Two Poems, One Struggle

WORLD POETRY DAY celebrates one of humanity’s most treasured forms of cultural and linguistic expression and identity.

Practiced throughout history – in every culture and on every continent – poetry speaks to our common humanity and our shared values, transforming the simplest of poems into a powerful catalyst for dialogue and peace.

Yesterday, I received two poems, from two friends who struggled to find the words.

I share their poems today, in observance of WORLD POETRY DAY.

Pools of Red

Gunshots pierced the air,

then landed in bodies

of mostly Asian women

working at the spa.

One by one, the women

crashed.  

They screeched.

Crumpled to the floor,

which colored crimson. 

Moist fresh blood. 

Pools of red.

Creating shadows 

of death.

Bloody. 

No more plasma.

No more lifeblood.

To take a breath.

Killer shot them because

of his alleged sex addiction.

They were Asian women.

Targets in my homeland.

Open season it appears, 

to spit at, to harass, to tackle,

to attack.

I am Asian (american) woman.

FLO OY WONG

March 20, 2021

They’d Done Them Wrong

Six sisters linked not by birth, but death.

they were reared under the wrong signs

wrong place or time. Maybe that

the parents were at fault.

Of a skin color of the wrong choice.

Born with it. Some men didn’t care

why would they? Money

gave pleasure to their flesh.

No one wants to be down low

And miserable. I use to think

only women understand pain

like they each other could feel.

I shed a tear, and die inside.

Who dealt them the wrong deck of cards?

Money, skin, sin, and all those righteous themes.

All the wrong reasons for a killing spree.

VICTOR YAN

March 20, 2021

On the occasion of World Poetry Day 2021, Director-General AUDREY AZOULAY of UNESCO writes, “Poetry lies at the heart of who we are as women and men, living together today, drawing on the heritage of past generations, custodians of the world for our children and grandchildren.”

Deepest gratitude to Flo Oy Wong and Victor Yan for sharing their poetry and friendship.

Stop AAPI Hate

Our communities stand united against racism. Hate against Asian American Pacific Islander communities has risen during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Together, we can stop it.

In response to the alarming escalation in xenophobia and bigotry resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, the Asian Pacific Planning and Policy Council (A3PCON), Chinese for Affirmative Action (CAA), and the Asian American Studies Department of San Francisco State University launched the Stop AAPI Hate reporting center on March 19, 2020. The center tracks and responds to incidents of hate, violence, harassment, discrimination, shunning, and child bullying against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the United States.

Encourage those who experience or witness acts of hate towards the Asian American and Pacific Islander communities to report an incident at our website. The reporting form is available in 11 languages. Reporting incidents helps us understand what is happening and guides us in developing policies to advocate for.

https://stopaapihate.org/actnow/

Slow Street Art

Over the years, the ArtsEd4All crew has enjoyed supporting Sunday Streets events. We really get excited about Poetry and All Things Slow, and are always happy to contribute some Cheap Art. Special thanks to Joanie Juster for the connection and to Alec Hawley for the invitation to participate in the Slow Street Art Hunt! The Slow Streets event is also fun lead in to Total SF Movie Night #8 – a virtual screening of Always Be My Maybe, so be sure to grab some popcorn-to-go to enjoy with the film at home.

Ride N’ Roll Slow Street Art Hunt

We are looking forward to the Ride N’ Roll Slow Street Art Hunt on Saturday, February 13 in the Richmond District. The event will start at 1 pm at Green Apple Books with poetry by Mark J. Mitchell and end with Norton the It’s It at the Balboa Theater at 3pm. Come out and support local businesses and participate in an art hunt highlighting artwork and poetry. You will have a great time, come rain or shine!

Slow Art Hunt: A4All Memory Cards

For the Slow Art Hunt, we have created a set of twelve cards that are inspired by the places in the Richmond District that we love.

Each ArtsEd4All notecard features art and poetry that is inspired by the Slow Streets Art movement in the Richmond District. The cards share stories and and things that we have learned as we have explored the neighborhood over the years.

We are really grateful that this event gave us an opportunity to reflect on the wonderful times spent in the Richmond District. We are excited to share some love for our favorite places — Argonne Community Garden, Balboa Theater, C: Landing Arts, California Academy of Sciences, De Young Museum, E.Y. Lee Kung Fu School, Four Star Theatre with pre-film dim sum and post-film noodle houses, Healing Arts Studio, Internet Archive, Japanese Tea Gardens, Land’s End, Mountain Lake, Ocean Beach, Presidio Middle School and the San Francisco Botanical Gardens.

Look on the back of each card for a QR code that launches to a poetry reading, a song or a film. Scan the QR code with a code reader app or use your iPhone camera to access this special content.

If you find one of our art memory cards inside a pre-stamped envelope on Slow Streets, we hope that you will enjoy the art, poems and our memories of good times in the Richmond District. When you are ready, please use the card to send love and poetry to a friend.

The ArtsEd4All crew of contributors to this project include Andi Wong, Flo Oy Wong, Janice Fong, Judy Toupin, Mara Grimes, Mary Ann Cruz, Norma Diana Rodriguez, Victor Yan, featuring audio contributions by the 4th grade poets at Diane Feinstein Elementary and the Del Sol String Quartet, Brenda Wong Aoki of First Voice, and Blake Ansari and the Open Library readers at the Internet Archive.

“If one is lucky, a solitary fantasy can transform one million realities.” — Maya Angelou

Since 2016, ArtsEd4All has organized an annual book drive for the Blake Mini Library in the Hamilton Families shelter. School children are invited to help fill the rainbow-colored shelves from MLK Day of Service through Valentine’s Day. With our first book drive, we started a tradition of writing and hiding “Notes of Encouragement.” Book donors and children were invited to contribute special surprise messages that were hidden inside the books to be discovered by a future reader. The reading and writing of these notes helped create a special bond between two people who might never ever meet — the donor and the recipient. Over the years, lovely notes of encouragement have been written at special author signings at Green Apple Books.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, space and capacity at the shelter is a concern, and school is not in session, so we will not be able to have the book drive as usual this year. Sharing these Memory Cards on Slow Streets helps us to hold onto this ritual of kindness in a time of change.

However, Hamilton Families confirmed that we can be a great help with a Spanish language children’s book drive for the shelter and Transitional Housing Program. Please get in touch, if you would like to recommend Spanish Language book titles or you are interested in purchasing a book.

Here’s a book that we’d really like to include in this year’s delivery:

Milo imagina el mundo
By MATT DE LA PEÑA
Illustrated by CHRISTIAN ROBINSON

For There is Always Light

Today, January 21st is National Angel Island Day.

On this day, we take time to remember the stories, events, and people from the Immigration Station’s 111-year history.

“An Island Light” Angel Island, in sight; January 21, 2021

The light of San Francisco
is a sea light
an island light

— from The Changing Light, by LAWRENCE FERLINGHETTI

In 2010, President Barack Obama signed a proclamation declaring January 21st as National Angel Island Day.

“From the cities, villages, and farms of their birth, they journeyed across the Pacific, seeking better lives for themselves and their children. Many arrived at Angel Island, weary but hopeful, only to be unjustly confined for months or, in some cases, years. As we remember their struggle, we honor all who have been drawn to America by dreams of limitless opportunity.

Unlike immigrants who marveled at the Statue of Liberty upon arrival at Ellis Island, those who came to Angel Island were greeted by an intake facility that was sometimes called the “Guardian of the Western Gate.” Racially prejudiced immigration laws of the time subjected many to rigorous exams and interrogations, as well as detention in crowded, unsanitary barracks. Some expressed themselves by carving poetry and  inscriptions into the walls in their native language — from Chinese, Japanese, and Korean to Russian, German, and Urdu. These etchings remain on Angel Island today as poignant reminders of the immigrant experience and an unjust time in our history.

If there is any vindication for the Angel Island immigrants who endured so many hardships, it is the success achieved by those who were allowed entry, and the many who, at long last, gained citizenship. They have contributed immeasurably to our Nation as leaders in every sector of American life. The children of Angel Island have seized the opportunities their ancestors saw from across an ocean. By demonstrating that all things are possible in America, this vibrant community has created a beacon of hope for future generations of immigrants.”

The History That We Stand On, and The Future We Stand For

22-year-old poet Amanda Gorman, America’s first Youth Poet Laureate

On January 20, 2021, Amanda Gorman became the sixth and youngest poet, at age twenty-two, to deliver a poetry reading at a presidential inauguration. She was invited to write a poem inspired by the theme, “America United.” Amanda wanted to write about a new chapter in our country, while acknowledging the dark chapter in American history that we are living through. “Now more than ever, the United States needs an inaugural poem,” Gorman said. “Poetry is typically the touchstone that we go back to when we have to remind ourselves of the history that we stand on, and the future that we stand for.” 

We will rebuild, reconcile and recover
and every known nook of our nation and
every corner called our country,
our people diverse and beautiful will emerge,
battered and beautiful
When day comes we step out of the shade,
aflame and unafraid
The new dawn blooms as we free it
For there is always light,
if only we’re brave enough to see it
If only we’re brave enough to be it

— from The Hill We Climb, by AMANDA GORMAN

“A Sea We Must Wade” Angel Island, in sight; January 21, 2021

In response to the Inauguration Day, poet Flo Oy Wong wrote this new poem, inspired by Amanda Gorman, America’s first National Youth Poet Laureate, and Kamala Harris, the first woman, as well as the first African American and first Asian American, to serve as Vice President of the United States. Kamala means “lotus flower” in Sanskrit.

As a Petal of Hope Takes Shape

In brackish water, hope emerges
from a cracked seed like the lotus.
In search of light, hope wends itself,
stretches towards illumination,
waits to dance with dreams.
As a petal of hope takes shape
it tastes like delectable kindness.
It smells sweet like heartfelt compassion.
It feels like golden silk stitched

to goodness of humankind.

FLO OY WONG, January 5 – 19, 2021

Dancing with Dreams: Angel Island, in sight; January 21, 2021

The world premiere performance of Huang Ruo’s “Your Wall is Our Canvas: The Angel Island” with The Del Sol String Quartet is currently planned for October 2021 on Angel Island.