Author Topic: Side Events: Do We Still Need Racially-Specific Readings? Discuss...  (Read 13339 times)

Dahled

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Re: Side Events: Do We Still Need Racially-Specific Readings? Discuss...
« Reply #15 on: May 19, 2009, 12:15:42 AM »
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.

a. there're no guarantees. that i go into these rooms specifically to stir shit in a way that i do not feel comfortable doing in racially mixed company.

b. as a kid i went from table to table and talked to the individuals that i knew in those groups. and anyway it's been my experience that in most scenes with multiple slams the audiences are often if not usually broken up along racial lines anyway (not the poets necessarily, we travel).

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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."

-i've gone to lots of readings and been offended... it was just the one poem? are you telling me that you never realized that many folks of color harbor certain resentments and that these sometimes bubble to the surface when we gather? _seriously_?

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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?

-um, i am a non-practicing jew and i do read at 12 tribes, and chocolate city too - though they often clash. i'd say yes in each of these occasions. you need what you need for any reading - the balls to get up there, the conviction to say what you have to say and the willingness to deal with the consequences. no-one will will attack you but you may have the stigma of being "that white guy that read at chocolate city"... i don't know though, that could help if you dig the sistas.

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

-no one is excluded, there's no sign on the door that says "no whites" or anything of the sort... you just don't "feel" comfortable there... why exactly is that? you realize that that is the feeling we are attempting to deal with by coming together in the first place.

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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.
-absolutely! chocolate city (or whatever you call the aa reading) has always been one of the better attended events, that should speak for itself.

jesster

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Re: Side Events: Do We Still Need Racially-Specific Readings? Discuss...
« Reply #16 on: May 19, 2009, 02:11:09 AM »
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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."

-i've gone to lots of readings and been offended... it was just the one poem? are you telling me that you never realized that many folks of color harbor certain resentments and that these sometimes bubble to the surface when we gather? _seriously_?

a) I didn't say I was offended. I just suddenly felt like an intruder that wasn't meant to be there.  I felt like *I* was the offender.

b) I didn't say the reading had to do with people of color. *looks at tattoos* Wait... which color? ;)

c) So we should tolerate that sort of intolerance because when people of color get together they tell other folks to go away and we should expect that?  I seriously hope not.  I would absolutely expect venting and frustration, but I think lashing out should cross a moral line.  But that's freedom of speech for you.

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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?

-um, i am a non-practicing jew and i do read at 12 tribes, and chocolate city too - though they often clash. i'd say yes in each of these occasions. you need what you need for any reading - the balls to get up there, the conviction to say what you have to say and the willingness to deal with the consequences. no-one will will attack you but you may have the stigma of being "that white guy that read at chocolate city"... i don't know though, that could help if you dig the sistas.

You know, I would have thought that, too, until I was told directly that if I don't belong to the group holding the reading I shouldn't read there.  I'm still new to this slam/NPS thing, so I learned something.

I mostly dig humans ;)

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

-no one is excluded, there's no sign on the door that says "no whites" or anything of the sort... you just don't "feel" comfortable there... why exactly is that? you realize that that is the feeling we are attempting to deal with by coming together in the first place.

I have experienced this differently, I guess.  I'll go anywhere that will have me, but sometimes I'm asked not to.  That's the experience I've already had.  Coming together to share a culture is a beautiful thing. Connecting is a beautiful thing. Saying you shouldn't read because, while you love/appreciate/are part of the culture, you still don't have the necessary physical criteria to read is not so great.   

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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.
-absolutely! chocolate city (or whatever you call the aa reading) has always been one of the better attended events, that should speak for itself.

Hmm... I will have to check it out.  I've yet to go to that reading.  Then again, I've only been to NPS these last two years. And there's a lot of readings...

I truly think the popular readings show what is needed and wanted at NPS. If there are groups that want to celebrate their culture and share it with a willing audience, more power to us all.  But there is exclusivity built into some of these readings, and it seems like bullshit to deny that, IMHO. 

-Jesster

karen_g

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Re: Side Events: Do We Still Need Racially-Specific Readings? Discuss...
« Reply #17 on: May 19, 2009, 03:22:35 PM »
Hmmm.

As an organizer for a mainly estro-centric reading, I still appreciate having the interior room dialogue, the space to be able to lash out, the place to put righteous indignation, fury,catharsis, questions, support,and  explorations.While I also agree that the age of identity politics and essentialism is waning, I think we still need these spaces, particularly as a space to breathe and be able to bond with each other so we can find each other later if we have a bout where some really sideways stuff gets spoken and triggers some issues.While I think in one way, as poets, we all have each others' backs, sometimes things happen and it's good to have the space to put reactions. Or the space to make connection.
My big issue with scheduling readings is this--can we PLEASE have reading room enough so that certain of us don't have to choose whether to do the black poem, the female poem OR the gay poem because all of those readings are at the same time?
 :P
I actually think that we can probably space readings in such a way that these choices don't have to be made.I"m familiar with the nightmare that is festival scheduling, but I have a feeling it can be done, maybe even in tandem with workshops.
I think workshop+reading pairings might be really cool.Maybe we can have workshops
that touch on something JESSTER brought up---how to be an ally, how to identify as one (poems, of course!), how to bridge activism with art, the ally poem workshop zone...something.This could address some of the inclusion/exclusion stuff that comes up for people who are trying, attempting, connecting.
Maybe something to explore in the future.
~tangent-sorry~

That said, my readings list might go something like:

Forms reading (limmerick,sonnet,etc)
Haiku (maybe even as pre-group piece finals or pre-finals, save the head to head last rounds for that)
Estro
LGTBIQ
Af-Am
First Nations
Remembrance+Heros reading (I find this space vital, healing)
Asian,PI
Hip Hop/musical unity slam
Anything Goes


That's 10,roughly two an afternoon.
Maybe we should have some on Saturday, too.
I've left out Erotica, Rookie, Slam master because those usually go at night.Actually, Nerd and decathalon, too.
I think of those as evening ones.


My shill.Which I guess I should send to our Pres via email  :D

nerak_g

Dahled

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Re: Side Events: Do We Still Need Racially-Specific Readings? Discuss...
« Reply #18 on: May 19, 2009, 04:15:52 PM »
c) So we should tolerate that sort of intolerance because when people of color get together they tell other folks to go away and we should expect that?  I seriously hope not.  I would absolutely expect venting and frustration, but I think lashing out should cross a moral line.  But that's freedom of speech for you.

oops... i already broke a promise to myself. i can't explain this to you in a way that you'll understand w/out getting offended so i won't try.

I truly think the popular readings show what is needed and wanted at NPS. If there are groups that want to celebrate their culture and share it with a willing audience, more power to us all.  But there is exclusivity built into some of these readings, and it seems like bullshit to deny that, IMHO. 

no one is denying some level of exclusivity. what's wrong with some exclusivity? and why again do you want to participate in readings that are not only not aimed in your general direction but are specifically aimed at someone else? or do you just not want us to gather w/out you?

The_Klute

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Re: Side Events: Do We Still Need Racially-Specific Readings? Discuss...
« Reply #19 on: May 19, 2009, 05:20:55 PM »
I'm just gonna say the fact that no one has mentioned the need for a Jewish open mic probably represents the need for one.
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Re: Side Events: Do We Still Need Racially-Specific Readings? Discuss...
« Reply #20 on: May 19, 2009, 05:37:11 PM »
I'm just gonna say the fact that no one has mentioned the need for a Jewish open mic probably represents the need for one.

  I totally mentioned it earlier Klute.  :P
 :)
I was sad last year that the Jewish open mic and the queer show conflicted cause some people are both and some people split their time between the two.  So I suppose I'm seconding Karen G on this one. That at the very least identity specific slams hopefully don't clash.

I personally however would be very sad to see the Queer open mic conflict with the Nerd Slam. Oh the tearing apart of my identity.

Steve

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Re: Side Events: Do We Still Need Racially-Specific Readings? Discuss...
« Reply #21 on: May 19, 2009, 05:40:57 PM »
I think the reason to schedule identity slams at the same time is to reduce the kinds of conflicts that folks feel. Most folks are not Jewish and queer and Native American. Makes sense to run identity slams against each other to me. The Scottish Heritage slam and the big bellied slam put me in conflict, but other than that, no real problem.

linzm

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Re: Side Events: Do We Still Need Racially-Specific Readings? Discuss...
« Reply #22 on: May 19, 2009, 06:27:47 PM »
I think the reason to schedule identity slams at the same time is to reduce the kinds of conflicts that folks feel. Most folks are not Jewish and queer and Native American. Makes sense to run identity slams against each other to me. The Scottish Heritage slam and the big bellied slam put me in conflict, but other than that, no real problem.

Yeah, I mean, I have my own list of readings I wish were never scheduled in conflict with each other (last year broke my heart--I don't wanna choose between being a woman and being a nerd!) but there's no way to plan the festival so that nothing overlaps, which is the only way I could imagine to make everyone happy.


Jesse, I know what poem you're talking about, and I remember you commenting at the time that you were thrown by it.  While I can for sure sympathize with that reaction, I think you may have taken it more personally than was intended.  The frustration the poet was expressing wasn't directed at allies, it was at people who try to co-opt a marginalized group's safe space, despite not being part of that group themselves.

The point of "identity" readings is to give poets the opportunity to express things they can't always say in day-to-day life, because one way or another they're not part of the mainstream.  For someone who IS part of the mainstream to come into that space and tell them how they SHOULD be doing things, well, it's insulting.  I am NOT implying that you did that--not even a little bit.  But that's what the poem that offended you was about.

I think it's awesome if people want to get up at an identity reading and talk about being an ally.  I respect the hell out of it, in fact.  But the group you're allying yourself with, they've often got some anger.  Legitimate, justified anger.  Which may very well be directed at people who look a lot like you.  And part of being an ally means accepting that.

Man, that got a little tangential.  Apologies if I'm derailing.  And you know I love and respect you and think you're awesome, even if we disagree.

Dahled

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Re: Side Events: Do We Still Need Racially-Specific Readings? Discuss...
« Reply #23 on: May 19, 2009, 08:38:40 PM »
I'm just gonna say the fact that no one has mentioned the need for a Jewish open mic probably represents the need for one.

it's been mentioned at least 3 times in this thread.... and paulie's not even here.

Scott Woods

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Re: Side Events: Do We Still Need Racially-Specific Readings? Discuss...
« Reply #24 on: May 19, 2009, 08:48:14 PM »
I could say a lot of things here.  I will choose to focus on one aspect of it now and hope it focuses the energy to date in other, more productive areas.  I subscribe to the theory that, if readings like this are going to take place, only people who are part of that group should be performing.  

Some of these readings are packed to the gills and would need to be four hours long to get all of the people up on the mic thats ign up for them.  not all of these readings, but a few of them. That said, these readings at most usually get 1.5 - 2 hours.  With that kind of time frame on some of the popular readings, the last thing I want to be party to as an MC is putting up a white person in the black reading when there are lots of black poets who didn't get a shot.  I wouldn't want to hear one male voice at the woman's reading so long as there was one woman there who wanted to read.

I appreciate that the audiences for epidermalized mics will have people of all cultures and backgrounds present, many of whom have direct experience with the cultures on the stage, and as an MC I make it a point to point that out.  People coming to a mic like that without any expectation of performing - people there to listen and to celebrate the messages of others with their presence alone - are well-meaning and cool people.  I love seeing that.  But I don't go to a woman's mic to hear what men think.  I don't really care what Steve Marsh thinks about the Dine at the Native American reading.

This does not answer E's question, which is "should these readings exist?"  We should keep talkign about that as a group and see where it goes.  I think the conversatin has been good.  But I also think we can pull this piece off the table.  At the very least that's all I have to say about it.

(This reminds me of one year - 2003 I think - when I was asked to MC the black mic.  After getting an email or two from people who weren't black asking to be put on the list (ahead of time), I put out a call that any poets interested please be of African descent.  I didn't care if anyone thought that was wrong.  We have a place for people who aren't x-ethnicity/orientation to say what they want to about x-ethnicity, and to an audience more in need of the message.  It's called the prelim/semi/finals bouts.  If you care that deeply, do it when it has the greatest potential of reaching beyond the choir.  Speaking as a black person, I don't need you telling me how down with blacks you are.  I need you to tell your white friends who think the last word on blackness stopped at Dave Chappelle or Obama.)

Scott Woods

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Re: Side Events: Do We Still Need Racially-Specific Readings? Discuss...
« Reply #25 on: May 19, 2009, 08:59:42 PM »
Also, to hopefully pull us out of focusing on the matter of overlap in the readings:

I created a schedule template for an NPS week that, hopefully, we can use for all years moving forward as a starting point.
It has slots during the day and night for side events.  I can fit all 12 of our core side events into it with NO OVERLAP and giving most of those readings 2 hours...and it still has room for two more events.  Now, the more stuff you try to compound into the schedule, the less likely it is that there won't be overlap, but wouldn't it be cool if you had to choose between a workshop/panel discussion versus a mic and not between two mics, regardless of what kind of mics they were?  Understand: I'm not suggesting this: we are DOING this (assuming the venues hold up between now and when the schedule goes live).

Anyhow, I point this out not to prove just how the-shit I am, but to point out that overlap doesn't have to be a factor if the organizers don't want it to be.  I didn't want it to be, so I made a schedule to reflect that.  In fact, depending on how many events get added from the call i put out a little while ago, you might be able to see every open mic during the day and night for the entire week.

How cool is THAT?!

jesster

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Re: Side Events: Do We Still Need Racially-Specific Readings? Discuss...
« Reply #26 on: May 20, 2009, 12:13:32 AM »
c) So we should tolerate that sort of intolerance because when people of color get together they tell other folks to go away and we should expect that?  I seriously hope not.  I would absolutely expect venting and frustration, but I think lashing out should cross a moral line.  But that's freedom of speech for you.

oops... i already broke a promise to myself. i can't explain this to you in a way that you'll understand w/out getting offended so i won't try.

Meh. I'm not offended. I just expect more. All I really want to do is hear poetry I've never heard before and these seem to be the readings to do that. No points, just a story and a point of view.  I just don't want to be shown the door.

I truly think the popular readings show what is needed and wanted at NPS. If there are groups that want to celebrate their culture and share it with a willing audience, more power to us all.  But there is exclusivity built into some of these readings, and it seems like bullshit to deny that, IMHO. 

no one is denying some level of exclusivity.

Um...

-no one is excluded

Ok, then.

and why again do you want to participate in readings that are not only not aimed in your general direction but are specifically aimed at someone else? or do you just not want us to gather w/out you?

Bwahahahahaah!  Are you serious? Come on, man. I'm talking about making sure to welcome a diverse audience and to remember to celebrate a culture not exclusivity, and you keep wanting to make it about me personally wanting all readings to be Jesse oriented in some fashion.  You're missing the point. I want to participate (again, as an audience member) to be exposed to things I can't any more in Sametown, USA. And even if I did identify strongly with a certain culture and want to express it, I know that's not welcome at these readings. Hey, even that's fine to a certain degree... I get it. Exclusivity is a part of identity. Just don't deny that it is.

Just leave out the special reading of "Let's all kill that balding Portuguese Catholic dude right... THERE" poem out of the event. :-P

-Jesster

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Re: Side Events: Do We Still Need Racially-Specific Readings? Discuss...
« Reply #27 on: May 20, 2009, 12:24:30 AM »
shit.

(crumpling up poem about killing that balding Portuguese Catholic dude right... THERE.)

now what am i going to write about, jesse?

Scott Woods

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Re: Side Events: Do We Still Need Racially-Specific Readings? Discuss...
« Reply #28 on: May 20, 2009, 06:19:50 AM »
I would like to add one addendum to my previous point about people who are not what the reading represents reading at them.  When I MC the Rookie mic i make a single exception for this.

In the years I've done it, at the very end I give the last slot to a Slam veteran, the biggest one I can score at the time, someone the rookies (who, I might add, don't typically leave after they've got their chance on the mic as a whole) might know or saw in Slam Nation or something.  This is symbolic, representing a genuine "open arms" welcome to them, to let them know that no other poet is "bigger" than they are in the Slam.  Maybe in the real world, but not at NPS.

So there is that one exception with me, but I don't know if people have maintained that tradition in the year or so I've not done it.

Tim Stafford

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Re: Side Events: Do We Still Need Racially-Specific Readings? Discuss...
« Reply #29 on: May 20, 2009, 01:50:30 PM »
i've kinda skimmed a lot of the responses but i am all for Racially/Gender/Culturally specific readings.

If there were a Ruggedly Handsome/Euro-Mutt Reading I'd be all over it.

I look at it this way:  a lot of slams are not as culturally diverse as the slam i go to. That's not a slam against other readings, I just happen to live in a big city with a big population.

I hope he doesn't mind me using him as an example, but i'm gonna use Alvin Lau.

Alvin is Asian and there aren't many Asians at our slam. We are friends, we've worked on poems together, etc but I cannot relate to him when it comes to Race or Identity. Having an API Slam allows him to have the sense of community that he might not feel at home.

I'm sure there are a lot of slams that have one gay, female, Jewish, African American member and that their teammates do their best to make them feel like they belong but sometimes, it's nice to be with people you can relate to.