March 25, 2007

After the flood, an outpouring of slammin' aid

I often think of this quote from Henry James: "We work in the darkwe do what we canwe give what we have." I think of it especially when I see artists organizing exhibits, playing concerts, giving readings to benefit those who need help. IÕve done it myself--been in readings after 9/11, after the 2004 tsunami; helped organize a reading after Hurricane Katrina. This Thursday "Got DivaÕtude?" a concert and poetry slam will be held to raise money for women artists in New Orleans.

Def Poetry Jam artist Stacyann Chinn, slam poets Sunni Patterson and Asali Devan, and the eight-piece music ensemble Zili Misik will use their talents on behalf of the New Orleans Women Artist Collective (NOWAC). Tye Waller, NOWACÕs cofounder tells me about the need--musicians and writers whose homes were destroyed, visual artists who lost studios filled with work. Now, more than a year and a half later, many members of one of the countryÕs most vibrant arts communities are still trying to find a way to return home. Because Waller is executive director of the Architectural Woodworking Institute (cq) and has a special affinity for what is made by hand, NOWAC has a strong connection to the building trades. The groupÕs first fund-raiser, in fact, was co-sponsored by the New England Belt Sander Racing Association. (cq) (Who knew?) NOWACÕs ongoing $1 Restore-A-Home campaign sends construction volunteers and materials to New Orleans.

This excerpt from a poem by Gail Burton is a sample of what you might hear at "Got DivaÕtude?"

she might be light bright damned near blue calm
she whipped by winds into a gale

she wail her sorrow songs
crying dying screaming sighing
crying dying screaming sighing

crying dying screaming sighing her saving psalms
psalms so spiritual psalms oh so sensual
sometimes she got to punctuate and punctuate
punctuate with a razor's slash slash slash

Sister girl didn't Momma used to say:
Even the leaves turn their
asses up to God Himself
sometimes when it rains

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©2007 Ellen Steinbaum

My photo on the home page is by Peter Urban.
The cover of my book, Afterwords, was designed by Kate Misail.
The painting on the cover of the book, which is also pictured on this page, is by Eric Sealine.

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