Gemini Ink
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Viktoria Valenzuela

I remember when the oil seemed to boil out of the earth in April 2010. It seemed to have no end. I thought about the amount of contamination in drinking water my family would have to live with and protested the BP oil spill by writing and publicly reading poetry that called for solutions.

At one point, I even considered shaving my head bald because someone in New Orleans called for human hair to be used to build a net that could pull the excess oil out of the gulf. I was desperate to help end the disgusting flow of oil or at least stop it from getting to the shoreline. I searched for ways I could contribute all over the internet. Eventually, I found Michael Rothenberg‘s posting about 100 Thousand Poets for Change (100TPC). He said that we are the ones who start movements. We artists break cultural and societal boundaries when we collaborate, that we are the catalyst for change in society. I was inspired.

100 TPC  is the largest poetry reading event in the world. It began in response to the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, and was founded by both Rothenberg and Terri Carrion in 2011. Organizers around the planet have committed to having an event on the same day each year and Stanford University archives all the images, video, and poetry from each event in its data banks as one event, thereby making it the largest poetry event in the world. The event tomorrow, Saturday Sept. 28, will be my third year organizing San Antonio’s contribution to that archive.

100TPCSATX flyer

On the same day as the rest of the world – more than 800 cities – we host a poetry event that gathers all the politically minded poets, artists, and musicians we can find. I started three years ago by asking for work that called for peace and sustainability in San Antonio.

At the time, San Antonio had only a small stir of activism in the poetry community. They were mainly spoken word poets who talked about lovers lost and gained, teen violence, nature, parties, and daily life. I wanted more.

When I branched out to the activists, I found that the Southwest Workers Union proved to be a great resource for important issues in San Antonio and even more performers. The Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center, The P.E.A.C.E. Initiative, and Esperanza Peace and Justice Center also have great connections to those writing about environmental health, immigrant rights, and domestic workers rights. I’ve always tried to pull from all over the city to organize an event that combines all cultures and forms of art for this event.

I cannot fully explain to you how fantastic it is to have “The Urban Griot,” Mondrea Harmon, a deep voiced man who speaks about allegiance to his black ancestry and escape of slavery, neighborhood violence, and economic oppression, performing just before Mobi Warren‘s historically accurate portrayal of a young Japanese girl murdered during the bombing of Hiroshima and the scars left on the earth by nukes and radiation.

Poet and radio personality Mondrea "Urban Griot" Harmon at a poetry reading and art show at The Movement Gallery. Photo by Iris Dimmick.
Poet and radio personality Mondrea “Urban Griot” Harmon at a poetry reading and art show at The Movement Gallery. Photo by Iris Dimmick.

It is as if the world, history, and the human condition has all come to a point. There are no boundaries upon us.

Dr. Carmen Tafolla, San Antonio’s Inaugural Poet Laureate, is an internationally published poet and writer and a native of the city’s West Side barrios. Courtesy photo.
Dr. Carmen Tafolla, San Antonio’s Inaugural Poet Laureate, is an internationally published poet and writer and a native of the city’s West Side barrios. Courtesy photo.

Banned author and inaugural Poet Laureate of San Antonio, Carment Tafolla, has agreed to read for us at this year’s event and I am ecstatic.

The Jazz Poets have been a main player for the 100 TPC each year and this year a new addition will be the The Blah Blah Blah Poetry Spot, who are all slam poets with powerful voices.

Nicaraguan revolutionary poet Roberto Vargas is also joining us. I owe big “thank you” to local filmmaker Laura Varela for introducing us. The local event, 100 TPCSATX for short, is very honored to be screening Varela’s 10-minute trailer of her upcoming documentary on poet Raul Salinas. Also, a second screening by PBS documentarian John Valadez will be his PBS special, American Exile. We are very pleased to include a special talk from the subjects of the documentary, Manuel and Valente Valenzuela. They are two Vietnam veterans at risk for deportation. Theirs is a unique story that calls for action by every  U.S. American.

100 TPCSATX is concerned with the safety of our water and our environment, therefore we will have activists Mobi Warren speak about the protesting the Keystone XL Pipeline.

Artist David Zamora Casas will show some of his art and speak about LGBT issues and tell about his supporting role helping pass the city’s new non-discrimination ordinance.

Mr. and Mrs. Robert Alvarado will speak about the contamination left behind by the Kelly Air Force Base, now Port San Antonio on the Southside of San Antonio and their struggle to hold those responsible accountable.

There will be many poets reading inspired poetry at Gemini Ink this Saturday, including director of Gemini Ink, Sheila Fiona Black, Chicago Poet Susana Sandoval, Jim Lavilla-Havillen,  Juan Tejeda and many, many, more.

Gemini Ink
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Open mic sign ups will happen promptly at 1 p.m. on Saturday, so arrive early if you’d like a chance to read. We will do our best to allow every reader to speak.

Throughout the day, special musical guests and performers will be Wesley Hughes, a soloist that plays guitar with a Texan heat that inspires you to get off your duff and slow dance with a partner.

Daniela ZaaZaa Riojas, is a San Antonio artist and singer, that has a unique sounding voice. Her music has a message that comes straight from mother earth and extends to the cosmos.

Buffalo Thunder, a Native American Shaman, creates music that can heal the human spirit and move your feet to dance while playing for you. He will also performing a blessing at our event.

Musician and artist, Nicolas Valdez, of Los Nauahtlatos, has constructed a very special piece about the sacredness of our drinking water for this event. He will no doubt leave you breathless.

The headlining band will be I Ching Gatos. They have been performing for many years and their brand of San Antonio rock and roll is not only politically conscious, but wildly entertaining. You will not want to miss any of these great performers.

100 TPCSATX is taking place at Gemini Ink, 513 S. Presa, on Saturday Sept. 28, 1-7 p.m. This event is free and open to the public. Some food and drinks will be provided, and as always, cash donations towards food and drink help keep these events alive and are greatly appreciated. Please RSVP at the Facebook event page.

Viktoria Valenzuela, organizer for 100 Thousand Poets for Change San Antonio, is a writer and educator living in San Antonio, Texas. She received her Bachelor’s of Art in Creative Writing from The State University of New York at Oswego in 2010. Valenzuela has devoted herself to activism for human rights all the while working as a teaching poet in the community for Gemini Ink and various other non-profit organizations. Valenzuela is currently conducting historical research and writing her first book of creative nonfiction.

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