“Jazz In Jail”A Celebration & Book Launch for Louis Reyes Rivera

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Congratulations Blind Beggar Press and Barbara Killens Rivera on a great book launch and celebration! January 8th brought together a standing room only audience of family, friends and colleagues, to celebrate Jazz In Jail, the visionary work of Louis Reyes Rivera. The event venue was Sistas’ Place. Sistas’ Place is a welcoming and comfortable space known for its educational and cultural events and gracious staff. A great place for artists and community residents to gather. The celebration started with opening remarks and a warm welcome by Blind Beggar Press, co-founder and publisher Gary Johnston who was the co-emcee with yours truly Lorraine Currelley, Executive Director for Poets Network & Exchange. Excerpts from Jazz In Jail  were read by prominent poets, all long time friends and colleagues of Louis Reyes Rivera. The first group of poets to read were Jose Angel Figueroa, Tongue of the Vile & Convention’s Call,  E.J. Antonio, The Womb of Night & Concerto for Sonny Carson,  Americo Casiano, When Word Got Out & A Sextet Wailing and Gha’il Rhodes Benjamin, Visiting Jail & Jazz Free Now.
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A musical interlude proceeded the second set featuring trumpeter Ahmed Abdullah, who was joined on stage by the Jazzoets. The Jazzoets were phenomenal and jammed with some of the poet readers, throughout the event. They were met with resounding applause, shouts of approval and some attendees arose from their seats to dance.

It was an honor to emcee for the second set. After greeting celebrants and giving honor to Barbara and Louis Rivera the second set of readers were introduced. Poet readers were Jacqueline Johnson, Witness: Mother G Flat Blues & Sultry Blue, Layding Kaliba, Musicians on the Run & Rap Swing,  Jesus Papoleto Melendez, Beneath the Maze & En Viejo San Juan, Atiba Wilson, That Haunt of Freedom & Concert for the Yard, and Baba Ngoma Hill, The Voice of Jazz & Witness: The Expert. All agreed Louis Reyes Rivera was in the room, pleased and enjoying the unique interpretations of his poems. Barbara Killens Rivera, came to the stage to give closing remarks. She shared her gratitude, reflections, and thoughts. She was later joined on stage by her family, poet readers, the Jazzoets, Gary Johnston and yours truly. We will remember this sacred gathering as a time for reflection, the sharing of memories, love and joy.

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What people are saying about Jazz In Jail.

Jazz in Jailis his gift, one of this century’s great works of art.  His poetry jabs and swings, cuts and caresses, moves and schools.  And he emerges the victor, liberating our music from the corporate chains and cages that have trapped our people, body and soul.  Jazz Libre!” – Robin D. G. Kelley, author of Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original (2009)
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Books are available $19.95 plus $ 3.00 shipping from:
Blind Beggar Press
P.O. Box 437
Wiiliamsbridge Station
Bronx, NY 10467

Thanks, to poet readers, Jazzoets, family, friends and all those who came out to celebrate Louis Reyes Rivera, “Jazz In Jail. Thanks to Carolyn Butts, Editor African Voices Magazine for sharing the event with your readers and subscribers. Thanks, to everyone who purchased books, books were sold out. Thanks, Edward Currelley for covering the event for The Currelley Literary Journal and Blog.

Photo Credits Edward Currelley and Lorraine Currelley.

©Lorraine Currelley 2017. All Rights Reserved.

 
 

15800672_10154897056549766_7268570094630144783_o                                                          Laurie Carlos 1949-2016

My heart is broken, my head is aching and my eyes are filled with tears. The world has loss a magnificent human being/presence. My friend and teacher Laurie Carlos has died. My friend lived and loved well.

I met a vibrant, authentic, caring, brilliant, down to earth woman, many years ago as a young woman. She wore short cropped hair and would adorn it with colorful hair wraps. I admired the long flowing colorful skirts and dresses she wore. She was everything I hoped to be. I have fond memories of our chance meetings on the streets of Harlem. Whether rushing to a meeting, event or running errands, she always stopped to talk before rushing off. We both valued these moments. After shared salutations came discussions that always left me encouraged, inspired, smiling and in deep reflection. Her presence in my life grew me. When she hugged me and said, she loved me I knew it to be true.

Laurie Carlos didn’t just walk down a city street or into a room, she appeared to float. She was beautifully confident and richly human. She filled any space she entered with her presence, bringing light and joy with her. Her smile was real and her laughter came from a deep and sincere place. She was a faithful friend. She didn’t waste words, time and actions. She exercised wisdom and did everything with purpose.

Laurie’s Gift.

It was an honor and joy to be invited to her home. Once before leaving she presented me with a very important and special gift. She said, I was to pass it on to another worthy young woman of my choosing. I have not passed it on. The person receiving it is left with a major responsibility, the keeper of a legacy. One which cannot be taken lightly.

Becoming my teacher.

A few years later she was an invited guest performance instructor for a writing workshop and performance group I belonged to. I remember Ntosake Shange stopping by. They were fabulously outrageously fierce. I believe Jessica Hagedorn stopped by as well. I’m blessed to have had this experience/opportunity. She had a gift for making us, her students better. She taught and challenged us to go deep within ourselves and encouraged and instilled in us the will to give everything to our performances. She always said, our audiences were deserving of our very best. Her accomplishments were many. Among them, an original cast member of FOR COLORED GIRLS.

How can I share a lifetime of friendship in a post? I can’t! I will end by saying, I will continue to follow your example dear friend and teacher. I will continue to live with purpose. To value each day and those I call friend and family. Death is ever present. I pray we celebrate each other, never taking each other for granted! Do not leave what’s important for another day! Love and live well now!

Laurie Carlos is survived by her daughter Amber. We uplift and love you Amber. You are not alone in your grief. You have our love, support and condolences. You are embraced by love and prayers for comfort and peace. May your beloved mother rest in peace,
love and power, all that she lived, gave and more.

©Lorraine Currelley 2016. All Rights Reserved.

Beloved Poet Monica Hand Has Died

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It is with much sadness I share news of the untimely death of poet and friend Monica Hand. The world has lost a lovely human being and phenomenal poet, writer and artist. It’s difficult to believe Monica has made such a sudden transition. Monica Hand was a beloved mother, grandmother, friend and educator.

I’m grateful for the times we shared. She was warm and kind. I have memories of sharing the same space at poetry gatherings and conversations and laughter. Once we took a photo together and bursted into laughter, admiring ourselves.She was respected and appreciated by her peers and those who knew her. Monica Hand left an imprint on the world, one which will be shared and remembered by generations to come.

I’m reminded of my own mortality and how unexpected death is. I’m in a state of deep reflection. I’m feeling a sense of urgency, the desire to get things done. There is no time for procrastination. There is no time to waste on things which are unimportant, nor to indulge nonsense. There is only time for embracing those we love, respect and appreciate. There is only time for appreciating and celebrating life. This is the time to focus on people and things that give our lives meaning, joy and purpose. My prayers and condolences to Monica’s loved ones. May she rest in peace, power and poetry.
Give yourself permission to grieve.

What is Grief?

Grief is a strong, sometimes overwhelming emotion for people, regardless of whether their sadness stems from the loss of a loved one, or news of a terminal diagnosis they or someone they love have received.

They might find themselves feeling numb and removed from daily life, unable to carry on with regular duties while saddled with their sense of loss.

Grief is the natural reaction to loss. Grief is both a universal and a personal experience. Individual experiences of grief vary and are influenced by the nature of the loss. Some examples of loss include the death of a loved one, friend, the ending of an important relationship, job loss, loss through theft or the loss of independence through disability.

Experts advise those grieving to realize they can’t control the process and to not avoid the feelings resulting from loss. Talking to others can help. Sharing grief can be cathartic. Do not isolate yourself.

Mourning can last for months or years. Generally, pain is tempered as time passes and as the bereaved adapts to life without a loved one, to the news of a terminal diagnosis or to the notion that someone they love may  and has died. We all mourn differently.

Do not hesitate to consult with a professional trained in grief and bereavement.

Please go to her GoFundMe Page to share your love for Monica: Monica Hand

©Lorraine Currelley 2016. All Rights Reserved.

Needed a White Women and Men March of Allies

White Women and Men allies on the front lines earnestly addressing supremacy, oppression, privilege, racism, genderism, all of the isms and poisons. Needed are White Women and Men allies speaking to their families, friends, and neighbors. Their silence equals my death! My question is, will their sons and daughters bodies  be met with growling dogs, water filled hoses, harassment, guns, brutality and murder? The known terror People Of Color meet with daily. Will they be attacked for demanding
their rights?

I was added to the  FB group (formerly) known as the Million Woman March. Once there, I protested the appropriation of a name with historical significance for the Black community. I shared the herstory/history of both the Million Man March and the Million Woman March. My comment was deleted by the Facebook Administrator said to be orchestrating the march. Only after several protests from myself and others did a name change take place. While there I found myself engaged in serious battle with some women whitesplaining, and an Asian woman who assigned herself the role of protector. Protector of what? Her tone was one of extreme anger. She said, I disgusted her. She was combative and mistakenly thought she could gather the troops to attack  me, and failed. No one engaged with her. She left after verbally attacking me. My crime? I had the audacity to share my truth. I was her embarrassment. I wasn’t the obedient WOC melting into the background. the backdrop. A backdrop placed for visibility, to give the march “inclusion legitimacy”.

Unlike her, my goal while there was not to gain anyone’s friendship and comradeship, at the expense of selling my self respect and dignity. Nor was I on board for some mythological sisterhood. A vagina and breast does not automatically make us sisters. I’ve been betrayed by women of all hues who called me sister. I do not know the organizer, her politics and agenda, nor the politics of the women in the group. The administrator and orchestrator for this facebook group, I found myself  placed in. I do know she’s a white woman lawyer living in Hawaii. Women of color in this group were determined not to allow the status quo to prevail. My post continued to be deleted and

I was blocked by the Admin. Clearly, she was not in the mood to hear about oppression, all of the isms, entitlement, and privilege.  My oppression  is not for sale, and will not be used as an opportunity to falsely be seen as inclusive.  My truth was seen as divisive. The result was more whitesplaining and others speaking about voting for HRC and the wonderful things they were doing for POC. Some members owned their entitlement and privilege. Eager to learn, listen and desiring a dialog in earnest. Needed are people on the frontlines doing whatever is within their means. I urge POC to continue speaking our truth and stand firm, even at the risk of being misunderstood and vilified.

66% of White women, 29% Latina women and 4% Black women voted for the newly elected president. 94% of Black women voted for Hillary Rodham Clinton, Black women did the work and Hillary’s so-called White women constituency failed her. It was this statement that angered the administrator and others. I’m not blindly participating in any activities, because someone says I should. I’ve been down this road before. I have every right to have my questions answered in detail. At 65, I’m not new  to protest, far from it.  It appears this group’s banner women rights and opposition to the newly elected president.  Racism, sexism, genderism, entitlement, privilege, LGBTQ rights etc. were not being addressed in this group.True allies must come center stage and give voice to the oppression of POC, and the privilege and entitlement they live safely in.

Freedom comes with a price. POC when participating in demonstrations in DC or elsewheres. We must make certain our voices are placed center stage, speaking our truth. We must come with our banners and voices,and address our concerns. We do not have to beg inclusion. If need be, organize a separate march or become a part of a coalition, with true allies.

©Lorraine Currelley 2016. All Rights Reserved.

Why I Can’t F**king Breathe: The Murder of Deborah Danner

Deborah Danner suffered from mental illness, and lived alone. Reports state, police had been called to her apartment in the past and she was taken to the hospital without incident. What made this time different? On the night of her death, Danner’s sister called for help to take her to the hospital as she had in the past. Sadly, she will have to live with this memory for the rest of her life. The very act of calling for help for her sister, resulted in her death, at the hands of an officer sworn to protect.

She was murdered in Castle Hill. NYPD said, officers responded to a 911 call. Deborah Danner age 66 was said to be behaving irrationally. Allegedly she was armed with scissors,  a responding officer convinced her to put them down before allegedly picking up a baseball bat, and attempting to hit NYPD Sgt. Hugh Barry, who fired two shots into her torso. She was taken to Jacobi Medical Center, where she was later pronounced dead. Sgt. Barry had a taser, he chose not to use it. He was trained to physically subdue an individual without drawing his weapon. Instead, he ignored his training on how to de-escalate situations, Deborah Danner paid the price. This fact alone is reason enough to bring him up on charges.

Bronx resident Deborah Danner was murdered by Sgt. Hugh Barry, let us not skirt around the facts. Fact, had Bronx resident Deborah Danner been white and lived in a white neighborhood her life would have been spared. She would have been treated with the utmost care, gently subdued and escorted to the hospital. Sgt. Barry did not see a human being standing before him. He saw an upset Black woman and that was enough to end her life. He did not see his mother, aunt, or neighbor in her Black face. He did not see humanity in need of help and compassion.

When I read of her death I was overcome with feelings of sadness, anger and horror. Deborah Danner was one year my senior, I could have been her. I thought of my death. The  words mental illness and the circumstances of her murder exacerbated my horror. The 1984 murder of Eleanor Bumpers, a grandmother with mental illness came rushing back to memory. Here is one more case of murder added to an already existing list of traumatic experiences. I demand justice for Deborah Danner! I’m sick and tired of
the usual investigations, the modified desk duty, blaming of the deceased and the NYPD sanctioning of murder.  NYPD is drowning in the blood of innocent murdered civilians. Every time a murder is justified and the murderer set free, we are all at risk. The prevailing mindset by those who murder is we can kill without impunity. Daily Blacks and people of color are assaulted with traumatic event after traumatic event. Brutality, murder and assaults to our humanity and bodies are America’s norm for those of dark hue.

We hear a lot about PTSD. What is  Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)? Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is the result of being traumatized. An individual (s) has/have witnessed or experienced a traumatic event. Police brutality and murders of civilians, the death of a loved one, pet and experiences as a veteran contribute to PTSD criteria.

Are you finding it difficult to cope? Sometimes, a good talk with a friend, family member or clergy is enough. Other times it is not enough and you may have to contact a professional.  Here are some available resources. Please visit the links below.

Mental Health & Advocacy for information, resources, data etc. on mental health disorders.
http://lcinformationandresourcecenter.wordpress.com

Protective Service for Adults Program in NYC
http://ocfs.ny.gov/main/psa/

#JusticeforDeborahDanner #BlackLivesMatter #StopMurderingBlackPeople

©Lorraine Currelley 2016. All Rights Reserved.

Afro-Writing on the Margins, A Necessary Discussion

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The Bronx Council for the Arts and BAAD! Bronx Academy of Arts and Dance presented Afro -Writing on the Margins, with yours truly, Lorraine Currelley, Executive Dir., Poets Network & Exchange, Inc. and Ron Kavanaugh, Editor Mosaic Magazine. The theme was Afro- Writing on the Margins. The program started with a poetry reading  featuring me. Following the reading I was joined on stage by Ron Kavanaugh and moderator  Charles Rice-Gonzalez, Co-founder of BAAD! the Bronx Academy of Arts and Dance, for a panel discussion. Both panelists and moderator examined feminism, ageism, sexism, racism and LGBTQ rights through the lens of afro-diasporic perspectives and how they inform contemporary literary production in the age of #BlackLivesMatter. It culminated with a Q&A and public discourse.
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As artists we work as activists and cultural workers, seeking to provide spaces and opportunities where these needed discussions can take place. Safe and supportive non-judgemental spaces. Saturday’s panelists and moderator did not skirt around issues. Speaking unapologetically and authentically, we spoke of the threats, brutality and murders of Black and Brown people of color.  Both panelists and attendees spoke passionately and emotionally about trauma experienced witnessing repeated video and audio recordings of the murders of innocent citizens. Needed are more spaces for expression, healing and free agency over our minds and bodies, an agency this society does not afford people of color, the poor and marginalized.

According to BAAD! Bronx Academy of Arts and Dance The series delves into the work of acclaimed writer and public intellectual James Baldwin who spoke about the tense relationship between America’s democratic ideals and our fraught racial history. Each week we will explore how Baldwin’s readings impacts contemporary issues and movements such as Black Lives Matter!, Queerness, gentrification, and police brutality. In addition to the herstory of revolutionary possibilities between Audre Lorde and Baldwin.

The consensus from attendees during the Q&A segment,  activism depends on the degree individuals as artists and citizens wish to or not engage issues of social injustice and equity. The individual as citizen and artist defines how and what that activism is to look like. (Paraphrasing) Ron Kavanaugh shared we can each do what we can. My activism might not look like your activism. I do know that I can write an excellent lesson plan. One that addresses societal concerns via Mosaic and programming. We left inspired and strengthened, with a sense of hope by the exchange. Thanks to Charlie Vazquez, Bronx Writers Center Director at Bronx Council on the Arts, Charles Rice-Gonzalez, Bronx Academy of Arts and Dance, the BAAD! staff, Ron Kavanaugh, Mosaic Magazine, and attendees.

BAAD! The Bronx Academy of Arts and Dance is a Bronx-based arts organization that creates, produces, presents and supports the development of contemporary dance and all creative disciplines with a unique focus on women, People Of Color and the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Transsexual & Queer communities.

Bronx Council on the Arts (BCA) is a private, non-profit membership organization that has been the official cultural agency of Bronx County since 1962. Recognized nationally as a leading arts service organization in providing cultural services and arts programs, BCA serves a multicultural constituency of almost 1.4 million residents. BCA provides an array of services to 5,000 artists and more than 250 arts and community-based organizations.

The Currelley Literary Journal is an online blog founded by African American poet, writer, educator,  mental health counselor and advocate Lorraine Currelley. The Currelley Literary Journal features commentaries, articles, interviews and reviews. We write about the African diaspora through a historical, herstorical, educational, cultural, socio-political, context, nuance and lens.

©Lorraine Currelley 2016. All Rights Reserved.

Bronx Book Fair 2016

 

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The Currelley Literary Journal congratulates the Bronx Book Fair for a successful weekend of literary programming. This was the fourth year for the annual Bronx Book Fair. This year’s book fair  took place on May 7th -8th, 2016 at the Bronx Library Center. The Bronx Book Fair is dedicated to engaging and growing the community of poets and writers in the Bronx and to connecting to readers and book lovers of all ages. Annually a coalition of committed literary, educational and cultural organizations and individuals come together to plan this annual event, now in its fourth year.The past three years have met with a great response from  Bronx residents and the larger New York City community, representing all five boroughs.

On Saturday May 7, the kickoff to the fair featured workshops, performances and readings from prominent writers throughout the New York City area. Local vendors will feature book-related items. And engaging family activities took place throughout the day. On Sunday May 8, Small presses gathered from around the city to create a pop-up bookstore. Publishers and editors from NYC area presses and journals were on hand to give talks and workshops. Local vendors, small presses and publishers tabled. Both days hosted children’s activities.

This year’s features included Carmen D. Lucca, LaTanya DeVaughn, Charles Rice-Gonzalez, Bronx Librarians, lively Latin Jazz by Papo Pepin, Rebecca Brooks, Purvi Shah, Alison Roh Park, Mercy Tullis-Bukhari, Jonterri Gadson, Edward Currelley, Daphne Carter McKnight, Nkosi Nkululeko, Women in Comics, Ray Felix, Carolyn Butts, Carlos Aguasaco, Ulises Gonzales, Rachel Ansong, Jose Olivarez, Erik Maldonado, Yesenia Montilla, Kevin Sabio, Charlie Vazquez, Word Up Community Book Shop, Sisters Uptown Bookstore and Cultural Center, Astoria Bookshop, Giovanni Ortiz, Ashley N. Ortiz, Jean Carlos Soto, Stephanie Trinidad, Ariana DiLorenzo, Yolanda Rodriguez, BxArts ‪Factory, and Natalie N. Caro.

13087668_470875996453671_7593162115298684518_n (1)Some of this year’s highlights and huge successes were A Conversation: Women, Arts Activism, Creativity and Social Responsibility moderated by Lorraine Currelley. Thanks to panel members Rebecca Brooks, Mercy L. Tullis-Bukhari, Jonterri Gadson, Alison Parks and Purvi Shah for your powerful, inspiring and thought provoking words.

Bravo Mercy L. Tullis-Bukhari, Edward Currelley, Daphne Carter McKnight and Nkosi Nkululeko. A Weaving of Voices: An Intergenerational Poetry Reading was spectacular!
Clap Snap: A Youth Poetry Reading, facilitated by Bronx Book Fair committee member Peggy Robles-Alvarado was inspiring and powerful!

©Lorraine Currelley 2016. All Rights Reserved