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Poets and musicians gathered Friday night at the Guild Theatre to raise funds for C.O.R.E., Chicano Organizing and Research in Education, and their Que Llueva Café scholarship fund.
C.O.R.E. is a non-partisan, research, and advocacy organization with the purpose of improving the education environment of all Chicano/Latino students. C.O.R.E.’s membership, including its board members, come from various backgrounds and fields and support the organization’s many efforts, which include a variety of scholarships, such as the Que Llueva Café.
The Que Llueva Café scholarship was founded in response to “what is an unfair immigration system that continues to deprive aspiring new scholars from continuing their education in the only country they have ever known, the U.S.,” according to the C.O.R.E. website. The scholarship provides financial assistance to undocumented students so that they may continue on their academic path.
The $10 cover charge donation provided the several dozen attendees with an evening filled with poetry and music from some of the area’s finest poets and musicians. Raffle tickets offered opportunities to win gift cards, several bottles of wine, and an electronic book reader. A silent auction was held for a piece of original art by poet and C.O.R.E. member Nancy Aidé González, who also organized this annual fundraising event.
“I believe in the scholarship, which supports the hopes and aspirations of college-bound undocumented students,” she said. “Many of the students applying for the scholarship have had difficult lives. Despite setbacks, they have achieved academically and want to attend universities. They want to improve their lives. They are the dreamers the DREAM Act seeks to help.”
(Image by: Sandy Thomas)
C.O.R.E. executive director Miguel Cordova said scholarship applications have arrived from Georgia, South Carolina and Arizona, from graduating high school students who “believe they can make it in college.”
The event featured local poets Francisco X. Alarcón, Julia Connor, JoAnn Anglin, Graciela Ramirez, Paco Marquez, Sean Penna, Rosalba Gabriela Ruvalcaba, Betty Sánchez, an open mic, and musicians Patrick Grizzell, Cynthia Llano Faulkner and Joaquin Clemente Faulker. Several poets are also members of Los Escritores del Nuevo Sol, a Sacramento-based writing group.
The mix of poetry read in Spanish by Ramirez and Sánchez was complemented by the poetry read in English by Anglin and Aidé González. Several poets, including Alarcón and Marquez, read their pieces in both Spanish and English.
The audience was moved by poems like Penna’s “Las Muertas de Juárez,” about the deaths of women in Juarez (“A vile lachryphagous moth/ Drinking tears of sorrow/ Pain/ And misery/ From those he has taken/ And those he is yet to take”).
(Image by: Sandy Thomas) Aidé González read her poem “La Llorona,” based on the Mexican legend of the Weeping Woman.
“It is said La Llorona’s spirit is blessed with natural beauty and long, flowing black hair,” she said. “Wearing a white gown, she roams the rivers and creeks, wailing into the night and searching for children to drag, screaming to a watery grave. Though the tales vary, the one common thread is that she is the spirit is of a doomed mother who drowned her children and now spends eternity searching for them in rivers and lakes. I wrote ‘La Llorona’ because it is an important legend in my culture.”
Local poet and musician Grizzell performed two sets, including a bluesy song, and at times incorporating the harmonica along with the guitar. He can often be found throughout Sacramento performing music or reading poetry, and his books may be purchased at The Book Collector.
Early Mexican and Californio musical pieces were performed by C. Faulkner on mandolin and J. Faulkner on guitar. C. Faulkner related that people often ask why the songs are performed in Spanish. “Because at this time [California] was Alta California.”
The duo performed a set that included “El Capotin.” C. Faulkner credits Charles Fletcher Lummis with preserving these songs, which he recorded on Edison wax cylinders in 1903 and 1904.
Sacramento poet laureate emeritus Julia Connor began her reading with “The Place of Dark Blue Flowers,” a poem about Sacramento.
Her second poem, “Hidden Religions,” is a “poem about the making of poetry couched in the lore of ancient Ireland.” The poem refers to how sacred stones in Ireland in the 3rd century B.C. had to be chipped so that they would fit exactly when used to create stone monuments. Connor compares that construction to the poet sculpting words to fit a poem.
Connor also read a series of poems entitled “Postcards from Todo Santos” after having spent a week in that part of Baja California. The first section was about dogs because she said that the town was “full of dogs.” Connor finished her reading with “Epitaph.”
(Image by: Sandy Thomas)
One of the highlights of the event was Alarcón’s invocation to the four cardinal directions. Beginning with North and ending with West, he invited the audience to stand and join him in calling the earth’s four directions. At each location, the ancient Nahuatl word, “tahui,” is called out twice.
“In the Nahuatl tradition,” Alarcón writes, “North is the Land of the Dead,” where the ancestors originated from, and they are called upon “to grant us their wisdom.” East is where the sun rises and “is the direction of our birth, of our childhood and youth, of passion, and is ruled by the protectors of love, of the arts and poetry, and of what is really most precious in life,” he continues. South is the “fertile land of Mesoamerica where my family ancestors came from. It is dedicated to honor all women.” West is where the sun sets, and “in the Nahuatl tradition, it also represents the end of our life journey.”
Alarcón has performed this ritual, which is an ancient oral tradition, hundreds of times at poetry readings, weddings, funerals, and performed the invocation once in the Senate Chamber of the California State Capitol.
In addition to his invocation and his poems, including one in the form of a letter to Hernando Cortez and another in response to Columbus, he is the creator of the “Poets Responding to SB 1070” Facebook page. He began the page in response to the controversial Arizona bill that many claim encourages racial profiling. He also spoke of the nine students known as the Capital Nine who protested the passage of SB 1070, calling them “the hope of our nation.”
“We are all humans,” he said. “Each poem is an act of faith, a call for action.”