The Writers for Migrant Justice Los Angeles event is a case of poetry becoming more than influence or inspiration or witness and making something material happen. W4MJ seemingly began as a reading became a transgressive act, a physical gathering that rounded up resources and opposed the ideas and perspectives that allow for migrants to be violated. At Beyond Baroque, a space that is amazing but seems to me a primarily white space, was full of people of color, Latinx folks especially, and in all realness, felt like a backyard party but with poetry amongst allies instead of shit-talking amongst cousins. Looking back, though, it seems more and more they were simultaneously going down. The tone of the work was joy, humor, satire—a mood that collectively checked the room and what it means to be ethical and living in the United States as a citizen, undocumented, enraged, afraid, tired, and resilient. I realized jokes happen when we are resilient. I felt especially strong there because I was so individual and so was everyone around me and yet, we were united in the act. No one was connected by identity, but instead we were connected by the way we challenged the idea that we are simply connected by identity, by ethnicity, by where people think we came from. I’ve been a part of resistance readings before, and the Writers for Migrant Justice Los Angeles empowered the entire room. I left it stronger. This is why we need poetry. This is, as Norma Liliana Valdez says, what poetry looks like when we use it as a tool for equity. To participate was such a beautiful responsibility.
Organizers: Beyond Baroque, Vanessa Angélica Villareal
Readers: Bridgette Bianca, Sara Borjas, Rocio Carlos, Sesshu Foster, Randa Jarrar, Kenji Liu, Janel Pineda, Eva Recinos, Yosimar Reyes, Christopher Soto, Brian Kim Stefans, Vickie Vertiz