News Report, Monica Quesada

Poetry, applause and laughter reigned at last week’s “Meet with the Mayor” event, a monthly gathering held at the Richmond Public Library and hosted by mayor Gayle McLaughlin.

This month, the mayor’s special guests included a number of local, award-winning youth poets. Danica Garcia, a senior at Salesian High School, recited a poem during the meeting. Garcia will represent Contra Costa County in the “Poetry Out Loud” contest, a national spoken word competition supported by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), California Arts Council and the Arts & Culture Commission of Contra Costa County. Garcia will move on from her victory to attend the California state poetry finals in Sacramento on March 25 and 26.

Six winners of “Richmond Writes!” — the contest is organized by the Richmond Arts and Culture Commission and targets students in Richmond — also recited poems for the Mayor. The theme of the second annual competition was “Legacy.” Winners of that competition were presented with awards by the Richmond City Council last October.

Terri Hinte, chair of the arts commission, announced that Richmond Writes! will be open for entries again in October 2012, to coincide with Arts and Humanities Month, but winners will not be announced until April 2013, which also happens to be Poetry Month.

The arts commission wants to have an extended process this year to increase student participation, said Hinte. “It’s hectic after school starts, to try and coordinate with the teachers and the classes to participate in the contest,” she said.

Maureen Cary, head of the English department at Salesian High School, expects the change to result in greater participation, since students will have more time to prepare for the contest. “We always participate in these types of contests and we wish more schools would get involved,” she said.

Over 50 people listened as the poets recited verses, with each performance followed by laud clapping and cheering.

Garcia open the stage. Her long curly hair framed an expressive face that quietly but powerfully recited “Abandoned Farmhouse” by Ted Kooser, a rapt audience engaged in her every word.

Adrienne Chainey, a junior at Salesian High School, won second place in the high school division of Richmond Writes! with her original poem “What I Give to You.”

“I wanted to give a more deep and more personal present to the latter generations,” said Chainey about her poem. “I know a lot of people tend to not have hope in themselves … I wanted to give them hope [to strive for] what they want to achieve.”

Frida Ceja, also a junior at Salesian High School, won third place with her poem “She Will Be Remembered.”

“It’s nice having a mayor that interacts not only with the adults but also with the youth,” said Ceja to the mayor, after the meeting.

Lauren Mallett introduced herself to the audience as “the proud 5th grade teacher of Richy and Cedes,” two students from Washington Elementary who presented their poems. “[This contest] is an incredible opportunity for the students to be celebrated,” Mallett said. “Over time, the more that we can celebrate these students through this kind of contest, they are going to rise to the occasion and really be able show what they got.”

Mayor McLaughlin announced that in April she expects to bring a resolution to the city council that would create a Poet Laureate program for the city. Details of her program are yet to be defined.

In other matters, Mayor McLaughlin invited representatives from our own Richmond Pulse to talk about our news organization and announce the launch of the Pulse’s second print edition, a 24-page, full-color and bilingual newspaper that hit city streets last month. Donny Lumpkins and William Haynes, regular contributors to the newspaper and website, invited Richmond’s young writers to produce content for the community based and youth-led publication.

Future “Meet with the Mayor” meetings, beginning next month, will happen at rotating locations throughout the city. Mayor McLaughlin said she decided to switch things up in order to create more opportunities for residents in different neighborhoods to have more access to her office. The time and place of future meetings will be announced on local station KCRT. Meetings will be open to everyone, but agendas will reflect issues of particular interest to the hosting neighborhoods.

UPCOMING EVENTS:

Two events were announced during the meeting. “Sisters in Solidarity: Walking for our Beloved Community” on March 10 and “Richmond Tales: A Family Literacy Festival,” on April 29.

“Sisters in Solidarity” is organized by Mayor McLaughlin and 25 local organizations to celebrate International Women’s Day. Activities will be held at Lovonya DeJean Middle School from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Admission is free and lunch will be provided. New to the event this year will be a “Solidarity Walk” from the middle school to the Civic Center and back.

The Richmond Tales festival will be held at the Civic Center from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m.
The event is still in the planning stages, but will have craft and face painting, free food and ice cream, free books and different entertainment activities.

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