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Editor in Chief of the South Seattle Emerald

Homegrown Seattle Film Producer Ramon Isao

by Mary Hubert

RamonProducing a film seems like rather a nebulous task. We have the director, who directs, the actors, who act, the designers, who create the world of the piece, and the writer, who writes the thing. But what does a producer do, exactly? He is the forerunner, the organizer, the person who makes the thing happen. And Ramon Isao, an up-and-coming writer/producer in the Seattle film scene, certainly fits that mold.  The energetic, talkative, and charismatic young artist is set to do his third feature this summer, Dead Body, a slasher-meets-mystery flick sporting a cast and crew of young up-and-coming Seattleites and shot in a cabin a few miles out of town.

When I asked Ramon how long he’s been writing, he said, “I’ve always written, even as a kid. I started out with fiction, but 8 years ago, my buddy Kevin asked me to help rewrite a movie called Zombies of Mass Destruction”. A completely new experience for Ramon, he jumped on the chance, and the two were able to produce the feature amidst positive reviews.

Then, along came Junk – a film he described as “A raunchy, evil comedy – the work that I’ve decided my parents never need to see”. In addition to co-producing and co-writing, he co-starred in this one, playing a character that he put as “disturbingly like myself”. Ramon said that learning to act in this type of role changed everything for him as a writer and producer. He exclaimed, “I gained a newfound appreciation for what actors did!”

Fresh from these two successes, he has jumped headlong into co-writing and co-producing – along with co-conspirator Ian Bell – a combination slasher and mystery flick called Dead Body. Seen it a million times? That’s what I thought. When I asked him why this movie was so special, he pointed out the never-done combination of slasher and mystery. Turns out, it’s hard to do – Isao has worked with Ian for months to crack the formula, involving high school kids, a game gone wrong, mystery, death, and campiness all bundled into one delicious little flick. With it, he’s interested in “combining the humor and the absurd with violence”.

Believe it or not, though, the new genre isn’t what Ramon is most excited about. He spent most of his time gushing about the talented group of young Seattleites working on the film. Ramon said he was “dead lucky to score” the cast and crew. As Ramon put it, “Every single one of these people is super talented – I’m mostly just excited to show off to everyone that I landed all of these awesome collaborators!” Almost as exciting for Ramon is that he can do a film in his hometown, with people in his hometown, about an area in his hometown. His goal with this group is to build a community of Seattleites to make art with, project after project.

Upon asking him what a Seattle layperson should do to get involved with Dead Body: He laughed, and said, “Come to us! Email me at dbfilm2014@gmail.com if you want to be a PA throughout August – you’ll get some food and experience, and get to kick it with some kickass artists!” You can also check out their Kickstarter to donate – cool perks include a Halloween party with the cast and free tickets to see the movie at one of the festivals it will be circulating at (Ramon is shooting for horror festivals and SIFF, to name two).

His response to my query of how to get into film in general? Get out there and do it! “It’s easy!” he said, and immediately laughed. “No, I’m lying. It’s fucking hard. But you just have to go do it. Start making things! You gotta make the bad shit to get to the good shit”. So, you heard him, would-be film guys. Start making movies, even if they’re terrible. Get out there with your camera and shoot shit – you never know when you’ll get your break. And stay tuned for more on Dead Body – I expect we’ll be seeing more about it soon.

Mary Hubert is a performing artist, director, and arts administrator in the Seattle area. When not producing strange performance concoctions with her company, the Horse in Motion, she is wild about watching weird theater, whiskey, writing and weightlifting.

The West Hill Family Center: Skyway’s R.A.Y.S of Sunshine

Rays 3By Marcus Harrison Green

On a typical day it can serve as a de facto community gathering hub, overloaded computer lab, hallowed sanctuary for religious revival, job center for the long term unemployed, adored romper space for toddlers, a copy/ printer/ fax depot of last resort, and a cherished Destress Zone for elders raising the twenty first century’s version of teenagers.  Of course, if you ask Morgan Wells – Director of R.A.Y’s West Hill Family Center, located in the Skyway/Westhill neighborhood – days at the center are anything but typical.

“The people who come in definitely vary on a day to day basis. They may be looking for housing, job searching, researching DSHS benefits, or wanting to take an online course, along with a myriad of other things. We want to serve as broad a part of the community as possible and throughout it all we want to make sure that we have a welcoming staff for them.” Says Wells.

The multifaceted West Hill Family Center – equipped with a computer room, conference meeting suite, children’s play area and a staff of five full time employees, in addition to two interns-  has been one of the Skyway area’s most venerable institutions, serving its residents for the past twenty years. Not a small feat when you consider – with a few notable exceptions- that during the same period the life cycle of most  businesses and organizations in the area have approximated that of the Mayfly.

Wells points to the unqualified support the center has received from the community as the main reason for its continued endurance. “This place is very much community run  and community owned.  Many times, when staff are away or sick, community members will just take the initiative to fill in for them, answering phones, helping people find resources, fixing computer problems, and keeping the building safe. It’s really them who have kept the Center thriving and helped us to avoid the pitfalls of many other organizations.”

To many of the area’s residents, the support has been both mutual and sorely needed, as Skyway- though falling within the Seattle city limits, and maintaining a Seattle address – is technically an unincorporated portion of King County, effectively meaning it lacks availability to the funding and resources that the rest of the city has access to.

As a result, the center has stepped in, during times both good and bad, to serve thousands upon thousands of the area’s residents. In several cases it has functioned as the last line of defense between them and destitution, both physical and mental. “If it wasn’t for the center I’d be homeless or worse right now. I really don’t even want to think about it!” one patron attested to as she used the center’s dual copier/fax machine to send her resume to a prospective employer.

Unlike the callous and aloof nature that is often associated with social service organizations, the center has cultivated a reputation of warmth and respect in its treatment of those who walk through its doors, regardless of circumstance, preferring to refer to all of them as clients.  “When I walk in the door here I’m treated as a human being, and not a piece of garbage like other places. You can tell at other places that they don’t care about you. They’re so condescending towards you. It doesn’t matter if you’ve been waiting in line forever. It doesn’t matter if you have a child you’re waiting with. To them you’re just another number.” Said a young mother who frequently visits the center.

That reputation wasn’t acquired by happenstance, according to Wells: “Our vision is that everyone who comes here walks out of our door thinking they’ve been treated with respect, and that’s been a permanent part of our culture.  We don’t have direct benefits to give out and so we don’t have to ask people to prove their eligibility like other social service places. Our door is open to everybody and there are no eligibility requirements for any of our programs which is great. So we try to treat everyone like a person and not like you’re number 1652 at the DMV.”

Although it’s reputation has remained intact throughout the years, several new faces amongst the center’s staff have caused concern over possible changes in its operation. In a little under a year, the center has undergone almost a complete overhaul, as its previous director – Jennifer Moore, along with two of  its youth counselors-  departed for opportunities elsewhere.

Perhaps no loss has been as heartfelt  as the recent retirement of the center’s long time receptionist/ administrative assistant Cynthia Green,  who had been with the center since its inception, nearly becoming indistinguishable from it in the minds of almost all of the area’s locals.

“I don’t know, with Ms. Cynthia leaving it’s kind of strange. When I come in now I see new faces and I’m not sure what to make of everything. With all the changes I’m a little concerned.” said one grandmother who regularly attends kinship care support group meetings at the center.

Well aware of some of the anxiety that has arisen amongst the clientele, Wells has been proactive in soliciting the opinions of the center’s regular attendees, even going so far as to establish a community steering community to best identify what most needs to be addressed as it concerns the Skyway area.

“Historically, we’ve made an effort to be flexible and responsive when things change, whatever they are, whether at the center or within the community. I’m certainly willing, if we need to totally scrap something and start over and build from the ground up.  If that’s what we have to do to meet the needs of our community right here and right now. If the voices are coming to us and saying we need and A.A. group, or we need more Adult Education classes  ESL classes, or whatever that thing is, I’ll go after it and put my heart into bringing it here to this building.” Wells stated.

Even with the center undergoing potential changes, there is at least one thing that its regulars hope remains forever sacrosanct. As one stated, “This place, to me, is like a second home. A second family really. And I hope it always stays that way!”

What’s Happening in South Seattle The Weekend of June 20th- June 22nd

WeekendEvents this weekend in the South Seattle area

 

Friday, June 20th

Community: VFW Meat Raffle from 4 to 7pm @ Skyway VFW Hall 7421 S. 126th St Seattle, WA 98178. More Info: email persimmon1859@gmail.com

Movies: Opening of Chef staring Jon Favreau showtimes 1:30pm, 4:00pm, 7:30pm and 9:30pm @ Ark Lodge Cinemas 4816 Rainier Avenue South Seattle , WA 98118. More Info: http://www.arklodgecinemas.com

Community: Rainier Valley Eats Community Dinner, from 5:00-6:30pm @Rainier Community Center 4600 38th Ave South Seattle, WA 98118

Community: Beacon Hill Meaningful Movies presents More Than Honey @ The Garden House 2336 15th Ave South Seattle, WA 98144. film starts at 6:15pm and includes free admission and free popcorn. More Info: http://www.beacon-arts.org

Theater: Anything is Possible Theatre presents Friday performance of Robin Hood, show starts at 7:00 pm@ The Rainier Valley Cultural Center: 3515 S Alaska St, Seattle, WA 98118. More Info: http://anythingispossibletheatre.org/

Music: Seaprog Festival 2014 show starts at 8:30pm @ The Royal Room 5000 Rainier Avenue South Seattle 98118. More Info: http://www.theroyalroomseattle.com

 

Saturday, June 21st

Community: Rainier Beach Urban Farm and Wetlands Work Party from 10:00 am to 3:00 pm @ 5513 S. Cloverdale St.  Seattle, WA. More Info: http://seattletilth.org/about/rainier-beach-urban-farm-wetlands

Toddlers: Tot Gym ( Gym will be filled with lots of toys, along with a few bounce houses for each and every toddler’s enjoyment) from 10:00am to 1:00pm @Rainier Beach Community Center 4600 38th Ave S, Seattle, WA 98118 More Info: Carl.Bergquist@seatte.gov

Community: Cierra Sisters presents Summer Surprise, from 11:00am to 1:00pm @Rays West Hill Family Center 12704 76th Avenue South Seattle, WA 98178 More Info: http://www.cierrasisters.org

Theater: Anything is Possible Theatre presents Special Giving Night Saturday performance of Robin Hood show starts at 7:00 pm@ The Rainier Valley Cultural Center: 3515 S Alaska St, Seattle, WA 98118. More Info: http://anythingispossibletheatre.org/

 

Sunday, June 22nd

Community: Brunch at the Beachcomber from 10:00am to 12:30pm @ Beachcomber  12623 Renton Ave S Seattle, WA 98178. More Info: (206) 772-5183

Theater: Anything is Possible Theatre presents Sunday performance of Robin Hood show starts at 2:00 pm@ The Rainier Valley Cultural Center: 3515 S Alaska St, Seattle, WA 98118. More Info: http://anythingispossibletheatre.org/

Music: Mayfly/ The Tallboys . Performance starts at 8:00 pm @ The Royal Room 5000 Rainier Avenue South Seattle 981178. More Info: http://www.theroyalroomseattle.com

 

If you have an event to post, please email events@southseattleemerald.com

 

 

Seed Arts Cinema Presents Lady Be Good

lady be good

 

Seattle, WA –  SeedArts Cinema and Jazz Night School are presenting a documentary that traces the musical contributions,  journeys and  obstacles of American women instrumentals in jazz form the early part of this century. The film will be shown on Saturday, June 28th at 7 pm  at the historic Rainier Valley Cultural Center (3515 S Alaska St, Seattle, WA 98118), followed by a conversation with the filmmaker, producer, and director Kay D. Ray.  Suggested donation is $5.

The 80 minute documentary film” LADY BE GOOD Instrumental Women In Jazz” concentrates on the contributions of local American women instrumentalists in jazz from the early 1920s to the 1970s and the development and extent of the all-woman jazz groups. LADY BE GOOD captures the lost stories of female jazz musicians in provocative and often humorous interviews with women musicians, big band leaders, jazz authors and historians. Musician and composer Patrice Rushen guides us through these exciting histories with rare photos, previously unseen film and television footage, and scarce recordings. Join Peggy Gilbert, Marian McPartland, Carline Ray, Quincy Jones, Jane Sager and many others in this important new narrative.

For more information, please visit: http://www.rainiervalleyculturalcenter.org/cinema/

 

 

Tips For A Better Post-Workout Recovery

by David Calderon Post-Workout Collage

 

Post-workout recovery is an often under-looked or overanalyzed component to a successful training program. When it comes to a post-workout recovery routine, keeping it simple is best. Try these 3 easy to-do tips from RHF CrossFit trainer David Calderon to help your routine:

1. Food: A recovery shake or small meal consisting of simple sugars to replace glycogen (stored energy) and protein to aid in repair of muscles is key. Here are a couple options depending on your schedule.

  • Whey protein shake made with milk
  • Greek Yogurt (8 oz) with berries (1/4 cup) or bananas (1/2 cup) and granola (1/4 cup)
  • 2-4 ounces of deli meat, a handful of nuts and a small piece of fruit

2. Water: Just drink! Hydration post-workout will assist in recovery, help flush out toxins and aid in transportation of nutrients. An easy rule of thumb not just for post-workout but in general is to consume enough water so that your urine is clear.

3. Stretching: Static stretching has its place and is most productive post-workout when muscles are warmed up. Never stretch to a point of pain; instead stretch to a degree that is comfortable to you and accumulate 60-90 seconds per muscle area. Adding a stretching routine will aid in increasing your flexibility, preventing injury and reducing next-day soreness.

David Calderon  is a graduate of San Jose State University with a Bachelors of Science in Nutritional Science with a concentration in Dietetics. He’s also the CrossFit trainer at Rainier Health & Fitness.

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Review of South Seattle Theater Group’s Modern Spin on Robin Hood

by Mary Hubert

Actors from Anything Is Possible Theatre's Production of Robin Hood
Actors from Anything Is Possible Theatre’s Production of Robin Hood

When I sat down with Ellen Cooper, the Executive Director of the Anything is Possible Theater Company, I was excited. Ellen, who also wrote the company’s current rendition of Robin Hood, was in the middle of telling me just why her company was different from all of the other kids’ theaters out there. Her reasons were compelling ones.

Above all, she talked of how the messages in children’s shows are not deep enough. The Anything is Possible Theater Company, she said, sought to bridge the gap between real-life issues and what is deemed appropriate for children.

To this end, she said, Robin Hood is set in the present, where the Merry Men are homeless youth and the Sheriff is an old rich businessman. By recontextualizing an old classic, they are able to grapple with issues that many children in the low-income areas of South Seattle face, while still providing the draw of a time-honored tale. This would then spark discussion in families about topics like class inequality and homelessness. She described Robin Hood as “A relevant show about people’s lives. It demonstrates an active and positive way to respond to what’s happening through community-building”.

Other things about this company also sparked my interest. Ellen mentioned the pay-what-you-can night and low ticket prices, designed to make the play accessible to a low-income crowd. AIP even gave away 40 tickets to Treehouse, a Seattle organization serving foster children. And in a neighborhood where this happens to be one of the only theaters in existence, let alone one serving children, AIP’s community-mindedness was something I gravitated toward immediately.

So, it was with high hopes and a growing excitement that I sat down to watch “Robin Hood.

The play did do some of what Ellen mentioned. The set was a homeless encampment, complete with a “99%” poster behind a chain link fence and a tent upstage. The costumes furthered this concept – the Merry Men were dressed in mismatching, ripped clothing, and the “bad guys” – the Sheriff of Nottingham, his daughter, and the host of barons and kings – were in business attire. From the offset, the stage was set for an interesting take on Robin Hood.

But then… the characters opened their mouths. And out came a jumble of what sounded like terrible Shakespeare. As I struggled to figure out why on earth the characters were speaking like this, I realized that as an attempted throwback to the traditional Robin Hood dialogue, Ellen had decided to write it in a strange approximation of pseudo-Old English. With that, what could have been an insightful look into why Robin Hood is relevant to our time – especially to the citizens of Rainier Valley – became simply a concept smacked onto a play that didn’t really fit.

Ellen’s idea to set Robin Hood in modern times, highlighting the disparity between classes in a way that would resonate with the community’s large low-income population, is a brilliant concept for a children’s show. Using a time-honored classic like Robin Hood to bring audiences in and then showing them a new way to look at it is all well and good. However, if you are going to do that, then do it. Language sets the time period for any play, so to not alter it made what would have been a brilliant commentary into a disjointed modernization of a dated text.

This was just the first of many examples of a half-realized concept. The stage was very narrow, so many of the scenes were conducted in a line. Though some handled their text and movement with ease, too often the scenes played like a presentation. The myriad of accents only added to the issue – we had Irish, British, American, and some odd combinations of the three, which served to confuse the audience rather than create a cohesive world.

For all of that, the show was enjoyable. Adorable children and talented young adult actors made us all smile as they carried out the telling of Robin Hood’s tale with gusto. Broad-sweeping villains made kids gasp and adults chuckle. The ensemble seemed to connect with each other in a way that was endearing, especially with a multi-generational cast. And despite some flaws and my disappointment that the show didn’t completely live up to my expectations, I found myself enjoying the piece.
The Bottom Line: Ellen has attempted to recontextualize children’s theatre by making it relevant and placing it in an area where kids have limited access to art. Although her show does not entirely succeed, her effort to create change and get the children of South Seattle involved in art is admirable. Go support the Anything is Possible Theater Company.

Mary Hubert is a performing artist, director, and arts administrator in the Seattle area. When not producing strange performance concoctions with her company,  the Horse in Motion, she is wild about watching weird theater, whiskey, writing and weightlifting.

 

What’s Happening in South Seattle The Weekend of June 13th- June 15th

WeekendEvents this weekend in the South Seattle area

 

Friday, June 13th

Community: VFW Meat Raffle from 4 to 7pm @ Skyway VFW Hall 7421 S. 126th St Seattle, WA 98178. More Info: email persimmon1859@gmail.com

Movies: Opening of How to Train Your Dragon 2 showtimes 4:15pm, 7:30pm and 9:15pm @ Ark Lodge Cinemas 4816 Rainier Avenue South Seattle , WA 98118. More Info: http://www.arklodgecinemas.com

Music: Choro Das 3/ Choroloco (Brazilian Music) show starts at 8:30pm @ The Royal Room 5000 Rainier Avenue South Seattle 98118. More Info: http://www.theroyalroomseattle.com

 

Saturday, June 14th

Community: Rainier Beach Urban Farm and Wetlands Work Party from 10:00 am to 3:00 pm @ 5513 S. Cloverdale St.  Seattle, WA. More Info: http://seattletilth.org/about/rainier-beach-urban-farm-wetlands

Toddlers: Tot Gym ( Gym will be filled with lots of toys, along with a few bounce houses for each and every toddler’s enjoyment) from 10:00am to 1:00pm @Rainier Beach Community Center 4600 38th Ave S, Seattle, WA 98118 More Info: Carl.Bergquist@seatte.gov

Theater: Anything is Possible Theatre presents Saturday performance of Robin Hood show starts at 7:00 pm@ The Rainier Valley Cultural Center: 3515 S Alaska St, Seattle, WA 98118. More Info: http://anythingispossibletheatre.org/

Culinary: Seattle Cooks:Northwest Wine Academy Spring Release from 2:00 to 7:00pm @South Seattle Community College 6000 16th Ave. S.W. Seattle, WA 98106. More Info: 206-386-4636

Music: A Celebration of Woody Guthrie’s Birthday shows starts at 9:30pm @The Royal Room 5000 Rainier Avenue South Seattle 98118. More Info: http://www.theroyalroomseattle.com

 

Sunday, June 15th

Community: Brunch at the Beachcomber from 10:00am to 12:30pm @ Beachcomber  12623 Renton Ave S Seattle, WA 98178. More Info: (206) 772-5183

Theater: Anything is Possible Theatre presents Sunday performance of Robin Hood show starts at 7:00 pm@ The Rainier Valley Cultural Center: 3515 S Alaska St, Seattle, WA 98118. More Info: http://anythingispossibletheatre.org/

Music: Orca Elementary K- 8th Grade Junior Jazze Select. Performance starts at 6:30 pm @ The Royal Room 5000 Rainier Avenue South Seattle 981178. More Info: http://www.theroyalroomseattle.com

 

If you have an event to post, please email events@southseattleemerald.com

 

 

Community Coming Together To Stop Youth Jail

by Staff WriterYouth Jail

Local social justice groups will be hosting a community meeting later tonight to inform south Seattle residents about the counties plan to build a new, supersized $210 million Juvenile Detention Center, and how it will impact the area’s youth. The event will feature free food,  a chance to meet with community organizers working on the issue, and a debate between elected officials about what is needed to fix the current Juvenile Justice System. Event organizers hope that the meeting will shift the community’s focus from “fixing broken youth” to “fixing broken education and criminal justice systems.”

“The story the County tells is that the current youth jail is old and needs repairs.  So they want to build a new one, but make the new one twice as big.  The current facility isn’t even at capacity.  That logic just doesn’t add up.” Says local area youth Khalil Butler, who will be speaking at the event. “When a school in my neighborhood needed remodeling, they moved the students to another location and made the needed repairs.  Then the kids were returned to a repaired school that was same size as when they left.  If construction of the New Youth Jail moves forward as planned, seems like a lot of money will be wasted.”

The No New Youth Jail Campaign: Community Night will take place in the 2100 building, located at 2100 24th Avenue South.  Doors will open at 6:00pm and the program will start at 6:30pm.  Over 200 people are expected to attend.

South Seattle Theater Company Introduces Robin Hood To The 21st Century

by Staff Writer

 

Robin Hood does  Jay- Z  and Hendrix?  Anything is Possible Theatre’s  upcoming production of the merry archer and his band of cohorts Robin Hood has little in common with  your grandfather’s version of the  classic tale.  The South Seattle theater company has  promised to present the story as you have never seen it before, complementing its enduring theme of economic inequality and social justice  with hip hop music, electric guitars and a strong and  courageous Maid Marian ripped directly from the 21st century.

The play will run two consecutive weekends at the Rainier Valley Cultural Arts Center and will feature a special Giving Night on June 21st , where  along with entrance into the show, tickets  will include  admittance into a post – performance social  benefiting organizations, including the Rainier Valley Food Bank, the  Columbia City Church of Hope and Project Cool, working to alleviate poverty and hunger within the South Seattle area.

 

Showtimes are below:

June 13 7:00 p.m.

June 14 7:00 p.m.

June 15 2:00 p.m. (pay-what-you-can performance)

June 20 7:00 p.m.

June 21 7:00 p.m. *Special Giving Night* (see below)

June 22 2:00 p.m.

 
For more information on Anything Is Possible Theatre please visit: http://www.anythingispossibletheatre.org

 

Lady Speaks The Blues: South Seattle Poet Monique Franklin

Monique Franklin
Monique Franklin

It greets you like a bewitching tonic; a smooth liqueur culled from honey suckle. Its every utterance serves as an intoxicant to your ears. You can’t help but become entranced by its seeming contradictions, as nothing so raw could seduce you by its polish, nothing so genial could paralyze you with its power, and nothing so delicate could rumble with so much emotion. However, it indeed accomplishes just that, and it is the voice of South Seattle performing artist Monique Franklin.

This voice she possesses has bedazzled the throngs who have attended her spoken word, poetry, and performing arts performances across the Central District and South Seattle. Functioning as her main chisel to craft the provocative tales she shares on stage, that deal with everything from the emotional complexities of abortion, to the alienation inherent in growing up biracial, to the imbecility of misogyny, with the common thread that they evoke experiences so strong that they fill lived in by the audience. It’s no wonder that she’s been mentioned as the Billie Holiday of spoken word.

Comparisons notwithstanding, the Franklin graduate,and single mother, refuses to confine her gift to stage performances, as it seamlessly transitions to advocacy for causes dear to her heart, relaying instructions to her students at tap class, explaining algorithms to an enthralled group of computer science geeks, and expressing her chi while practicing martial arts. Hers is a voice which rarely ever rest, much to an audiophiles delight.

 

Emerald: Not only are you the unofficial poet laureate of South Seattle but you’re also soon to recieve your Computer Science degree from the University of Washington. Poetry and Computer Science seems like an interesting convergence.

Monique Franklin: Even though people think of it as dry, Computer Science is really a creative endeavor. As a programmer you can make anything. It also appeals to me because I’m hoping to help African American, LGBT, and other underrepresented communities have access to something which may elude them. It’s unfortunate that we all get taught at an early age that certain subjects are for certain types of people or that we’re born good at math, and that’s just not true. I failed math in High School and went back and learned it in college, and was then able to pursue Computer Science because of it.

Poetry is something I’ve been doing since I was a child; it’s kind of what I’ve been doing all along.  I came to it because it helps me filter what’s going on in life, it helps me to take another look at it and understand it.  It’s how I process things. I didn’t actually share my poems with anyone until I was 21, but I’ve been writing since I could write, which is since I can remember. I think having that incubation period is really important in developing your own voice and in creating sacred space. Still to this day I write things that are not for anyone else;  they’re only for me.

 

Emerald: Could you share some of your of your history in growing up in the South Seattle Area and how that’s influenced your life and work?

Monique: I grew up on 37th and Andover and going to John Muir Elementary. I come from a single parent family of five – my mom raised all us. I’m kind of in the middle. I have an older sister and three younger brothers, and that was really informative growing up. I was eventually bused out to Orca, which is an alternative school, and that became a pivotal time in my life because we were one of the only black families there. I’m biracial, my mother, who raised me, is white and my father is black, and so even though I was raised in a diverse community,at a very early age I learned that people are fairly superficial. There would even be some who would say, “Oh, you’re half white, I can’t trust you.” As a young person, my understanding of why that was, is different from my understanding of it now, with the cultural perspective of what it means to be black in America, or what it means to white in America. People made a lot of assumptions about me, so it was pretty interesting growing up.

People would ask me questions like, “Is that really your mom?”  It wasn’t just children who would ask, it was adults too. Some of the teachers and people in the stores, would ask my mom “Did you adopt those kids?” People just feel uncomfortable when they don’t have the answer to the race question in their mind and so they feel entitled to get this information. In addition I grew up very athletic and my mom actually coached most of my teams until I got into Middle School. I grew up playing volleyball, basketball, softball, and football, before the boys actually sprouted in middle school. I was considered the A-Train, I used to drag the boys across the field. It was pretty exciting, still the highlight of my elementary lunch time experiences.

The highlight of my sports career though, is at Franklin High School, where the basketball team I was on actually had the highest GPA as a championship team. We actually got honored in Olympia, WA for setting a record for Grade Point Average. The whole legislative body took a moment to recognize us. It was an exciting time to be at Franklin High School.

 

Emerald: Well, you certainly seem to have the confidence of a top tier athlete during your performances as they definitely don’t appear presented by the stereotypical neurotic artist. How has athletics shaped your art?

Monique: Well, I’d be lying if I said that I’m supremely confident always, and that I don’t have any confidence issues to speak of. So I can’t say that, but I will say that when I approach my art I say that I don’t want to not do the things I want to do because I’m afraid, or because I don’t think I have enough guff.  I have the same conversation with youth. I tell them that  it’s okay to be afraid, but it’s not okay to not do the things you want to do because you’re afraid.You can’t grow if you’re comfortable all the time. So that’s definitely how I approach my art and my life.

Overall, I feel like my spirit is of an inner warrior and I’m trying to develop that so that encompasses the competitive spirit I picked up from athletics . I mean I’m undefeated in thumb wrestling. If you want to find out we can do it later (laughter). I grew up playing games, and in a family of five competition was rampant. Even now I have a game brewing. I’m supposed to visit New York shortly, and I want to experience it and do some writing, but I want to challenge someone in basketball while I’m there.

 

Emerald: You’re engaged in a tremendous number of activities. You’re a poet, writer, performer, mother, tap dance instructor, computer science enthusiast. If you had to pin it down, what best defines you?

Monique: I think what really defines me is that I’m willing to learn anything. I’m really community minded. I’m trying to lead the way on Social Justice issues, so those are things that would define me. I love to work with our youth so that defines me.

I look at it like I’m me first and art is something that I do. So whatever I do, I’m going to bring whatever gifts I have to bear to do that. So if there is an organization that I’m supporting and they need a poet I’m going to bring my artist self to that venue. I think it’s irresponsible not to speak up when you should, and however that looks. Whether that’s me as an artist, or me as a mother, I think it’s the responsible thing to do.

 

Emerald: What most sparks you to create poetry and your spoken word performances?

Monique: I think it’s evolving. Right now  the desire I have is that’d I’d like to be known. I don’t want to be famous, but I want to be known. In the sense of being understood and in the sense that I have stories that I want other people to know.  It’s the idea that I have a truth I want to speak right now, and maybe that won’t always be my driving force, but that’s what it is right now.

When I see other people I enjoy their diversity, and the ways in which they do things, the nuances, and  the details of how they do things are interesting to me. I think that bleeds into  my scientific interest. I’m a researcher, so I’m there with my pen  and pad, taking down notes, “That was really amazing what they did there,” but also I think I’m generally interested in knowing other people. There’s something you learn from an artist  about that artist when they’re performing, even if they’re not presenting themselves. The choices they make in inventing someone else as a character is telling.

 

Emerald: What artist influence you today?

Monique: As an artist I write about all types of things, but I’m really influenced by music a lot, though I don’t listen to very much of today’s. The musicality from today’s music is just gone, the loopiness of it can be annoying. It’s catchy, but it doesn’t stimulate me. I listen to Prince, Maxwell, but also to 80’s rock. I like good music, however that comes. I’m into Jazz, Nina Simone, Billie Holiday, and Ella Fitzgerald. I’m influenced by dancers, Michael Jackson, and the Nicholas Brothers. My poetry is also influenced by the sciences I’ve taken. I have poems wrapped in metaphor, just strictly around science and love and relationships.  My daughter is a huge influence as well. My last show was titled Momma’s Muse which incorporated some of our real life experiences, with her permission, and also pulls in some other stories from people’s lives, which illustrated what I was trying to convey better than my own could.

 

Emerald: How is it that you’re able to be so emotionally naked onstage, saying very intimate and provocative things? That would frighten most people.

Monique: It comes back to that desire as an artist to be known, and for me the power of art is one of those teaching tools. People don’t  all have the same experiences, but people can share in an experience through art,  and some of that sharing can provoke conversations. Many of them that I wish I would have had the benefit of before I made certain decisions in my life. For me art is  an opportunity to provoke those conversations to happen between other people. Whether or not it’s a strong, “I don’t believe in that, you shouldn’t do it.” Well, at least it’s a conversation, and then also, this goes back to being able to wrap some of the experiences of others into the characters I am on stage, it was really liberating for me to be able to take it on and tell someone else’s story, but to still have aspects of my own story intertwined. So I think the whole mix of it, people don’t know what is true and what’s not when you’re own stage, it gives you a certain level of removal. When I’m on stage, it’s never just my story, there’s always something more.

 

Emerald: You’re very outspoken about LGBT rights as a poet and performance artist. Where does that stem from?

Monique:  For ten years of my life I grew up with two moms and so it created a situation, because during that time there was no protection for people who had alternative lifestyles. They could get fired from their jobs, so we couldn’t have many conversations within our household about it because it would jeopardize my mom’s employment  So that meant each of us had to come up with different ideas of what that meant and unfortunately when we stepped out of our house the overwhelming conversation about it was very negative. It was another opportunity where I found myself in between these places in society and I had to figure it out. It was things that others have the privilege not to think about it until they choose to think about it.

 

Emerald: So did your writing and poetry serve as a type of release from all that was going on while you were growing up?

Monique: Writing and poetry was how I made sense of things, It was my internal conversation that I had with myself about what was going on, and what was really important in the world. I did a lot of philosophical writing about what was going on in my life and what was truly important about being a human being.  I felt like the world had a crisis and so it led me to be a loner. I didn’t trust many people, and I didn’t think most people understood what was important. That meant  I was very selective about who I let into my circle. I didn’t want anyone in my house who felt my mom was an evil person just because she was who she was.

 

Emerald: So does are you of the belief that great art is born out of life’s adversities?

Monique: Good art can come from anywhere. The thing is that humanity is so complex, and you can have an artist make the most beautiful painting and be a deplorable human being. That’s just a fact, but you can’t deny that they’re gifted. The reality is that we are complex, and we have great beauty and we have great horror, it just is what it is. There’s not a person on the planet who can say that they’re happy with every decision they’ve ever made.

I think art is gifted to some people, I think with others art is something they’re driven to develop, I think there’s a lot of things that come into art. I can only speak from where my art comes from, because I’m interested in a lot of different things and I’m interested in developing those different areas, I’m ambidextrous and a Gemini, so all this stuff kind of rolls together. For me art is about what piques my interest in the moment. There’s a sound that maintains my art; it’s very rhythmic and musical.

 

Emerald: So the melodic flow in your poetry is a conscious effort?

Monique: Yeah, I think as an artist, as a poet, I have my own aesthetic around how things sound. When I’m creating something the way it sounds is important, even the way it feels is important.

 

Emerald: What’s your process for coming up with some of your more ingenuous lines and metaphors in your poetry?

Monique: I have a poem called System Administrator it’s actually an erotic piece.

 

Emerald: The title completely gave that away (laughter).

Monique: What I like about metaphor is you say things without having to say it, you get to kind of hide some things, just like in the title of that poem. There’s some ambiguity about it. It’s tongue and cheek to me and that’s way it’s fun. I’m working on a whole erotic chat book called applied physics, and it’s all wrapped around a metaphor right now that are related to certain physicals properties, such as gravity and the uncertainty principle. There’s just certain things that lend itself towards looking toward a certain perspective.

 

Emerald: You’re a fairly successful artist and yet you don’t have any formal training, so to speak, in terms of an MFA or Arts Degree. What would you say to those people who have always wanted to write or perform poetry, or those who have always wanted to follow a passion, but just can’t seem to muster up the nerve?

Monique: It goes back to fear, no one is saying go stand on the corner and hold a sign that says, “will work for rhymes.” (laughter) Success started to come for me with the belief that what I was doing was going to work out in the end, and that I was just going to take the steps I needed to take to get to that end. It has to be more than hoping. It must be knowing that it’s going to work out and I’m going to do everything that I need to do in order for it to work out. If it’s something that you have a passion for, you need to start taking little steps in that direction, and what you’ll see is that the universe will seem to conspire to get you where you need to be. You start moving in that direction and opportunities will start opening up for you, but it takes hard work. It isn’t like I’m just going to roll out of bed and it’s going to be great! Chance plays a role for some people, but for the rest of us we need to work hard.

 

Emerald: They say that for a poet happiness is elusive. How do you define happiness at this stage in your life?

Monique: One of the things I learned about being a mother was how much I value community, which is in stark contrast to when I was growing, as I wasn’t too impressed with humanity (laughter). However, I realized that I needed other people in this life. You need other people to be truly happy and successful. It’s about developing those relationships. finding people you can trust, and to trust yourself is important. I’d say happiness is possible, and defining your own happiness is necessary. I say think about what makes you happy, and find more of that, even if it’s just twenty five more minutes a day of that, and as you increase your happiness quotient life will change for you.
For more information on the multi-talented Monique Franklin, including upcoming shows and events, please visit www.verbaloasis.com. You can also follow Monique on Twitter @VerbalOasis