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Thursday, May 4th – 7pm
Ashia Ajani and Jessica Hairston
Poets! Every First Thursday
open mic follows the featured readers

Ashia Ajani’s position as poet-in-residence at the San Francisco Museum of the African Diaspora was announced just days ago, and her poetry debut Heirloom is newly published by Write Bloody Publishing. Speaking from both a place of restoration and vengeance, Heirloom explores concepts of spiritual nourishment, physical and emotional sacrifice, environmental injustice, sexuality, waste colonialism, abolition, and Black migration; these poems seek to address the trauma felt from environmental injustice and the familial wounds that are passed down as a result of historical neglect. A descendant of W.E.B DuBois’s concept of “sorrow songs,” Heirloom analyzes our environmental pasts and presents in order to inform our environmental future. Through bird song, jazz, symbiosis, land loss, insect interactions, travel, desire and a whole lot of love and reverence for the unspoken, Heirloom reveals the ingrained connections between Blackness and ecological survival. Ashia is an Oakland resident, a Black storyteller and an environmental educator with Mycelium Youth Network. She is also a lecturer with a focus on the intersection between Black liberation and environmental wellness.

Ashia is joined by poet Jessica Hairston. Jessica Emmaline Ke’Mani Hairston, pen name Je’Mani, is an Oakland-born and raised poet. She is a student of English at Northeastern University at Mills in Oakland. Jessica grew up dancing and playing jazz drums. She spent most of her youth trying to learn how to rage out through hip hop dance but struggled to trust the cipher and her ability to move and flow because surrendering is easier said than done. Now, she’ll be the first one to tell that once we accept the art of letting go, art becomes therapy. Jessica lives with mental health battles that inform how she meets the world but doesn’t let those conditions stop her from moving with grace and following her purpose. Her life experiences have ripened her interest in Black psychology, racial trauma, and mental health in addition to writing in the area of social work. While attending Mills College (before its merger with Northeastern), she and two other Black students pioneered a Racial Trauma initiative known as the Black Wellness Package. The Black Wellness Package supports Black students to succeed in higher education by receiving support for the continuous racial trauma. The BlackWellness Package is concrete items aimed at racial equity in the classroom. Je’Mani is a former foster child, and adult adoptee, who reunited with birth family in 2018 at the age of 19, effectively changing her life forever. Her passion for creative writing is where she can synthesize all of herself at the behest of her own wishes, satisfaction, relief, and artistic expression.

An open mic hosted by Jerry Ferraz and Michael Koch follows the featured readers.

Our events are put on under the umbrella of the nonprofit Bird & Beckett Cultural Legacy Project (the "BBCLP"). That's how we fund our ambitious schedule of 300 or so concerts and literary events every year.

The BBCLP is a 501(c)(3) non-profit...
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