Friday, February 08, 2008

A Bit of This and That

The Johnstown (CO) Breeze features an article abou
t one of our favorite people, Gloria Velásquez, poet, novelist, professor, activist, and how the memories she carries about her brother have resulted in an attempt to help young people get into college. Here are the first few paragraphs of the story. At the end is info about how you can help the effort.

By Matt Lubich
The Johnstown Breeze

He remains forever just a kid. Frozen in the amber of grief over a life lost too soon. After nearly four decades, eyes now framed with wrinkles have to squint when they look back to recall when he was alive, but even today, tears still come when they do.

But perhaps, his memory will help send another minority young man or woman off to college, rather than to war.

Writer and former Johnstown resident Gloria Velásquez is trying to establish a scholarship at Roosevelt High School in memory of her brother, John Robert Velásquez, who was killed in the spring of 1968 in Vietnam. He was the first, and it is believed only, casualty from the community in that war.

Velásquez, a noted Chicana writer and poet, and a professor of modern languages and literature at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo, Calif., started the scholarship a while back, but it hasn’t been awarded for several years.

“I had started it, and then it sort of died out,” she said. “I tried to revive it last year, but it didn’t work out, so now I’m trying to get it going again faithfully every year.

“It’s only $500, but it’s coming out of my pocket,” Velásquez said. “I just want to get someone excited about the idea of going to college. Like the encouragement I got from some people. I want to see someone who has the potential maybe get a door opened for them and know that they can also achieve an education.”

Velásquez wants the scholarship awarded to an African American or Latino/Chicano student at Roosevelt.

Read the rest of the story here.

If you’d like to help Gloria Velásquez with the scholarship for her brother, you can call her at 1-805-781-9735. Students or parents interested in the scholarship can call RHS Counselor Lydia Nava at 970-587-6130.

OKLAHOMA SERIES FEATURES BLESS ME, ULTIMA reports that a series of lectures on the book Bless Me, Ultima will be sponsored by the Honors College of The University of Oklahoma. The lecture series is a prelude to a reading initiative on the book by the Pioneer Library System. The panels are scheduled from now until April 15. The novel, by Rudolfo Anaya, was selected by library officials as this year's Big Read book.

The series titles and dates are:
•Major themes in Bless Me, Ultima, 3 to 4:15 p.m. Feb. 7.
•Curanderismo: Southwest Natural Healing, 3 to 4:15 p.m. Feb. 14.
•Chicano/Latino Music: Talk and Demonstration with Christina Audas, 3 to 4:15 p.m. April 1.
•Panel Discussion: Chicano/Latino Music, 3 to 4:15 p.m. April 3.
•Trends in Contemporary Chicano/ Literature with Armando Celayo Tuesday, 3 to 4:15 p.m. April 15.

The events will be in the Nancy Mergler Library of the Honors College in David L. Boren Hall, 1300 Asp Avenue, Oklahoma City.

Ileana Rodriguez, Director of the Joseph A. Unanue Latino Institute at Seton Hall, (NJ), announces that the award-winning novelist, Eduardo Lago, will speak on March 12 at 8 p.m. in the Chancellor’s Suite, Bishop Dougherty University Center. Lago is the recipient of the Nadal Prize, Spain’s oldest and most prestigious literary award for his first novel Llámame Brooklyn (Call Me Brooklyn) (Destino Ediciones, 2006).

Eduardo Lago, born in Spain but now a resident of New York City, received the Bartolome March Award for Excellence in Literary Criticism for a comparative study of the three existing Spanish versions of James Joyce’s Ulysses. Lago has translated works by Henry James and numerous other American classics.

In his presentation, Lago will consider a series of themes as presented in the literature of various Latino writers, converging in New York.

For more information contact:
Ileana Rodriguez Ph.D., Director, Joseph A. Unanue Latino Institute
(973) 761-9422

Our friend, John Kuebler, has a review of the play Lydia, by Octavio Solis, at Cairn Magazine, which you can find at this link.

John writes: "Solis, well known for his brooding and intense human dramas did not scare away Denver Center Theatre Company Artistic Director Kent Thompson, who commissioned Lydia from Solis a little more than a year ago. The play is enjoying its world premiere as part of the DCTC’s 3rd Colorado New Play Summit.

“ 'I think it’s part of our culture as Mexicans,” Solis said. “I’m attracted to death in a weird way.' ”

The Denver Center summarizes the play this way: "A Mexican immigrant family is mired in grief, rage and guilt over a daughter tragically disabled on the eve of her quinceanera (15th birthday). When the undocumented Lydia arrives in El Paso from Mexico to work as a maid for the Flores family, her nearly miraculous bond with the brain-damaged girl elates, then angers and finally destroys the troubled family – and Lydia herself. Lyrical, dark, shocking and magical – this meditation on family and cultural identity in the 1970s is a brilliant new play from an award-winning writer."

Read John's piece then rush out to see the play -- it is getting nothing but great reviews.

Catch Lydia at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, Ricketson Theatre, January 18 – March 1. And visit for more information.

Speaking of the Denver Center, I happened upon this note at the DCPA's website: on February 25 at 2pm in The Jones Theatre, a special reading of Sunsets and Margaritas by José Cruz González. "González is the author of September Shoes, presented by the Theatre Company during the 2005/06 season. He was commissioned by the Theatre Company to write Sunsets and Margaritas based on interviews with members of Colorado’s Latino community." It looks like tickets to the reading are free, if any are still available. The Denver Center for the Performing Arts: 1101 13th St., Denver, CO, 80204
Administration: 303.893.4000 • Tickets: 303.893.4100; 1.800.641.1222 or TTY: 303.893.9582

The following news release crossed my desk recently; learn more at this site.

Indiana University's African American Arts Institute will present Worlds Collide: Spirit, Soul & Body, an evening of spoken word and visual art, on Monday, Feb. 25, in the Neal-Marshall Black Culture Center, 275 N. Jordan Ave., Bloomington, IN.

The event will feature a gallery opening of paintings, photography and sculptures by some of Indiana's finest visual artists.

The gallery opening will be followed by refreshments and spoken word performances by the Philadelphia-based Asian American duo Yellow Rage, Tomás Riley and IU Professor Emeritus James E. Mumford.

The gallery opening begins at 6 p.m. in the lobby of the Ruth N. Halls Theatre. Spoken-word performances begin at 7 p.m. in the Grand Hall of the Neal-Marshall Center. The event is free and open to the public.

Yellow Rage
Yellow Rage's Michelle Myers and Catzie Vilayphonh made their first appearance together as Black Hair, Brown Eyes, Yellow Rage in December 2000 at the Russell Simmons' Def Poetry Slam in Philadelphia, where they made the semi-finals. Since then, they have performed on Simmons' Def Poetry Jam show on HBO, as well as at the HBO U.S. Comedy Arts Festival, the APIA Spoken Word Summit and the New York International Fringe Festival. Their first CD, Black Hair, Brown Eyes, Yellow Rage, Vol. 1, is now available.

Tomás Riley
Riley is a poet, writer, educator and a veteran of the influential Chicano spoken-word collective The Taco Shop Poets (TSP). With TSP, he has appeared in the HBO documentary, Americanos: Latino Life in the United States and the PBS dramatic series American Family. He was profiled in Hector Galán's ITVS documentary series on Latina/o arts, Visiones. His spoken-word CD Message From the New Forreal debuted in 2003. He also performed on Chorizo Tonguefire and a jazz/word collaboration with Chicano artist-activist icons Jose Montoya and Raul R. Salinas titled Intersections.

His written work has been anthologized in Bum Rush the Page: A Def Poetry Jam (Three Rivers Press, 2001), The Taco Shop Poets Anthology: Chorizo Tonguefire (Chorizo Tonguefire Press, 2000), Pacific Review and various journals and literary publications. Most recently his first solo collection of poetry, Mahcic, was published by Calaca Press in 2005.

James E. Mumford
Mumford is the former director of IU's African American Choral Ensemble. Although his career has included vocal performances with with Doris Dore's Opera Theater, the Baltimore Civic Opera and on Broadway as "Jim" in Porgy and Bess and "Audrey" (the plant) in Little Shop of Horrors, this will be his public debut as a spoken-word artist.

That's it for this week -- from Johnstown, Colorado to Seton Hall, New Jersey, and a few points in-between. Cultura is thriving.



Fay Sheco said...

My son has been thinking about applying to the Honors College at Oklahoma, and this report about the Anaya lecture series is a plus. Thanks for the info.

Manuel Ramos said...

I'm happy to spread the word, especially for what sounds like a very worthwhile series.. Which reminds me, readers: send us your news, notes, announcements, whatever. We can dig up only so much on our own.

Lisa Alvarado said...

I would love to attend the OK conference! Ah, now if I could only get my hands on the trust fund!

And it's truly inspiring to read about a scholarship that truly comes from the people, for the people.

As always, great column, and thanks!