On a warm and breezy Thursday evening, some of L.A.’s most underserved, yet resilient neighborhoods came together for an evening of self-expression through poetry, entitled South Central Spits Fire! The free community event was held at Exposition Park – Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune Regional Library on 39th St. and Western Ave, and was commissioned by Councilmember Marqueece Harris-Dawson.
Approximately 30 members from the community came to hear the voices of poets like Howard University and George Washington Preparatory High School alumna Bridgette Bianca:
“Seven is the number of completion. On the seventh day, our father, who art in heaven, rested. And it was a Sunday. Kobe’s birthday was a Sunday, and he died on a Sunday. And maybe Jacob taught them to call on ancestor’s to guide them to yell “Kobe!”, when they took a paper shot at a wastebasket. It was a Sunday when the officer took seven shots into Jacob’s back in front of his sons’ faces pressed against the window or the floor of the car, too scared to call on the ancestors, or to believe superman could save them.”
Some of L.A.’s other dynamic, emerging and established writers who call South Central home included Gustavo Guerra Vásquez, Jaha Zainabu, Luatani Flores, Birdsong the Poet, Yusef Doucet and Alexander Reyes. And following each performer’s set came the snapping of fingers, the ultimate in laid-back, hip response.
Vásquez, who co-hosted the showcase with Bianca, is the Central American-born poet and multimedia artist of Arte Latino Now and Label Me Latina/o. “We’ve curated this poetry reading to include Latina poets, Black poets and intergenerational poets. This event has been intentional about having diversity of ethnicity, age, gender and sexuality. [Bay Area poet] Speedy Thomas said, ‘Say what you mean, and mean what you say.’ I still share that advice today with my students”, he said.
Bethune Branch Librarian Eugene Owens was encouraged by the turnout. “If just one patron had shown up tonight, that would’ve been fine. Expo Park is back from the pandemic and we support the arts. We also provide adult education, cultural enrichment, library services, services for veterans and technology services. You can reserve book bundles to go, Tech2Go (laptop and hotspot) and e-media. And whatever we don’t have, we can order it for you”, he said.
And from Rhonda Mitchell, communications director for Councilmember Marqueece Harris-Dawson, this statement: “Councilmember Harris-Dawson would’ve enjoyed the poetry reading tonight. He would’ve appreciated the clever wordplay on the topic of gentrification and the multiple textures of voices and experiences that were expressed. The creative capital of South LA is unmatched and he wholly supports it,” she said.
For more information, visit https://www.lapl.org/