The First Annual Barrio BookFest 2004 Liberation through Media and Cultural Expression has been in the making for months now, and since the inception of the idea, artists, activists and literature fanatics have been calling, emailing and faxing telephones and computers to be part of this one of a kind event that attempts to introduce progressive literature to barrio residents, and vice versa.
An idea that sprung from the garage of Calacalandia (home of Calaca Press and the Red CalacArts Collective) in collaboration with the Raza Press Association has finally come to fruition beginning with a Night of Poetry tonight at Memorial Academy in Barrio Logan.
One of the featured poets tonight will be Austin, Texas’s veterano poet, Raul R. Salinas. Having been incarcerated over a decade in his youth, this Mexican-Indio poet self-educated himself within the cell walls of Leavenworth Penitentiary, and upon his release has traveled the Latin American world in the struggle for civil rights for indigenous people. He is the poet of the books Un Trip through the Mind Jail y Otras Excursions, East of the Freeway and Beyond the BEATen Path. Tonight, his Beat Generation-style, spoken word poetry will intertwine with sounds by San Diego’s bassist, Mikey Figgins.
Other performers tonight will be Taco Shop Poets co-founder and on-stage rabble rouser, Miguel-Angel Soria. The Red CalacArts Collective will also make an appearance, featuring poetry by Barrio Logan’s Sara Rebeca Durán Garibay, Northern California’s Mariajulia Arisiaga Urías, Raymond R. Beltrán and East L.A. poetess, Olga Angelina García Echeverría. This reading will be hosted by Save Our Centro Coalition’s Victor Payan.
In the spirit of promoting true grassroots literature, the Raza Press Association and the Red CalacArts Collective has made generous vendor rates geared towards independent publishers and bookstores, from rates as low as $30 per space for self-published authors.
Approximately thirty vendors have signed up to take part in the actual festival, which is on Saturday, May 15. Among the confirmed vendors will be businesses and groups such as Casa del Libro, City Works, Motivational Designs, Project YANO, Austin Texas’s Red Salmon Press/Resistencia Bookstore, La Prensa San Diego, Los Angeles’s Tia Chucha’s Café Cultural and press, as well as the poetic trio, Able Minded Poets.
Throughout the event, there will be so many activities, guests won’t know which to attend. Panels will be held such as the “Role of the Media in Creating Social Change,” which will feature panelist Luis J. Rodriguez (Republic of East LA). Rodriguez is a Los Angeles writer, well known for his highly controversial book Always Running: La Vida Loca, Gang Days in LA. He is also owner of the L.A. based Tia Chucha’s Café Cultural and Press.
There will also be panels like Burning Issues in the “Chicano Community: Immigration, Prisons and the War” and “The History and Present State of Raza in the Media,” featuring panelists Ernesto Bustillos (Chicano Journalism, Its History, and Its Use as a Weapon for Liberation) along with Elizabeth “Betita” Martinez (De Colores Means All of Us: Latina Views for a Multi-Colored Century).
Betita Martinez is a veteran activist, highly involved today with the struggle for social justice pertaining to racism, multiculturalism and women’s rights. She is well known for her contributions to the popular book 500 Years of Chicano History, as well as her participation in the Black Power Movements in the 1960s and 1970s.
Because this is a family oriented event, Chicano Park Muralist Victor Ochoa (Graff Creek, The Writer’s Block) will be facilitating “The Children’s Art Workshop,” where children will be painting with a world renowned Chicano activist/artist.
New and veteran poets, or those just interested in the creation of progressive poetry, can attend the workshop “Tell It Like It Is: A Creative Workshop on Writing Political Poetry,” which will be facilitated by East L.A. poeta Olga Angelina García Echeverría (When Skin Peels, Under What Bandera, and Raza Spoken Here Volume 1), Northern California’s activist/multidisciplinary artist Mariajulia Arisiaga Urías (Con Fuerza: citsilatipacitna) and Raymond R. Beltrán (From Imperial, Up Euclid and With Razors Tied to Our Feet). Tell It Like It Is will contain a thirty minute discussion on poetic techniques, followed by an actual poetry workshop where writers will be able to begin working on poems geared toward socially conscious topics.
An all women’s poetry reading, titled “Sister Power, Unite: Women Poets Doing Their Thang,” will also take place in the Memorial Academy library, featuring writers Sandra C. Muñoz (Free Metal Woman) and Ariel Robello (My Sweet Unconditional).
Music and entertainment will be provided by the Caballero Verde Quinteto Latin Jazz ensemble, with writers such as Armando Navarro (The Cristal Experiment: A Chicano Struggle for Community Control), Marta Lomelei (Cuentos from the House on West Connecticut Avenue) and Rosaura Sánchez (He Walked in and Sat Down and Other Stories).
This first-of-its-kind event is free, open to the public and non-alcoholic. Corporations will not be dealing cell phones and beer company products won’t be welcome. Security will be provided by Barrio Logan’s civil rights organization, Unión del Barrio. The event takes place on Saturday, May 15 at Memorial Academy (2850 Logan Avenue) from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Hop to see you there!