New York, New York.
I spent a little time in New York City on my way back to Austin. Not enough time to do everything, but enough time to go and do some research at the Center for Jewish History archives, which houses the collections of the American Sephardi Federation among other collections. I had a great time. Spent two days reading about Sephardi literature and Jewish Caribbean history. There's not much out there right now, that I've found so far. But, I feel like maybe I'm not looking in the right places. Anyway, what I did find was fantastic, and very exciting.
I also got to attend the workshop Tongues of Fire, led by the fabulous r. Erica Doyle and meeting at the Audre Lorde Project. Which leads me to the fact that this week there is GENIUS AT WORK.
Tonight December 3, 2007, Ernest Hardy will be reading from Bloodbeats, Vol. 1 A at Columbia University in uptown Manhattan.
Then Thursday, the participants of the Tongues Afire workshop will be reading at the Audre Lorde Project from 7pm on.
And Friday, to end an already fabulous week, Tisa Bryant will be celebrating the release of her new book: Unexplained Presence [Leon Works Press].
A note about the significance of these three events this week. For one, I have often found myself complaining about the fact that there is just not enough cultural criticism. But between Ernest and Tisa, I find that there's great hope. Ernest's collection of essays on pop and hip-hop cultures are brilliant, insightful, critical, compassionate and they remind me of the complex social and political context under which we've been living for the past 20 years. Tisa's writings are a combination of fiction, critical literary and arts theory. Not only was I refreshed by the form in which she writes, but I was led to think about art and literature in a completely new way - her analyses lend themselves to a new way of reading visual art, film and literature. And she reaches deeper than thirst.
Now that in between the end points of these two brilliant is the Tongues Afire reading. When I visited the workshop (thank you to all the participants who so gracefully welcomed me), they were working on Manifestas. Here's an excerpt of a manifesta by A. Naomi Jackson, for flava (she's not speaking for the whole group; it's an individual writing piece that mentions the group):
The Tongues Afire collective is a group of women writers creating the change they want to see in the world.
In the face of efforts to deny our collective voice, we stand up not as consumers or shareholders, neither as militants with guns and spears, but as writers motivated by our desire to share the word.
We know we are the ones we have been waiting for, the blossoms whose sweet smell we hope to awaken to.
We believe that the future generation needs our stories. We hope they will be encouraged by knowing that their stories began with ours, and knowing that they do not struggle alone.
And the poet/performer Sandra Ramirez shared a manifesta, with the line: "I measure twice, cut once" in reference to love, relationships and joy. I think that line is beautiful, and telling and powerful and a guide for us in doing this work.
So, I come back to Austin fed - intellectually, culturally and in all other ways - knowing that good things are happening in the world.