artist, writer, and curator based in Oakland, CA. Through video, installation, writing, and lecture-performances they examine the performativity intrinsic to systems of belonging present in our lived experiences. Their work brings together concepts of the sensorial memory, the abject, hyper surveillance, and the erotic. Weefur is a recipient of the Hung Liu award, the Murphy & Cadogan award, and the Walter & Elise Haas Creative Work Fund. Weefur has worked with local and national institutions including SFMOMA, The Wattis Institute, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, and Smack Mellon in Brooklyn, New York. They are a member of The Black Aesthetic.
Angela Hume is a scholar at work on a book that historicizes the roles health activist poets have played in multiethnic women’s and LGBTQ+ health movements from the 1970s to present and that shows how these writings have laid crucial groundwork for today’s environmental poetry and politics. Drawing on archival research, a foundational section of the book explores Audre Lorde’s and Pat Parker’s critical contributions to black women’s health movements along with today’s environmental justice politics. Hume is also a poet; her full-length book is Middle Time (Omnidawn, 2016), with a second book to be published by Omnidawn in 2021. She is co-editor, with Gillian Osborne, of Ecopoetics: Essays in the Field (University of Iowa Press). Hume is an assistant professor of English at University of Minnesota, Morris. angelamhume.tumblr.com
Tatiana Luboviski-Acosta (they/them) is a Nicaraguan Jewish artist, cook, doula, poet, and food and reproductive justice activist. The youngest child of Vanessa Acosta, they grew up in Mexico and in Hahamongna, Tongva land. Tatiana is the author of The Easy Body (Timeless, Infinite Light, 2017), a book length poem that grew out of their research on the role of reproductive labor in Latin American revolutionary movements, their own matrilineal history, and their experiences navigating reproductive healthcare in the United States as a queer person of color. In 2018, they were the Mazza Writer in Residence at The Poetry Center. They live in Yelamu Ohlone territory, in a rent controlled apartment a few blocks away from where their mother entered this realm.
Judy Grahn, “No one was allowed to speak to me, I was unspeakable….” Grahn reads from her autobiography, A Simple Revolution, with commentary, at The Poetry Center, February 20, 2014 (scroll down within article to Grahn on video)