CANCELED “I am deliberate / and afraid / of nothing”—Poetry and Protest: A day in honor of Audre Lorde and Pat Parker (Part One): with Judy Grahn, Jewelle Gomez, and Avotcja

Thursday, March 19 - 1:00 pm to 3:00 pm
The Poetry Center, Humanities 512, San Francisco State University
Judy Grahn + Jewelle Gomez + Avotcja

CANCELED: The Poetry Center's events scheduled for March 12, 13, 19, and April 2, 2020 have been canceled by the university, together with all university-sponsored public programs through April 5, due to concerns involving covid-19.

Additionally, we are canceling all remaining Spring events, scheduled for April 9, 18, 23, 24, and May 7, 8.

We plan to reschedule these programs for Fall 2020. 

Featuring Judy Grahn, Jewelle Gomez, and Avotcja

This special event, co-sponsored by The Poetry Center and Women and Gender Studies, San Francisco State, and supported in part by a grant to the Academy of American Poets from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation in support of Poetry Coalition programs, is free and open to the public, and as all Poetry Center events, wheelchair accessible.

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 nothingPoetry and Protest, has dedicated Thursday March ​19, 2020, ​as a day to honor the legacy of poets Audre Lorde and Pat Parker. This daylong series of events will be a gathering of writers and artists, students, and public audience, “after” and in honor of the work, spirit, and continued influence of these two Black lesbian friends, dedicated activists, and outstanding, outspoken poets.

In the afternoon at 1:00 pm we feature three renowned Bay Area writers who knew Lorde and Parker— Judy Grahn, celebrated poet-essayist and teacher; poet and novelist Jewelle Gomez; and poet-musician and public radio stalwart Avotcja—speaking to and reading from Lorde’s and Parker’s work, and talking with one another and the audience. Then, in the evening at 7:00 pm, three younger writers with strong Bay Area ties present their own new work and engage with one another and the audience—poet and teacher Arisa White; artist-writer Leila Weefur; and poet-scholar Angela Hume. In between these two events (circa 3:30 pm), there is an informal presentation of significant historic recordings, including The Poetry Center video of the February 1986 reading by Lorde and Parker at The Women’s Building; Lorde’s first, September 1974 reading for The Poetry Center; and the 1976 Olivia Records LP devoted to Pat Parker and Judy Grahn each performing their own poetry.

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, from 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 together at The Women’s Building in San Francisco, alongside Lorde’s earlier September 26, 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

 “I am deliberate / and afraid / of nothingPoetry and Protest: a day in honor of Audre Lorde & Pat Parker is one of some 30 Poetry Coalition programs taking place across the US in March 2020 under a common heading, after a line from Lorde’s poem “New Year’s Day.” Support comes from the Academy of American Poets, via a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation in support of Poetry Coalition programs.


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 as well as 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 & 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.

Event contact: 
The Poetry Center
Event email:
Event phone: 
Event sponsor: 
The Poetry Center and The Poetry Coalition