Friday, April 01, 2005

Poets to Panthers

Manuel Ramos

I Am Joaquin - Stupid America
Old Addicts
Chicano Messengers of the Spoken Word
Bobby Seale Speaks
Book and Lovers' Day

I Am Joaquin - Stupid America
Michael's essay on I Am Joaquin started me thinking about Chicano poetry - and as RudyG would say, "how serendipitous" because April is National Poetry Month.

First, there's no doubt about the influence of I Am Joaquin on at least my generation of Chicanas/os. The poem and then the film of the poem made by Teatro Campesino revved up the folks I hung out with back in the days when the poem and film first appeared. The words soon developed into the equivalent of Aztlán's pledge of allegiance. My question: which poem affected you more: I Am Joaquin or Stupid America by Lalo Delgado? I ask not in the popularity contest sense but because of the different ways I think about the poems. For me, Joaquin expressed the nationalistic, identity urges of Chicano youth, and Stupid America dealt more with a political demand for entrance into the American dream. One is not necessarily more important than the other, no?. Did either mean that to you or was it something else altogether?

Old Addicts
Esteban A. Martinez is a lawyer, teaches law students, and writes. (Man, where have I heard that before?) He has written a tough, unsentimental but very moving novel entitled In Memory Of Gods and Heroes, and you can learn about that book at his website: I recently found out that Esteban also is a poet. One of his poems was published in the latest edition of The Colorado Lawyer, the "official publication of the Colorado Bar Association." And what a poem it turned out to be - ask a lawyer/writer to get poetic about the practice of law and no telling what might happen. In Esteban's case it's a gut-wrenching spotlight on a wasted life. He graciously has allowed me to reprint his poem.

Old Addicts

on the other side
of the plastic window
an old addict - late fifties, yellowed
says "yeah, yeah - I told them it was mine"
he didn't know it was stolen
the .380 in a shoebox under his bed

I actually believe, maybe
it will get him 32 years
regardless of my lawyering
if the judge has no discretion
and ATF and JUSTICE use theirs
to hide him from our hopes and dreams
for the third and last time.

Chicano Messengers of the Spoken Word
The Chicano Messengers of the Spoken Word appear in Fear of a Brown Planet at El Centro Su Teatro on April 3, 2005, 2:00 PM, $5, 4725 High Street, Denver. FMI: 303-296-0219.

And while you are at El Centro or browsing El Centro's website look for info on the 7th XicanIndie Film Festival, April 7-10, and Doña Rosita's Jalapeño Kitchen, featuring La Bloga's friends Debra Gallegos and Yolanda Ortega-Erickson - unfortunately, the play wraps up its very succesful run on April 2.

Bobby Seale Speaks
Black Panther Party co-founder and author Bobby Seale will appear at the University of Denver on Wednesday, April 6, 2005 at 7:00 p.m. for an evening lecture. He will speak at Sturm Auditorium, 2000 E. Asbury Street in Denver. The doors will open at 6:30 p.m. and the event is free. Donations will be accepted for a Speakers Fund.This event is sponsored by the Multicultural Social Justice Organization of the Graduate School of Social Work in collaboration with the Center for Multicultural Excellence, GSA of GSSW, Graduate Studies Iliff Social Action Committee, Partners in Learning, National Association of Pan African Students, Social Justice Living and Learning Community, and Students for Africa.Additional information, please e-mail Jaime at JRALL@DU.EDU

Book and Lovers' Day
From the Tattered Cover Newsletter I picked up the following:
"Book & Lovers' Day is a Spanish tradition begun in Barcelona, Spain in 1714. The celebration takes place in the Palacio de la Disputacion and throughout the city on Saint George's Day, which is also the anniversary of the death of Spanish writer Miguel de Cervantes (and the nearly simultaneous death of William Shakespeare). On this day in Spain, roses and books are exchanged as a gesture of 'a rose for love and a book forever!' The Tattered Cover is delighted to honor this lovely tradition. Complimentary roses and commemorative bookmarks will be available at all three stores on April 23, beginning at 9:00 am, with the purchase of any book; while supplies last."


msedano said...

stupid america. i moved into los angeles in 1970, when i got out of the army. was in college isolation before that, and a small southern califas town before that, so what did i know of a chicano movement. so i bought 25 pieces of a chicano mind for a buck fifty from this bookseller in monterrey park. i could read, so i didn't explode. there still are a lot of masterpieces hanging only from my mind, but ...

then i heard yo soy joaquin for the first time recited by a high powered performer who was getting an advanced degree in oral interpretation of literature. joaquin is corky's only scintillating piece, whereas 25 pieces was twenty-something masterpieces. small gems that don't travel too broad a canvas, que no?


Anonymous said...

At CU-Denver I heard Lalo do a read of Stupid America in, I think, 1969. It was like ...

Remember when we were kids (not like today's kids with $100 sneakers and thumbs calloused from videogaming), and it was the fifties and you were shy talking to girls and you wondered where you were gonna get a quarter to buy a bag of marbles and everybody was out on the playground lined up in formation for Class Day or something, and it was before Vietnam and before we knew the Pledge of Allegiance was to a flag that denied Chicanos so much, and then people all around you started singing the National Anthem? 'Member how singing that made the hairs on the back of your neck rise and you got a flush down your spine?

That's what hearing Lalo's Stupid America did, at least to me. I felt the hairs and the flush and had to check my brain that I had actually heard something very Chicano, something that moved me as much, if not more, than back when I was a kid.

After I'd checked myself, I realized I was in a moment of history, Chicano history and since then every time I hear the words or even just the title--Lalo's booming of Stupid America! rings in my head again. It became a Chicano national anthem that day, for me. I probably wasn't the only one.

Rudy Ch. Garcia

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