April M. Short

Meet the finalists in Oakland’s youth poet laureate competition


Bay Area, our young people are wrapping words of wisdom around subjects like survival, poverty, oppression, community, life, and death. It’s time to listen up.

“Just like a picture is worth a thousand words, a word can provoke a thousand memories,” says Tele’Jon Quinn, one of seven 16 to 18-year-old Oakland youth poet laureate finalists. “Memorizing goes hand in hand with reflection. If my words can cause someone to reflect on an important issue or event in their life, then my words were worth sharing.” The East Bay bards are now preparing for the first group performance at the Art and Soul Festival in Oakland on Sat/4.

The Oakland Public Library teams up with Youth Speaks, the local youth spoken word nonprofit, to stage the competition. Like any poet laureate, the chosen versifier will officially represent his or her community via the media and public appearances.

A panel of celebrity judges including California poet laureate Juan Felipe Herrera, and Oakland-based poets Kenju Liu, Arisa White, Juliana Spahr, and Joshua Merchant, will select Oakland’s inaugural poet laureate in September. Every finalist will have their work published in an anthology that comes out in 2013, and the ultimate victor will receive a $5000 scholarship as well as the title of youth poet laureate for Oakland.

Take a moment to read up on seven of the most creative young wordsmiths around, and check out snippets from their creative works.

Oakland youth poet laureates at the Art and Soul Festival, festival entrances at 14th St. and Broadway; 16th St. and San Pablo; Promenade beside City Center West Garage, Oakl. www.oaklandpubliclibrary.orgwww.artandsouloakland.com. Performance at Rotunda Building, 300 Frank Ogawa Plaza. Sat/4 5pm – 7pm, $5-$8 seniors and kids, $10-$15 adults

Stephanie Yun, age 18, Skyline High School

Stephanie Yun has always been a writer. “To me, poetry is pure expression. It’s beautiful, and painful, and liberating, and frightening, all at once,” she tells the Guardian. “It’s being vulnerable, and teaches us to better understand things we never could.” Her poem “‘Til Death”, is infinitely more than your stereotypical love poem. Her lines tackle severe insecurities, body image issues, depression, cutting:

… Before my first and current relationship,

I wondered how potential suitors would react

when their fingertips wandered and read my wrists like Braille

Here lies emotionally unstable girl …

Describing her foray into love, her first boyfriend, her first romance, Yun slips in images of her internal battles, questions of existence, identity. 

… Everything may be fine as I speak this

but I’ve envisioned dream wedding

in the spring 

wearing tulle or lace ball gown

with three-tiered chocolate cake     

fewer times and in less detail

than my suicide … 

Yun says she started writing poetry in second grade, but became actively involved two years ago as a high school sophomore with Youth Speaks. She says writing is a release — she writes out of necessity and tells us doesn’t know if she would be alive today without the ability to lay her words down. “There is just something about letting things out, things we have kept so deep inside of us, or things that threaten to burst from our being,” Yun says. “It’s that transition from containing them within ourselves, to their manifestation into the outside world. We make ourselves vulnerable and are forced to face things head-on, and from there our ideas and feelings exist beyond us, and we can share them with others.”

Tele’jon Quinn, age 17, MetWest High School

Tele’jon Quinn is an activist and spoken word artist. He enjoys performing to large crowds, and uses his creative talents to raise consciousness in his community. His wordplay draws attention to social issues like police brutality, classism, poverty, and community. From his poem “Dialouge”: 

… Because Elites are never open minded unless there is lots for sell 

They have packaged us like we’re bots on shelves 

Robotically boxing each other and concocting diabolical plots 

To exile one another to hell …

Quinn says his poetry is not limited to his own emotions or feelings. He draws some of his material from the social programs he participates with, like Heal the Streets, Bay-Peace, and Youth Speaks. He says that for the past two years, poetry has been his outlet for everything he endures. He seeks to educate, liberate, and inspire members of the Oakland community with his words. In the final lines of “Dialogue” he writes:

So if my poetry could walk she’d walk right here

And tell you a story that gives you hope for the future of her home Oakland

The Navajo people once said you can’t wake a person that pretends to be asleep

So lets stop pretending that we do not see our reality

Open our eyes

And transform the reality we live in …

Robin Levy, age 16, Saint Joseph Notre Dame

Poetry, she says, allows Robin Levy to organize the helter-skelter thoughts that run rampant in her brain. Levy has written poetry in earnest for three years now, and says every time she writes a poem, she records another part of herself. 

“Poetry, for me, is collecting all the scraps of beauty or strangeness or whatever I can find and piecing them together so other people can see just how vivid everything is,” she tells the Guardian. Levy is a big fan of Robert Frost, but her favorite poet is a slam poet who calls herself Jasmine Luve. “The way she writes just seems so unthinkingly perfect, like she just wrote down everything she thought that day and it was already poetry,” Levy says. Her own subject matter evolves from little snippets she hears, reads, or thinks. “Just anything that is accidentally amazing, something that probably didn’t mean to be poetic but is,” she says. “The reason I write what I do is that whenever I read or hear something poetic, I just want to elaborate on it and make it into something more, weave that one thread into a full tapestry.”

In her poem “Before You Were You” Levy’s ability to turn a casual phrase into poetry is apparent. The first lines read:

you told me once

that before you were you

you were a stone.

heavy, immobile,

stranded at the ocean floor

by the cruel grip of gravity.

The poem runs full circle to explore questions of identity and shared existence. It ends with:

you told me once

that before you were you,

you poured from my mind

into the sand

you told me once

that before  you were you,

you were me

Levy asks anyone who reads this to write a poem today.

Kerby Lynch, age 17, Oakland School for the Arts

When asked if she reads poetry, Kerby Lynch responds, “Reading poetry is such an understatement. I live, breathe and eat poetry. Life is poetry. The sun, the moon and the truth is poetry. When one realizes that, life is on a path of divinity.” 

In the middle of this creative flight, she interrupts herself. “Enough of that, I’ll answer the question.” 

It turns out Lynch reads, watches, and listens to a whole gamut of poetry from traditional, to contemporary (particularly Ise Lyfe from Oakland), to spoken word (Def Jam Poetry, season 3), to rappers (Jay-Z, Andre 3000, Kendrick Lamar, Nas, and Lauryn Hill), and her teachers and peers at Oakland School for the Arts. Her favorite song, ever, he adds, is “Mathematics” by Mos Def—largely for the lyrics. 


“These are all my favorite poets and people, because they are who I am,” she says. Lynch has written poetry since she was 14, and says she got heavily into the beauty and complexity of poetry and spoken word in the summer of 2011. “Poetry is me, but not in a pretentious way. Poetry is me in a way that it completes me and aides my purpose in life.” Lynch writes about issues of race and separation, class, social and political issues. Her words are progressive, like a call to action:

Watch your brother. Tell him 

no matter what he wears he will fit the description

tell him about Oscar

tell him about Aiyana






tell him about Trayvon and these statistics that define us…

She says she uses poetry to reflect the “messed up workings of the world,” insecurities and vulnerabilities of people, and as a tool to sway the masses. “I strive to write as if I am using political propaganda,” he says, noting the influences of Martin Luther King Jr., and Stokeley Carmichael. “I use words  for me, the same way words have been used against me. Whether it be in the constitution or in a hate speech. Words are the tools for the bigger machine. Who has access to that machine? We all do. Why don’t we all use it? We didn’t know we could.”

Euna Bonovich, age 16, International High School of San Francisco

Euna Bonovich is half-Korean, half-white. She says the confusion and frustration that goes along with finding herself split between two very different cultures and in the middle of adolescence can only be soothed by writing poetry. She wants to provide a voice for those who are prevented from speaking because of the depression and exhaustion of living, and spread the message that no one is emotionally alone. Her writing is hopeful, soulful, and gets to the roots of human connection. The lines of Bonovich’s “The Gossamer of Our Hope” tell of a connection that is able to reawaken feeling and soul. 

The poem begins:

My soul has slipped away like the fleeting moments of a nightingale

Distant memories that can only be recovered by the breath of the wind

Losing my existence within the grains of sand,

But when I sense the warmth of your fingertips 

I know I’ve found it once more

The song of my sleepless night 

The feeling of laying in cold grass as the sun spreads across my skin

The laughter of a falling snowflake

The fragility of a wet moth’s wing …

Bonovich says the importance of poetry is its ability to show someone beauty in the ugliest thing in existence: life.

Jose Saldona, age 18, Envision Academy of Arts and Technology

Jose Saldona says poetry is a piece of clay; it is up to the artisan to decid its shape, color, texture and size. “It’s up to the customer to figure out its use,” he says. “Words are another set of tools: another way to communicate. Another path to enter the untapped emotions of people. Another method to reach the doubts people have.” Saldona says poetry has always been a way for him to express himself, free from speech and grammatical rules. “Sometimes you can even sneak in a few spelling ‘mistakes’ for effect,” he says. Saldona has written poetry since sixth grade, and spoken poetry since he was three. His poetry speaks to life, truth—he describes his inspirations as, “anything from nature to human nature.” 

“I am a reflection of my community, and my community lives within no boundary,” says Saldona, who describes himself as half-Spaniard, half-Tarahumara, but recognizes himself as a whole-hearted, proud Mexican. “I was raised with the idea of corima, sharing and charity. As I approach this unliberated world, I see poetry as a way to remake that world.” Saldona says stories are shared among people to teach lessons in tribes to the younger folk. He views himself as a chief, the storyteller, the ‘back in Mexico’ kid, who in ninth grade refused to write essays because he felt it took the ideas of others. The 18-year-old messenger wrote he poem “Baby’s First Words” as a dedication to his unborn baby boy:

I’m enslaved to this holy string I pull

perhaps a chord that keeps me fed

I have not an idea what it is, but it keeps me alive.


I stretch and barrage my mommy with kicks.

It gets her to speak and I love hearing her distant, soothing voice.

Yes, that marvelous singing in the raindrops, drizzling

with echoes of angelic harmony,

lulling me to sleep … 


My mouth opens wide in a gaping yawn

that quickly closes around my thumb.

Siesta in my warm incubated cove..


Victoria Kupu, age 18, Mills College

Victoria Kupu has written poetry since fifth grade, but did not tell anyone about it until her sophomore year in high school. The first-generation Polynesian-American says it is her means of self expression during stressful times, as well as a reflection of her experiences and culture. “I see poetry as seeing the beauty in struggles,” she says. “[It is] an art, a way of self expression.  It can be left up to the artist how they want to convey that to the audience.” Kupu writes to tackle issues that affect people of color, and her poem, “Roots”, is an example of the way her words explore generational and cultural gaps.  

… He whispered, Ou’a foki mai, Osi tala atu ka koi 

My love does not speak your language 

A Polynesian growing up in America left my identity an orphan 

Father America was a con-artist, selling the “American Dream”

Mother liberty stood on her pedestal made of sand and dressed herself up in Monopoly money

She sold herself to the white man, capitalism 

That left no nurturing time for this brown child

I turned my back on my roots, so he turned his back too

He spewed words of my biggest fear

Ou’a  foki Mai, Osi tala atu ka koi

Your heart no longer lives here …

Kupu says she is usually sitting on a bus or in class when a line pops into her head. She writes it down and it expands into a poem. “I also usually try to touch upon issues that are not talked about as much,” Kupu says. “One of my poems talks about colorism. I also like to write about issues or marginalized communities, such as the disabled community. … I am Polynesian-American. I am not only writing to represent other Polynesians but also many other people.”

On the Cheap Listings


Submit items for the listings at listings@sfbg.com. For further information on how to submit items for the listings, see Picks.


Free comedy showcase Café Royale, 800 Post, SF. www.comikazelounge.com. Third Wednesdays, 8pm, free. Much-loved SF funny people Jessica Sele, Duat Mai, Chris Remmers, and Miles K. Bandie Posey will get their comedy on alongside tonight’s headliner Kaseem Bently.

Pint Sized Plays Plough and Stars, 116 Clement, SF. sftheaterpub.wordpress.com. 8pm-10pm, free. 10 new plays by local playwrights will take you on a whirlwind of adventures, all packed into a one-and-a-half hour show. Kick back with live music and beer, and enjoy the ride.


Evening Telegraph Hill stairway hike Marconi Monument, Lombard and Kearny, SF. www.sfcityguides.org. 5:30pm, free. Panoramic views of the Bay will greet you when you summit the 300-plus steps at Filbert Street. Keep your eyes peeled for a glimpse of wild parrots that live in the florid gardens of the 1850s cottages that dot the way.

Roller disco party Mighty, 119 Utah, SF. www.119utah.com. 9pm, $5. Strap on your disco attire and groove on wheels to the funky beats of the 1980s and ’90s. Bring your own quads, or rent a pair from the man who calls himself David “Skate Godfather” Myles.


Friday nights at the de Young: African Diaspora and Gaultier de Young Museum, 50 Hagiwara Tea Garden, SF. deyoung.famsf.org. 5pm-8:45pm, free. This evening is about Africa and her American descendents. Dance to traditional African music in Wilsey Court, take in an artist demonstration by artist-in-residence alumnus Ramekon O’Arwisters, and create art of your own. Later, C. Derrick Jones of aerial troupe Catch Me Bird will give a special lecture entitled “Love Letters” to celebrate his uncle Aaron Douglas, a pioneer of the Harlem Renaissance movement.

Rock piano and “That 80s Show” Madrone, 500 Divisadero, SF. www.madroneartbar.com. 4pm, free. Okay so gag us with a spoon, but this night is going to be totally killer. Girls (and boys) who just want to have fun can meet the beat with DJ Lebowitz in honor of all things 1980s. Strap on the spandex, neon leggings, shoulder pads, plastic bracelets, and retro specs. DJ’s Dave Paul and Jeff Harris want to take you there.

James Connolly, a Working Class Hero ILWU Local 34, 801 Second St., SF. www.laborfest.net. 7pm, free. James Connolly fought to set up a working-class republic in Ireland, and in the US. He was a trade unionist, Irish Republican, and socialist internationalist who founded the Irish Republican Socialist Party and supported the Easter Rising as commander of the Dublin Brigade. In the course of that battle, he was wounded and then executed by the British military. Learn about the man behind the movement at this film screening about his life, put on by Labor Fest.


Renegade Craft Fair Fort Mason Center, SF. www.renegadecraftfair.com. Also Sun/22. 11am-7pm, free. Unless your beloved harbors a fierce dislike for handmade items (they exist, trust) you will be able to find them a perfect present at this twee explosion of 250 crafters and their wares. In its fifth year of San Francisco, it will be stocked with goodies — not to mention a bar to loosen your consumerism inhibition.

Literary Death Match Elbo Room, 647 Valencia, SF. www.literarydeathmatch.com. 6:30pm, $7. An assortment of literati will light up the stage with bookish hijinks and whimsy. Tonight’s four readers include Tinsel Town bard Steve Abee (King Planet), Iranian fiction force Siamak Vossoughi , the sizzling Veronica Christina (Sex and Design Magazine), and poetic pacesetter Chiwan Choi

(The Flood and Abductions). Three celebrity judges include Ethel Rohan (Cut through the Bone), femme fatale chanteuse Veronica Klaus, and the Guardian’s own managing editor and social flutterpuss, Marke B.

“The Queen is Dead”: Morrissey and The Smiths Dance Party Milk Bar, 1840 Haight, SF. www.milksf.com. 9pm, $5 There is a light that never goes out at tonight’s Brit pop dance party featuring the music of the Smiths, Morrissey, and other post punk, new wave sounds.

Midnight Mystery Ride Secret location (posted to their website the day of the ride), SF. www.midnightmystery.org Third Saturdays, 11:59pm, free. Do you enjoy surprises? Plan to ride your bicycle somewhere in the city tonight for this mysterious two-wheeled journey. Watch the event website the day of the ride to find out which local bar will serve as a rendezvous point for your fellow adventurers. Bring a sense of adventure (and, if you want, some provisions to share at the ride destination).


LaborFest Book Fair and Poetry Night Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts, 2868 Mission, SF. www.laborfest.net. 10am-9pm, free. For the fifth year in a row, this all-day event features a wide range of local speakers and authors. Their topics are united in the common theme of labor justice. Ruth Goldstein will touch on the history of the Coit Tower, John Curl on the cooperative movement’s history in the US, and Sean Burns will talk about his book, Archie Green: The Making of Working Class Hero. Other topics include (but are not even close to limited to) the 100th anniversary of the Bread and Roses strike, autoworkers under the gun, and the class struggles of print workers and artists.

Pioneers of Early Stop Motion Animation The Tannery, 708 Gilman, Berk. www.berkeleyundergroundfilms.blogspot.com. 7:30pm-9:30pm, free. Archivists Tom Stathes of the Bray Animation Project and Steve Stanchfield of Thunderbean Animation bring you a cartoon parade of rare silent films from the early pioneers of stop motion animation.

East Bay SPCA Adoptathon Jack London Square, 70 Washington, Suite 207, Oakl. www.eastbayspca.org. 10am-3pm, free. Before you peruse the nearby Jack London Square Farmers Market today visit this pet adoption extravaganza. The Adoptathon features more than 300 adoptable animals from 35 Bay Area rescue groups and shelters. Meet cats, dogs, rabbits, birds, and reptiles available for adoption, and enjoy a variety of activities like arts and crafts for kids, professional behavior advice at an “Ask the Trainer” booth, and dog training demonstrations. Purchase a low-cost microchip to track your pooch, or browse 13 local animal supply vendors selling everything from organic food to specialty pet accessories.


Meow Mix: Avant Garde Performance Art The Stud, 399 Ninth St., SF. www.thestudsf.com. 11pm, free. This variety show provides just that: a variety. Pippi Lovestocking kicks off a night of acts that range from elegant to sleazy. Hosts Ferosha Titties and DJ Dirty keep the balls of all size rolling all night, and promise a fabulous time.

On the Cheap Listings


Submit items for the listings at listings@sfbg.com. For further information on how to submit items for the listings, see Picks.


Swing in the Square Union Square Park, SF. www.unionsquarelive.org. Fourth Wednesdays, 6pm-8pm, free. All you jazzy cats can get your groove on in 1930s and ’40s style at this outdoor party. Move to the Western swing sounds of the B-Stars, who will play live all evening. If you show up early, professional dance instructors await to give you lessons.

San Francisco’s 236th birthday Presidio, SF. www.presidio.gov/calendar. 11am-midnight, free. Join Los Californianos in celebrating SF’s anniversary at the location of the city’s founding, the Presidio. Commemorate the people of early California with music and a horse riding ceremony performed by the Amigos de Anza drill team.

Music on the Main 12th Street and Macdonald, Richmond. www.richmondmainstreet.org. 5pm, free. Enjoy some classic rhythm and blues as it floats over the children’s activities and outdoor bazaar at the first installment of this annual concert series. Blues artist Jesse James will lay down his soul, R&B crooner Reed Fromer will make your hair stand tall, and pop performers from the Richmond Police Activities League will keep your feet tappin’


“So You Think You Can Paint” art party Club Six, 60 6th St., SF. www.clubsix1.com. Thursdays, 6pm-11pm, free. All you have to bring is a friend to this self-titled “world’s most creative happy hour.” The venue will provide all the paint, brushes, tunes, and cheap drinks you need to paint a masterpiece on one of Club Six’s walls. The idea is to complete as many eight-foot-long walls as possible prior to the end of the night, as a party.

Jazz Summerfest Citizen Rhythm Project Stanford Shopping Center, 180 El Camino Real, Palo Alto. www.sfjazz.org. 6pm-7:30pm, free. Citizen Rhythm is an award winning Bay Area fusion group. Come jam with Bay Area fusion group Citizen Rhythm – they’ll be infusing the works of Mingus, Monk, Miles, and more with funk, hard rock, and hip-hop.

Costume roller disco party Mighty, 119 Utah, SF. www.mighty119.com. 9pm, $5. Ladies and gents rolling around in revealing disco outfits? Check. Saturday night classics all night long? Check. Bring a pair of quads or rent skates from David “Skate Godfather” Myles who will be at the front desk. Costumes are optional, boogie is mandatory.

Underground Market Public Works, 161 Erie, SF. www.publicsf.com. 5pm, $10. It’s been away for a year (dang health inspectors, let us live!) but ForageSF’s DIY market of mealtime is back, and better than ever. All food items – prepared by such rad local vendors as Rice Paper Scissors and Homeroom – will be under $5, and sustainable sweeties abound. A date auction will go off, another facet of the evening that’ll contribute to a drive for a new community kitchen space run by ForageSF.


Circus Bella in the park Yerba Buena Gardens, Third St. and Mission, SF. www.circusbella.com. Noon, free. It was the shared dream of David Hunt and Abigail Munn to create this open air, one-ring circus, so in 2008 they made it come true. Ever since, lucky park-goers have been known to happen across Munn’s loping aerial acrobatics and ground-level clowning by the rest of Bella’s talented pack. Bring a blanket and enjoy a picnic lunch as you watch their antics set to live music.

Sonny and the Sunsets concert Amoeba Music, 1855 Haight, SF. www.amoeba.com. 6pm, free. Sonny Smith recorded his album Longtime Companion (out June 26 on Polyvinyl Records) directly onto tape in a musty basement that smelt of beer and tobacco. By way of acoustic guitars, intimate lyrics, and pedal steel, Smith explores love and heartache with songs that sound a little like the results of a Johnny Cash-Kinks-Gene Clark jam session. Hear him perform live today.


Flickr photo walk Treasure Island, 1 Avenue of the Palms, SF. www.meetup.com/flickr. 2pm-4pm, $5. Snag your real camera and give Instagram a break for this photo walk through the man-made island in the middle of the Bay. Flickr peeps will guide you to spectacular views of the city, bay, and the construction that’s underway on the eastern span of the Bay Bridge.

Toothpick Golden Gate Bridge Exhibit final day Hyatt Regency, 5 Embarcadero, SF. www.sanfranciscoregency.hyatt.com. 9am-midnight, free. Ripley’s Believe It Or Not presents this 13-foot model of the Golden Gate Bridge, constructed out of 30,000 toothpicks. You can also gawk at a scale model of a cable car made from matchsticks, and enormous 3-D portraits of Jerry Garcia and legendary Spanish guitarist Carlos Santana made from chicken wire.

French cinema night with wine Alliance Francaise, 1345 Bush, SF. www.afsf.com. 6:45pm, $5 donation. This evening was designed to help non-French speakers discover French cinema. Enjoy wine, refreshments, and free popcorn — and learn to speak French through conversing with cinema buffs.

Russian River water carnival and fireworks show Monte Rio Public Beach, Monte Rio. www.mrrpd.org. Enjoy Independence Day in high California-style — at a beach crowded with people and BBQ. This annual event features a water boat parade, and a “water curtain” — patriotic images projected onto a curtain of water that flows from the Monte Rio bridge. Plus, yes, fireworks.


Sonoma Winery charity classic car show B.R. Cohn Winery, 15000 Sonoma Highway, Glen Ellen. www.brcohn.com. Noon-5pm, free. Visitors can enjoy live music as they gaze at a hand-picked collection of vintage cars from various eras. Food from local vendors will be available, and B.R. Cohn wines will abound. Bring your wallet if you’d like to support Redwood Empire Food Bank of Santa Rosa, donations will be accepted on site.

Park electronic dance music party Pioneer Log Cabin picnic area, Stow Lake Dr. East, Golden Gate Park, SF. www.goldengateparkparty.com. 2pm, free. Bring dancing shoes, something to BBQ, face paint, beer to share, perhaps some earplugs, and boogie down with fellow house music fans at this all-day dance extravaganza.

Preservation Hall Jazz Band Stern Grove, 19th Ave. and Sloat, SF. www.sterngrove.org. 2pm, free. Have you gotten your Stern Grove Festival fix yet this summer? The Sunday free concert series is once more in glorious swing – pack up your hummus and homies and head to the leafy glade for Big Easy brass from Preservation Hall, headlining a bill that also includes bluesers the Stone Foxes.

Monday 2

Beatles karaoke night Café Royale, 800 Post, SF. www.caferoyale-sf.com. 8pm, free. Pianist Joshua Raoul Brody plays your blackbird singing in the dead of night – sit back and let the evening go with beer and cocktails at this Tenderloin neighborhood bar. Brody’s turning it into a Beatle-driven piano bar tonight.

Women of Jazz fan appreciation night Yoshi’s Jazz Club, 510 Embarcadero, Oakl. www.yoshis.com. 8pm, $5. Celebrate the female jazz world as you tap your feet (and enjoy delicious sushi, if you like) to the tunes of “Sweet” Sue Terry, an internationally-known soloist on the sax and clarinet. Then hear composer Peggy Stern riff on everything from her original work to re-harmonized standards.


Colleen Green Brick and Mortar Music Hall, 1710 Mission, SF. www.brickandmortar.com. 8pm, free. Colleen Green sings catchy, heart-wrenching songs that range from psychedelic drone to ’80s pop goulash and ’90s power punk. She plays her Daniel Johnston-inspired live shows alone on stage with only an electric guitar and a drum machine to accompany her. Come down to this free show and see.

A’s post-game fireworks show Oakland Coliseum, 7000 Coliseum Way, Oakl. www.oakland.athletics.mlb.com. 10pm, free. As soon as the Athletics (hopefully) defeat the Boston Red Sox, just make sure you’re anywhere near the Coliseum. If you are, you can enjoy this spectacle of fireworks that will boom over the stadium following the game in celebration of our nation’s independence from Great Britain. And baseball, obviously baseball.


Ladies and gentleman, the Bay’s youth spoken word team (and where you can see them spit)


Hey you, over-20 person. Do you ever wonder what what on the minds of today’s teens? The answers are heavy, and they soar from the mouths of spoken word poets — especially those of the recently-announced team that will be representing the Bay Area at this year’s Brave New Voices international slam on July 21. Care to meet them?


Bay Area grand slam champion: Nyabingha McDowell, Richmond, Salesian High School, age 15

Obasi Davis Oakland, Berkeley High School, 16

Colleen Hamilton-Lecky Berkeley, Berkeley High School, 15

Allison Kephart Pacifica, Oceana High School, 17

Marje Kilpatrick Richmond, Holy Names High School, 15

Queen Nefertiti Shabazz Berkeley, Lick-Wilmerding High School, 17


Take note of the names above. These young people deserve our support. Consider them your Baybies. 

This year, the BNV International Youth Poetry Slam Festival will bring more than 500 poets and their mentors from around the globe for five days of open mics, preliminary poetry slams, and writing workshops beginning July 19. 

For the kids, the competition is an opportunity to spit the most difficult, strange, or meaningful aspects of their lives into a mic. For the listeners, the slam is just that — a shock to the senses in a society that rarely lets its kids go unedited. 

In preparation for the festival, teams of four to six poets aged 13 to 18, have been selected by way of city and region-wide poetry slams throughout the year. Locally, the SF nonprofit Youth Speaks organizes and coordinates BNV representatives. Youth Speaks is also the progenitor of the festival, which has now spread to include participants from Guam, South Africa, Taiwan, and New Zealand among other countries. 

After rehearsing, rewriting, and reinventing their poetry for months, the poets step into the final spotlight for three rounds of onstage recitation, both in tandem and solo.  Meanwhile, the kids offstage get to meet and spit words with poetic peers that hail from places like New York, Chicago, South Africa and Taiwan. 

James Kass, founder and executive director of Youth Speaks, says it is important that participants come from varied backgrounds. 

“The kids get to know each other and hear from each other, and see their similarities and differences,” he says. “They really represent the changing demographics in the country. They really represent the future of the country.”

15-year old  Nyabingha McDowell at the Bay Area grand slam finals. Photo by Ashleigh Reddy

He adds that it is just as important to bring in a diverse audience. 

 “A lot of adults, their main interaction with teenagers — if they don’t have kids — is through the mass media. We want to dispel those myths and stereotypes that are created. Adults need to hear directly from teenagers what they’re talking about and who they are.”

Now a decade and a half old, BNV began in San Francisco in 1998 following an inaugural Youth Speaks Teen Poetry Slam the previous year. 

“I look back to the very first [BNV] we did when there were only four teams and we had hardly any crowd,” Kass says. “But the kids that came from these four different cities immediately started connecting and started feeling that they were part of a larger movement.”

The BNV Festival takes place in a different US city each year, but this year’s competition brings the beatniks back home to the Bay. Says Kass: “If you think you don’t like poetry, if you think you don’t know what’s going on in the youth world, come check it out because it’s a whole different experience. It’s an incredible place to be.”

Brave New Voices International Youth Poetry Slam finals

July 21, 7pm, $20

Fox Theatre 

1807 Telegraph, Oakl.


Chuckle connection: The Bay’s most diverse comedic line-up goes on tour


There’s no question that a childhood spent growing up Ethiopian in Haight-Ashbury made fertile ground in which to grow a stand-up career. That’s where Yanye Abeba is coming from. Abeba is performing in Kung Pao Kosher Comedy‘s second Color of Funny comedy tour on Thu/21 and Fri/22. Her schtick will be part of a unique line-up — and afterall, how many other people can pull on the interactions between their first generation African father and the homeless kids on Haight Street for their funny?

The divergent Color of Funny’s line-up can perhaps best be described as a comedic gumbo. Other performers include one of India’s few professional female stand-ups, venture capitalist turned storyteller Dhaya Lakshminarayanan. Joining her, award-winning broadcast journalist Maureen Langan (at the Thu/21 Berkeley show only) will bring tales of being the daughter of an Irish immigrant mother and garbage man father. Recent college graduate Nathan Habib (at the Fri/22 Santa Cruz) grew up in a Jewish-Israeli household with a Latvian mother and an Italian-raised dad. [Editor’s note: we interviewed Habib about pushy moms and Chinese restaurants back when he was a fresh-faced 21 years old.]


“There are so many points of view in this world,” Abeba says of this group of funny people in an interview with the Guardian. “Talking about our experiences in a comedic way gets people interested. They realize that even though their parents are from the ‘burbs and mine are from Africa, we have common experiences.”

Abeba’s acts recurrently discuss the clash between her Ethiopian and American backgrounds. “Ethiopian culture is so different from American culture and it makes for great comedy,” she says, adding that she is still shocked by how many people can’t find Ethiopia on a map but know the region was starving. “Inspired by Whoopie Goldberg,” Abeba employs comedy to combat cultural ignorance. Lately, she says her stand-up is focused increasingly on politics because she is concerned about this country. 

“I worry that people have become apathetic and aren’t really paying attention as their lives slip deeper into poverty,” says the comedian. 

So when the Occupy movement arrived in SF, Abeba was excited and began attending events. But she quickly became disenfranchised when she encountered people whose focus was on personal issues with parents and cops, not capitalism or the banking system. 

That disconnect became punchline fodder. “I just looked at it as another source for material,” she says. “Don’t get me wrong, I believe in the original message of the Occupy movement and I think that it is time things changed so that more people have opportunity. I think this country is for everyone, not just the Koch brothers.”

So she’s not diminished the Occupy ethos – but she is looping its reality in with her own activism of simply being a woman in stand-up. Because there are not many female comedians, and even less female comedians of color, Abeba has had to roll over several gender stereotypes. 

“I have a had a lot of men in this industry tell me that women have no place doing comedy, and that women aren’t funny,” she says. “They think all we do is talk about our periods and dating.”

She adds that if she had a nickel for every time she heard a man talk about anal sex and some hot chick, she would own a Range Rover. 

“Some of my favorite local comedians are different from the mold,” she says. “They are transgender, disabled, Indian, gay, and their point of view matters. As you get to know them through their comedy, you become more accepting of some one who is different because they touched you with their truth.”

“Kung Pao Kosher Comedy Presents the Second (Sorta-Annual) Color of Funny”

Thu/21 8pm, $20

Julia Morgan Theatre

 2640 College, Berk.


Fri/22 8pm, $20

Kuumbwa Jazz Center

320 Cedar, Santa Cruz


On the Cheap Listings


Submit items for the listings at listings@sfbg.com. For further information on how to submit items for the listings, see Picks.


Screening of Ken Russel’s Gothic Pacific Film Archive, 2575 Bancroft, Berk. bampfa.berkeley.edu. 7:30pm, $9.50. Director Ken Russell passed away this year, but his 1986 feature film continues to transport audiences. Gothic takes audiences into the country estate where Lord Byron (Gabriel Byrne), Mary Shelley (Natasha Richardson), and her partner Percy Bysshe Shelly (Julian Sands), give birth to the idea for Frankenstein’s monster. Prior to the screening, listen to a brief set by the world’s only Ken Russell tribute band Brale.

Oakland Landmarks book signing Cathedral Gift Shop, 2121 Harrison, Oakl. www.cltcathedral.org. Noon-1:30pm, free. Oakland historian and columnist AnnaLee Allen and artist Heidi Wyckoff raised enough donations through Kickstarter to publish their new book Oakland Landmarks, a melding of Wyckoff’s watercolor images and Allen’s detailed descriptions of historical sites. The project is a tribute to the city in honor of its 160th birthday this year. Today, come meet the author and illustrator, eager to sign your copy this afternoon.

Celebrate Flag Day with America the Philosophical Mechanic’s Institute, 57 Post, SF. (415) 393-0114, www.milibrary.org. 6pm, $12, members free. Just in time for Flag Day, award-winning book critic Carlin Romano challenges the idea that our nation is anti-intellectual. Using the examples of talk shows, social media, blogs, and an online trend he calls “cyber philosophy,” he argues that the USA is still a nation of innovation and public debate. Listen as Romano speaks up for the intelligence of you and yours at tonight’s reading.


Rex Ray pop-up show and Information release Gallery 16, 501 Third St., SF. www.gallery16.com. Also Sat/16, 6pm-9pm, free. To celebrate Rex Ray’s new book, Information, this pop-up gallery displays images of his artwork, photographs, and private moments of inspiration. The new book highlights a collection of happenings that the artist says inspired his life’s work. Ask him more about it in person.

Faetopia reclaims vacant Castro space for public joy Vacant Tower Records building, 2286 Market, SF. www.faetopia.com. Through Fri/22, event times vary, $10 suggested donation. Faetopia imagines a world where queer people are honored and respected for their gifts and perspectives. Artists and collaborators have created a space for the LGBTQQ community and their allies in the long, vacant storefront. During the day, Faetopia will host a visual arts gallery, workshops, meditations, teach-ins, and more. Theater, poetry, cinema, and sexy book readings in a land where the arts reign supreme.


“The Stuff That Dreams are Made of: San Francisco and the Movies” Old Mint, Fifth St. and Mission, SF. www.sanfranciscomuseum.org. Through Sat/24, 11am-4pm, $10. Thanks largely to cinema, people everywhere know about our city by the bay, even if they’ve never visited it. To highlight the movies and filmmakers that make San Francisco one of the world’s film capitals, the San Francisco Museum and Historical Society present this exhibition.

Father’s Day weekend at Playland-Not-at-the-Beach 10979 San Pablo, El Cerrito. www.playland-not-at-the-beach.org. 10am-5pm, $15. Don’t let Dad spend his special day sitting on the couch watching other people play. Accompany him to Playland, where the two of you can raise a ruckus with pinball and carnival games galore — there’s even an ugly tie contest. Pops also gets $3 off admission this weekend — perfect for Playland’s theme of the week: celebrating everyday American heroes.

San Francisco Crystal Fair Fort Mason Center, SF. www.crystalfair.com. 10am-6pm; also Sun/17 10am-4pm, $6. The Pacific Crystal Guild hosts a magical mix of crystals, minerals, beads, jewelry, and the healing arts today and tomorrow. Crystal enthusiasts can gawk at some of the most hard-to-find gems around, and those new to the world of geology can learn about the history and potential healing powers of these natural treasures.

North Beach Festival North Beach neighborhood, SF. www.sresproductions.com. Also Sun/17, 10am-6pm, free. One of the country’s original outdoor festivals, this 58th annual event brings you to the city’s Little Italy for 125 arts and crafts booths, 20 gourmet food booths, three stages of live entertainment, Italian street painting, beverage gardens, and the blessing of the animals. Join in this longstanding San Francisco tradition.

Marin Art Festival, Marin Civic Center, 3501 Civic Center Dr., San Rafael. (415) 388-0151, www.marinartfestival.com. 10am-6pm, $10. Enjoy the famed Marin oyster feast while you view the works of more than 250 fine artists. This annual event takes place in the spectacular Marin Civic Center designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, so be sure to look up and down and all around at the architecture while you’re there.


Open Cockpit for Father’s Day Oakland Aviation Museum, 8252 Earhart, Building No. 621, Oakl. www.oaklandaviationmuseum.org. Noon-4pm, $9. Sit in a Korean War MiG-15 next to Dad, and feel what it would have been like to fly for the “other side” in America’s first war of the jet age. Learn about the training involved for naval flight officers in the 1970s via a Navy A-6 simulator trailer, horse around on a carrier deck in the Navy A-3 Sky Warrior, tour the Solent Flying Boat from Indiana Jones: Raiders of the Lost Ark.


Baasics.2: The Future Oberlin Dance Collective Theater, 3153 17th St., SF. www.baasics.com. 7:30pm-9:30pm, free. Do flying cars and android housekeepers to mind when you ponder the future? Will humanity populate other planets and interact with extraterrestrial beings? Or, do you fret about the imminent environmental catastrophe, the rise of a totalitarian mega-state, and the end of our species? This event brings together Bay Area artists, inventors, researchers, and musicians whose projects and musings provide a sense of what they think lies ahead.


Activists read from The Harvey Milk interviews: In His Own Words HRC Store, 575 Castro, SF. (415) 387-2272. 6pm, free. This newly released collection of never-before published transcripts of unrehearsed interviews with Harvey Milk will be read live tonight by Bay Area activists and novelists. Learn about the local icon on a deeper level.


“Charitable beer circus”? Is this a miracle?


Come one, come all (unless you’re under 21) to Petaluma this Sat/20, and witness death-defying displays — with a twist. A screw-top twist, that is (sorry). Attendees of the Lagunitas Beer Circus can “ooh” and “aah” at aerialist acts, laugh at outrageously face-painted clowns, watch a lithesome figure breathe fire or swallow swords, and gape at the magnificence of exotic burlesque dancers, all the while drinking the fine beers and sweet ales of Lagunitas. It’ll be three rings of tastiness! And it’s charitable.

A $40 entry fee to the splendor of the Lagunitas Beer Circus benefits the Petaluma Music Festival and Music In Schools. Entertainment features acts from B.A.D. roller girls to the Vau de Vire Society and music from The Ferocious Few to the Sour Mash Hug Band (along with a marching band or two). Plus: cotton candy, paella, pizza, bangers, and barbecued oysters.

Yes, beer is in the event title, but even your sober driver (who’ll be necessary for lack of public transportation, and whose $25 reduced-price ticket you should spot because they’ve agreed to cart you all the way out to Petaluma), will have plenty to delight their eyes, ears, and taste buds. So step (or sway) right up, ladies, gentlemeen, and others. Check out our slideshow of acts above.

Sat/20, 1pm-6pm, $40.
Lagunitas Brewing Company
1280 N. McDowell, Petaluma
(707) 769-4495.

Claymation! Fashion! Digital Sound! An afterschool arts revival


If you believe the children are our future, then you may soon agree — contrary to rumors of its ongoing extiction — that the future arts scene of San Francisco is actually looking bright.

While arts classes fall off the curriculum in public schools nationwide, a collaboration between the San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department’s (SFRPD) Cultural Arts Division and its Community Services Division (which runs afterschool programs citywide) keeps the creative spark alive via the ongoing Arts Afterschool program.

Just a year and a half old, the Arts Afterschool program will host its first-ever live showcase, the Arts Afterschool Spring Gala at the Harvey Milk Center for the Arts on Sat/12. The gala will feature the artwork of 400 kids from virtually every neighborhood in San Francisco. The event showcases work from the program’s fall, winter and spring sessions.

Arts Afterschool is the brainchild of Jenny Rodgers, supervisor for the Cultural Arts Department of SFRPD.

“Jenny did it because it’s an opportunity for us to bring really, really quality instructors to the entire city, and reach kids that wont actually come into contact with that kind of work in their own schools right now, because there are so many cuts going on with arts programs in schools,” says Clove Galilee, program coordinator for the Cultural Arts Division of Recreation and Parks.

Lively paintings dapple the walls of the Harvey Milk Center and stretch up the stairwell. Sculptures of many shapes and colors dot the building. Downstairs in the gallery sit two computers, one with a looping slideshow of kids’s works.

“The other part of this, which is really exciting, is a whole series of interviews,” says Galilee. “We actually went to each site and interviewed instructors teaching arts classes there, talked to the kids, and did these little three-minute videos of what kids were doing. And those are amazing. Amazing.”

If kids attending the event are inspired by the exhibitions, they can make artwork of their own at arts and crafts tables, as you (the adult you) peruse the room and munch on provided refreshments.
The late afternoon treats gala visitors to live performances in the ballroom, as dancers, musicians, thespians, filmmakers, fashionistas, hip-hoppers, and digital sound virtuosos take the stage.
As part of the live performance section, one-of-a-kind kid-designed fashions will strut across the runway and hip-hop dance groups from Ocean View and Ingleside will perform a choreographed routine. And youngsters from Bay View’s Joseph Lee Playground will perform African drumming and dance, which Galilee says is “pretty amazing.” “They created a whole little performance and it’s awfully cute,” she says. “We really try to be up with what kids really want to learn.”

While the main age group in the program is 7 to 12 years, teenaged participants designed digital sound performances.  “We’re excited to listen to their digital sound stuff,” says Galilee. “And kids from all over the city compiled claymation videos. They actually make the clay figures, and then they create the story. They narrate the story, they film it all, and they learn to edit it.”

How do these talented tykes come to master so many mediums? Professional instructors from across the arts were recruited and paid for by a three-year grant through the Department of Children, Youth and Families. “What’s unique about our program is [SFRPD] already has a thriving afterschool program that really helps parents and is very affordable,” says Galilee. “These kids go to these programs everyday after school and they get homework help, they learn how to cook, get to play games and spend time with highly qualified recreation leaders.”
Then, on Tuesdays and Thursdays the art specialists arrive.

“They expose the kids to all sorts of those things they may not come in contact with otherwise,” says Galilee. “And [Arts Afterschool] is actually free because the kids have already paid to be part of the regular afterschool program.”

Arts Afterschool Spring Gala
Sat/12, 1pm-4:30pm, free
Performances begin at 3pm
Harvey Milk Center for the Arts
50 Scott, SF
(415) 554-8742