Quiet Lightning presents the second Better Ancestors, featuring readings and performance by Kai Sugioka-Stone, Amanda Muñiz, Isabelle Khoo-Miller, Arlene Biala and Melissa Merin (pictured above, clockwise from top left)! Hosted by Rhea Dhanbhoora, this show was curated by the artists who performed at the first Better Ancestors: Josiah Luis Alderete, Aja Couchois Duncan, Greer Nakadegawa-Lee, Nia McAllister and Brontez Purnell—find out more about them and watch their performances here, then join us on April 5!
Kai Sugioka-Stone is a Japanese-American poet, mindfulness-based meditator, musician, actor, photographer, and upcoming filmmaker. His writing focuses on liminal identity, and growing up in the era of California Wildfires, the Trump presidency, and COVID. He featured at San Francisco Poet Laureate Kim Shuck’s event Sudden Return of The Fire Thieves. His work was featured in the San Francisco Public Library's Poem of the Day Project. He was published in The Berkeley Times’ Poetry Edition Vol. 10, No. 16, as well as Quiet Lightning's zine sPARKLE & bLINK #104. He read at Tea Root's Recovery A.C.T. and gave an online writing workshop reflecting on Japense-American identity with Nikkei Rising. He is part of Lauren Ito’s upcoming exhibit, Political Inheritcance. Photo by Kristen Murakoshi.
Amanda Muñiz is a Mexican writer born in Puebla and raised in Oakland, California. She majored in English Literature from San Francisco State University. Her work has been published by Pochino press and more recently in the Translating Migration poetry anthology project. Amanda has been a featured reader in various shows in the Bay Area including the electrifying ¿Donde Esta Mi Gente? the hilarious ¿Donde Esta mi Comedy?, BEASTCrawl, Literary Speakeasy, LitQuake’s legendary LitCrawl, as well as the Carnival of Poetry organized by Writers of Singapore. The immigrant experience has inspired most of her writing, which she considers a reflection and a testament of her family’s resilience as well as a never-ending letter of love and gratitude to her parents. Photo courtesy of the author.
Isabelle Khoo-Miller is a child of earth, like all of us. They are alive and in abundant love. They create in many mediums, including imagination. They are from the ocean and have roots and familia in Coastal Miwok and Ohlone land, the Bay Area. Photo courtesy of the author.
Arlene Biala (she/her) is a Pinay poet born in San Francisco and raised in the South Bay. She has been participating in poetry performances and workshops for over 30 years and was the 2016-2017 Santa Clara County Poet Laureate. She is the author of several collections of poetry: bone, continental drift and her beckoning hands, which won the 2015 American Book Award. Her latest book, one inch punch, was published in January 2019. Photo courtesy of the author.
Melissa Merin has been writing since she could hold a crayon. She is established as a parent, a lover & partner, a queer, an anti-authoritarian and, a consistently retiring punker. Melissa believes in utilizing a diversity of tactics to build the world we need; one of her favorite tactics is writing. Melissa is also a long-time educator and agitator and has never been able to get it together to “publish” though, many zines and blogs tell the story of trying. Melissa has the distinction of being one of a few Black cis-women of her generation to not love Beyonce or Oprah.
Rhea Dhanbhoora (host) worked for close to a decade as editor and writer in print and digital content for a variety of clients, before quitting her job and moving to New York to get her master’s degree, and finally writing the stories everyone told her no one would ever read. Her work has appeared in or is forthcoming in publications such as The Hindu, Quint, The Apeiron Review, sPARKLE & bLINK, Awakened Voices, Five on the Fifth, Capsule Stories, Fly on the Wall Press, HrStry, and JMWW. In her first year as a member of Quiet Lightning’s board of directors, she’s currently working on a linked collection about women based in the underrepresented Parsi Zoroastrian diaspora.
One of Quiet Lightning’s efforts to diversify and move toward racial equity, Better Ancestors is a new 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.
Michael Warr’s books include Of Poetry and Protest: From Emmet Till to Trayvon Martin, edited by Michael Warr (W.W. Norton), and from Tia Chucha Press The Armageddon of Funk, We Are All The Black Boy, and Power Lines: A Decade of Poetry From Chicago’s Guild Complex. In 2017 he was named a San Francisco Library Laureate. Other poetry honors include a Creative Work Fund award for his multimedia project Tracing Poetic Memory in Bayview Hunters Point, PEN Oakland Josephine Miles Award for Excellence in Literature, Black Caucus of the American Library Association Award, Gwendolyn Brooks Significant Illinois Poets Award, and a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship for Poetry. Michael is the former Deputy Director of the Museum of the African Diaspora and has extensive experience in community-based arts. He became a board member of the Friends of the San Francisco Public Library in 2018. In 2020, he was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Berkeley Poetry Festival. Follow his creative work at https://michaelwarr-creativework.tumblr.com/.
Now in its 12th 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 137 shows featuring 1,673 readings by 879 local authors in 91 venues, ranging from dive bars and art galleries to state parks and national landmarks, and has published 115 books and produced two films, all selected by 74 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 Litseen.com, a daily calendar of literary events.
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