Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Blogs You Should Be Reading by Alex Snider

Black Coffee Poet run by Jorge Antonio Vallejos

Reasons why you should be reading:

Anishinaabe Kwe Shannon Simpson, Counselor at First Nations House U of T, says, “Violence is a human rights issue, not a women’s issue.  Men need to take responsibility.  Men need to use male privilege in a positive way.  Imagine if white business men started speaking out against violence against women; more people would listen then if a woman of colour said the same thing.” 
What would be great is if male athletes started speaking out against violence against women. Imagine a UFC champion saying, “Support our women!” as opposed to, “Support our troops!” 
Privilege is unearned power which gives certain groups economic, social and political advantages.  In our society white males benefit from this the most but all males benefit from this just by being born. 
Stoh:lo feminist, activist, and acclaimed writer Lee Maracle defines male privilege as, “A head start, a larger entitlement in the social, economic, and personal arena.” 
Yes. I'm so fortunate to have *some* men in my life who understand their privilege but they're in the minority. This is a must read for everyone. 

2. His dedication to those poets and writers without the resources or opportunity to be published outside of street zines, people who might not have another chance to read or promote their work. People like Parkdale street writers Dani Mas and Irfan and Ojibway poet Rain Keeper. Jorge gives every poet/author the same treatment, regardless of social standing (social standing in this instance being whether or not and where that person has been published): he reviews their work, then he interviews the artist and finally posts an interview. Rain Keeper, published *only* in a zine, is on the same footing as GG winnner Pamela Porter. Also, his commitment to interviewing, reviewing and posting videos of writers who in general fly below the 'popular' radar, that is people of colour, transgendered, Indigenous and Aboriginal, gay, lesbian and two-spirited, women to name a few... I have been introduced to so many amazing writers that I'd never have known about were it not for Black Coffee Poet.

3. His promotion of social justice and devotion to social justice issues. Aside from staying absolutely true to his brief bio on his blog: "Black Coffee Poet is a mixed race poet, essayist, and journalist who focuses on Social Justice, Indigenous Rights, STOPPING Violence Against Women, Film, and Literature", Jorge has written about sex workers (his letter to Wendy Babcock was a beautiful piece of writing), about sex/kink/erotica positivity (check out this interview with the She's On Top editor Rachel Kramer and BDSM photo essay with Coco La Creme, burlesque dancer/teacher) and LGBTIQ people (see reason #5).

4. His fearlessness. He writes about issues that make people uncomfortable, that would not neccessarily garner him certain friends within the Canadian writing world. He doesn't shy away from posting unpopular opinions (unpopular in the white wealthy dominated media sense). He will approach authors he wants to interview, meet and not take a brush off lying down. And when he does have the opportunity, Jorge still asks the tough questions, like this account of the Joyce Carol Oates event at Luminato. If only every journalist/writer was more like Jorge the world would be a better place. Seriously.

5. His series on Queer Indigenous Voices Week. I honestly wonder when Jorge has time to eat and sleep and, well, breath, given how dedicated he is to Black Coffee Poet, to going to literary events and protests. Queer Indigenous Voices Week was no exception, he interviewed Daniel Heath Justice, Nicole Tanguay and Robbie Madsen, recorded poems and songs by the latter two and a closing song by Anishinaabe Kwe Dawnis Kennedy. His work ethic, not to mention his drive stagger me. 

6. His love of the written word. I met Jorge a few years ago while I was still a minion of the horrid big box bookstore. He was the only person who recognized the theme of the table I had put together of authors who had taken their lives. We wound up talking about books, short stories and favourite authors for a while, with me getting more and more excited about finding another book-lover with whom I had so much in common. I may have worked in a bookstore but coming across another impassioned reader with similar tastes was pretty rare and meeting Jorge left me buzzing for hours. The only thing more exciting than that initial meeting and book discussion was when he started up Black Coffee Poet and I got a chance to read his work, to be in awe of him as a blogger (and writer. And person).  

7. This series he wrote about writing, entitled Showing Up. There are tips are for writers, but really are applicable to any passion that one might have: 1. Claim yourself a writer. 2. Know why you write. 3. Time and Place, No Time and No Place. I want these words on a poster with a picture of a tiny animal doing something adorable, like a baby otter wearing glasses and facing down a typewriter, because I NEED that advise. I NEED to remember it, to rinse and repeat. Ah, Jorge, so wise! Also, his essay Winning by Losing. I love how open Jorge is about himself, how much he shares and the personal anecdotes he passes on -- few writers are so candid.

Really you should read Black Coffee Poet because Jorge is a damned fine writer and he is an even better person. 

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