Bryan Thao Worra,
(SAN FRANCISCO) A big thanks to everyone who made it through the rain to join Margaret Rhee and Kearny Street Workshop to celebrate the release of her chapbook Radio Heart, or How Robots Fall Out of Love. It was a packed room and a packed schedule as audience members got to see performances by Debbie Yee, Oscar Bermeo, Maria Fiani, Virgie Tovar, Sean Y Manzano, Isela Ford, Jennifer Hasegawa, Annah Anti-Palindrome, and myself.
The evening was organized by Margaret and the members of Kearny Street Workshop to be more than just an everyday book launch, but to give back to a space that had given so much to her when she was an emerging writer. Additionally they wanted to honor the legacy of Truong Tran, who played a pivotal role in the literary and cultural growth of so many in the Bay Area and beyond.
This week was the closing week for the Arc Gallery’s Sacred and Profane exhibit which shares space with Kearny Street Workshop. So it was impressive to see the diverse and intriguing artworks on display during the reading. As one of the jurors pointed out, they were “looking for artists who were taking on aspects of sacred, profane and, especially, a combination of the two to create a synergic objective. The standout pieces would play with the interactions between the two in an imaginative and unique way; be it a assemblage reliquary made of everyday objects or a photograph in a commonplace setting with a supernatural, otherworldly implication. These works make the viewer question what it is that inspires reverence and what it is we consider to be obscene—and perhaps question our thoughts on both within the context of our culture.” This tied in well with the ideas Margaret had about gathering artists, activists, citizens of the Bay Area and how to form a community.
Paul Ocampo, a board member of Kearny Street Workshop, did a wonderful job as the MC for the evening, helping to put much of the proceedings into context and keeping us all running on time. It was easy to see this evening meant a lot to him.
Oscar Bermeo was the first poet to read this evening. I first became aware of Oscar through the work of poeta Barbara Jane Reyes ten years ago. I loved seeing him perform this night. He told how much Truong Tran’s teaching meant to him when he had first arrived in the Bay Area, and then presented three of his poems. He couldn’t stay the whole evening, but he played a great role setting up the energy for the rest of us, although he’s a VERY tough act to follow.
Each of the performers brought their own unique voice and style to the proceedings.. Musical performances by Annah Anti-Palindrome and Jennifer Hasegawa were heartfelt and touching, as were the testimonials recognizing the significance of Truong Tran’s work.
Truong Tran graciously accepted the award from CAPRE (Concerned Artists and Poets for Racial Equity) and read a touching piece he had written for his students in the aftermath of the November elections to give them strength. It was easy to see how much he continues to be respected and admired for his work in helping others, and for constantly modeling an artist’s life in every aspect of his being. Whether it was donating furniture to newly arrived artists in the Bay Area or giving them a place to stay, pushing them to complete their education or just being hard on a poem that needed someone to be hard on it, he was there for many of those assembled at Kearny Street Workshop that night.