Transcript - "black god mother this body"

Transcript - "black god mother this body": Book Release and Author Interview

September 8, 2022 -- Radical Kinship Series

Listen to "black god mother this body": Book Release and Author Interview with Dr. Raina J. Leon.

LETI VOLPP:  Good afternoon and welcome to our first Center for Race and Gender event of this academic year, The Radical Kinship Series Event, "black god mother this body: Book Release, and author Interview with Dr. Raina J. Leon. Before we begin, let me say that there is live captioning available. You can locate the button on the bottom right-hand corner of your screen.

I want to begin with a land acknowledgment. We take a moment to recognize that Berkeley sits on the territory of xučyun (Huichin), the ancestral and unceded land of the Chochenyo-speaking Ohlone people, the successors of the historic and sovereign, Verona band of Alameda County. This land was and continues tobe of great importance to the Muwekma Ohlone Tribe and other familial descendants of the Verona Band. We recognize that every member of the Berkeley community has, and continues to benefit from the use and occupation of this land since the institution's founding in 1868. consistent with our values of community and diversity, We have a responsibility to acknowledge and make visible the university's relationship to indigenous and native peoples. By offering this lnd acknowledgment. We affirm indigenous sovereignty and will work to hold the University of California, Berkeley more accountable to the needs of American Indian and indigenous peoples.

My name is Leti Volpp, I'm the Director of the Center for Race and Gender Here at UC Berkeley, and I am thrilled that you can be with us for today's event, which is the first event this year of all of our events, but also of our radical kinship series. Let me thank our sister sponsors for today's event the Multicultural Community Center and the Gender Equity Resource Center, GenEq. Thank you so much for your foundational support of this work.I will now introduce the fabulous organizer of the Radical Kinship Series, and the curator of today's event, Dr. Alán Pelaez Lopez. Alan is an Afro-Zapotec artist and scholar from Oaxaca, Mexico. They are the author of Intergalactic Travels: Poems from The Fugitive Alien, published by the Operating System in 2020, which was a finalist for the 2020 International Latino Book Award as well as "to love and mourn In the age of displacement", published by Nomadic Press in 2020. Alan is an assistant professor of race and resistance Studies at San Francisco State University. Thank you, and I will now turn it over to Alan.

ALAN PELAEZ LOPEZ: Thank you, Leti so much for that. beautiful introduction. Welcome everybody to the Center for Race and Gender. My name is Alán Pelaez Lopez, and for those of you who've never heard of the radical kinship series it's under the Art & Humanities initiative at the Center for Race and Gender, which is an initiative co-founded by Marco Antonio Flores and myself. and its purpose is to highlight the intersection of Our scholarship and the humanities and I'm super excited to be hosting this event.

To honor and celebrate "black god mother this body" by Dr. Raina J. Leon I first heard about Dr. Leon's work, maybe in 2015, 2016 by word of mouth, and in 2019 I had the opportunity to work with Dr. Leon at the Museum of the African diaspora And I think that that year was a highlight in my career as an artist. To be in communion with Dr. Leon and see each other on a regular basis.

So I'm super excited to be here and I'm going to read Dr. Leon's bio, and then Dr. Leon will do a poetry reading of their new book. It was published last week. I received mine a few days ago in the mail And then I'll ask Dr. Leon some questions and we'll end by opening it up for a Q And A.

Dr. Raina J. Leon is a black Afro boricua from Philadelphia Lenni Lenape ancestral lands. She is a mother, daughter, sister madrina, comadre, partner, poet, writer, and teacher, educator. She believes in collective action and community work, the profound power of holding space for the telling of our stories, and the liberty, sorry, and the liberatory practices of humanizing education. She seeks out communities of care and craft and is a member of the Carolina African American writers Collective Cave Canem, CantoMundo, Macondo. she's the author of Canticle of Idols Boogeyman Dawn, sombra : (dis)locate, and the chapbooks, profeta without refuge, and Areyto to Atabey: Essays on the Mother(ing) Self. Dr. Leon is a founding editor of the Acentos Review, an Online Quarterly International Journal, devoted to the promotion and publication of Latinx Arts. She educates her present and future Agitators/Educators as a full professor of education at St. Mary's College of California. only the third black person and the first Afro-Latina to achieve that rank there. So without further ado, I present you, Dr. Leon, for the celebration of "black god mother this body".

RAINA J. LEON: thank you so much for that wonderful introduction I'm so Ss thrilled to be here with you all today. I'm so grateful for the invitation and the ability to say Yes, which is totally walking in a spirit of abundance and joy. I was just sharing before we all get came together. gathered that I hadn't got my book yet, until today, y'all, I got these pictures of my book out in the world, and I was like it's out there, but it's not over here. And then it came. It came in the mail today. I was like, oh, wonderful like, because sisters like God, whoever all the spirits would be, the elements are in alignment for me to read For this book. and I was just goofy goofy happy to hold this and to be able to share it with you today. Is the dreaming is the dreaming so I'm gonna share my screen, and hopefully in the sharing. You see me if you want to see me and you can also see the work that I'll be reading and here we go. I don't think you need sound but there it is okay, here we go.

So, as I begin, I want to welcome you into the beings that survives, that thrives and are still walking within and about me. So I call the names. I know I call them as my own name, because their water has traveled into the vessel of me. Their water is mine. my water is there, as I am remembering my own body, my own righteous mind, and sharing their names. I am Norma, Queen Ester, Sarah, Eliza, Lizzie, Lydia, Sarah, Albert, Alverta, Walter Sarah Walter Edward, Julia John Annie Pinkney Anna bell, Marshall, Eliza, Philip, Mary, Josiah, Louisa, Abraham, Sarah Alexander, Amy Isham, Amanda Nelson, Ellen, George, Mary, Elizabeth Solomon, William Rachel, William Carrie Mariah Betsey William, Rebecca, Abraham, Rebecca, boatswain, Elsie, Allen, Caroline, Harry, Sarah, John, Lizzie, James, Emelina, William Lydia, Zachary, Sarah, Theophilus Susanna,

These are the people whose names I can track. I am Eddie and Juanita, Angelina, Venancia, Dominga Teresa, Felix, Cornelia Candido, Concepcion, Venancia, Juan, Maria Antonia, Antonia, Isaac Bernarda, Canuto, Juan, Soledad, Miguel, Florencia, Leonardo, Antonia, Laureano, Juana, Marcelino, Juana Maria, Demetrio, Petrona, Maria Petrona, Rufino, Louis Antonia, Benito Casimira, Juan, Carmen, Justo, Ana Ramon Dominga Pedro, Teresa, Marcelino, Maria.

These are the names that I can track at this point in my life. There with me there with me, as you are so.

testimonio is a poem written for Kamilah aisha moon, who just celebrated a heavenly birthday, and her name means perfect life.

I want her to be seen no ver. campos de Sangre Coloreados por pop paruso, ese maldito sonido, gone and coming through ay bendita, I want her to not see ser vista, slow revelation of light

overlapping ribbons. giratoria de oro, green curl, black glimmer a shine and a hat resplandor de pulso manera de warming.

Her good center y siempre asi que she sleeps in the night campanadas de canciones tranquil firsts, I want her to be.

querida. No por los fuegos artificiales intoxicantes internos all our memories su vida una, Luna brillante y cortante treasured on aged tree-knot tongues forever.

No, I want her to be safe, and saying my name like a hip, dip secret to the right, just right groove, not boxed in shining gray pero es, y no esta here, and yet is here

I celebrate kamilah. I used to moon so much, so much.

She was, and remains in my mind so very bountiful and beautiful, and the warmth of light all the time.

Neatly five thousand on the phone. My father tells a story of my great-grandmother's sister how she could read your spirit in cigar smoke, and I imagine her lip curl to suck in breath, the wrap of

sun cracked, pucker through tight leaves to blow a power beyond body through packed tobacco onto the faces of belief.

I did not know her. Some blood power must persist how to conjure thousands.

What herbs and smokes must rise to see them among split trees, flopping blue tents, the black mold mounding to its own glory.

And what of we who scatter flamboyant seeds defiantly burning our own blooming?

We must offer our smoldering through burnt red and gold rush into the ether to throng.

Our people murdered, slow by lack lack of the electric to run.

Respirators, lack of milk to flush, babes to relaxed sleep, that only the newly born and elders granted a final ease, must know lack of clean water to echo our clean amidst the

dirty politic. They will rise, and we will rise together. twine through silver moss and side-winding.

ceiba. i'm calling them. we call them what was split by wind and hurl rain made stronger like calluses on fractured bones, summoning collagen body gold.

We will wear smoke and dark night to fuel. Our guerrilla tactics defend nuestra isla from the invasion that comes.

These are Columbuses who use capitalism like they use disease against the tainos.

Kill us with debt, the lack to steal land for their leisure.

How the devil delights in playing capicu on their bones!

We call them, call the bones to rise and shake, exchange uselessly flung towels for hauntings.

The devil does not know the danger the living can do.

Riding a tidal wave of spirit. We all know how to summon.

Starting with our own thousands gone and not gone, and we are millions marching machetero. siempre, siempre pa'lante.

Nothing will stop our rising from even cracked earthen crusts.

Nada, the coqui are already singing.

Okay, so I wanna also offer you There's this very long Essay within the book this lyric essay called Blackity black black solstice clean, and I'm just gonna read you some excerpts from it, and I'm super excited for the questions that come. But here are some of the excerpts

i've been thinking about oshun recently.

How often others focus on the stories of her beauty for a sensual sway like river water, or laugh a tinkling bell.

Still her words can burn and her laugh can fill a room at the most inappropriate of times.

She is over the top in extravagance and devotion.

Recently. olorisa reminded me that oshun reminds us of self-sacrifice. there are pataki that describe her transformation into a bird when all the world was burning who in her rise to the sun she

burns to black, and in her sacrifice she saves the world.

Her blackness leads to life and fertility and balance. for all she saves the world.

She is beauty in every facet, and in how she releases her body's bulk to the aim of love.

And so, with the distance of ask of time, I ask myself, how do I conjure, Oshun?

How do I learn? I think it must come from titi.

is Memory, the dance of mourning and love that survives long enough to bloom?

I love you, love you, I love you. I release pain from this love.

There is a moment that I never forget. I'm at my grandmother's house in the Projects in Philadelphia. there is the perpetual sense of a arroz con gandules in the air as there always seems

to be in a boricua house. There are women, titi, my mother, my grandmother.

I have this feeling that my grandfather is there too, but his form is a shadow.

At visions edge. merengue plays, and titi says to me, Do you know how to dance merengue?

It's just like walking one. two. and she rises from a patterned couch to dance, and then her arms reach down to hold me. Though I cannot. walk.

I dance her hands keep me in balance at novena for my grandmother, while helping my cousins, and one of my aunts prepare the repast; for after the prayers and song titi comes up behind

me, grabs my ass with both hands and lifts it and shakes. reinita,

You look good. With a little weight. she complements its size and roundness, and then she moves on to something else.

My bodily violation. Nothing, my worth and sovereignty, nothing.

There is a knife in my hand, and suddenly there is someone in front of me who can see my mind empty.

How my hand grips so quickly I don't know who it was who was brave and stepped between us.

I only remember that there was a body that is enough for sense It is my grandmother's novena.

The first day, all of the elders take their seats.

I sit on the stairs with my older sister, who is not supposed to be real.

Woman, worn out of wedlock, born outside of a priest's, damned blessing.

We sing and pray from a prayer sheet it crunches.

Is that the sugar, or some other poison? I am surprised that I know most of the words and melodies.

From a time I can't clearly remember when my grandmother's voice would rise until mine joined her in Spanish. Later titi reminds me how we used to rest my brother and I on either side of my grandmother when we

were very little, and in her story, I remember the rose powder smell as I nestled under her arm, and she read me the Bible.

This. is a generosity so I forgive titi the violation of my body.

How quickly we forgive when trauma teaches to not forgive, is to eat your own body

Oh, how are you all doing over there? it's wild doing these readings online, where in the in the before times we would gather, and I could hear your breath.

I would be able to see your bodies rise as mind you, and so I have to imagine the bridge of connection, and I hope that you are with me, and whether you are with me in this time or times, long from now so. So this book encounters very difficult topics. This next one is around the inundation of images of black and brown people killed by the police. Which felt like an ongoing onslaught of digital lynching.

These bodies. breathe thorn Hush Hang Necking

tongue Black Twisted smile Police still free those trees.

full cacophony. O blossom, murmur, pistil, flutter, root bound, still free.

These bodies breathe those trees, thorn, hush, full hang, cacophony, necking, o, blossom, tongue, black murmur, pistil, twisted, flutter, smile, root, police, bound still free

And this poem is called the only color. The only thing you need to know is that my son, my daughter, has the same fixation on a particular color.

Hers is blue, every color is blue even though she can point to the different colors like, Oh, is that purple like which one is the purple one that's the purple one.

The. But if you ask her, what color is that blue? Everything is blue.

So, my son, it was verde. Everything will be the only color verde.

verde, verde, verde every color there is verde, and I think, on federico, garcia lorca.

I read this poem to him, days old, his whole body less than six pounds on my chest, and now he stands a wild octopus boy on a chair, reaching for the markers. verde, verde he says though the uncapped tool

Marks page to Orange, and his father says he knows what the best color is.

I say, naranja o anaranjado, he has to know his colors and go into a diatribe about school not being behind.

It is not about school. he is my son. And so the box waits.

A check mark of abuses woven into his identity.

Will he ever be able to just be the creative child who says verde, verde, verde

for all the colors glorified, for how his mind stretches divergent?

My husband does not know that the box can be a casket, and each day we must fight for it.

Not to be. ahmaud ran on a street lined with green leaves.

Lorca wrote a poem. They shot him, too, so bright.

I just want my son to know his colors and live

Okay, So we're gonna shift. into a different emotional range, and there'll be this balance right of emotional exploration and give me one moment.

Prophet sing the whole world. I dance muscle atrophy to diagram.

I have it all the whole world in my hands. I can nose out the mirror.

Truth, cartwheel quick through Dermis into comet spray with one touch.

Cosmos, blueprints through body pathways a black divine, in the Dna I know I know persona cartographer sidling up in mink and a cadillac time be time but knows no time.

world, be out but close as a thumb print coil.

Prick the whole world don't you wanna sing Don't you want to bang the bells chime a look ahead, and here comes you can't catch me I am already.

In you. Sometimes I dream myself matrix neo cool prophet.

But no Savior, no saving string. tendon as harp play.

The texture to skip like a child on 3 popsicles.

Transmit the boxing balance life the depth be Rex Glorious the whole world

Don't You want it too this unfrozen light the dust dance brutally, tussle back into a new celestial form.

Not the whole world in nothing alright. and I swear this is how I imagine my son coming into the world.

A child witnesses his birth. Mother said, we are not supposed to live forever.

Mother said. Women open the dead gates. Mother said. we make the body brave.

We carry. But we are supposed to go to, Mother said All vessels break.

atoms collide, and here birth new spheres.

A pulsar set in a chest, Mother said, Make way and return, and to water be water.

Mother, said the child, mother said, I will give him life, not my loss, Mother said.

Come, come, come! I turn and set my head to light hushing darkness through reddening to a golden burn.

Angel kiss my left eyelid, stork, release this neck!

The child pushes root nest, the midwife brushes his hair.

The child bathes in mother rush out spirit cordage for push.

She says a name. it is my name, bloody and firmed.

Mother says light light mother says, feed God! oh, God! this body!

And I think I'm just gonna read you 2 more poems freedom dreaming is a symphony most beautiful.

a friend, sensing I was down and ill orchestrated a four-part harmony song with a theater Company.

She led that praised what I had done for others, and for her. a measure here for affirmations and a measure here for a meal, a measure here for being birth plan, ready another measure for a passion flower blooms bundled

to go. After tea. the score was embroidered on fabric that unfolded from the stand.

The song ended with a chorus on freedom and finding liberation together.

How we worship in one another's joy and healing it was so beautiful, I woke up crying. and decay child I am old, and have learned so many rules of what and how to taste how manufactured foam on a

lightly poached egg refines the tongue while sea sputum twists it to poison.

They say; and though I know gold clogs the intestines, to stillness and cements there even in tiny flecks, their glitter going down is supposed to be a culinary delicacy better than the sun's

momentary grace on studded palate. Child, what would you teach me about gluttony?

Tell me about this second meal so soon after the grit of the sandbox, and just before the dessert of your own spit, as you suck your fingers, querida, describe how death ribbons in your mouth, how

the fall leaves offer you a new pucker, a distinct scrunch to your face.

Is this how your first wrinkle of consternation forms? when I die

Will, the leaves I eat taste like these I disparage now thinking them less fine on a menu that you sample of garden?

and those are the poems I'll share with you. But I wanted to share one last thing, which is one of the collages which is in the book and each of the Collages. If you download this app called Halo AR and you look at the book, then you just hold up the phone to it, and a video pops up that's like imprinted on the page. So you have a little bit of augmented reality, and the intention is that they will change seasonally. So some fun things. and this one actually comes from, or the one that you just saw comes from archival records of family and a digital collage. So I'm so excited for these questions.

ALAN PELAEZ LOPEZ: Thank you so much, Dr. Raina for this meeting. I am so excited and then I've been thinking about this book since I read it particularly. Its investment. in spells in spirits and futures and also in like mothering, and how children teach us to see the world differently. And just to begin. one of the heartbeats of your collection appears as a 32 page lyric essay / Ethic poem, as you told us earlier, and you read some excerpts of it today. For those of you who do. I remember. The poem is titled blackity black Black Solstice Cleave. when you do tell your relationship to your family particularly zooming in on your brother and your titi in this epic poem / lyrical essay you write, quote.

There's a black girl who will try to kill a black boy because he is a lightskinned boy, and a vessel for colorism and racism and white supremacy, and patriarchy end quote you Then reveal that the black girl is you? Yeah. and in the poem you center your center of analysis is the black family. The poem refuses to begin with whiteness. Can you talk about why you chose to address racism and colorism amongst black kin instead of framing racism and colorism as a binary of white and black?

RAINA J. LEON:  Yeah, I was really interested in this exploration of the internalism and the internalizing of racism, and how that manifests within the family in all these different ways. Especially in this space of mothering and trying to rise into a mothering that is humanizing is holds the whole emergent beings that I am honored to be walking alongside within this life right and struggling to find not so much struggling to find. but examining my models and examining the tensions that I also carried, coming up with those internalized racist pieces that had these moments within my life and really digging deep into like what happened there, and what does it mean? and how do I counter that within my own life right now?

So that I can again mother whole human beings who also have the language to identify what is happening, because that's also part of the essay of like I didn't have the language for what was happening and So what I had was the violence that language or the absence of it, allows and so, when I had more language as well as the emergence of a criticality, then I could interrogate and push back on those things, even within myself.

And it is a constant struggle like I think that that's something that folks of the African diaspora also have to wrangle with is like our lives Have this external push, and what do we do to do our own healing right. And really emerged into our flourishing and thriving and fullness. And how does that lead to whole communities flourishing? we've got to We've got to do some constant interrogating too. While at the same time centering like, what is it to heal? What is it to be joyful? What is it to be in community? And family and nurture so yeah that's That's why I started there.

ALAN PELAEZ LOPEZ: thank you you know as I was reading that piece. I didn't know where it was going to go particularly because of its length, and that's one of the first instances you bring us to and then, as you continue to unpack the fact that like colorism, was affecting your life so much that this was like the desire that you had and couldn't name It. Really, I think that in Latin American communities and black Latin American communies this poem is gonna do something that I don't think has necessarily been done often in poetry and making us look at ourselves right? Because I think that often in the world of identity politics we always want to go to. Oh, whiteness, this whiteness that and then your book. It's actually no like even if whiteness ends like we each other ask black people have internalized so much of supremacy and I was really interested in the way That you were like. I don't care about whiteness. I care about about how black people interact with each other, and how we fail and succeed to show up for one another. And in that poem to continue to think about that piece.

You also chronicle your complicated relationship with your aunt. With special attention to moments where she didn't know how to love you, in maybe the ways that you wanted it. And at the end of the piece you refuse to say that your aunt did not love. Instead, you insist that she loves you in the ways that she could. and I'm wondering if you can share about the process of working through your aunt's relationship in a poem and how that looked like and if the poetry helped you build a different relationship with your aunt.

RAINA J. LEON: So absolutely because my titi has often been the villain in. Most of my stories. so much so that there are my partner in particular, like I don't know why you keep talking about her. You talk about her all the time? And how is this emerging? Why is she so important? And he appears saying exactly that within the essay

And it was in the writing of the essay that I could see the complicated choices and decisions. Right? as well as what is the truth? What is a lie? How do we understand one's identity? and then like also recognizing the possibility for change over one's life? And honoring that, like you can't she has never become an entirely different person. The kind of person that I like really needed and wanted But has she experienced change? Yes, and did I learn something along the way?

Yes, and can I honor and celebrate what I was, what I was given? Yeah. And also hold that her life what I know of it it's incredibly complicated. And I'm really interested in learning more and in the last few times that I've actually because she is still on this side of the veil, and the last time that I talked to her there were such intimacy in this meeting conversation of learning more. the reason why there's a story in the essay about a wedding, and that, being this exploration of like whiteness through pastry chef and like all sorts of things and my father told me this story. he told it to me so believingly like it was truth. And then I talked to her, and she was like that it's a lie like that that did not happen, and I tell you maybe a week before, like the book was firm. I added the line, That is a lie because, but it And it was so core to also this back and forth of what is the truth? What is the lie? How do we find connection and and resolution with one another?

And I was sharing with you earlier. that I my mom was in the space of like, Oh, yeah, let me tell the family, and I was like, Don't tell them like they might. they're gonna buy a book and then I'll sign it and then they're gonna read the first section and disown me not understanding that the essay also explores resolution and healing and forgiveness. And so if you don't read to the end this all Raina. But if you read to the end you you see a little, a lot more complexity.

ALAN PELAEZ LOPEZ: No, absolutely This essay made me think a lot about The companhia collective. and also a lot of the essays in this page called my back, and this idea of like picking up after your own shit. And how your your essay while it names people who maybe weren't always there for you like you're not necessarily asking them to do work. You're doing the work for yourself and saying I Now, understand and this is how I feel, and it sucks and also like I'm not gonna take away your humanity in the retelling of the story which I think was like a practice that really really emerged in like the eighties. Like a black feminist practice. I really appreciate it, reading that and putting it in conversation with other texts. And you know, like, after we get out of your lyric essay / epic poem.

You kind of take us to your chronicle as a parent. And then the second half of the book. You offer us a poem in the form of a spell, and the poem is for your son and the poem is titled in a in a time magic, and in it you write quote I write to you the spell of freedom end quote, and earlier in the collection you speak of giving birth And 8 days later, bearing the witness to Nia Wilson's murder at the Mcarthur Bart Station Here in the Bay Area. in the poem the only color you end by saying quote, I just want my son to know his colors and live end Quote if you feel comfortable, can you speak to Your relationship to spells. and how poetry can become a source of sorcery for you and your family!

RAINA J. LEON: Oh, I love it, oh, so My relationship to spells and poetry as a source of ritual. You said, Okay, So I love this question nobody's ever asked me a question like this. Oh, so early in my life. I'll say this so my family on my father's side. They have a background of being espiritu dualistas right so And then centeros. So there. The religious background is of the African diaspora, right?

So there is an attunement to elemental forces, to the power of ritual and sacrifice and engagement with ritual And so I've always been understanding and in belief although not a practitioner. And so I have this attunement to The multiple veils of reality at all times. And so this is how I operate within the world and recognize that there are multiple beings and multiple spirits. And also sorts of things around us at all times. I am, I believe I have seen.

I have experienced all, all of that and so I'll tell you a story that this is really the first time that I've ever told this story. So when I was a teenager you know I don't know what I was watching, what I was reading. But we got we got this magazine, I think it's called a pyramid, or something you could buy like tarot cards and capes and things, and so I don't know how got this thing in our mail but I was. I convinced my mom to buy the books, and next thing you know, I was wiccan for a real long time, and my dad I remember overhearing this conversation with my dad and my mom was like What are we gonna do, Eddie? What are we gonna do?And he was like you just have to trust that she gon make good decisions. And for my very like religious, strict father, to also like to have overheard. This conversation was so beautiful like my father, so wise.

And so I tell you that story to tell you that I'm very interested in religion and spiritualities, and understanding the belief sets that inform us the cosmologies that inform us. and so when I tell you when the poem there is around spells, I believe in the power of words manifesting reality. And I believe in the power of the poem as a portal into multiple realities that the metaphor helps to make, seen what is already there. And we just need the language to realize it. I think that all poets and creatives have at least some aspect of magic within them. And so that definitely comes into my practice. you know as we were in this reading. I'm shuffling tarot cards and pulling cards. Y'all. Where am I in this moment How can I be in best ancestral alignment? Thank you for your wisdom, you, know if anybody wants to know which deck I'm using, I'm using the tarot and pandemic and revolution from Nomadic press But I will believe in that power of again manifesting reality.

ALAN PELAEZ LOPEZ: So oh, my gosh! thank you for sharing the story with us when you were talking about like the spell and the tarots I started to think about how oftentimes people are sometimes afraid of poetry, because they think that it's like this high art. And I think about like spells and prayers like all of those are poems, you know. And how sometimes like for those of us who grew up in either spiritual houses or religious households like poetry, was part of our daily lives. But we never recognized it as poetry and I think that when I read your work. you have so many spiritual and religious metaphors, and I'm like Wow, like you're upbringing praying to you on how to be a poet.

RAINA J. LEON: Yeah, Well, and I love that my mom's in the chat. My mom is like, and your Mother's family is also a family of con women. That is absolutely correct. Mommy, thank you for coming today. I love this.

ALAN PELAEZ LOPEZ: I love this talk back you know, to steer a little bit out, but not so much Something that I was surprised about the manuscript was how evident. Your experience as a boricua came up throughout the collection. You share that you hadn't visited the island as a child, and then you eventually went back to the island for the first time. Yeah, your whole life has been shaped by Puerto Rico in a poem. Your view on nightmare, where your child dies in a flood Which made me think of Hurricane Maria category 5 hurricane that severely impacted Puerto Rico, Dominica, and Saint Croix. Can you talk about writing about about about disaster, through disaster? And perhaps with disaster.

RAINA J. LEON: Yeah, and that's exactly the setting for the writing of that poem. And being in a space of like so far away, and the family that I have, of course, as many families were on the island like, separated, and unable to communicate out or receive in. and so not knowing what happened to my aunt, like one of my aunts or her family, or you know all of my extended family. For many days. and dreams for me can be incredibly racking and very vibrantly real And so that dream in particular just tore me apart. And the one of the closing images of It is me waking up and checking on my son, and fearing that he is no longer in the world of the living. Right he's cold the heater had in my home had actually gone out And so that may have been the impetus of the dream. But it was also all of these other things so it's this terrible challenge to I'm so very aligned in understanding and ever eager to learn more about my ancestors and I say that because when I think of revolution, I also think of my great grandfather, who was a Union organizer. My father likes to tell stories of him that he knew one of the organizers Albizu Campos in puerto Rico right? And so there's this connection of revolutionary interconnections by like overlap within families. But within the diaspora more broadly, and a belief in the resilient spirit Boricuas, spirit that says Yes, disaster will come and we will not only survive, but we'll break out the pandero to make it a. I tell you all about yourself. and so you know There, when I think about the people that come from, I come from people who will say, Yes, the world is ending. Disaster is coming, and we will make music and make incredible community, and share with one another, and build with one another. And if it's gonna come it's gonna come but it won't take our joy.

ALAN PELAEZ LOPEZ: Wow! Oh, my goodness, that really puts the whole idea of apocalypse into question because I guess it's like then it becomes apocalypse for whom? Yeah. wow, And I guess to kind of close off this like interview section before we open up for the audience. Q And A at the end of your collection you read one of the poems to us. When you finish this reading today. you turn to the child as a source of wisdom. Can you talk about what your children have taught you? and what children can teach poets about life?

RAINA J. LEON: Oh, children teaches so much about joy and being inhibition free. So example, I went upstairs between work and our time together, and I expected to, you know, cuddle with my babies watch a little TV. Oh, I upstairs and like they're running around naked. They just been outside one's got headphones across the chest. The other is, I don't know playing, they're just in play and they make the most amazing things out of the most mundane And so they pushed me to see the world differently as a poet as a writer as a creative I see the world differently all the time, anyway. And yet I love it when I get to sit with them and my son is like, and you are a frog, and you're a lion. and you know like that. I can become all these things. And the magic wand is like, you know, a toilet roll like that's what it is So okay, magic wand can be a toilet roll. And how else could we make this magic wand bigger I don't know?

But, like they pushed me to really think about hybridity and play in very different ways, and a lot of my workshops. A lot of my own work now has been reaching more deeply into play, and that aside a form plain form. But they teach me so much around being attuned to ones on emotions. So naming the big emotions, being able, to actually see it on their bodies, and then being able to recognize it within my own and to speak to like how that feels because as they're learning sense language, they name the senses of emotions and how it changes within the body differently and it's always so insightful to me. That anger can be not just a burning but like tingles on your hand right so like I don't necessarily think about anger that way. But why not Let me actually think about how anger is coming through my body? Let me think about pain. Let me think about a fall like What does this do to my body? And how do I, in recognizing that shift? how I want to be in the world? they teach me a lot, thank you, for like sharing that.

ALAN PELAEZ LOPEZ: I was writing down what you're talking about how your children have taught you how to name the big emotions. In that poem where you talk about younger self you write a tale about the big emotions and having names for them. and it just gone to me that in the collection you have like little Raina, and then you have your children and they're like playing amongst one another in that collection and I'm like wow! All of you are young in the book. So just like seeing how much respect you have for your children, and how you hold them so close And refuse to infantilize them. was something that I really took from your text. And I know we have about 10 min left so this is a time Where if anyone who is in the audience wants to ask a question, we would love to hear you you can put your question in the chat you'll see that at the bottom of your screen there's a chat button and if you click it it'll bring you to the chat, or if you want to use the Q and A section, you can do it there as well. So we'll give you all a few seconds to type in your chat. Okay.

RAINA J. LEON: Since my mother is here. I hope I hope that my father's. Heard that I called him a liar

ALAN PELAEZ LOPEZ: I hope so too. Hmm.

RAINA J. LEON: As the questions are coming I do want to offer to you This is the first time that I'm talking about the book, and some of your questions in particular at the very beginning I was like I didn't realize how emotionally like entangled I still like am in this book like getting teared up. I could. I'm like holding it together to be able to talk about that. So I think to that I don't know I wonder how many authors in the most difficult of emotions through their book. How you kind of have a little bit more separation and distance, and so on. But my second book, for example, there is one poem in particular that oftentimes still, when I read it, I just break out weeping. And my Yeah, there's a that same book yeah same book. I have a poem I won't read because I can't hold it together. At all because of the of the violence against children within it. And yet it was really important for that poem to be in the book. And so I think that if, as people do ask me about the first essay in particular, I'm just gonna be a mess everytime.

ALAN PELAEZ LOPEZ: Do you think you've decided which poems from your book you don't want to read in public spaces, or don't want people to ask you about?

RAINA J. LEON: I don't know that's a you know it just because it just came today right like it is fixed today. I think. I think I'm in the space of like everything is up for grabs. But yeah. I think the poem that you mentioned about The dream is one that I won't read talk about but not read.

ALAN PELEAZ LOPEZ: Wow! no, thank you for even entertaining the question.

RAINA J. LEON: talk about, yes But not read because it speaks of the death of one of my children, and that is a full like the layers of that poem, and the difficulty of writing it. But I wanna talk about the larger construct around it, and your question around disaster in the time Disaster like was so poignant. I really appreciate that it seems like people are being a little shy today. I know I know I'm really nice. y'all, I'm funny, I at least to myself Well, we have a question.

ALAN PELEAZ LOPEZ: So Leon, Connor hi Raina thank you and thank you, and loving the opportunity to hear you as a mother, I'd love to hear how you expose these lessons To your children, or maybe plan to given their ages.

RAINA J. LEON: Yeah, So One of the movements that I did with my daughter, even as an infant, was, I did This meditation from Dr. Alexis Pauline Gumbs, called the black feminist breathing chorus which is definitely in the space of identifying black Feminist leaders and Dr. Gumbs pulls some of the language from these thinkers scholars dreamers creatives as mantras, and we're guided in using those mantras as actually breathing tools. And there's a different one for every day and so when my daughter, was a few days old was doing that with her So you know, folks like Toni Cade Bombara and Nikki Giovanni, and Octavia Butler And Judy Jordan and Audre Lorde. and after these breathing experiences also, having these aloud conversations with myself.

My daughter, is there of talking about the larger context for some of these phrases in like here is the tension. And here's what this helps me us to resolve and even from the very youngest of ages my son. I remember he was 18 months, and he touched my hand, and he said black, and I was like yes, I am black, and you're black too and he was like yes, I am. And then just went on with his day like okay all right So we're just gonna talk about blackness that's 18 months, all right.

And they are always listening. They are always listening and I am always amazed by what they Oh, as like we are black, and we are beautiful, and we are part of a dynamic community like there. There's language that they are attuned to and the joy on their faces when they're also in community with a lot of people of different backgrounds, and so on where everything is not the same because we're not meant to be in any environment, that everybody is the same just in space of like delight in all of our differences is wonderful to witness.

So I talk about difference in culture in ways that I hope is appropriate for them. The dangers as well within this world. In a way that there are things that I hold that I don't talk to them about, but I talk with my husband. And it's definitely something around the safety of all our lives that I think about. Yeah.

ALAN PELAEZ LOPEZ: Thank you, Raina we have about 2 min left and I'm wondering if there's any last words you want to share either about your book or about how you're doing Now, or any projects you're working on next.

RAINA J. LEON: Well, I hope people likes what they heard today. You might come to the book release on September eighteenth. And I think, yeah, there we go, see all quick. The September 1, 5 to 7 Pm. Standard, and you know Alan is one of the readers. So that's cool there's gonna be a lot of fun I hope you all can come through and other things that I'm working on I'm working on still working on this book of fiction and new work non fiction and new digital collages, and I'm on the Tikky Tok Now, so you can find me on the Tikky Tok. Well, then, I do to see Collages and things. So it's just my name Raina Leon you can find me wherever.

ALAN PELAEZ LOPEZ: so you're so ahead of the game.

RAINA J. LEON: I don't know how to use TikTok and I'm like I feel like I'm falling behind. I know I'm learning my favorite one was when I did a stitch with Keanu Reeves. It makes me laugh still.

ALAN PELAEZ LOPEZ: Oh, I'm so happy that you said yes to this invitation, and that you shared poems with us the day you got your book. So thank you from the Center for Race and gender. We hope that we will see you again at some point and I'm, wondering if we can drop the link to your book. On the chat before we close out. Some people can copy and paste it, or click on it.

RAINA J. LEON: I should have done this before I got it. And there.

ALAN PELAEZ LOPEZ: Oh, all right, you got it. Oh, perfect. Okay, So everybody, please click on the link. Get you a copy, and have a good day! Thank you!