Community Voices: Poets Speak – Closing Reception

August 8, 2019 @ 6:00 pm – 8:00 pm
Museum of the African Diaspora
685 Mission Street

In this weekly summer series, seven Bay Area poets share new poems created in response to the current exhibitions. They will also describe the processes they employ in writing ekphrastic work.  Come and see, come and listen, come and experience the art that moves your spirit to consider power and liberation.

These readings and discussions culminate tonight in the MoAD Salon with an evening of wine and performance by the participating poets.

Community Voices: Poets Speak is curated by Raina J. León.

The exhibition on view is Coffee, Rhum, Sugar & Gold: A Postcolonial Paradox.

Coffee, Rhum, Sugar & Gold: A Postcolonial Paradox looks at the legacy of European colonialism in the Caribbean through the work of 10 contemporary artists. Whether connected to the Caribbean by birth or focused on the region by choice, the exhibiting artists use their work as a means of examining the relationship between the power structure, those who are controlled by it, those who benefit from it, and those who actively seek to liberate themselves from it. A key driver of the exhibition is the theory that colonialism has continued to exist in other forms, and is in fact spreading through the export of soft power, the use of military force, the control of international financial and banking mechanisms, as well as the increase in globalization.

Participating Poets



Tonya M. Foster

Tonya M. Foster was raised in New Orleans, LA. She is an Assistant Professor of Writing & Literature, and of Graduate Writing at California College of the Arts. A poet and essayist, she is the author of A Swarm of Bees in High Court (Belladonna*, 2015), the bilingual chapbook La Grammaire des Os (joca seria, 2016), and is a co-editor of Third Mind: Teaching Creative Writing through Visual Art (Teachers & Writers Collaborative, 2002). She is currently a poetry editor at Fence Magazine, and a member of the poetry and fiction editing collective at The African-American Review. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Callaloo, Obsidian, Boundary2, Poetry Project Newsletter, the Harvard Review, Best American Experimental Writing, Letters to the Future: Black Women/Radical Writing, and elsewhere. Foster is a recipient of fellowships from the Ford Foundation, the Mellon Foundation, the Macdowell Artists Colony, the Headlands Center, and New York Foundation for the Arts, among others. She is currently working on A Mathematics of Chaos, a cross-genre collection that revolves around New Orleans, home, family, and displacement.

Local poet Tongo Eisen-Martin, one of seven finalists for the Griffin Poetry Prize, poses for a photo Saturday June 9th, 2018. Photo: Kyler Knox

Tongo Eisen-Martin

Tongo Eisen-Martin was born in San Francisco and earned his MA at Columbia University. He is the author of someone’s dead already (Bootstrap Press, 2015), nominated for a California Book Award; and Heaven Is All Goodbyes (City Lights, 2017), which received a 2018 American Book Award, a 2018 California Book Award, was named a 2018 National California Booksellers Association Poetry Book of the Year, and was shortlisted for the 2018 Griffin International Poetry Prize.  Eisen-Martin is also an educator and organizer whose work centers on issues of mass incarceration, extrajudicial killings of Black people, and human rights. He has taught at detention centers around the country and at the Institute for Research in African-American Studies at Columbia University. He lives in San Francisco.


Avotcja has been published in English & Spanish in the USA, Mexico & Europe, and in more Anthologies than she remembers. She is an award winning Poet & multi-instrumentalist who has opened for Betty Carter in New York City, Peru’s Susana Bacaat San Francisco’s Encuentro Popular & Cuba’s Gema y Pável, played with Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Bobi & Luis Cespedes, John Handy, Sonido Afro Latina, Dimensions Dance Theater, Black Poets With Attitudes, Bombarengue, Nikki Giovanni, Los Angeles’ Build An Ark, Dwight Trible, Diamano Coura West African Dance Co., Terry Garthwaite, Big Black, The Bay Area Blues Society & Caribeana Etc. Shared stages with Sonia Sanchez, Piri Thomas, Janice Mirikitani, Diane DiPrima, Michael Franti, Jayne Cortez, & with Jose Montoya’s Royal Chicano Air Force & is a Bay Area icon with her group Avotcja & Modúpue.  Avotcja was the opening act for the legendary Poet Pat Parker the last three years of her life. She both composed & performed the film score for the Danish documentary MuNu. Her Poetry &/or music has been recorded by Piri Thomas, Famoudou Don Moyé (of The Art Ensemble Of Chicago), Bobby Matos Latin Jazz Ensemble, & performed by The Purple Moon Dance Project, and was the 1st Poetry performed by New York’s Dance Mobile. She’s appeared at The Lorraine Hansberry Theater in S. F., The Asian-American Jazz Festival in Chicago, as well as The Asian-American Jazz Festival in San Francisco. She’s been featured 5 times at Afro-Solo, twice at San Francisco’s Carnival, The Scottish Rite Temple & Yoshi’s in Oakland & San Francisco, Jose Castellar’s play “Man From San Juan”, Club Le Monmartre in Copenhagen Denmark, Stanford University, at San Francisco’s Brava Theater For The Arts with Cine Acción, New York’s Henry Street Settlement Theater and The Women On The Way Festival in San Francisco. Avotcja a is popular Bay Area DeeJay & Radio Personality, and the founder/Director of “The Clean Scene Theater Project (AKA) Proyecto Teatral De La Escena Sobria”. She continues to teach Creative Writing, Storytelling & Drama in Public Schools & thanks to the California Arts Council she was also an Artist in Residence at the Milestones Project & San Francisco Penal System. Avotcja is a proud member of DAMO (Disability Advocates Of Minorities  Organization), PEN Oakland, California Poets In The Schools, IWWG & is an ASCAP recording artist.

Thea Matthews

Thea Matthews is a poet / scholar / activist born and raised in San Francisco, CA. She writes on the complexities of humanity, resiliency, and ultimately, the triumph over trauma; and is currently finishing her debut collection of poetry. She is a seasoned performer and has delivered her poetry at various curated readings and literary festivals, some of which include: Hazel Reading Series, Lyrics & Dirges, Red Light Lit, Cleave: Bay Area Women Writers, Mission Arts Performance Project (MAPP), Gears Turning, Poem Jam, LitQuake, LitCrawl, the 16th Annual Berkeley Poetry Festival, and the 11th annual Beat Poetry Festival. She was an artist-in-residence for RADAR Productions spring 2018, and is part of Alley Cat Books’ spring 2019 writer residency. She is also a Tin House Scholar; and has work featured in For Harriet’s Soar, Rag Queen Periodical, The Feminist Wire, FORUM, and For Women Who Roar. More info: | IG:

Tureeda Mikell

Tureeda  Aka Toreadah, Story Medicine Woman, Poet Instructor, Chi Gong  Energy Therapist, award winning poet, educator. Is director of Tree of Life Health Literacy Project, published nationally and internationally, published over 60 at risk student anthologies throughout 4 counties in the San Francisco bay area, was Eth-Noh-Tec NU Wa International Storytelling Delegate in Beijing, China, October 2018, was delegate for National and International Writing Project, Writing for the Urban Child. Tureeda, has been called an Activist for Holism, Word Magician, and Woman of Truths hell bent on Asserting Life.  She has introduced renowned poets and writers such as The Last poets, Amiri Baraka, Marvin X, and a host of other established writers and poets. Recent publications include, ‘Black Gold, The Anthology’,’ Reflections’, in collaboration with Emmy Award winning artist James Gayles, and 20 Year Anniversary of Drum Voices Revue, Volume 17.

Tureeda draws upon her other lives as a nurse, lab tech in a psychiatric institution, and investigative news reporter.  Her manuscript entitled ‘Synchronicity’ was recently accepted by Nomadic Press for 2019 publication.

Marvin K.  White

Marvin K. White MDiv, is a graduate of the Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley CA, and the interim minister of celebration at GLIDE Memorial Church in San Francisco. Marvin was the inaugural “First Church Berkeley 2017-2018 Public Theologian in Residence.” He is currently an arts liaison and a co-facilitator of the “Faith Leaders Round Table” at The Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society. He is the author of four collections of poetry published by RedBone Press: Our Name Be Witness, Status and the two Lammy-nominated collections, last rights and nothin’ ugly fly. As a public theologian and community-based artist, he is articulating a vision of social, prophetic and creative justice through being a poet, artist, teacher, facilitator, activist, community organizer, preacher, homemaker, cake baker, and Facebook Statustician.

Jeneé Darden

Jeneé Darden is an award-winning journalist, public speaker, mental health advocate and proud Oakland native. She hosts KALW’s arts segment Sights & Sounds and is their East Oakland reporter. Jenee has reported for NPR, Time,  Ebony, The LA Times and other outlets. She blogs at and is pitching a book about Black sexuality. Visit Cocoa Fly to read her research series Under the Covers: The Popularity and Debate Over Black Erotic Literature.  Her first book, When a Purple Rose Blooms, is a collection of essays and poetry about Black womanhood. The daughter of former O.J. Simpson prosecutor Chris Darden, Jeneé holds a BA in ethnic studies from UC San Diego and a master’s in journalism from the University of Southern California.


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