Saving Our Lives: A Call to Self Care

Are you taking the needed time to self care? Do you feel as though you’re on an unending escalator unable to get off? Are you experiencing feelings of burnout, exhaustion, trauma, stress, depression and anxiety? Overwhelmed with feelings of hopelessness and frustration? Overwhelmed by the constant media overload of
articles and discussions centered on the state of this country’s affairs?
Are you eating properly and getting the needed sleep, your body requires? Have you joined thousands of  others traumatized by assaults on our humanity and well being by this administration? If the answer is yes, it’s time to step back and self care.

While, being vigilant we must take care to not allow these unrelenting poisonous assaults to inhabit our spirit  overwhelming us and affecting our health and well being. Whether our personal concerns or protesting social justice issues, we must take care to protect ourselves. Self care is not an option, it’s a necessity. Healthy bodies cannot survive without  proper care. We must do everything possible to protect our health. Self care demands that we step away from all activities to rest, re-energize, relax and return renewed. We cannot be of service to anyone, if we are not well ourselves.

Ways to Keep Healthy:

0. Get sleep.
1.  Honor your right  to private time, time for self. Make no apologies.
There is a difference between taking time for self and isolation.
2. Do not isolate yourself( remove yourself relationships, the world,
and your normal routines.

3. Remember, there is still beauty and love in the world. Embrace it!
4. Do those things that bring you joy.
5. Surround yourself with those you love, like and respect.
6. Laugh.
7. Dance.
8. Listen to music and sing along.
9. Pray and meditate. Keep your spirit and heart fed.
10 Take a break from social media and definitely threads (debates).
11.Check in on each other.
12. Share a meal. Organize a potluck.
13. If physically able, take a walk and enjoy nature. Sit by the water.
14. Be still. Clear your mind. Repeat a mantra of your choosing.
15. In a crisis? Speak with a professional and/or someone you trust.
16. Work on your art, create.
17. Take a well deserved break. Have a me day.
18. Eat properly. Cut out junk foods.


For information visit Mental Health, Resources & Advocacy

©Lorraine Currelley 01/30 2017. All Rights Reserved.


In Appreciation

We thank and acknowledge the phenomenal poets and writers who graced our Poets Network & Exchange’s stage and pages in 2016. We also give honor to a loving and supportive community, for attending and supporting our programming. We give honor to the organizations Poets Network & Exchange collaborated with and invited us to feature in their programming. We thank and appreciate  Poets & Writers, Inc. for funding. Our honorees are Irene Mtk, Gary Johnston, Meredith Trede, Patricia Spears Jones, Mercy L. Tullis-Bukhari,Elizabeth Lara, Ngoma Hill, Edward Currelley, Nkosi Nkululeko, Tyehimba Jess, E.j. Antonio, Peuo Tatyana Tuy, Bonafide Rojas, Charlie Vázquez, Philip Ammonds, Jerome G. and Jacqueline Johnson.

In 2016 Poets Network and Exchange nominated six incredible poets and writers for the Pushcart Prize. Our Pushcart nominees are E.J. Antonio, Fay Chiang, Edward Currelley, Gary Johnston, Christopha Moreland and Kate Rushin.

Creatively I’ve realized a number of goals, both personally and via my organization Poets Network & Exchange. I’m truly humbled and grateful for the recognition, kindnesses and support. I’m quick to acknowledge while honors are appreciated and welcomed, it is my relationships with those I’ve met in 2016 and my long and lasting relationships that fortify and propel me forward. Relationships built mutually on loyalty, trust, love and respect. The lifting up and being lifted up. I’m grateful far beyond measure.

It has also been a year of great pain and loss. Poet and artist Monica Hand and actor, teacher and poet Laurie Carlos both made their transitions. They were both dynamic women and artists and left a phenomenal body of work.

We are because of your continued support. On behalf of Poets Network & Exchange we wish you and yours abundant blessings for 2017!

©Lorraine Currelley 2017. All Rights Reserved.

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.

PN&E Magazine Announces Pushcart Prize Nominations

f4a0523677e7b33062c6c79e3d275823_screenPN&E Magazine, the magazine for Poets Network & Exchange is honored to announce our Pushcart Prize nominees. Our nominees voices  are each unique and passionate. Their work powerful, sound, well crafted and beautifully written. Our nominees are widely anthologized, published, accomplished poets and writers and respected by the literary community. Congratulations to our nominees and to all Pushcart Prize 2016 nominees! We wish all nominees the best and continued success.

E.J. Antonio – Geography of the Changing Body – Tresses
Edward Currelley – Silver
Gary Johnston – The Border of the Other America
Christopha Moreland – Foreign Yet Familiar
Kate Rushin – Watch Night: December 31
Fay Chiang – What I Have Learned
Short Story
Edward Currelley – Fractured Soul

Geography of the changing body – Tresses
by E.J. Antonio

In the crisp clear air of winter nipping at autumn’s backside, the neighbor’s persimmon tree stands two and a half stories tall. Its canopy naked of leaves, reshaped by the drag of its fruit: tear- and globe-shaped shocks of waxen orange gloss tethered to white branches, frescoed on a blue sky, refusing to fall to the ground as easily as my silver-gray hair cascades into the brush. A shocking sight the thin mat entwined in the dark bristles. Curious about these thin roadmaps of everything I was; I pull; finger a strand; feel the waffling of it; crinkly kink of it; knotted follicle of it; easy snap of it, my aging mane brittle as fallen leaves. It is a struggle to accept this revision from indestructible rich dark-brown widow’s peaks to a slowly fading steel-gray, its fragile texture quickly receding into time. Can I ask god to give me back my 40s mane? Will he deem me ungrateful and lop off a future year? I brave the unknown; boldly speak it to the universe only to hear the wind’s resistance to accept such questions as the words re-root in my mouth; pull me back to the immediate past before I spoke them. Disgruntled, I reluctantly accept this visible badge of survival. Still, in the crisp morning air of autumn’s breeze undoing my carefully combed wind-swept do, I stand transfixed on my lawn gazing up at the blood-orange moon-shaped orbs wishing my hair could inherit the fruit’s stubbornness. At least…stop falling as my seasons change. Let me be like the tree: an elegant fresco on the blue sky.

E.J. Antonio is a recipient of fellowships from the Hurston/Wright Foundation, the Cave Canem Foundation and the New York Foundation for the Arts. She is the author of two chapbooks, Every Child Knows, (Premier Poets Chapbook Series 2007) and Solstice, (Red Glass Books, 2013), and a CD, Rituals in the marrow: Recipe for a jam session.


What I Have Learned 12-08-2015
by Fay Chiang

Mrs. Yip the funeral director called. “Your father must have loved you children so much, because when I touched his body the skin disintegrated in my hands.”

My father’s will to live through his two years of terminal colon cancer never left me. He was fifty years old and I was twenty two when I made the funeral arrangements at Wah Wing Sang on Mulberry Street in New York’s Chinatown. My friend Arlan— whose grandmother had passed away in the recent past knew what to do having made her arrangements– had brought me there and instructed me on what to expect. Through the office window I saw him waiting for me across the street.

I had taken care of my father through biweekly blood tests and weekly visits to his surgeon; changed bandages and daily administered a chemo block by attaching a syringe and administered a daily dose of chemo to a medic-port on his stomach.

Twenty years later I came down with breast cancer and through the twenty-two years of living with it, my demise was constantly predicted especially after the removal of the lower lobe of the right lung with a fist-sized tumor in 2004. Within a year tumors reappeared in both lungs and liver. At the time my daughter Xian was fifteen.

I was told I had six months to a year to live and I thought of my father: his will to live, his love for my mother and his four children.

Xian had lived with the presence of this breast cancer and its ensuing seven surgeries since she was four years old. I had vowed watching her sleeping soundly in her trundle bed, “I will see her graduate elementary, junior high, high schools and college.”

Now at sixty-three years old—two weeks after my eighth surgery, a thoracic laproscopy— looking at my lovely twenty six year old daughter, I see many journeys together yet to come.

Fay Chiang is a poet and visual artist who believes culture is a spiritual and psychological weapon used for the empowerment of people and communities. Working at Project Reach, a youth center for young people at risk in Chinatown and the Lower East Side, she is also a member of Zero Capital, an artists collective; the Orchard Street Advocacy and Wellness Center, which supports people living with HIV/AIDS, cancer and other chronic illnesses. Battling her 8th bout of breast cancer, she is working on her memoir. Seven Continents Nine Lives (Bowery Books) is her most recent collection of poetry. And she is the mother of the inimitable Xian.

by Edward Currelley

I lay awake
Thoughts of times past
The sound of your footsteps pacing
The sanctuary of hot coffee
Silver of your hair glistening under a single kitchen bulb
Silver the age of restless
Awakened long before dawn
Silver doesn’t need much sleep
I ponder your thoughts, away in the unfamiliar
Surrounded by darkness, praying for sunshine
Fear of the unknown, confused, frustration
My wide eyed doe
In the middle of traffic, stumbling in the rain
Heart pounding
Seeking peace, comfort, freedom
Hoping, praying that the next set of headlights belong to the familiar
and comes to a screeching halt.

Fractured Soul
by Edward D. Currelley

Have you ever been to an actual prayer meeting? I’m not talking about just any prayer meeting. Don’t get me wrong. All meetings where the lord’s name is lifted, is a wonderful thing. I’m talking about an old fashioned Southern Episcopal prayer meeting, a gathering of family, for the sake of spiritual rejoicing, in a place where hospitality and love overflows, a safe haven.

I remember growing up in Harlem, a predominately black community. Wednesday evenings usually around seven or seven-thirty. A group of about twelve to fifteen neighborhood folk would gather in the undercroft level of Saint Philip’s Episcopal church for prayer. These meetings were open to anyone who felt a need.

As a child we used to call this space our REC room, short for recreation room. During the week, before five o’clock Pastor Harrison and the custodian Mr. Sonny would set up game tables and a reading section. Some of us boys would run in and offer to assist. The answer was always the same. “Thanks boys, but you all will just hurt yourselves” I’d reply.” Ok Father, I mean Reverend, sorry sir”.” It’s alright son”, he’d say.” You call me whatever you’re comfortable with. Just don’t call me late for dinner.”He would burst into laughter, Mr. Sonny, with his Southern drawl had a speech impediment which caused him to repeat everything twice. He’d chuckle and laugh at the same time, “He got you good boy, he got you good boy”. I’d smile and say “Yep, he sure did”, and walk out. Over the years, I must have heard that same joke a thousand times. The fun was in hearing it told and the reaction it got.

This was our after school session, we would gather to complete our home work and play for a couple of hours before going home. Mrs. Gilbert, a tall elderly round woman would start by banging on the piano, or as she called it, the piana. The woman couldn’t play a note. Her heart was in it and that’s what mattered. One or two adult church members, volunteers, would always be available to watch us. Truth be told, their real purpose was to make sure we didn’t burn the building down. We were a rough bunch, raised right. Respectful, of adults and elders. Why am I telling you this story? Because, in the wake of the recent South Carolina tragedy, I want you to get a sense of the people that we lost. What they represented to their community and family, the void that now exist in their absence.

At most prayer meetings folks start off at the refreshment table. Hot coffee, homemade muffins, finger sandwiches, you know the drill. Unapologetic goodie grabbing. After snacking, greeting and a little chit-chat everyone sits around in a large circle. The pastor opens by acknowledging all the new faces. Once introductions are made, what follows is a welcoming in unison by the members. After an hour or so of bible study, prayer and rejoicing the group is asked, by the pastor, if anyone has a loved one or knows of anyone who is in need of prayer. Everyone stands hold hands and individual names are spoken around the circle. The pastor then leads everyone once again, in prayer. Eyes are closed, hands are joined and heads are bowed. Now I’ll ask of you to please, keep that image in mind.

We looked up in shock and disbelief at what was about to happen. I couldn’t help but to wonder, why? A faint smile that no one would notice appeared on my face, a nervous reaction perhaps. It was accompanied by thoughts of family members, their faces. It wasn’t more than a few seconds before we realized there was nothing to be done. In a moment we would all be gone. The words being spoken were inaudible. For me there was only silence, my attention was on the boy. A young man not any different than any other young man I’d held hands with while praying, except of course, he was white. A young fractured soul in need of prayer, welcomed into the house of our lord. I like the others didn’t fear death, the reality being we were in the presence of our lord. We were after all in his house. He would look after us, there was not to be any physical pain. The real pain, knowing that once again a member of the flock had slipped through the cracks of humanity. Another of our brethren, a lamb out of the gate, lost to wolves that would bend his mind. Raise him in hatred and release him to prey on its own. It happens all too frequently, especially to those of color. The racial divide, that fundamental and proverbial crack in this nation’s society, potentially, without mend. All people, no matter the race or cultural heritage who believe in the possibility of coexistence, equal in nature. Has to stand, live by example, short of revolution, and shout “No More! Enough Is Enough!”

As the shots rang out, we fell one by one. Our bodies lay heaped in a pile, blood spilling so much that there was no way of knowing which of us it was coming from. The smell of gunfire filled the air, before leaving he paused to survey the carnage. The door opened, he exited as calmly as he entered, this time there were no open arms. My eyes closed and I like the others was gone.

Downtown Charleston South Carolina, Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, June 17th, 2015.

Suzy Jackson Grant, Ethel Lance, Rev.Dr. DePayne Middleton, Tywanza Sanders, Myra Thompson, Rev. Daniel Simmons Sr., Rev. Sharonda Singleton, Cynthia Hurd, and the Hon. Rev. Clementa Pinckeny Un-fractured souls.

Edward D. Currelley is an author and artist. He was awarded honorable status by Writer’s Digest for Stage Playwriting in 2008. His children’s book “I’m not lost, I’m with you” and young adult novel “That Krasbaum Kid” will be published this year. His poems can be found in numerous anthologies and periodicals such as Eber & Wein’s Across the Way-Mountain (2014), Mom Egg Review, Volume # 13 (2015), Dove Tales-Nature (Writing for Peace International Journal) (2015) and Sling Magazine, Online Publication, Sling Magazine (2015). He is the president of Pen To Mind Books & Child Development Concepts, Inc. and resides in New York City.


The Border of the Other America
by Gary Johnston

At the border of the other America
There are no coincidences
For Mr. Lester Middle
He lives at 19 Apple Lane
With his snow blower, wife
Two and a half kids
Minivan and big screen TV

He does not think or want to think
Or see the need to think

But he cares about the fence
They are building across the border
He hopes they build it high
To keep out what he calls the others
He has forgotten the journey
Over that his father made
Without papers or a pot to piss in
He cares ever so much about equality
And has voted every year for the
Party that will bury him
He wants to take back America
But he has no clue who took it
Or if it ever really existed
He says TV has never lied to him
& the news is as good as gospel
He loves his mother
But hates the dark skinned neighbor next door
He wants those who don’t
Speak good English to go away
But he calls all his friends youse
He tells all who will listen
That the foundering fathers
Were good old guys
& the big war over the coloreds
Was really about states rights
& big government
He would love to turn the clock back
But he cannot tell time
He is Middletown America
Sum total of the thumbing down
A beacon to the tempest tossed
Who require lessons in western mystique?
Like a dog chained to an empty bowl
He hungers after nothing
He does not understand
He lives a backward state of mind
Moves an inch every five years
Makes the best of his daily bread
& where he ends up is not really
Where he wants to be
But he is a true American
Mayflower & jingoism
Last refuge of a scoundrel
The eternal conflict in the American soul
Raised on half thought politics of fear
He lives the lie made truth
Two hundred plus years
Blind faith, sins of the fathers

He does not know or care to know
Or see the need to know

The ignorance he feeds like a blessing
He passes it to his children
He tells them to keep the torch burning
& remember the other always the other

Gary Johnston is a published, performing poet and literary editor. He is a co-founder of Blind Beggar Press and a graduate of Bronx Community and Lehman Colleges of CUNY.


Foreign Yet Familiar
by Christopha Moreland

I do not recognize the hand that grasps mine…

Strong, but no flesh-cushion smooths its bony contours.

Brown, but  bluish conduits of life bulge and writhe,

While newly freckled skin sinks ’round visible cords of thick sinew.

 It seems I do not recognize…

That as my Mother before,

Both I,

And my hands have aged.

Christopha Moreland is a retired Pediatric Occupational Therapist. Her long-standing avocational interests include modern dance, music and the performing arts, as well as adventure sports. Creative writing is a relatively new venture and she is very much enjoying the journey to find her voice.


Watch Night: December 31
by Kate Rushin

I leave the hard liquor and the loud talk,
that special pot of New Year’s souse.
I seek the quiet my elders taught:

As the night turned, as the year turned,
bad leg or not, my grandfather knelt before
his sagging armchair, prayed the way a man prays;

down on one knee, leaning on one elbow,
bent forefinger and thumb pressing the bridge
of his nose. My grandmother, in her plain,

white apron over a flowered shirt-waist dress,
knelt leaned on the worn leather of a wooden
side chair, head bowed, hands clasped.

As the night turned, as the year turned
they performed their solemn duty.
They prayed us through, they prayed us over.

This night, I slip into a small bathroom,
kneel before the unrenovated sink,
pray the next ones through and over.

Kate Rushin is the author of The Black Back-Ups and “The Bridge Poem.” She received an MFA in Creative Writing from Brown University and has received fellowships from The Fine Arts Center In Provincetown and The Cave Canem Foundation. She teaches poetry and African-American literature. Her work appears in Poetry From Sojourner, Sister/Citizen and Raising Lily Ledbetter: Women Poets Occupy The Workspace. She is a regular panelist on “The Nose/The Colin McEnroe Show,” on WNPR.

©Lorraine Currelley 2016. All Rights Reserved.

Poets Network & Exchange Love & Revolution

On Saturday September 24, 2016 Poets Network & Exchange presented Love & Revolution. Words cannot express the full power, love and joy experienced at Saturday’s event. Community gathered for Poets Network & Exchange’s Love & Revolution and transformation took place, individually and collectively.

Speaking of social injustice, equity and emotional emancipation. Meeting in a safe  supportive environment, becoming  a catalyst for  change, healing and hope.

Poets Network & Exchange understands the importance of community and that we must create a restorative narrative. We understand we must work to change the old paradigm. We  understand that our work must include the very necessary work for justice.  This requires remaining focused and alert. Understanding our lives and those of future generations depend on our clarity. A clarity which sends us forth on a constructive path steadfast in our purpose.

We partnered with 100 Thousand poets for change, a global community of poets, writers and artists presenting events. 100 Thousand Poets for Change is founded by Michael Rothenberg. While focused on the artistic, it addresses social injustice sustainability and other social issues. This was our fourth year.

Special thanks to our featured poets Jerome G., Ngoma Hill, Gary Johnston and Peuo Tatyana Tuy and to poet Mercy Tullis-Bukhari, for facilitating a great open mic. Thanks to Meredith Trede for continued support and to Peuo Tatyana Tuy and Ngoma Hill for their technical support and the Morningside Heights Library. Thanks to open mic participants Romeo Del Valle, Meredith Trede, Bro. Max Black, Layding Kaliba, Fatima Seba, Monica Muniz and Talib. Thanks to everyone who attended and shared in this healing and joyous experience. Community we are because of you!

This event is funded in part by Poets & Writers with public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.

Photo Credit Peuo Tatyana Tuy and Lorraine Curelley

©Lorraine Currelley 2016. All Rights Reserved.

Charlie Vazquez Part III Men’s Narratives: Arts Activism, Creativity & Social Responsibility

On Wednesday August 17th, 2016 Poets Network & Exchange, Inc. Scholar Lecture Series presented the last of its three part series Men’s Narratives: Arts Activism, Creativity & Social Responsibility with featured guest Charlie Vazquez.

Residents of the Bronx and attendees throughout the Tri-State area were treated to a spectacular reading and conversation at the Bronx Library Center. Charlie Vazquez read excerpts from his novels and participated in a conversation and interview facilitated by Lorraine Currelley, executive director of Poets Network & Exchange, Inc. The event was presented by Poets Network & Exchange, Inc. and co-sponsored by both Poets & Writers, Inc. and Poets Network & Exchange, Inc. The theme  Men’s Narratives: Arts Activism, Creativity & Social Responsibility. How does Arts Activism, Creativity & Social Responsibility play  a role in the life of the artist? How is it reflected in the writer’s work? How does a writer/artist navigate creativity and social responsibility?   James Baldwin, “Artists are here to disturb the peace.” We ask are artists indeed here to disturb the peace?

The consensus based on the conversation and comments from attendees during the Q&A segment,  is it depends on the degree artists as individuals wish to or not engage issues of social justice and equity. The artist defines how and what that activism and one’s creativity is to look like. As a writer and individual Mr. Vazquez chooses to write his truth, from a voice which is authentically his. Addressing these issues is complicated and in some situations there are risks and factors for consideration.

Carlos Luis (Charlie) Vazquez is the author of three novels and short stories. His third novel, a paranormal detective thriller is set in Old San Juan, and an accompanying collection of short fiction. He’s the Director for the Bronx Writers Center, Editorial Trance CCO & NYC Coordinator for Festival de la Palabra de Puerto Rico. Like him on his Facebook Author Page! Follow him on Twitter Editorial Trance.

Thanks to everyone who attended Part III of Men’s Narratives: Arts Activism, Creativity & Social Responsibility with featured guest Charlie Vazquez. Thanks to Charlie Vazquez for an evening of insightful conversation and a powerful reading. Thanks to Michael Alvarez for his stellar leadership and ongoing support of community artists and programming. Thanks to Jean Harripersaud and Elvira Parrales for welcoming attendees to the Bronx Library Center and sharing the importance of reading and its impact on lives. Thanks to our community. We are because of your participation and support. Special thanks to Poets & Writers, Inc. for sponsoring the Men’s Narratives Arts Activism, Creativity & Social Responsibility series. Your support of our artists and programming is appreciated beyond measure. Shout out to Mosaic Literary Journal Editor and The Literary Project Director Ron Kavanaugh. Featured guests for the Men’s Narrative series included Nkosi Nkululeko Part I and Bonafide Rojas Part II.

This event is funded in part by Poets & Writers with public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.

©Lorraine Currelley 2016. All Rights Reserved.

Men’s Narratives: Arts Activism, Creativity & Social Responsibility Part II


IMG_0076 (2)

On Wednesday July 13, 2016 community gathered at the Bronx Library Center for Men’s Narratives: Arts Activism, Creativity & Social Responsibility Part II. A conversation and reading with featured guest poet, teacher and musician Bonafide Rojas and moderated by Lorraine Currelley, Executive Director at Poets Network & Exchange, Inc. This three part series was created to explore the relationship between  arts activism, creativity and social responsibility. We ask, How does one’s creativity intersect social justice?

James Baldwin stated, “Artist are here to disturb the peace.” Bonafide Rojas is no stranger to cultural and political activism. He spent his youth as an activist on the frontlines advocating and fighting for human rights and social justice.  Today, he continues to address social justice through his writing, music, teaching as well as speaking and performing at various forums and venues. He believes the degree of one’s activism and responsibility is individual. It is often complicated and dependant on many factors. 

Bonafide Rojas is quick to smile and laugh. He’s insightful, ponders questions before responding and is well read. Algarin, Baraka, Lorca, Neruda, Perdomo, Pietri, Pinero and Sanchez among many others are some of the authors he has read or studied. He attributes early developmental influences to his strong and adventurous mother and brilliant sister. His son shares the name Pablo with the famous Chilean poet Pablo Neruda and is charting his own musical path. Growing up in the Bronx, environment, varied multiple cultural as well as educational opportunities contributed to Bonafide Rojas’ knowledge thus expanding his worldview.

Bonafide Rojas is the author of Renovatio (Grand Concourse Press, 2014) When The City Sleeps (Grand Concourse Press, 2012) & Pelo Bueno: A Day In The Life of a Nuyorican Poet (Dark Souls Press, 2004). He appeared on Def Poetry Jam (Season 4), in the documentary Spitting Ink and has been published in numerous anthologies & journals. They include Manteca, Saul Williams’ Chorus, Bum Rush The Page, Role Call, Learn Then Burn (Pts. I & II), Me No Habla Con Acento, The Centro Academic Journal, The Hostos Review, The Acentos Review, Letras, The Calabash Journal & Palabras. He is the bandleader of the music project The Mona Passage & is the founder of Grand Concourse Press. He loves The Beatles, Bob Dylan & Jimi Hendrix.

We’re here because we understand the importance of community and that we must create a restorative narrative. We understand we must work to change the old paradigm that seeks to destroy us as a community. We  must continue our work for justice.  This requires remaining focused and alert. Understanding our lives and those of future generations depend on our clarity. A clarity which sends us forth on a constructive path steadfast in our purpose.

A special thanks to our featured guest Bonafide Rojas for a phenomenal conversation and reading. Thanks to Michael Alvarez, Jean Harripersaud and the Bronx Library Center for your ongoing support of community programming. Thanks Jean Harripersaud for sharing the importance of reading and for directing us to supporting books and exhibits throughout the evening. Thanks to Edward Currelley , Latanya DeVaughn, Carmen de Luca, Yolanda Rodriguez, Simone Nichole Perry and to   everyone who came out to support Men’s Narratives: Arts Activism, Creativity & Social Responsibility Part II. Join us for Part III August 17, Special Guest Charlie Vazquez.

This event is funded in part by Poets & Writers with public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.

Copyright 2016 Lorraine Currelley. All Rights Reserved.