Feb 21st, 2011—The Saint Paul Almanac continues its year-round literary celebration of Minnesota’s capital city with the acclaimed Lowertown Reading Jams.

Event curator, Tou SaiKo Lee believes in building an influential movement within the Hmong community through the arts. He is a spoken word artist, mentor and hip hop activist. A mentor for youth at schools and community centers across the country, he speaks about issues that include human rights, diversity, racism, gang violence and arts for social change.

Tou SaiKo Lee is the co-founder of “The H Project” a compilation music CD inspired by the human right violations of Hmong people in the jungles of Laos. On occasion, Tou teams up with his grandmother, Youa Chang ­– who does the traditional Hmong art of kwv txiaj (Hmong poetry chanting) – to perform as the duo “Fresh Traditions.”

Lowertown Reading Jam is on Monday, Feb. 21st, from 7 to 8:30 p.m
Black Dog Coffee and Wine Bar, 308 Prince St, St Paul, MN (Lowertown Saint Paul)

SPOKEN WORD PERFORMERS AT ASIATIC FRESH & CLASSIC
Ed Bok Lee
Juliana Pegues
Bao Phi
Saymoukda Vongsay
Kevin Yang
Chanmany Sysengchanh
David Vulocity
Chilli Lor
Laurine Chang
Gaoiaong Vang

Ed Bok Lee is the author of Real Karaoke People, winner of a PEN Open Book Award, an Asian American Literary Award (Members’ Choice) and a Many Voices Prize. He attended kindergarten in South Korea, and was raised in North Dakota and Minnesota. Lee has worked a variety of jobs, including bartender, phys ed instructor, salesman, custodian, script writer, journalist and translator, in over a dozen U.S. states and abroad. He studied Russian, East Asian and Central Asian languages and literatures in America, South Korea, Russia and Kazakhstan, before earning an MFA from Brown University. A recipient of grants from such foundations as the McKnight, Jerome and National Endowment for the Arts, he has read and performed his poems across the U.S., Europe and Asia, as well as on public radio and TV, including MTV.

Juliana Pegues is a revolutionary Asian American writer. She collects her political views and experiences and ties them together through her writing and performances. She truly uses art as activism to build community. Her words are combative words to fight social injustice. Throughout Pegues’ writing, her strong passion for social change is as evident as it is through her community involvement. She mixes politics, art, and activism in her writing to create a fresh, direct voice. Pegues currently lives in Minneapolis and some of the organizations Pegues is currently involved in include Guerilla Wordfare, Asian American Renaissance, Women’s Prison Book Project, and the Garment Workers Justice Campaign.

Bao Phi is a Vietmanese American spoken word poet, writer and community activist living in Minneapolis. He is a two time winner of the Minnesota Grand Poetry Slam, and also won two poetry slams at the Nuyorican Poets Café in New York. Phi is the Associate Program Director at the Loft Literary Center where he curates Equilibrium (EQ for short), a series devoted to spoken word artists and audiences of color. EQ was just named the 2010 Minnesota Nonprofit Award winner for Anti-Racism Initiative.

Saymoukda Vongsay is a co-founding member of The Unit Collective of Emerging Playwrights of Color, author of No Regrets, Chair of the 2010 National Lao American Writers Summit, inaugural winner of the 2010 Alfred C. Carey Prize in Spoken Word from New York, recipient of a Loft Literary Center scholarship to attend Robert McKee’s Story Seminar, advisory board member of the 2010 MPLS Asian Film Festival, and was recently recognized by the Lao Professionals of Illinois for her literary accomplishments. Get to know her at refugenius.com

Kevin Yang is from Brooklyn Park. He currently attends Hamline University in St. Paul, where is is a part of the Hamline University Slam Team. He loves to write and is always looking for a new way to tell an old story.

Chilli (Chia Lor) graduated with Honors from St. Paul Central High School. She is currently attending her first year of college at St. Catherine Univeristy. As a poet, hip hop artist and b-girl, Chilli has a vision of changing the lives of youth and women through performing arts.

Gaoiaong Vang is seventeen years old, a senior, and student body president at Johnson Senior High School. Although she lives in Forest Lake, her life revolves around Saint Paul. She loves writing poetry, playing tennis, and drinking ice-cold lemonade on a hot summer day. She has dreams of living somewhere beautiful and knows that home is where the heart is—Saint Paul.

ABOUT THE READING JAMS
The Almanac has been hosting the monthly Lowertown Reading Jams since October 2009, and they have been steadily gaining in popularity as excited audiences spread the word about their powerful, shared experiences. The Jams provide an opportunity to explore and bridge the cultural and social breadth of the city of Saint Paul throughout the year. Each Jam is produced and hosted by a well-known writer or spoken word artist. Saint Paul “performance drawing” artist Lara Hanson interprets the readings using Japanese ink brushes. All Reading Jams are American Sign Language (ASL) interpreted.

The entire 2010-2011 season of Lowertown Reading Jams will be presented at the Black Dog Café, a popular Saint Paul venue for spoken word artists, and a co-sponsor of the series. The Jams are curated by the following creative writers and agents for social change:

Oct. 11, 2010 – Deborah Torraine
Nov. 8, 2010 – Tish Jones
Dec. 13, 2010 – Matthew Rucker
Jan. 10, 2011 – May Lee-Yang
Feb. 21, 2011 – Tou SaiKo Lee
Mar. 14, 2011 – Carol Connolly
Apr. 11, 2011 – Marcie Rendon
May 9, 2011 – Desdamona
June 13, 2011 – Melvin Giles
July 11, 2011 – Diego Vázquez, Jr.

ABOUT THE SAINT PAUL ALMANAC
Recently released in its fifth edition, the Saint Paul Almanac features essays, poems, photos, maps, and listings of events, bars, restaurant, theaters, and other cultural venues within a datebook format. The 2011 Almanac features 129 works by 118 writers. These writers include literary giants, everyday residents, students, journalists, new Americans, and lovers of Saint Paul who live in other corners of the world. Writers interested in having their work considered for the 2012 Almanac have until March 1, 2011 to make a submission. Information on upcoming events, how to make a submission, and other Saint Paul Almanac news is available at saintpaulalmanac.com

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