María Ochoa is a writer-photographer. Her most recent work is seen in the photo book Find Peace in a Restless World. Other books of her include Russell City: Images of America; Shout Out: Women of Color Respond to Violence; Creative Collectives: Chicana Painters Working in Community and Enunciating Our Terms: Women of Color in Conflict and Collaboration.
The California State Assembly honored her as Woman of the Year for her contributions to the arts. She was recognized for her creative work with an Alameda County Supervisors Award. The Hayward Historical Society presented her with the John Sandoval Award for outstanding visual documentation of local history.
Ochoa is the recipient of two Ford Foundation fellowships, a Creative Work Fund grant, and residency with the UC Humanities Research Institute. Ochoa earned her doctorate at the University of California Santa Cruz, and is San José State University Professor Emerita Sociology-Interdisciplinary Social Sciences.
Raina J. León is an Afro-Boricua Philadelphian (currently living on Lisjan Ohlone lands in Berkeley). She is a daughter, sister, madrina, comadre, partner, poet, writer, and teacher educator. She believes in collective action and community work, the profound power of holding space for the telling of our stories, and the liberatory practice of humanizing education.
She seeks out communities of care and craft and is a member of the Carolina African American Writers Collective, Cave Canem, CantoMundo, Macondo, Círculo, The Ruby (SF), and the SF Writers Grotto. She is the author of three collections of poetry, Canticle of Idols , Boogeyman Dawn and sombra: dis(locate) and the chapbooks, profeta without refuge and Areyto to Atabey: Essays on the Mother(ing) Self. She has received fellowships and residencies with the SV Community of Writers, Montana Artists Refuge, the Macdowell Colony, Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts, Vermont Studio Center, the Tyrone Guthrie Center in Annamaghkerrig, Ireland and Ragdale.
She is a founding editor of The Acentos Review, an online quarterly, international journal devoted to the promotion and publication of Latinx arts. She is also the poetry editor for Raising Mothers (raisingmothers.com). She is a full professor of education at Saint Mary’s College of California, only the third Black person (all of us Black women) and the first Afro-Latina to achieve that rank there.
I borrow wings from other angels, coast
the streets to find feathers loosely attached
to slender silver ties. With care, I close the catch
and fasten cardboard stiffened form so close
I cannot breathe or fly for the air
pushed out into a world in masquerade.
I am African. I am goddess with flare
sounding the trumpets. I call out God.
Meaning changes like sea water in storm.
I part the crowds until, beaten, my wings
fly, fall, litter the streets. I cradle the newborn
twins and realize that I am fallen,
a lesser angel, wingless and depressed.
I am seductress unpetaled, undressed.
dress her navel in lotus flowers
to swim in the pool of her abdomen
twine orange blossoms in her hair
and smell the scent of oils and natural perfume
kiss her nipples so that they become pyramids
wet from a summer rain of tongue
press her down into soft linens with hard
body folding into hers like tributary waters
warm her hands against heated chest
that covers drum rhythms resounding
men, worship your women this way
women, flush at the adoration
and you will know how I feel
when he touches my hand
Raina J. León, "Scenes in the life of a lesser angel" from Canticle of Idols. Copyright © 2008 by Raina J. León.
Chicago poet Elizabeth Marino has seen her work travel. Her poems and essays have appeared in little magazines, litzines, blogs and print anthologies in India, Gambia, England, Scotland, San Francisco, Austin, Cleveland and Chicago, including two Vagabond collections (Rise and EXTREME), as well as the new full-length ASYLUM (poems and memoir). Her work also appears in four Revolutionary Poetry Brigade anthologies. Prior releases include two chapbooks, Debris (Puddin'head Press, 2011) and Ceremonies (dancing girl press 2016). She was awarded a Ragdale residency, a Hispanic Serving Institution grant, and a CAAP grant. She holds an MA in English from University of Illinois at Chicago's Writers Program and a BA in English and Humanities from Barat College, in addition to coursework at the University of Oxford. She earned her living teaching writing and literature at local universities for years, as well as had a popular SAGE workshop.
Another sleepless night,
and my remote
takes me to Charlie and his
blue plastic boat, shared at
St. Vincent Orphan Asylum
in Chicago. His hair was wondrously
full, and he made my belly laugh
as we waited and drifted.
The dormitory cribs were
far different from the blue vinyl
mats on the concrete floor
of the women’s wing of the
shelter. Each places of shelter
and transit, an end time
at any time.
And I see these pictures
of the children stacked up like
cordwood, relatively safe
in their Texas detention camps,
compared to the Pakistani children
stacked up like cordwood
in ox carts, after a drone attack.
It is difficult to shut off
these images on the screen
of the mind’s eye. The browser sticks,
and keeps refreshing itself.
In the morning
I must go out the door
and decide to be alive.
Carla Schick is a Queer transformative justice activist and writer. Born in New York, and living in the Bay Area, their writing attempts to weave together personal stories, politics, history, and resistance & liberation. They have been published in Milvia St., Forum Literary Journal, Sinister Wisdom, Berkeley Times, California Quarterly and Earth’s Daughters. Their work also appears online at A Gathering of the Tribes and The Write Launch. They won first place in the Barbara Mandigo Kelly Peace Poetry Prize (2012, 2018). They are currently completing work at Berkeley City College to receive their Certificate in Poetry (Creative Writing).
Excerpt from "Dear Young Queer Non-Binary Poet"
Older than you, I wandered wide, but infinitely narrow, New York, Queens streets in search of my body. Yes, my body. I sat in the drip drip drip of basement pipes with my best girlfriend as we promised to grow up together. This didn’t happen. I grew up. Left. She shattered under the weight of her father’s history of mental depression.
I grew up and have the scars to prove it: shin dented and scraped, and a cut over my eye where J. ran into my head with her teeth as I went to tag her out in running bases. I still can awkwardly bend the finger that my dad splinted saying everything would be okay; so I went bowling. The body I tore at and wore out. The knee whose cartilage collapsed so I could pretend I couldn’t do PE anymore. The body I learned how to disappear under too big clothes and lunches thrown out.
To continue reading go to https://thewritelaunch.com/2020/07/dear-young-queer-non-binary-poet/
Shirley Flores Muñoz teaches in the women’s studies and history department at Cabrillo College. She has been an instructor at UCSC and Cabrillo College for 40 years. Dr. Shirley Flores-Muñoz has been a champion of gender equity and has established programs that encourage and support disenfranchised women to pursue college educations and enter the workforce including bringing Cabrillo College classes to Watsonville.
Born and raised in Watsonville, Flores-Muñoz received both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in history and a doctorate in History of Consciousness from the University of California, Santa Cruz. She has been honored by numerous organizations including Santa Cruz County Women’s Commission, Latina Leadership Network, the National Women’s Political Caucus, and the California Wellness Foundation. She currently serves on the boards of MAIA and the Pajaro Valley Art Council. She writes poetry, teaches part-time, enjoys her grandchildren, travels, enjoys music, art, and other leisurely activities.
Excerpt from "The Autumn of My Life"
I cannot write about the winter of my life yet
For we have just passed October, the leaves are still falling and the earth is afire with color;
Orange, magenta, brown and whispers of green
Very much like my own life
Someday I will be able to write about winter first hand
For if I am lucky, I too will arrive
Like my lovely mother, grey and buried somewhere beneath the soil
But for me today…it is all about the turning of colors
My body of movements are all turning color
Almost gone is the green
Dwindling is the bright green of new life
Sprouts breaking through the hard soil of life
I have many memories of this time
The brisk fall wind brazing past my bare legs, blowing hard enough to raise the hem of my dress
I hold my sweater close to my chest
As the shoot sprouts upward, there appear new leaves; clean and new and tender
I too move through life’s passages
The channels of new more responsible social interactions
As a teenager, learning how to follow the rules
Learning how to walk narrow paths
Learning how to not be a great burden to my parents
Helping others, participation of the tribe
Learning my value
To continue reading go to "Two Poems by Shirley Flores Muñoz"
She was carrying her house
On her shoulders
On her body, on her head,
On each of her hairs.
Everywhere she went
She would take her house
She would see paintings, curtains,
For her house.
Sometimes she would
Frenetically agitate her arms
Out her windows
As if they were screaming.
Sometimes she would climb
To her roof.
She would see the city, far, very far
Howling very much
Until falling slept.
Her house was her island.
She wanted to die
Get out of this world
Be buried, there,
In her house.
José (Manny) Martínez aka J.M. Curét is the author of the short story Wife-Beater Tank Top, from the Akashic Books 2020 anthology Berkeley Noir. His short story Papi’s Stroke and poem, Fragmented/Fragmentado were published in the May 2020 issue of The Acentos Review. His poems Tracy and What Had Happened Was were published in Quiet Lightning’s Sparkle + Blink Issue 109. J.M. lives in the Bay Area teaching high school English and Ethnic Studies, and lends his voice to various salsa bands in the Bay Area.
sueño contigo aunque
irme de ti fue lo más que yo quize
Sueño con tus palos de mango,
cual la fruta yo subia a buscar, o
recojia del piso o obtenia a pedrá.
sueño contigo porque
tus rayos de sol y el sal de tu mar
jamás me han dejado.
De ti yo nunca hablo mal,
pero que no me hablen de tu politica
o de tu sistema de salud
por que entonces ahi si que no.
sueño con tu pasado, tu futuro,
y tu presente. Sueño con tu gente.
Humilde y guillú, ansiosa y tranquila,
feliz e infeliz- tó a la misma vez.
Gente que no tienen que conocerte
pa darte todo lo que puedan darte.
Gente que te partan el alma con machete,
bate, pistola, chancleta, musica y letra
o lo que encuentren, porque nadie usa
los recursos disponibles como el Boriqua.
Mira la alcapurria
Borinquen sueño contigo
por las lecciones que me enseñastes.
Por ti se cuando darle un break a alguien y
cuando decir, mira no jodas mas coño
como tener orgullo en mi trabajo
y como mandar a alguien a las ventas del carajo
como pararme firme en mi orgullo y mi identidad
como seguir pa’lante, porque patrá ni pa cojer impulso.
Borinquen sueño contigo
Porque algo en mi sabe que
lo nuestro no se ha terminado
me llamas, me llamarás, me has llamado
me has ruinado para cualquier otra patria
y en mis momentos mas sublimes o
mas en necesidad de esperanza
contigo es que sueño. Borinquen.
Victoria Bañales is a Watsonville-based Chicanx writer, mother, and activist. She teaches English at Cabrillo College and is the founder and editor of Xinachtli Journal—Journal X—a literary/arts magazine focused on social justice issues. A Macondo Fellow, her writing has appeared in Translocalities/Translocalidades: Feminist Politics of Translation in the Latin/a Américas, Beyond the Frame: Women of Color and Visual Representations, North Dakota Quarterly, The Acentos Review, Cloud Women’s Quarterly Journal, and more. She is a member of the Hive Poetry Collective, which produces weekly poetry radio shows and podcasts, and the Writers of Color Collective-Santa Cruz County. Victoria holds a Ph.D. in Literature and Feminist Studies from the University of California, Santa Cruz. She is the recipient of a Porter Gulch Review Best Poetry Award and Cabrillo EOPS Instructor of the Year Award.
is when mamis praise babies’ light skin
name their daughters Blanca or Clara
praise the lord for their colored eyes
as if brown had no color
is when papis frown
say your boyfriend’s too prieto, looks Indian
and siblings debate, what type of Indian?
Colorism is racism
is when tías see cute Black magic on TV
say, not ugly like the others
is when abuelas warn about the sun
sit in the shade, don’t get too dark
is when classmates tease
pull on your braids
say you look Indian
is when friends post pictures
is when family says
hay que mejorar la raza
is when Mexicans
kill the Indian inside
kill the Black inside
pretend to be white
dream of whiteness
white angels and gods
white clouds, white powders
foundations like snow
our insides bleached
bleeding and bruised
our souls breached
translucent and destroyed
the massacres, ongoing
we killing ourselves
without even knowing
Nikia Chaney is the author of us mouth (University of Hell Press, 2018) and two chapbooks, Sis Fuss (2012, Orange Monkey Publishing) and ladies, please (2012, Dancing Girl Press). She has served as Inlandia Literary Laureate (2016-2018). Her poetry has been published in Sugarhouse Review, 491, Iowa Review, Vinyl, and Pearl, Welter, and Saranac. Her memoir, ladybug, is upcoming from Inlandia in 2022. She teaches in Santa Cruz, CA.
consider this child adrift
a leg spools
a solitary foot out
to the lake
circles on the surface
a small purchase
in tender toefuls
that reflect and shift
the green down
to the coldness of
as if that stiff whim dared
to gather its body up
dive thick and proud a seed
sliver a child’s slow
learn to walk a mother
whispered warning like
weeds real as the water
cradling the tiny craft
always spooling around her
because this space does
not send out its pliant lips
to pierce it just radiates
where she is testing
lazy in its hum, possibility
its tiny pieces
each one bobbing
Nancy Aidé González is a Chicana poet, educator, and activist. Her work has appeared in Huizache: The Magazine of Latino Literature, La Tolteca, Mujeres De Maiz Zine, Seeds of Resistance Flor y Canto: Tortilla Warrior, Hinchas de Poesía, Fifth Wednesday Journal and several other literary journals. Her work is featured in the Poetry of Resistance: Voices for Social Justice, Sacramento Voices: Foam at the Mouth Anthology, Lowriting: Shots, Rides, and Stories from the Chicano Soul, and Puro Chicanx Writers of the 21st Century.
Riding in the ’63 Impala
cruis’n el corazón del barrio
carnalitos y carnalitas running through sprinklers
abuelas y abuelos on the porch talk’n about the old days
cholos playing handball at the high school
women in the beauty shop getting their hair did
taquerías panaderías heladerías
I’m Your Puppet
La La Means I love You
Thin Line Between Love and Hate
Sabor A Mí
through the streets of Califaztlan
Chrome spoke wheels spin
low and slow
variations of pink paint layers glisten
hard top covered in a garden of hand painted gypsy roses
lean back upon velvet pink interior
flip the switch
hit the hydraulics
dip and raise
dip and raise
hop hop hop
off the ground in the intersection
the journey has just begun
let’s chase the immensity
of the moment
Nicole Henares has been a high school English teacher for over 20 years, and in 2021 she is a workshop leader for the Círculo de poetas and Writers Annual Conference. In Nicole's workshop, "The Heroine's Journey," participants explore the concept of what makes a heroine in history, in a story, or in myth. Nicole considers that we all are living history. As we look around the events as they are happening around us, we must continually ask ourselves- What happened? How did this happen? How could it have been different? Her leadership, teaching, and creative writing focus on exploring how our lives are deeply connected to the images we encounter.
Excerpt from "Aurelia Lorca And The Heroine’s Journey"
Aurelia is not my real name.
But, I, too, have lost myself
in order to find the burn
that keeps everything awake.
I, too, will always be on the side
of those who have nothing and
who are not even allowed to enjoy
the nothing they have in peace.
I, too, am an anarchist
in the best sense of the word.
I heed only three voices:
that of death,
that of love,
and that of art.
Almost eighty years ago,
the great poet Federico Garcia Lorca did not finish his last play-
Dreams of My Cousin Aurelia.
His protagonist, Aurelia, said she could not live
without reading fiction and putting on plays
because the men in the village never laughed.
To read the entire poem go to "Aurelia Lorca And The Heroine’s Journey"