Quiet Lightning presents the fifth Better Ancestors, featuring virtual readings and performance by adrienne danyelle oliver, Dr. Allison E. Francis, Christine No, Danny Thien Le, Tez de la Tierra & host, Rhea Dhanbhoora.
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.
adrienne danyelle oliver is a poet-educator, hip-hop scholar from Little Rock, AR currently living in the SF Bay Area. Her previous work has appeared in Storytelling, Self & Society (Wayne State University Press, 2018), Patrice Lumumba: An Anthology of Writers on Black Liberation (Nomadic Press, 2021) and Write Now! SF Bay’s Anthology Essential Truths: The Bay Area in Color (Pease Press, 2021). She has two chapbooks, collective madness (Finishing Line Press) and the body has memories (Nomadic Press) forthcoming in 2022. Some of adrienne’s favorite authors include Maya Angelou and Toni Morrison. When she is not writing, adrienne is reading or watching documentaries. She also leads a monthly healing writing circle for Black women.
Dr. Allison E. Francis, a Professor of English, and Coordinator of the English Department at Chaminade University of Honolulu in Hawaii, teaches and publishes scholarship on a range of topics, which include Victorian Literature, Scottish Literature, Theatre and Poetry,19th Century African American and Caribbean Women’s Literature, Vodou in Haiti, and Women’s Literature, with a focus on science fiction and fantasy. Her poetry has been anthologized in African American Wisdom, and most recently, in Bamboo Ridge Press’s Kīpuka: Finding Refuge in Times of Change, released in October 2021. Allison is also an actor, director, playwright, and a performance poet. She archived a short play on The Breath Project 2020, and Youtube.com, that commemorates the death of George Floyd: Chocolate Cake (8:46). Recently, Allison published a volume of collaborative, renshi poetry, Mulatta—Not So Tragic (2021), with Oakland-based, poet-activist Karla Brundage.
Christine No is a Korean American poet, filmmaker, and daughter of immigrants. She is a Sundance Alum, VONA Fellow, two-time Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net Nominee. She has served as Assistant Features Editor for the Rumpus, as Fellow, then as a Program Coordinator for VONA. Currently, Christine is board member with Quiet Lightning, a Bay Area literary nonprofit and works as the Advocacy Program Manager at ARTogether, an organization committed to using art and storytelling to build and empower newcomer immigrant and refugee communities; and to promote healing, cultural humility, and intercommunity connection. She lives and works in Oakland, California with her dog, Ruthie Wagmore.
Danny Thien Le is a Vietnamese American poet, community organizer, and public librarian from San Jose, California. For the last 20 years his work has centered around AAPI causes, nonprofits, fashion, design, event organizing, and the creative arts. He has worked with numerous organizations in the Bay Area and beyond – most notably with Cukui, Universal Grammar, POW! WOW! San Jose, the Diasporic Vietnamese Artists Network (DVAN), and the APIA Spoken Word & Poetry Summit. He is an alumni of the Multicultural Arts Leadership Institution (MALI) and an active member of San Jose's Japantown. Danny has used poetry and writing as a vehicle to build upon his own redefining Southeast Asian identity and to help others reclaim their own personal narratives through the art of storytelling. When he is not busy producing events, starting new collaborations, or working the reference desk at the Santa Clara City Library, he enjoys dancing, traveling, good food, eclectic music, and collecting rare books and recordings.
Tez de la Tierra is a trans chicanx/indigenous artist based in Oakland, Ca. They love spending their time as a bike mechanic, community organizer, dancer and pitbull-mix pup dad. Currently focusing on the decolonial process of healing through Danza Mexica cosmologies, while helping to create new path ways into traditional ceremonial spaces for 2S/Queer/Trans/Intersex communities.
Rhea Dhanbhoora (pictured above, to the right) lives and writes in Upstate NY. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in various publications including Five on the Fifth, Chronogram, Connecticut Mag, Artsy, Broccoli Mag, sPARKLE & bLINK, and JMWW. She’s currently a freelance writer and editor, reads for literary magazines, is on the Board for Quiet Lightning, and is working on several creative projects, among which is a linked collection about women, based in the underrepresented Parsi Zoroastrian diaspora. Her chapbook, Sandalwood-Scented Skeletons, is just out from Finishing Line Press.
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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featured images: Top, clockwise from top left: adrienne danyelle oliver by Simone Anne, Allison E. Francis, Christine No, Danny Thien Le, Tez de la Tierra; top right: Rhea Dhanbhoora, all courtesy of the authors