Better Ancestors: J. Miakoda Taylor, devorah major, soledad con carne, Gabriel Cortez & Norman Zelaya

Joyce Gordon Gallery

406 14th St., Oakland, CA 94612

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Quiet Lightning presents the 12th Better Ancestors, featuring readings and performance by J. Miakoda Taylor, devorah major, soledad con carne, Gabriel Cortez, Norman Antonio Zelaya & our host for the evening Dr. Jeanne Powell for a special show at Joyce Gordon Gallery (currently celebrating their 20th anniversary)!

This will be a set of intimate performances, followed by a brief community Q&A. We hope you'll join us!

Doors open at 6pm. All ticket proceeds to be split by Quiet Lightning and Joyce Gordon Gallery – come early to check out the current exhibition Turning Point, a 20th Anniversary Gallery Retrospective curated by Eric Murphy.

Masks are recommended but will be optional. Questions? Concerns? Availability requests? Write [email protected].

Please note: Advance sales have ended, but we will have sliding scale tickets available at the door, with no one turned away for lack of funds. Hope to see you tonight!


J. Miakoda Taylor (we/us/they/them) is the most unreasonable, defiant, and loving playmate and sole parent of Ezelle Ayodele (they/them/we/us/she/her), a 3-year-old, monkey-bar-mastering, Afro-Indigenous-Latinx star-being. Ezelle’s birth has re-oriented Miakoda’s life around an ancestral calling to grow and fortify Ezelle’s joy in the face of dominant culture’s intentional design to destroy it. Koda is a two-spirit trickster, storyteller, and burgeoning- elder expressing their medicine as the Founder and Lead Steward of Fierce Allies, a network of equity and justice practitioners utilizing somatics, trauma-healing, Restorative Justice, and eco-Indigenous ritual to advance ambitious change strategies. They are also collaboratively stewarding an organizing platform designed to redirect the JEDI/DEI industry’s current reform-oriented goals of diversity and inclusion towards the actualization of JEDI 2.0: Justice, Equity, Decolonization and Intersectionality at the physical, psychospiritual, global, and galactic levels. Koda and Ezelle reside on the unceded Chochenyo, Ohlone territory known as Berkeley, CA and descend from Indigenous peoples of Turtle Island, enslaved Africans, as well as European immigrants. 

Granddaughter of immigrants documented and undocumented, devorah major served as San Francisco’s Third Poet Laureate. She has seven poetry books, the most recent califia’s daughter, two novels, four chapbooks and a host of short stories, essays, and poems in anthologies and periodicals. In 2022 she received Italy’s Regina Coppola International Literary Award and toured in Sardinia, Northern and Southern Italy. In June 2015 major premiered her poetry play Classic Black: Voices of 19th Century African-Americans in San Francisco at the S.F. International Arts Festival. devorah major performs her work nationally and internationally with and without musicians. 

soledad con carne is a casually queer, intergalactic Oakland/Ohlone-based chicanx punk poet, working/poor multiple high school drop-out, bookstore lackey, San Fernando Valley poet laureate, and blatant smoker sharing-trauma-with-their-mother.

Gabriel Cortez is a Black biracial poet, educator, and organizer of Panamanian descent. His work has appeared in The New York Times, National Public Radio, The Rumpus, and The Breakbeat Poets Anthology Volume 4. He is a VONA fellow, #BARS workshop alum, Palette Poetry Emerging Poet winner, and recipient of the Judith Lee Stronach Baccalaureate Prize. Gabriel is a member of the artist collective, Ghostlines, and co-founder of The Root Slam, an award-winning poetry venue dedicated to inclusivity, justice, and artistic growth, as well as Write Home, a project working to challenge public perceptions of houselessness and shift critical resources to houseless Bay Area youth through spoken word poetry. From 2014 to 2023, Gabriel served as Lead Poet Mentor and Director of Programs at Youth Speaks, one of the world’s leading presenters of spoken word performance, education, and youth development programs. Gabriel proudly serves on the board of Performing Arts Workshop, a BIPOC-led Bay Area nonprofit organization established in 1965 dedicated to anti-racist practices, equalizing access to arts and arts education, and helping young people develop critical thinking, creative expression, Socio-Emotional Learning, and essential life skills. Photo by Felix Uribe Jr.

Norman Antonio Zelaya is from San Francisco, CA. His writing is inspired by his Nicoya heritage and his lived experience as a SF native and Mission District homeboy. He’s the author of two collections of short fiction, Orlando & Other Stories (Pochino Press, 2017), and most recently, Gente, Folks (Black Freighter Press, 2022). His work has appeared in ZYZZYVA, Apogee Journal, NY Tyrant, 14 Hills, and Cipactli, among other journals. Mr. Zelaya has read and lectured throughout California, and across the country. Also, he’s appeared on stage, in film, and in the squared circle as the masked luchador, Super Pulga. He lives and works in San Francisco, where he’s completing a debut novel.


Dr. Jeanne Powell is an award-winning poet and essayist with five books in print. Her poetry collections include My Own SilenceWord DancingTwo Seasons, and Deeply Notched Leaves from Taurean Horn Press. Her essays appear in Carousel, a book published by Regent Press. Dr. Jeanne’s connection with spoken word began with attendance at open mics. For 10 years she hosted “Celebration of the Word,” a popular weekly open mic in SF, and published three chapbooks of her poetry during that period: February VoicesCadences, and Tangerine Dance. She established a micropress and published the work of 16 other poets. When she realized how many local poets were not being published, she created the Living Treasures series and raised funds to publish four poetic elders before they died, including Leonard Irving and Anne Bacon Soule.


One of Quiet Lightning’s efforts to diversify and move toward racial equityBetter Ancestors is a quarterly showcase of writers of color. Developed in partnership with Michael Warr, the series features 5 authors reading or performing whatever they choose. Each author selects one performer for the following show, so the series – and community – is self-generating. All authors are paid and published in an end of the year anthology.

Why Better Ancestors? As one of our initiatives to diversify from a board that has historically been mostly white, this showcase aims to provide a long-term, forward-thinking goal. As a society, we are suffering the consequences of pervasive systemic injustice against people of color, queer and trans people, the poor, disabled, and otherwise disadvantaged. But we are all ancestors of the future. If the planet is to remain inhabitable; if the function of humanity is not to sort and oppress our descendants based on their skin color, accent, or material property, we must be better ancestors. This begins by listening to one another, and by giving each other space to be heard.

Better Ancestors was made possible with support from California Humanities, a non-profit partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Visit


Now in its 14th year, Quiet Lightning is a literary movement to create and foster community around the written and spoken word. QL aims to democratize public space by offering performances, curation opportunities, and programming with no barriers to entry, providing a launchpad for new and emerging artists, a reliable platform for professional writers, and an inclusive, accessible gathering place for the public. QL is committed to care-taking and progressing the rich threads of literary culture that exist in the San Francisco Bay Area. Recognized by the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts as one of the 100 “people, organizations, and movements who are shaping the future of culture”, Quiet Lightning’s flagship is the literary mixtape, a submission-based series with a blind selection process and different curators for each show. The shows, which are free to attend, are published as books, handed out free to the first 100 people, and all participating artists are paid. QL has now produced 151 events featuring 1,816 readings by 979 local authors in 95 venues, ranging from dive bars and art galleries to state parks and national landmarks, and has published 120 books and produced two films, all selected by 77 different curators. In 2019, Quiet Lightning pioneered an application process for limited-term board-membership, called Disruptors, to regularly bring new ideas and energy into the organization. QL maintains, a daily calendar of literary events.


Every tax deductible donation helps Quiet Lightning invest in a sustainable, ethical arts ecosystem, with the goal of building that culture into the fabric of our lives. You can donate by Venmo or PayPal or pledge a recurring donation by becoming one of our supporters on Patreon, which comes with a few additional perks and helps us expand on the work that we do.

featured images: Above, right: Charles Orgbon III; top, from L-R: J. Miakoda Taylor; devorah major; soledad con carne; Gabriel Cortez by Felix Uribe Jr. – all otherwise courtesy the artists. Background photo by Tarisse Iriarte.


Refund Policy:

No refunds or returns.

Cancellation Policy:

An event can only be canceled by the venue and/or event organizer. If the venue or event organizer cancels an event, you will be refunded within 4 business days of the event date for your purchase.

Better Ancestors: J. Miakoda Taylor, devorah major, soledad con carne, Gabriel Cortez & Norman Zelaya poster
Joyce Gordon Gallery
406 14th St.
Oakland, CA 94612
415-967-8376 (event organizer)