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Author Topic: Side Events: Do We Still Need Racially-Specific Readings? Discuss...  (Read 14447 times)

bigpoppae

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 have thought a long time about the state of side events at nationals, and i think it's time for a change, a big change in the way we put together shows.

up to this point, it seems that side events have been EXCLUSIVE rather than INCLUSIVE, and i think that needs to change. we seem to pick side events that represent a smaller and smaller chunk of the NPS community, and i think we need to go in the opposite direction by picking events that represent a larger chunk of the community.

here's my main question: why do we need an african-american slam? an asian slam? a native-american slam?

in my experience, EVERY slam is an african-american slam. EVERY slam is an asian slam, a native-american slam, a whatever ethnic background you come from slam.

one of the strongest elements of this whole community is its inclusiveness, so every slam across the whole nation is a showcase of people exploring their race and ethnicity, so why do we need to have an african-american slam? i mean, i can see if there was some kind of problem getting black people on the mic at slams across america, but that is SO not the case. therefore, why have it? if you want to see black people on the mic talking about issues surrounding the black community, you don't need to create a special open mic at nationals... no, you simply have to show up to ANY slam in america.

same thing for any other racial or ethnic background. this community champions anyone who explores these issues.

the only exception that i see is for women. there is still a big issue about getting women on the mic in venues across the country, so i see a need for continuing to have a womens reading. same thing for a queer reading.

but for racial issues? i don't see the need any more.

rather than cut the community into smaller and smaller segments -- offering a latino reading or a asian-pacific islander reading -- why not create showcases that highlight thematic elements that are share by ALL of our community.

the nerd slam is a great example of that. nerd comes in all colors. we are all nerds, and we all have nerdy pieces, and this slam brings us together as a community rather than splitting us off into our own racially-specific subgroups.

same thing the hip-hop slam, which rejoices in the fact that hip-hop has spread throughout our community and the world, welcoming people of all walks of life who have been impacted by this amazing form of expression.

and the same goes for the haiku slam. i love that EVERYONE can perform there. you don't need a certain skin colour or racial profile, you simply need haiku.

here are some show i'd love to see:

comedy slam
poems of witness slam (political slam)
hip hop slam
womens slam
queer slam
remembrance slam

these kinds of events bring people together rather than slice us into smaller chunks along racial lines.

it's an idea.

what do you think?

AmyD

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Word.

I thought the best event at iWPS was the "Anything Goes" slam, so here are some more along those lines:

Bitter breakup slam
Sock puppet slam
Limerick slam
Heroes slam

Kunal Arora

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I agree completely!

WonderDave

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I don't know. I really enjoyed the Queer show because, well, I'm the ONLY gay male who competes at my slam and one of only two glbt people who competed at all this season in the Twin Cities. It's nice for me to be able to see other folks like me who do what I do. And at least at the Minneapolis/ St. Paul Slam it does not hold true that there are a lot of people of color that perform (part of this is of course the ethnic make-up of the twin Cities). I can think of only 1 native American person who competed this season and maybe 5 or 6 African American poets. Asians one. Jewish folk one. I understand wanting these side events to occur.

bigpoppae

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my feelings are that if the community wants these kinds of reading, then we should by all mean have them.

i just wonder why they are necessary at this point, so i welcome the dialogue.

TSPrunier

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I for one would love a comedy slam. Some slams devolve (based on poets' perception of judges' tastes) into a neverending dirge.

Why not sonnets and villanelles as well?

Still, I can see keeping the Native American, African American, Asian American, etc. It's not separating -- it's celebrating.

militant x. amerikkkan

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Big Poppa E:
 How does keeping the queer and women slam benefit the poets who are not queer or a woman? If you want to eliminate side events along racially lines, then you must eliminate the side events along sexual orientation and gender lines as well so the side events look more conservative than liberal. Why stop there? Not everyone is a Hip Hop fan, so if you are going to allow the Hip Hop slam to remain, how about having a Heavy Metal, Country, Folk, or Punk slam? The side events that YOU want to remain I could very easily debate their importance or non-importance.

Just think outloud.

AmyD

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Why not sonnets and villanelles as well?


Oooooh...I like this.  Traditional forms slam?  I'd make it a combo with those two and sestinas, pantoums, etc.

TSPrunier

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Why not sonnets and villanelles as well?


Oooooh...I like this.  Traditional forms slam?  I'd make it a combo with those two and sestinas, pantoums, etc.

Like it... of course, we're suggesting adding, not deleting. Oops.

Dahled

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Big Poppa E:
 How does keeping the queer and women slam benefit the poets who are not queer or a woman? If you want to eliminate side events along racially lines, then you must eliminate the side events along sexual orientation and gender lines as well so the side events look more conservative than liberal. Why stop there? Not everyone is a Hip Hop fan, so if you are going to allow the Hip Hop slam to remain, how about having a Heavy Metal, Country, Folk, or Punk slam? The side events that YOU want to remain I could very easily debate their importance or non-importance.

Just think outloud.

this.

and most of these events aren't "slams" anyway - they're readings. specifically, they're readings where you can go and sing to the choir. obviously you ain't singing along with (some of) them. that's the whole point of having multiple things going on at the same time - go to the event that speaks to you and skip the one(s) that don't. specifically, many folks find comfort in a room full of poets/folks that look like or are otherwise identified like them. we find comfort in this because it is significantly different from the way we must live our daily lives. that this fact needs to be explained to you is evidence of the continued need for this type of reading. we want it because people who require this kind of explanation won't be there - and we're tired of explaining.

it ain't all post-racial just cause barry's in the whitehouse yo... it just ain't.

bigpoppae

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Re: Side Events: Do We Still Need Racially-Specific Readings? Discuss...
« Reply #10 on: May 18, 2009, 02:01:32 PM »
for dahled,

i love these readings, too, and i go to lots of them. and i know this is a touchy subject, especially when it's offered by a white dude, but hear me out. you say the readings like the african-american themed readings are places where poets can go and be surrounded by those who are of the same community, who look like them and share the same experiences, but i still think that every slam is exactly that, especially when we're talking about race and ethnicity.

i think every slam across the country is a showcase of all kinds of people doing poems about their racial and ethnic identity, so i don't see why there needs to be an additional reading championing any particular race or ethnicity. granted, there might be small slams in small towns that don't have racial diversity, but, for the most part, creating a safe and welcoming and supportive environment for people to explore their background and heritage has already been done. we rejoice as a community in all races and ethnicities, so again i say why do we still need an african-american slam?

now, again, i still see a need for a queer reading and a womens reading because there is still a need for championing those folks and offering a safe place to rejoice and express along these lines, but for racial issues, i just don't see it any more.

what i am asking, i guess, is why is there a need for them? now, i really don't think i am some dumb white guy who needs schooling on issues of race in america, i know the struggle for equality in america continues. but within our slam community, i think the battle was long ago won as far as race goes.

and again, if people love these themed readings, then we should still have them, and i will still go like always, but it still makes me wonder why they are there.

i would much rather have readings that were organized along thematic lines that we all share -- comedy reading, political reading, form readings, cover readings -- that everyone can go to. that way each of these readings is not only a celebration of a particular theme, but they are always celebrations of the diversity within the community since EVERYBODY is welcome.

so, tell me more!

bigpoppae

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Re: Side Events: Do We Still Need Racially-Specific Readings? Discuss...
« Reply #11 on: May 18, 2009, 04:23:23 PM »
also for dahled.

you know, i just got back from a bike ride, and i was thinking about the things you said, and i think i understand what you were trying to convey.

while the poetry slam community may be a safe place to champion one's racial and ethnic identity, the world outside the slam remains a place where doing so brings all kinds of bullshit from segments of this society that remain unenlightened, so creating a place within our yearly community gathering to rejoice in our identity amongst our peers and extended family is needed.

there don't seem to be many places where we can celebrate ourselves so freely in the world outside the slam, so it makes sense we do it at nats.

i get it.

Dahled

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Re: Side Events: Do We Still Need Racially-Specific Readings? Discuss...
« Reply #12 on: May 18, 2009, 04:44:07 PM »
while the poetry slam community may be a safe place to champion one's racial and ethnic identity, the world outside the slam remains a place where doing so brings all kinds of bullshit from segments of this society that remain unenlightened, so creating a place within our yearly community gathering to rejoice in our identity amongst our peers and extended family is needed.

this.

and i wanna see what all the black folks have to say about the potus when it's just us in the room too... (jk)

jesster

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Re: Side Events: Do We Still Need Racially-Specific Readings? Discuss...
« Reply #13 on: May 18, 2009, 05:03:21 PM »
specifically, many folks find comfort in a room full of poets/folks that look like or are otherwise identified like them. we find comfort in this because it is significantly different from the way we must live our daily lives. that this fact needs to be explained to you is evidence of the continued need for this type of reading. we want it because people who require this kind of explanation won't be there - and we're tired of explaining.

I think the first sentence in this quote points to a mix of camaraderie and exclusion.  Yes, it is a wonderful thing to be guaranteed a connection with a group of people with similar backgrounds/beliefs/ethnicities/etc.  But this sentence makes it feel more like lunch table clusters.  There's the jock table, the Chinese kid table, the Jewish kid table, etc.

I had a bad taste put in my mouth by going to a reading last year, where there was one poem read that was basically, "If you aren't one of us, get out of this reading."  I was shocked, because it was one of my favorite readings, and 98% of the poems there were great and I enjoyed myself.  But that one poem, and the reaction it got from the crowd, was enough to make me one of those people who "won't be there."

So let me ask this: what does it take to read at one of these readings?  If you are an Asian woman that was raised by an African American stepfather, can you read at the African American reading? If you are a straight man who has gone to jail for protesting for gay marriages, can you read at the queer reading? If you are a non-practicing Jew, can you still read at the 12 Tribes reading?

I'm not a fan of exclusion, but I am a fan of celebrating cultures and causes.

That said, folks tend to vote with their attendance as to which readings are worthwhile (or... which ones they can get on stage at).  Maybe the NPS organizers should pay attention to attendance to start figuring which ones may need to make way for new readings. Let the people choose.

-Jesster

bigpoppae

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Re: Side Events: Do We Still Need Racially-Specific Readings? Discuss...
« Reply #14 on: May 18, 2009, 06:22:34 PM »
while the poetry slam community may be a safe place to champion one's racial and ethnic identity, the world outside the slam remains a place where doing so brings all kinds of bullshit from segments of this society that remain unenlightened, so creating a place within our yearly community gathering to rejoice in our identity amongst our peers and extended family is needed.

this.

and i wanna see what all the black folks have to say about the potus when it's just us in the room too... (jk)

dahled, you are a big silly pants!