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Quiet Lightning / Better Ancestors: Jenee Darden, Karla Brundage, Cinthia Marisol Lozano, Quynh-Mai Nguyen & Youssef Alaoui-Fdili


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Quiet Lightning presents the fourth Better Ancestors, featuring readings and performance by Jenee Darden, Karla Brundage, Youssef Alaoui-Fdili, Cinthia Marisol Lozano and Quynh-Mai Nguyen, hosted by Kevin Dublin.


One of Quiet Lightning’s efforts to diversify and move toward racial equityBetter 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.


By night, Jeneé Darden (pictured above, top left) is a superhero who suits up to sit on her couch in cute boots and encourage other Black women to remove their capes and chill. By day, she's a an award-winning journalist, documentarian, public speaker, mental health advocate and proud Oakland native. She has reported for NPR, Time, Ebony, KQED, The LA Times and more. Jeneé hosts KALW’s arts segment Sights & Sounds, and is also their East Oakland reporter. Watch her documentary Where is East Oakland. Her first book When a Purple Rose Blooms (Nomadic Press) is a womanist collection of poetry and essays. She writes about her personal experiences with love, sex and mental health as a Black woman. Jeneé hosts the blog Cocoa Fly.com and curates Let Her Tell It, a reading about Black women and mental health. She holds a BA in ethnic studies from UC San Diego and a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Southern California. 

Karla Brundage (pictured above, top right) is an Oakland poet, editor, essayist, activist with roots in the Bay Area, New York and Hawaii. A performer, teacher, mother and beach lover, Karla is also a board member of Before Columbus Foundation. A recipient of a Fulbright Teacher Exchange she spent a year teaching in Zimbabwe and three years in Côte d'Ivoire where she founded West Oakland to West Africa Poetry Exchange. Her book Swallowing Watermelons reflects on mixed race identity, single parenting, and living with epilepsy. In 2020, her poem Alabama Dirt was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Her upcoming book, Mulatta--Tragic No More will be released next month by Fleur du Mal press. You can also find Karla on Shuffle and Twitter.

Cinthia Marisol Lozano (pictured above, bottom right) is a writer and interdisciplinary book maker currently living in Oakland, CA also known as native Ohlone land. Their previous work has appeared on the San Francisco Public Library website as Poem of the Day and have published a chapbook titled, Paru-paru y Colibri Volume One through Murcielago Prensa and Apothecary. Cinthia enjoys writing about the intersections in memory, spirituality, and ancestry. Some of Cinthia’s favorite authors include Cecilia Vicuna, Alejandra Pizarnik, Don Miguel Ruiz and Audre Lourde. When they are not writing, Cinthia enjoys bike adventures, ceramics and planning the next multidisciplinary project.

Quynh-Mai Nguyen (pictured above, bottom left) (she / her / chị / em), sounds like gwin-my-win, is a social practice artist, community organizer, creative producer, and musician living in San José, CA. Quynh-Mai is dedicated to working with underrepresented communities to help uplift their narratives through art, placemaking, and cultural arts programming. She curates and produces Lunar X Art Hop, a series of local pop-up galleries as well as Lips Uncurled, Eyes Forward, a social art exhibition that promotes AAPI narratives. She has an imagination that dares to transform and nurture the world around her through her stories, social art, design, and civil interactions. Her writing has a quiet strength that is both tender and fierce with narratives driven to preserve the stories of her family, identity, and experiences. In 2017, her poem Mai was published in part of spring mother tongue, an anthology of poetic voices from Santa Clara County. Her poem War Paint was also featured in a poetry mixtape featuring local Bay Area poets in which she co-produced in 2016. She is a Multicultural Arts Leadership Institute alumni, a 2020 Emerging City Champion, and one of 10 KQED Arts Bay Brilliant recognized cultural workers in the Bay Area in 2018. IG: @quynh.mai.nguyen |  www.quynh-mai.com

Youssef Alaoui-Fdili (pictured above, middle left) is an Arab-Latino, born in California. His mother is Colombiana. His father was Moroccan. The Alaoui-Fdilis are originally from Fez. His brothers and aunts and uncles and cousins are today mostly in Casablanca and Rabat. His family and heritage are an endless source of inspiration for his varied, dark, spiritual and carnal writings. He has an MFA in Poetics from New College of California. There, he studied Classical Arabic, Spanish Baroque and Contemporary Moroccan poetry. He is also well versed in the most dour and macabre literature of the 19th Century. His poems have appeared in Exquisite Corpse, 580 Split, Cherry Bleeds, Virgogray Press, Red Fez, Big Bridge, Dusie Press, Paris Lit Up, The Opiate, and nominated for a Pushcart at Full of Crow. Youssef is an original creator of the East Bay literary arts festival “Beast Crawl.” In 2012 he created Paper Press Books & Associates Publishing Company. This press offers several important books of poetry and one poetry and art compendium. His book of short fiction Fiercer Monsters is available from Nomadic Press and his book of poems Critics of Mystery Marvel is available from 2Leaf Press.

Kevin Dublin (pictured to the right, above) is a writer of poetry, prose, scripts, and code originally from the small town of Smithfield, NC. His words have recently appeared in The Racket, Cincinnati Review, North Carolina Literary Review, Sparkle + Blink, and he is author of the chapbook How to Fall in Love in San Diego (Finishing Line Press, 2017). Kevin holds an MFA from San Diego State, leads workshops all over the bay area, including Litquake’s Elder Writing Project, and enjoys making video adaptations of poetry and developing web apps for writers.


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 142 shows featuring 1,738 readings by 924 local authors in 91 venues, ranging from dive bars and art galleries to state parks and national landmarks, and has published 117 books and produced two films, all selected by 76 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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