This February, we're witnessing our first Black History Month with the nation's first Black President—a seismic shift in the landscape of our nation.
A shift that our nation's artists will be bringing to the stage on Thursday, February 19th, with a showcase featuring National Poetry Series prizewinner Tyehimba Jess, 2001 Teen Slam Champ, Def Poetry Jam feature Chinaka Hodge, Nico Cary of iLL-Literacy, and vocalist Sparlha Swa from New York City. This event will rip into the guts of a country's fresh beginnings, to expose the glory, bravado, dischord, and enchantment at the dawn of a new era.
I'm so excited to be hosting this event, and I look forward to seeing many Bay Area Red Room folks there, too!
The performance will take place:
Thursday, February 19, 2009
La Pena Cultural Center
3105 Shattuck Avenue
Hosted by June Jordan's Poetry for the People at UC Berkeley, an arts activism program, founded by the late June Jordan in 1991. P4P continues to pursue Martin Luther King Jr.’s vision of a beloved community for all. P4P has an academic focus on the reading, writing and teaching of poetry. The program also bridges the gap between the university and the larger community, working with teens and young adults, schools, community organizations, and activist projects in the greater Bay Area.
Tyehimba Jess is a winner of the 2004 National Poetry Series, the Gwendolyn Brooks Open Mic Poetry Award, and the Chicago Sun-Times Poetry Award. He received a Literature Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts and is a member of the creative writing faculty at the University of Illinois. Jess's fiction and poetry have appeared in Soulfires: Young Black Men on Love and Violence, Slam: The Competitive Art of Performance Poetry, and Beyond The Frontier: African American Poetry for the Twenty-First Century. He is author of the award winning poetry collection, Leadbelly and his first non- fiction book, African American Pride: Celebrating our Achievements, Contributions, and Legacy was published in December 2003.
Chinaka Hodge was the San Francisco Bay Area Teen Poetry Slam Champion in 2001, and a member of team Berkeley/Oakland, winners of the (inter)National Teen Poetry Slam and Festival in 2000. She published her spoken word chapbook, Know These Limbs, in Fall 2002. She received co-writing credit for the stage production: Scourge, sponsored, in part, by the Creative Work Fund, which opened in May 2005, in San Francisco. Chinaka was also a recipient of Dave Eggers' 826Valencia young author scholarship. Sample publications include the McSweeney's sponsored anthology, My Words Consume Me, and Newsweek Magazine. Her work has also been featured in Teen People Magazine, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Oakland Tribune, Scholastic Magazine, Current Magazine, The Annual Women of Color Film Festival, PBS, NPR, C-Span, KPFA and HBO's Def Poetry Jam.
Nico Cary was opening for the Last Poets at 15, and soon after expanding from concerts with thousands of hip-hop fans to national conferences on school reform among esteemed educators. Currently, Nico's artistic and personal accomplishments extend from being a slam champ, to a featured editor for Dave Eggers' Best American Non-Required Reading. Unsatisfied with the boundaries of conventional spoken word, Nico is now working on the much anticipated hip-hop theater production WarPeace, featuring internationally renowned tap dancer Jason Samuel Smith. He is a co-founder of the highly praised music collective, The GetBack, and as a feature on Dahlak's internet chart-topper, "Welcome to my Cypher," Nico has developed a cult following of lyric-heads and anyone thirsty for action behind words, and purpose behind performance.
Sparlha Swa is a vocalist from New York whose featured in solo tours from Hawaii, Canada, the UK, Paris, the Netherlands, Japan to Brazil, and all across the US. In NYC, she has headlined with a full band at the Blue Note Jazz Cafe, Joe's Pub, and BAM Cafe all to audiences of standing room only.
Notable musical landmarks include being signed to Japanese label Village Again for her debut album In The Distance, 2 songs licensed (Love Addiction, Too Late) to the TV show Girlfriends, and having her music video aired on BETJ globally for 6 months. She has written score music for several independent films, including the award winning short "Pariah" which went to Sundance in January 08, and which will be developed into a feature film in the summer of '09. In the summer of 2008 Sparlha starred in the Bill T. Jones production of Fela! Off Broadway, as Sandra Isidore alongside a phenomenal cast of dancers. The show won 5 Audelco awards and will continue in the spring of '09. Sparlha has opened for or/shared the stage with Bilal, Fertile Ground, DJ Giles Petersen, Wumni, Malcolm Jamal Warner, Zion I, Tamar Kali, N'Dea Davenport, Anthony David, Imani Uzuri, Angela Johnson, Maya Azucena, Martin Luther, Cody Chestnutt, Burnt Sugar, Junior Kelly, & Slim Kid (Pharcyde). She has also featured on several compilations including LOVE (‘08), the Souls of Poor Folk ('07), ONE with Pete Rock ('05), and the Woodstock Film Festival Soundtrack CD ('04) as well as interviewed on Japan FM Network, a Japanese radio show with 10 million listeners. Her discography includes a debut studio album entitled "In the Distance" released in '04, a live record released in March of '08 called "LIVE from NYC" and an '03 recorded demo of home-recordings entitled "Uprising". She is currently at work on her second studio album titled "Moongazing".
A little bit about me: Aya de Leon received acclaim for her performance and writing in the Village Voice, Washington Post, American Theatre Magazine, and has been featured on Def Poetry, in Essence Magazine, and various anthologies and journals. Named best discovery in theater for 2004 by the SF Chronicle for "Thieves in the Temple: The Reclaiming of Hip Hop," a solo show about fighting sexism and commercialism in hip hop, Aya is also a recipient of the 2004 Goldie Award from the SF Bay Guardian in spoken word for "Thieves..." and her subsequent show "Aya de Leon is Running for President." In 2005 she was voted "Slamminest Poet" in the East Bay Express. Aya has been an artist in residence at Stanford University, a Cave Canem poetry fellow, and a slam poetry champion. She publicly married herself in the 90s and since 1995 has been hosting an annual Valentine's Day show that focuses on self-love. Aya has released three spoken word CDs and several chapbooks. She is currently working on two novels. She is the Director of June Jordan's Poetry for the People program, teaching poetry and spoken word at UC Berkeley.