Crossing the Blue Wall Uses Poetry to Tackle the Police State

Poets, spoken-word artists, and activists take the stage at the Black Dog tonight for the latest edition of the Lowertown Reading Jam, a series put on by the Saint Paul Almanac. Curated by scholar and artist Jessica Lopez-Lyman, Crossing the Blue Wall examines the police state, finding connections between the Black Lives Matter movement and protests over the murder of 43 student teachers from Ayotzinapa, Mexico.

"I think it's important to talk about how the police violence happening here is happening in other places," Lopez-Lyman says. "Also, it's important for the Latino community to talk about black racism. We need to be part of that [discussion] in our own communities."

"I'm looking at the idea of police violence as well as state and military violence in local and global ways," says Lopez-Lyman. She selected a diverse group of people to read their work, people who might not be the first you'd think of to speak on these issues, but are nevertheless very much impacted by them. The readers she's selected include those who identify as black, queer, trans, and multiracial.  

Readers include Magdalena Kaluza, who Lopez-Lyman interviewed for her PhD dissertation at UC Santa Barbara. The youngest member of the Latino spoken word group Palabristas, Kaluza was working in Guatemala recently. Her father is Guatemalan and her mom is white, so Kaluza deals with issues of borders and different identities in her work. 

Lopez-Lyman wanted to get a range of generations as part of the group. Among the more established readers is Jaméz L. Smith, a veteran of the U.S. Air Force who is also a published poet and DJ.

Also reading will be Brandon "Allday" Bagaason, who Lopez-Lyman interviewed for her dissertation as well and who has put out a chapbook on Chicano futurism. Bagaason, a co-founder of the Minneapolis-based rap group Big Quarters, is a hip-hop performer, producer, and educator whose work deals with "a lot of relevant themes around state violence," Lopez-Lyman says. 

Filipe Espinoza-Day (Felipe Cuauhtli), who also has a background in hip-hop, is a member of the St. Paul group Los Nativos. A frequent collaborator with Lopez-Lyman, Espinoza-Day's work often centers on topics of political motivation, community awareness, and current events, which he integrates through his music. 

Finally, the reading will feature Roxanne Anderson, who for over 20 years has been a community activist and arts organizer. A co-founder of RARE Productions, a multimedia arts and entertainment company focused on producing and promoting the work of queer youth of color, Anderson also co-owns Café Southside and recently has put energy toward writing and performing at Queer Voices: An LGBT Reading Series. 

Tonight's reading, which will last about an hour, will include socializing afterward. During the event, all of the readers will be captured by visual artists, the products of which will be displayed on Saint Paul Almanac's website. In addition, a recording of the event will be made available on SPNN, a public access station. 


Crossing the Blue Wall

7:30 p.m. Wednesday, January 28

Black Dog Coffee and Wine Bar

308 Prince St., St. Paul

All ages, no cover, donations welcome