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Friday Night @ ALA: Many Voices, One Nation

For the second year in a row I attended this great program organized by ALA ‘s Office for Diversity. – “a celebration of the written and spoken word, lyrics, and song.” The premise is basic: bring together authors, poets, musicians, and dancers to provide a sampler of local talent and a range of perspectives about the town where the conference is held and other cultures. I found it to be the perfect start to the conference last year, and I early-on decided that I would not miss this year’s program. This time around the program was less politically charged than post-Katrina New Orleans, but there were still many unique voices:

-Program MC Jose Aponte, director of the San Diego County Library system, peppered the program with lively banter and library-related words of wisdom, emphasizing our duty as librarians to nurture and reconstruct our communities and make “our house”, the library, open to all ideas. He added that it is our role as librarians to support the next generation of writers, through “discipline, focus, legacy”.

-Da Grewp, a Washington DC band, played “Go-Go” music, D.C.’s version of funk.

– Nancy Garden read an abridged version of her contribution to the collection Hear Us Out! Lesbian and Gay Stories of Struggle, Progress, and Hope, which includes stories from different historical eras of the GLBT movement.

– Patrice Gaines described words as “magic” in her story, “In the Beginning There was a Word”, meant to encourage young people to read and explore the world of libraries.

-Anosh Irani brought a taste of India to the room with an excerpt from his new book The Song of Kahunsha.

– Reginald Harris painted a portrait of the “magic city” with his poems about Baltimore.

– C.M. Mayo read an excerpt from her collection of stories about her adventures in Baja California, the other Mexico.

– The Ishangi Family African Dancers performed their wonderful family dances to the playing of drums, reminding the audience that “life is life”, regardless of hardships or joys.

– E. Ethelbert Miller “informed, inspired, and entertained” (per Aponte) with his poems from Turn the Page and You Don’t Stop: Sharing Successful Chapters in Our Lives with Youth.

– Mary Kay Ricks read from her upcomng book Escape on the Pearl: the Heroic Bid for Freedom on the Underground Railroad.

– Tim Tingle told us to the beat of a drum that “words bring spirit to a place”. He recounted storiespassed down from grandparents, and reminded everyone to “keep our eyes on where we are going, and not on the bloody footprints of the past.”

– The talented young writers of DC WritersCorp read from pieces they had written with their interpretations of characters from Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God.

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  • C.M. Mayo says:

    It was a delight to participate in the ALA reading, and thanks for the mention of my book. A correction, however: the complete title of my book is Miraculous Air: Journey of a Thousand Miles through Baja California, the Other Mexico (Milkweed Editions). Good wishes!