Tuesday, September 13, 2016

LAtino Book & Family Fest. Libromobile Drive. On-line Floricanto

Something Has To Be Done About This
Michael Sedano

I have watched in recent years the diminishing promise of the Los Angeles Latino Book and Family Festival. The September 10 seventeenth iteration of the LBFF brought dozens of people to Olvera Street and LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes. No one can be happy at this sparse attendance for the invariably worthwhile event.

Attendance has been dramatically greater; 22,000 in 2012. Then, the event featured county fair ambience, a warren of tents shading displays by bookstores, individual authors, vendors of ethnic merchandise and art. Accomplished entertainers took the stage. In the meeting rooms, gente could choose from a rich schedule of panels where writers read and signed their books. Public performance from the stage, microphone and everything, should be a writer’s best reward.

What happened? A hundred empty white folding chairs sat in the open sun as poets read to the empty house and people in the display area looked across at the spectacle of sweating artists shouting into empty air. Exhibitors with goods to sell and messages to share passed downtime talking to themselves in absence of a public.

Festive it was, LBFF. It’s impossible that a raza culture fest wouldn’t be lively and happy, even when exhibiters vastly outnumber visitors. A few years back, I ramrodded large trade shows where I learned the only way to make an impact is to talk to people. Mostly that was happening in the grassy forecourt and the entry court where I staffed a writer's spot during a dash to a taco stand in near-by Olvera Street.

LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes within walking distance of Olvera Street and Union Station

This year’s site at La Plaza de Cultura y Artes has the advantage of nearby Union Station and its connectedness with regional history. Getting there via train makes sense. Most parking at Olvera Street runs $9.00 a day, or five with a healthy walk. Metrorail service runs Sr. Citizens $0.35. Other riders pay $1.75, plus a dollar for a Tap card for first-time riders. An abandoned burial ground separates the museum’s 19th century brick construction from the stucco smooth white walls of La Iglesia de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Ángeles, or Our Lady, Queen of the Angels. Just say El Lay.

Several corporate sponsors greet arriving guests. I welcomed the canned agua con gas company’s large crew who greeted me with a chilled can of lime flavored fizzy water. I would have paid for that water I was so thirsty. Savoring the water gave me time to stroll the LA Times and Curaçao department store booths. That La Croix flavored water hit the spot. Free samples and dollar off coupon will produce a sale, a definite maybe. The worker from Curaçao wants me to open a credit card so I can buy stuff from their mailers and newspaper inserts.

Two LA Times guys cover their table with a grid of sports logo baseball caps. I slow to gaze at the fifty caps. This draws both salesmen. It’s a moment of truth for them: They have 3 out of four chances of turning my interest into a sale for one of them. Does the prospect buy weekly, only Sunday, neither, or already subscribes 7 days a week?

When the one questioning me understands I’m already fully subscribed, I lose my eligibility to choose a cap by giving him an order, or getting onto the emailing list.

Dejected, the salesman mumbles with desultory frustration and a flash of satisfaction telling me “then you can’t get a hat.” I feel for him, it’s early and already he’s had some puro rejection. He’s pissed, too, at how the game played out. “Sunday,” I answered, then he offered how about Monday through Friday? I already subscribe to the full package. He’d thrown everything he could offer and the answer was a definite “No.” A slow start means a slow day.

Patty York Raymond, Amada Irma Perez

For exhibitors and authors both, it’s going to be a long day.

Inside the building, workshops and panels offer stimulating literary readings and discussion panels. The events are free, and a raffle at the end wins a free book signed by the author.

Patty York Raymond, Rosalio Muñoz, Amada Irma Perez

Rosalio Muñoz and I are the only audience to pass through the glass-to-glass doorway for a panel on children’s books featuring Patty York Raymond with It’s Too Windy!, and Amada Irma Perez with My Handy Writing Book, in English or Spanish editions. I ask Perez to sign my copy to my granddaughter Charlotte, who enjoys writing stories.

José Enrique Colón

Antonietta Villamíl

Vibiana Aparicio-Chamberlin

I keep my seat for the following panel, presentations from José Enrique Colón summarizing and reading from Báthika, Engendro de la Fortuna; Antonietta Villamil sharing work and song from her collection Arcana de los Dominios Imaginantes, and panel chair Vibiana Aparicio-Chamberlin reading selections from her memoir Mi Amor.

Clusters of visitors filter into the seats during Aparacio-Chamberlin’s reading. They get tickets and the book raffles go to recent arrivals. The panel has cut into the next moderator’s plans with people hustling in and out of the space.

An audience!

The next panel thus begins with high spirits and a front row of listeners. A third panelist doesn’t arrive. Someone jokes about CPT, and Maria Nieto and Ana María González read and answer questions in a rewarding, animated engagement over questions of what things can be written only by women, and listing "best" books.

Maria Nieto

Ana María González

Maria Nieto, a scientist, discusses both her novels, including her currently released The Water of Life Remains in the Dead. Ana María González relates the background and story of her Déjame que te cuente title.

In the last minute, Lorea Canales makes her entrance. She thought the panel started later and she has discovered she’s not early. Canales gets an opportunity only to pose with her book, Becoming Marta.

Lorea Canales 

For a panel of writers to report to an empty room is a shame. Unsinkably, the authors weren’t down yet and their enthusiasm to share their work carried the hour. No one should have to work this hard for so few listeners. Así es.

Kirk Whisler, for one, probably agrees. Kirk reflects on the small attendance and major effort he has expended in organizing the day. Whisler explains the event was set up on less than 10 weeks notice. He adds that for next year's fair, he intends a much longer lead time to get more media sponsors.

Latino Literacy Now and Co-Producer Edward James Olmos find themselves like Fred C. Dobbs on that park bench, thinking about how to get some money right now. Whisler points out that he and most of the backstage folks working on LBFF donate their time. Time, money, ganas, the classic obstacles to getting some money. These are universal.

LBFF content is top notch, but there isn’t enough. Whisler and his team need to assess what they liked about this year’s Latino Book and Family Fair, and what they did not like. What worked, what didn’t in those ten weeks? What will you do more of next time, and what will you do differently or not at all, next festival? Get it all written down and share it to reassure your public.

Advertising and marketing have to occupy a central focus of activity and this means staff and time. You get more than you pay for when you hire good people and compensate their labor. You get what you pay for. It’s time to expand staff, and institutionalize, make payroll.

If no one wants to dig into their savings, mortgage a house, or find a bank, then the future of Los Angeles Book and Family Festival is left to riding on a smile and a shoeshine. Income will have to come from booth space and sponsorships: the organization has to sell more. The answer to every issue is get out there and write orders.

Also within walking distance of mural restorations
Sustaining this collaboration with LA Plaza is essential. What a perfect site for a growing presence in cultura, marketing literacy, and putting corporate money into the raza market.

No writer wants to repeat the experience of empty seats. The word is out. LBFF’s organizers can get authors to look favorably on the festival by paying stipends to panelists, readers, dancers. Money won’t buy credibility but receiving money produces measurable satisfaction from one’s labor.

Hustling takes staff. I hope the principals professionalize Latino Literacy Now and the Los Angeles Latino Bookfest and Family Festival by hiring people to dial for dollars and get out among ‘em pressing the flesh. LBFF can prove itself an “event that promotes literacy, culture and education in a fun environment for the whole family.” Los Angeles is the nation’s key raza market. If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere. But only if there’s a plan, a commitment, and enormous effort to match the ganas.

As a final consideration, the Los Angeles Book and Family Festival has value for its name and all the joy it implies. It is important. Perhaps another entrepreneurial enterprise can buy the festival from  Latino Literacy Now and the Olmos organization. A new owner who will bring a LAtino Book and Family Festival equal to the need.

Libromobile: Call for Books

La Bloga friend and quondam Guest Columnist Sarah Rafael García holds a visiting writer grant at Cal State University Fullerton's Grand Central Art Center. Among her diverse projects is a portable library and bookseller cart that pays for itself.

García wants to provide inventory by accepting books and print material donations from supporters.
 She writes, "In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, #LibroMobile is celebrating its inaugural month & all diverse writers too!

Call for Books: Sept. 15th through Oct. 15th, 2016

Please donate 1 book/zine/chapbook by a writer of color and/or of diverse themes, which engages with one or all of the following communities: children/youth, bilingual, people of color, LGBTQIA, Feminism, mental, health & physical challenges, and social justice.

In return we will feature you, the book & author via our social media sites the day after it is received in the mail! Books will be used to stock the LibroMobile and sold at upcoming literary events.

Please mail books to:
c/o Sarah Rafael Garcia
125 N. Broadway, Apt. #214
Santa Ana, CA 92701

For more info or questions, email: libromobile@gmail.com

Second Week of September On-line Floricanto
Jess Rodriguez Williams, Arnoldo García, Neeli Cherkovski, Jeanette Iskat, Joseph McNair

“Frustrated.” By Jess Rodriguez Williams
“Serpiente Ennubada” By Arnoldo García
“I Love Poets” By Neeli Cherkovski
“My Friends” By Jeanette Iskat
"The Love Bird Dies While Being Held Lovingly" By Joseph McNair

By Jess Rodriguez

Frustrated by the constraints of my mind,

the fact that I walk in the room and gotta command space, cuz according to colonization, space aint rightfully mines

the fact that patriarchy got me messed up, telling girls in saudi arabia that they can't go to school, tellin my home grrrls in the barrio that their worth ain't nothing unless their stomach is baby full

promoting marriage and child rearing amongst young low income women of color, as opposed to tellin us that we can grasp a higher conscious and that we have the capacity to inspire another

it's always someone else's problem, fault and excuse that allows for women to put another woman's capacity aside,

you say you on another level but full of conscious “woke” pride

i got normalized delusions living under white supremacy, cuz if i be addressing every single injustice i see, these people don't know what they get when they mess with me,

when they question the strength that is women of color and our flow

it take them all but a second longer glance to see that wisdom we got, the others won't ever know.

that's why they scared and second guessin, cuz the power of mi hermanas y curandera blessings are higher than they can ever conceive of my essence.

Frustrated. cuz they make us fill the void of generations of trauma,

with a colonized mindset, that we deserve to be poor, we just gotta be smarta

they got us fighting over turf and which woman belongs to who,

all in the scheme of trying to distract us from the fat cats droppin bombs on hospitals and schools

got mi compas of afro­descent saying that black lives matter. you hear me? Black Lives Matter. fighting for the right to breathe, fighting a new set of laws disguised, with racist banter

got indigenous people fighting greedy corporations before and after Standing Rock,

what they think? they could just destroy sacred water and ain’t sumthin gonna pop off?

Frustrated. cuz women and children are being held like prisoners on the southern border, as if the shipment to refill gun demands in latin america didn’t come from a white man's order

so, ima check u for a minute-­ just cuz you buy a headdress dont mean u cultured,

just cuz u paint your face for dia de los muertos don't mean you have a right to build an altar

just cuz you listen to rap music don’t mean you understand the struggle

just cuz you identify as an intersectional feminist ally- don’t mean you humble.

so ima let this be known. i don’t got time to educate you, i don’t have a smile for the male privilege you exert,

so you a male feminist? meanwhile not givin a damn about the women's mentality and body you hurt.

you want to beat another woman silly cuz she slept with your man?

i’ll talk with you about the historical, social factors that disintegrate a woman’s capacity to only being able to keep a man

ya i'm Frustrated, cuz white feminism is focusing on equal pay for women, my first thought is, what type of women?

Frustrated cuz me cruising in the lgbtq community got me filled with “spicy” adjectives and presumptuous people of interest…

Frustrated. so damn Frustrated, with racism, xenophobia, transphobia and countless other oppressions. Frustrated
with this world cuz you're seen as weak when you show sincere affection

got me out here, protesting, learning, eating, sleeping, reading, Frustrated.

still, I stay, brown, queer, chubby, clever, decolonized and radically educated.

So all i know is, i'm not gonna die Frustrated, i'm doing something about it

Serpiente ennubada
By Arnoldo garcía

I am a ghost’s word

Not a post-colonial people or poet

I am pre-Colombian apparition

A skeleton dreaming her flesh, her songs her land

Her hurricane where I sleep

A jaguar carrying the cosmos on his back

My mouth drinks mud, imbibing the ancestor I am to be.

I Love Poets
By Neeli Cherkovski

For Miriam And Kenneth
She loved my eyes
And the pain. She felt
My endurance when the
Rains demanded every form
We could imagine. I tested
Her in the silken dark room
Before an altar
Given by
The widow of a great poet
Who swore allegiance
To an island
Far beyond our
Psalmist 's lips.
This poet suffered
Great pain while wrenching
What he could from
The dirty parade grounds
And the empty hearted
Leaders who turned
From the lynch mobs.
The widow walked on
Grant Avenue at my side,
A staunch trooper
For the love lyric, she
Did not want the poet's
Legacy to fade. Kenneth
Patches is the one. He was
A pale spirit over the Great
Divide, an architect of
Rightness. His widow. . .
Oh Miriam the lights are
Aglow in Chinatown, the
Paper universe will
Someday burn to a single
Ash. As for he woman
I loved, it was only a moment
And half of a dream, yet she
Is as real now as back when
Men ruled alongside
The sweet and difficult gods
Sept 12 2016

My friends
By Jeanette Iskat

delight in the slow motion fireworks
of setting sun in clouds
these unreplicable colors between grey and pink

ooh and ah at lighting
seeing the star deer running across the mesa
antlers threshing the heavens

use water every which way
speak of hot springs and lodges
as the medicine
bringing us back into ourselves

eat beans
devour tortillas
plant seeds in between bites
for the ones who still wait their chance
just to be this basic.

The love bird dies while being held lovingly
By Joseph McNair

The love bird dies while being held lovingly
It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird:
it would be a so much harder for it to learn
to fly while remaining an egg. We are like eggs
at present. And you cannot go on indefinitely
being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must
hatched or go bad. Love is the only thing that
we can carry with us when we go, and it makes
the end so easy. According to Kevin Arnold:All
our young lives we search for someone to love.
who completes us. We choose partners & change
partners. We dance to a song of heartbreak and
hope. All the while wondering if somewhere,
somehow, there's someone perfect who might
be searching for us.Love is the only thing that we
carry with us when we go, and it makes the end
easy. Let the root of love be within, of this root can
spring but what is good.

Meet Some of the Poets:
“Frustrated.” By Jess Rodriguez Williams
“Serpiente Ennubada” By Arnoldo García
"The Love Bird Dies While Being Held Lovingly" By Joseph McNair

Jess Rodriguez Williams is a proud Mexican and Colombian queer, warrior, who is first generation on many levels. Jess is a first generation Colombian American, first generation high school graduate, community college graduate and holder of an AAT degree in Sociology and is pursuing their Bachelor's degree in Sociology, at San Francisco State University. Jess is a radical, queer, intersectional feminist, activist, published poet and organizer, who speaks publicly and recites poetry with emphasis on the struggles and triumphs unique to lowincome, women and nonbinary folks of color. Jess actively works to deconstruct their forced assimilation by getting in touch with their ancestral roots and by engaging in communal, radical, queer of color, coalitional spaces as a means of remembering and embracing the power and wisdom passed down by their ancestors. As a lowincome, queer, Latinx, Jess writes to encourage other Latinx, to be one with their power.

arnoldo garcía is a human rights community organizer poet and musician born in the mouth of the Río Bravo. He worked for the National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, based in Oakland, California, and headed up NNIRR's HURRICANE initiative, which focused on collecting the stories of resistance against abuses and rights violations committed against members of our communities. Since 2011, he began working on a restorative justice initiative a public school in Oakland's Fruitvale district, worked in training public school teachers and staff with Rita Alfred and since 2016 he is working again for the Oakland schools restorative justice program. To see more of Arnoldo's work visit La carpa del FEO: http://lacarpadelfeo.blogspot.com or El arte de la comunidad at: https://artofthecommune.wordpress.com

Joseph McNair writes, “I am a Retired Professor of Education and keep my own blog on facebook.”


Anonymous said...

wow. It's a damn shame about LBFF but you're right. It can turn around. I was interested in it a few years ago and I messaged you about it. I think my bro in law asked about it recently. Thanks Em.


Anonymous said...

I am going to send La Bloga regarding the book festival to a friend of mine. She was just commenting to me yesterday on the poor attendance of the Latino Book Festival. Several other friends commented that they were unaware of the festival. I am curious who is the target population when it comes to advertising. I went several years ago when it was hosted at CSULA and attendance was good!