Quiet Lightning presents the 7th Better Ancestors, featuring readings and performance by TJ Sykes, SevanKelee Boult bka Lucky 7, Hilary Cruz Mejía, Briana Swain and Meilani Clay, hosted by Kelechi Ubozoh!
Join us for an outdoor, early afternoon reading and celebration to be held in Oakland's Mosswood Park!
This event will also be the launch for our latest book, sPARKLE & bLINK 114, featuring work by authors from last year's Better Ancestors and cover art by Dawline-Jane Oni-Eseleh. We will hand out a free copy of the book to the first 50 people at the event. We will also be offering typewriter poems on demand, courtesy of Briana Swain!
Tj Sykes is a Richmond CA native. He is a poet author and entrepreneur. He published his first book entitled Section 8 in 2018. He started a candied walnut business by the name of Divine Treats in 2020 and started his guided meditation journey in 2021.
SevanKelee Boult (bka Lucky 7) is a well known Bay Area poet. She has been seen on HBO Real Sex since 2000. She has represented several Bay Area slam teams over the past 10 years. In 2014, she became the only person in the Bay to win the honored title Grand Slam Champion of 4 different Bay teams (SF, Berkeley,Oakland and Palo Alto). She has performed all across the country. Gracing such places as The De Young Museum in San Francisco as well as Yerba Buena, and the Marsh Theater. A UC Berkeley graduate with a minor in Theatre Arts, SevanKelee has been crafting her spoken word performance. Sevan Kelee has been writing since childhood. Her most recent artistic venture involves the ukulele and spoken word. She effortlessly blends music and poetry to engage the audience with her soft, raspy voice and mesmerizing stage presence. SevanKelee is currently fiscally sponsored by Independent Arts and Media. Check out her page on their site.
Hilary Cruz Mejía is a 20-year old Latinx immigrant from Puerto de Iztapa, Guatemala, a first-generation college student, and a queer poet. She is in her second year at Skyline College, and will be transferring to SFSU in Spring 2021. She has been the president of the Poetry Club at Skyline College since Spring 2020. In order to maintain a connection with her ancestors, and to allow the soul of the newcomers to value the legacy of our ancestors, she is aspiring to become a Professor of Literature of the Americas. Now, Hilary is working on her first poetry book, where she encourages her readers to find the guidance of self-transcendence in their lives, and to connect with their adventurous soul.
Briana Swain believes in herself and the power of her words. She received her MFA in Creative Writing from Saint Mary’s College. Leaning into the tradition of expansion, Swain writes to envision new manifestations of Black consciousness, subvert the colonial gaze, ascend possibilities, and exist in humanity as a site of liberation for the African Diaspora. Swain has received scholarship to The Juniper Summer Writing Institute and is published in Pleiades. Her art has been selected for exhibitions presented by Sebastopol Center for the Arts, the Center on Race, Immigration & Social Justice at Sac State and Saint Mary’s College Museum of Art. She currently works as Program Coordinator for No More Tears, a violence and crime prevention workshop held in San Quentin State Prison, is the curator for Studio One, a poetry reading series in Oakland, extending her creative practice beyond a degree and into the hands of the people.
Meilani Clay is a writer, mama, and educator from Oakland, CA. Her work has appeared in Nomadic Press’ Patrice Lumumba: An Anthology of Writers on Black Liberation and The Ana. Meilani aspires to bridge worlds with her words, and to one day build forts out of books written by Black folks.
Kelechi Ubozoh (pictured above, right) is a Nigerian-American writer and mental health advocate who blends the reality of trauma, race, and mental health into her writing. Kelechi co-hosts the Bay Area submission-based reading series MoonDrop Productions with Cassandra Dallett. She has performed at the Berkeley Poetry Festival (2019), Oakland’s Beast Crawl (2016-2017) and San Francisco’s Litquake (2018-2019). For the past three years she has performed at Litcrawl with Cocoa Fly, an all-Black women troupe. In 2019, she published her anthology with L.D. Green, We’ve Been Too Patient: Voices from Radical Mental Health. Her writing is featured in Argot Magazine, Multiplicity, Endangered Species, Enduring Values, Essential Truths, sPARKLE +bLINK, and the forthcoming anthology Trauma, Tresses, & Truth: Untangling Our Hair Through Personal Narrative. Learn more at kelechiubozoh.com.
It’s amazing! A typewriter poet arrives finely dressed with their own manual typewriter and a supply of fine-quality cardstock. Guests are engaged by the poet one on one to tell their stories, share their experiences, what delights or frustrates them, what is meaningful to them, or anything at all. After listening to their needs, the poet creates a short poem based on what is shared and each guest will leave with their newly crafted and customized poem. Donations are welcomed, but not required.
ABOUT THE SERIES
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.
Now in its 13th 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 145 shows featuring 1,780 readings by 928 local authors in 91 venues, ranging from dive bars and art galleries to state parks and national landmarks, and has published 118 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 Litseen.com, 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: From L to R, first row: TJ Sykes by Dorean Raye; SevanKelee Boult; Hilary Cruz Mejía; From L to R, bottom row: Briana Swain, Meilani Clay and a detail of the cover of sPARKLE & bLINK 114 by Dawline-Jane Oni-Eseleh. Top right: Kevin Dublin. All images courtesy of the authors unless otherwise noted.