What struck me the most as the night unfolded was the intimate feeling of space and place conveyed in each and every writers' words. Sitting in a cafe on the corner of 21st and Bryant Streets in the Mission District of San Francisco, I literally felt the corner come to life as Adriana Camarena recounted histories and stories of Norteños and Sureños, of boundary- and border-crossing. Julia Mendel took us to another place entirely, a door only found by a number scratched on a blank white card. Inside, her protagonist finds herself blindfolded and massaged, orgiastic spasms released with each pressure point touched. Lisa D. James read poetry of liberation and control bringing a pause to the audience as they clung to her words. Imagined waterways like flowing streams that captured wandering movements were illuminated by Scott D. James's preface poems to his novel Sidewalk Ritual complete with illustrations. San Francisco-born and raised SF Mermaid got everyone screaming "Taxes" as she spit words and licked wounds baring her soul in front of all. And lest I not forget Antonio Caceras.
I met Antonio over a decade ago through working in after school programs. When I met him, his youthful, rebellious energy ignited words and memories. He has/had a way of drawing out from youth, San Francisco raised youth, their perspectives and stories, especially the ones from which non-San Franciscans try to hide. He helps/helped them find their truth and share it with the world. When I saw him in action, it was mesmerizing and inspiring.
Flash forward more than ten years. Antonio and I drifted apart. It's just how things happen. Then, a mutual friend came back to town and got us all together for Happy Hour. Antonio and I reconnected, swapped info, and connected on Facebook. Over the months that followed, I read his updates and liked his poetry.
For this particular The Bloom, it was incredibly important to me to also feature native San Franciscan writers. Too often, San Francisco spotlights migrants to this city through its institutions and cultural venues. In fact, San Francisco is notorious for looking outside its own native population for talent and vision. Sure, there are institutions that feature residents of San Francisco, but those folks are not necessarily the same as the native San Franciscan population.
I have come to realize over my past 15 years in this city that there is a voice that comes from San Francisco that only native San Franciscans can capture. It is a voice that evokes place and people and culture while never having to mention any of those words or their synonyms. Antonio embodies that voice.
I reached out to Antonio via Facebook message and simply recalled a memory.
"If memory serves me correctly you do some writing. I could be wrong. But I do believe you write.
"If so...I run a monthly reading series called "The Bloom". (www.14blackpoppies.com/the-spring-bloom.html) And I am looking for readers."
I waited for his response. It came. He said yes within two minutes of me hitting send.
He closed The Bloom last night reading works past and present, which filled Progressive Grounds. I saw pasts and presents and futures collide in one single space. It was magic. And I was humbled by words and force and perspectives shared.
I sit here typing this review, this summary, contemplating the power of bridging communities, narratives, identities, and stories. This is not necessarily easy work, and it certainly does not happen quickly. It took over a decade to sieze an opportunity to bring these writers together in a single space.
It is legacy work, work that requires sustained intention over time. I feel honored, blessed, and humbled to build a legacy of intersectionality, intention, and inspiration. And I look forward to all that will bloom in return.