Thursday, December 11, 2008

Oscar Mireles, Walking the Walk




About a month ago, I was lucky enough to be in Madison, WI....Yes, gente, there ARE Chicanos there! One of the great things resulting from the visit was meeting someone with whom I share a common connection---the love of poetry and grassroots organizing. Let me introduce you to Oscar Mireles, poet, educator, community leader, family man, and father. I wanted to share some of his educational accomplishments as well as literary chops to remind us all of what to do.

Mireles has been Principal/Executive Director of Omega School, an alternative school in Madison, Wisconsin for over 11 years, and grassroots educational programs for a total of over 30 years. While at the helm at Omega School, he's assisted over 1500 young adults prepare for and complete their GED Diploma in the past decade. He is the father of four children, Diego Jesus, Sergio Andres, Lorena Pilar and Javier Oscar.

Oscar Mireles started the Wisconsin Conference on Alternative Education which brought together alternative school administrators , students and teachers to discuss future goals and successful models. He was the first Latino parent to become PTO President of Gompers Elementary where he served for two years. His Wisconsin organizing has also included UW-Milwaukee and got the Community Media project using video cameras as tools for inner city youth to document their experiences. He also worked with Alverno College to present Hip Hop Poetry at the center bring Nuyorican Poets to Milwaukee.

Mireles was also the Associate Executive Director of Centro de la Comunidad Unida/United Community Center where he helped establish the UCC Alternative Middle School (30 students) in conjunction with the Milwaukee Public Schools. He developed linkages as an affiliate with the National Council of La Raza’s (NCLR) Educational Programs and piloted several family literacy and after-school enrichment programs in Milwaukee.

In short, Oscar has played a pivotal role in quality education for Latinos, for youth at risk and walks the walk of paying it forward and leaving a legacy. And if that weren't enough he's a poet and editor. Oscar and I share a common inspirational link--Martin Espada. But he's got some real time under his belt. He's been writing poetry for the past 25 years. 

Oscar edited two anthologies: 'I didn't know there were Latinos in Wisconsin: 20 Hispanic Poets' (Focus Communications,1989) and 'I didn't know there were Latinos in Wisconsin: 30 Hispanic Writers' (Focus Communications,1999) . He produced a chapbook titled 'Second Generation' (Focus Communications,1985).

He's had over 50 poems published in anthologies and magazines including Gathering Place of the Waters: 30 Milwaukee Poets (1983) Revista Chicano-Riquena 'Hispanic Literature in Wisconsin' (1985), Visions and Voices against Apartheid (1987) Viatzlan, A journal of Arts and Letters (1992), Dreams and Secrets, Woodland Pattern (1998), Alt. Literature (2003), Telling Tongues: A Bilingual Anthology (2007).

Oscar's work has garnered him grants for his writing activities from the Wisconsin Arts Board, Dane County Cultural Affairs Commission, Wisconsin Humanities Committee, Wisconsin 150th Sesquiscentennial Commission, Madison Civic Center Foundation and Wisconsin Center for the Book. He received a fellowship to spend a month at the Vermont Studio Center, an artist colony.

Mireles has done numerous readings at the following institutions: Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit, MI., Randolph Street Gallery, Chicago, Il., The Loft, Minneapolis, MN., Chicago Cultural Center, La Raza Bookstore, Sacramento, CA., Wisconsin Book Festival, Madison, WI., National Association for Chicano Studies, Ypsilanti, MI., University of California, Riverside, Riverside CA., Canterbury Bookstore, Madison, WI and Woodland Pattern, Milwaukee, WI. He's currently an artist member of the Minds Eye Radio collective, which produces a monthly radio show of spoken word poetry on WORT(Independent Community radio).

In 2009, Oscar Mireles will once again put together an anthology that brings to life the unique Latino voices of Wisconsin. “I didn’t know there were Latinos in Wisconsin: Three Decades of Writing” will capture the varying Midwestern voices of some 40 to 50 Latino poets and short fiction writers.

Featuring accomplished writers and new writers alike, this new anthology follows in the footsteps of its predecessors; “I didn’t know there were Latinos in Wisconsin: 20 Hispanic Poets,” published in 1989, and “I didn’t know there were Latinos in Wisconsin: 30 Hispanic Writers,” published in 1999.“It is a proclamation that we are here; that we do have a voice but it’s many voices,” Mireles said. “Those voices need to be heard.”While Mireles is still on the hunt for contributors to his newest anthology, he does know that the 2009 anthology will feature notables such as Martin Espada and Daisy Cubias.

To say nothing of his own inimitable work:

'Love Mexican Style' is not a reality television show

Mexico City is far more romantic
then I imagined

Not that I ever think
of any city as being romantic
but there are more people
walking hand-in-hand

or embracing
in front of the bus stop
in the mid-afternoon sun

four cross hugging arms
propped next to skinny tress
to provide
a little shade and privacy

In the open air
the couple were stealing kisses before
the next bus arrives

maybe all the romance
is here in Mexico City
because it gets a little chilly
at night
once the sun
or that everyone seems
to be built about the same size
from the earth

or maybe reason is
the older men, who are smiling
all seem to have “pollitas”,
women twenty years younger
strapped to their side

or maybe the Latino lover
in them finally starts to takes over

I have even caught myself
holding my wife’s hand
a little tighter then usual

and wanting to kiss her
harder then a peck
smack on the lips

or maybe
the natural rhythms
in me
of old Mexico
have been awakened

Oscar Mireles
Executive Director
835 W. Badger Rd.
Madison, WI 53713
Phone (608) 256-4650
Fax (608) 256-4651
Cell (608) 577-5737

Lisa Alvarado


Beatrice said...

"I didn't know there was Oscar Mireles in Wisconsin!"

How, being a Wisconsinite-Chilanga writer, did I NOT hear of this cat? Does anyone know where we can find the anthologies he has edited?

Lisa Alvarado said...

I bet he can tell you if you write or contact him....

Lisa Alvarado