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9 L.A. Poets Giving Latinos A Voice

It is National Poetry month and these are nine of the hottest poets in and around the L.A. area spreading the word like wildfire.

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One of the best poets with a knack for reciting raw emotional energy, Sedillo’s first book of poetry For What I Might Do Tomorrow, was published by Casa de Poesia in 2009. He is also a two-time national slam poet and was the grand slam champion of the Damn Slam in Los Angeles. If you see him ask him to recite “L.A. is full of Pigs.”

Felicia “Fe Evaone” Montes

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Not only is she is a co-founder and coordinating member of two important women’s collectives, Mujeres de Maiz and In Lak Ech, Fe has also been involved with her community since an early age. Like her peers, she maintains a deep rooted belief that art is a tool for education, empowerment and transformation. She self-published her own poetry book titled Ten Fe and is known for her innate ability to blend hip hop, poetry and spoken word.

David A. Romero

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Hailing from Diamond Bar, California, Romero is only the second poet to be featured on All Def Digital, Russell Simmons’ YouTube channel. He’s also opened for Ozomatli and La Santa Cecilia. Currently touring, Romero is often featured alongside his literary partner in crime, Matt Sedillo.

READ: New U.S Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera, the Chicano’s Literary Rock Star

Iris De Anda

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Iris is a very punk poet who comes from Mexican and Salvadorean descent. She believes in the power and strength that comes with the word. You can find Anda, author of CODESWITCH: Fires from Mi Corazon, hosting “The Writers Underground Open Mic” every Third Thursday of the month at the Eastside Café in El Sereno.

BusStop Prophet

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Born Francisco Escamilla, BusStop Prophet is an East L.A. native. He is a teaching artist with the non-profit Street Poets. He can often be found at events reciting poetry on the topic of popular education.

Xitlalic Guijosa-Osuna

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Guijosa-Osuna’s poetry varies from everyday happenings, domestic abuse, memories of old friends, lovers, to even guayabas (yes, the fruit) and their greatness. She is a firm believer that words help heal the mind and soul.

John Martinez

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Originally from Fresno, Martinez is a writer’s writer. He has held several readings throughout Southern California and Mexico. He is a regular contributing writer to La Bloga and Poets responding to SB1070.

Anna Ureña

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From South Central Los Angeles, Ureña writes prose and theatrical dramas. She authored Anhelo, a collection of Spanish language poems. She currently hosts a weekly podcast, Another Voice From The Crowd that features various writers from the Los Angeles literary scene.

Abel Salas

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Photo Credit: Abel Salas / Facebook

Salas is a native Texan who made East L.A. his second home. A former road manager for La Mafia, he is currently the editor-in-chief of print and online mag Brooklyn and Boyle. He has coined his style as “Literaloco–Literatonto.”

Lil Libros Finally Adds Musician Ritchie Valens To The List Of Icons Highlighted In Bilingual Children’s Books

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Lil Libros Finally Adds Musician Ritchie Valens To The List Of Icons Highlighted In Bilingual Children’s Books

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Lil’ Libros has been gifting Latino parents the gift of a single children’s book read in two languages to promote bilingualism in Latino niños around the world. The stories are all about Latino icons that have shaped and defined our culture throughout history, honoring stories like Mexican painter Frida Kahlo and Cuban music legend, Celia Cruz. With nearly 20 books in the collection so far, we thought Lil’ Libros couldn’t get any cuter or more relevant until it added the story of Ricardo “Ritchie” Valenzuela in “The Life of / La Vida de: Ritchie.”

The children’s book will cover all the highlights of Ritchie’s life.

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“Born May 13, 1941, Ritchie Valens was a Mexican-American singer, songwriter, and guitarist,” reads the book description. “His musical journey began at age 5 when his father encouraged him to take up guitar. In high school, he made his performing debut with the band The Silhouettes. At 17, Ritchie recorded his final record, which included classics like “Donna” and “La Bamba”. That record went on to sell over one million copies. To this day, Ritchie  Valens’ music lives on in the hearts of many!”

Ritchie followed his passions, and they became a gift to the music world.

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Ritchie is considered the father of the Chicano rock movement. He was the son of two Mexican immigrants, born in the Los Angeles valley as Richard Steven Valenzuela. Even though Ritchie was left-handed, he taught himself how to play the guitar, trumpet, and drums, and was so in love with music, he learned it all with a dominant right hand. He was always bringing his guitar to his high school to play for his friends. By the time he was 16 years old, he was invited to join The Silhouettes, and eventually became the lead singer. He only released two records during his lifetime, and is best known for “La Bamba.” He’s also known for being the first Latino to successfully cross over into the U.S. mainstream rock genre, inspiring Selena, Café Tacuba, Los Lobos, Los Lonely Boys, and even Carlos Santana to fuse Latinidad with rock.

We *doubt* they’ll include that Ritchie dropped out of high school.

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He became a raging success with the release of his first and only three records and dropped out of school to keep up with his career. Ritchie actually didn’t know any Spanish, and his family only spoke English and Spanglish in their house. He learned to sing “La Bamba” in Spanish by learning the song phonetically. Just this year, The U.S. Library of Congress selected “La Bamba” to be preserved in the National Recording Registry as “culturally, historically, and aesthetically significant.”

Or Ritchie’s tragic death by a plane crash at just 17 years old.

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Ritchie had a fear of flying that he eventually overcome throughout his short-lived music career. His fear started during the second term of his junior year in high school. Two airplanes collided over the school’s playground on January 31, 1957, killing and injuring several of his friends. It all happened while Ritchie was at his abuelo’s funeral. His first flight was to Philadelphia to appear on Dick Clark’s American Bandstand show, where he performed “Come On, Let’s Go.” The following month, he was flying to Hawaii to perform with Buddy Holly and Paul Anka.

Ritchie won a coin toss that fateful February 2, 1959 winter day in Iowa that won him a spot on a small plane that would later crash and kill everyone on the plane. His band had been traveling by tour bus throughout the Midwest without adequate heating, causing them all to catch the flu and, in one case, even frostbite. They were desperate to get on a flight out, and only the guitarist, Tommy Allsup, and bassist Waylon Jennings were spared, simply because they lost their coin tosses. 

Ritchie took off at 12:55 am and crashed just minutes later.

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Still, nobody knows why the plane crashed. It killed everyone on impact. Ritchie suffered a blunt force trauma to the chest and unsurvivable head injuries, dying at just 17 years old. His death inspired Don McLean to write “American Pie,” forever remembering February 3 as “The Day the Music Died.” The music may have died by Ritchie’s legacy continues to live on, now in both Spanish and English at storytimes.

READ:

A Children’s Alphabet Book About Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Talks About ‘A’ And ‘F’ Words

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A Children’s Alphabet Book About Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Talks About ‘A’ And ‘F’ Words

The appeal of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is undeniable, ever since she was elected to represent New  York’s 14th district last year she’s been making headlines. Her story is an inspiring rise to fame from being born and raised in the Bronx to repping her neighborhood as the youngest congresswoman in U.S. history.  Cementing her iconic status is her bold push against the status quo in government, promoting progressive plans and unapologetically being true to herself. These are just some of the reasons she’s come to represent the modern-day empowered, socially conscious politician that serves as an inspiration for women of all ages. 

So why not put her in a book?

A new book titled The ABCs of AOC: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez from A to Z is due to debut this October. 

Feminist Press Executive Director & Publisher and author Jamia Wilson and illustrator Krystal Quiles teamed up to showcase AOC’s story and history-making career in the alphabet book.

Wilson is a feminist activist also striving for change and so she created this book to honor a woman whose views are in line with her own and clearly many other young women. 

 “AOC shows kids of all races and genders that they are never too young to speak up, take action, and make a change in their community,” she told Romper. “Her historic ascent illustrates the power of curiosity, courage, and using your voice to support and inspire others. Whether readers are interested in activism, education, civics, feminism, or science they’ll connect with the story of her heroic journey from the Bronx to the House.”

The book includes words like “Xenophobia,” “Grassroots,” and “Feminist,” and “Advocate” with art that has AOC in her famous white power suit, red lips, and gold hoops. 

The Boricua congresswoman has been working toward making big changes since she took office when she was 29, having previously been a bartender as well as worked for Sen. Ted Kennedy and presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders. 

Her main focus has been the Green New Deal which aims to convert the U.S. economy to renewable energy in the next 12 year, encouraging job creation and innovations in technology. She also supports Medicare for everyone, free public college, and abolishing U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). All causes that are especially relevant for younger generations and popular issues among young voters. 

As an avid user of social media, she uses her various platforms to inform followers and call out politicians including the president, recently tweeting about Trump’s behavior regarding his alleged sexual assault. 

With more than five million followers on Twitter and almost four million on Instagram, she’s become one of – if not the – most popular House member on social.

But in addition to her government takedowns and fact-checking tweets, she’s also loud and proud when it comes to her Latinidad and her style. 

Lip+hoops were inspired by Sonia Sotomayor, who was advised to wear neutral-colored nail polish to her confirmation hearings to avoid scrutiny. She kept her red. Next time someone tells Bronx girls to take off their hoops, they can just say they’re dressing like a Congresswoman,” she tweeted earlier this year. 

No wonder one of the words in the book is “feminist.” After all, that feminist power was evident when she stood up against Trump earlier this month when he tweeted that she and three other female progressive Democrats should all “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime-infested places from which they came.”

AOC, along with congresswomen Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley, and Rashida Tlaib then formed what’s now known as “The Squad” in response. Today they have become a fixture of the power of women of color in politics. All four were elected to the House last year, making Congress the most diverse it’s ever been in U.S. history. 

“AOC shows kids of all races and genders that they are never too young to speak up, take action, and make a change in their community,” Wilson told Romper. 

Wilson isn’t the first writer to want to share AOC’s story, in May Devil’s Due Comics released a special issue called Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the Freshman Forcefeaturing her taking on the Republicans in various scenarios. Volume II features “The Squad” and comes out in December of this year. 

“The ABCs of AOC” Illustrator Quiles, also from the Bronx, notes that wherever you land in the political spectrum, AOC’s fierce spirit and audacious goals are admirable either way. 

“Regardless of political stance, AOC has tenacity, grit, and pride — qualities that should be passed on to our children and are reminders for our adult selves,” she told Romper. “As a woman born in The Bronx of Puerto Rican heritage, I think about all the kids living off the last stops of the 1,2,4,5,6 and D lines that can look up and see someone like AOC fighting for everything she believes in. It gives me hope for a brighter future.”

In a political climate that’s marginalizing women, immigrants, and people of color, AOC’s anti-establishment stance is now going to inspire younger generations, especially children of color, to realize they too can make history and fight for their beliefs. 

The book is available October 1 but you can  preorder it now.