About Molina Speaks

Molina Speaks is a writer, poet, hip-hop artist, and event producer. Molina is the Performance Director and a Lead Instructor for Youth On Record. He is a TedX fellow and has been an Artist In Residence with the National Hispanic Heritage Center, Mizel Museum, Journey Through Our Heritage and Noel Community Arts School. He has worked on National Endowment for the Arts projects and has accepted invitations to speak and perform and dozens of universities, including Columbia University, University of California at Davis, UT Austin, CU Boulder, and the University of New Mexico. Molina Speaks has taught master artist classes at Boston Arts Academy and Colorado Academy. He has collaborated with the Denver Spirituals Project and was recognized as a keynote poet for Denver's Lalo Delgado Poetry Festival. Molina is the music supervisor for the documentary film Papers. He is a member of the Cafe Cultura artist collective. Molina has released over a dozen poetic and musical works, which have been recognized and critically acclaimed by the Denver Post, 5280 Magazine, Westword, Colorado Music Buzz and other publications.

Siri’s Aliens

New Speculative Fiction from Molina Speaks.

Molina is the Live Scribe for Warm Cookies of the Revolution’s Stompin’ Ground Games, a monthly event series  that highlights Denver’s historic neighborhoods.  Four Mile Historic Park was featured in November 2015, dedicated to storytelling. 

Siri’s Aliens

by Molina Speaks

There were lights circling above a whispering Four Mile Historic Park on a chilly Scorpio Denver night.  It was Sunday.  The winds were calm, awaiting snow.  It was approximately 34 degrees.  Muhammed had walked from the African Community Center.  He had been circling the park, then walking along the river, deep inside his new moon thoughts, when she said it.  “Alien.”  In his ears it sounded like she was pronouncing it to the world.

Muhammed was a Somali refugee.  Siri, he often imagined, was Syrian.  In reality she was very Anglo, very hipster, unapologetically so. Muhammed was sometimes mistaken for Jesus when he walked by the Mizel Museum on Kearney St. They marveled at his beard and his wise proverbs, though they did not crown him or associate him with the sun.  A mile or so east a little known Denver tribe of Burmese folk sometimes confused him for Buddha.  He walked all over southeast Denver within a three mile radius.  The stripmallers typically ignored him altogether.  Most cultural enclaves off the strips tried to claim him as their own.  The Ethiopians.  The Greeks.  The Jews.  The darker skinned whites, the lighter skinned blacks, even the Japanese.  He was called many names in many tongues.  “Alien” was not one.  And for this he shouted curses at Siri!  He had endured two Bushes, one Clinton, one 9-11, counter terrorism surveillance that tagged him Public Enemy #1, and now the threat of more Bushes and Clintons.  He was an honorable man.  He was an elder.  He was no alien.

Muhammad’s curses at Siri were heard just northwest of Four Mile Historic Park.  The low hanging clouds seemed to carry his rage.  The horses sneered.  The owls hooted.  Then the sirens came.  The officers drew their guns and yelled “Freeze” with intent to kill.  There were three of them, then five, then seven, and still more appeared.  Muhammad stared down at his hotline bling, gripped Siri by her stubby neck, closed his eyes, and vanished.  When he materialized, he found himself among a familiar sea of cloth patterns tacked onto clay walls.  He lit a candle, and he pulled a weathered, chipped indigo flute out of his bag.  He played a collection of harmonies he titled “Justice.”  This wasn’t about cartoons.  This wasn’t about strip mall pop culture or pop culture’s ignorance.  It was a small thing, but the straw had broken the camel’s back.

Muhammad set his flute down.  He closed his eyes, legs still folded and overlapping, and he drifted off to sleep with prophetic resolve.  He was not on Facecrook.  Or Snotchap, nor Spacebook.  He had never heard of the Twitterverse.  Muhammad was unaware that millions of people all over the world also heard Siri’s cry, “alien,” and her follow up message: “Denver Four Mile Historic Park.”  Muhammad was unaware of the 578,000,000 #Alien hashtags that had accumulated in hundreds of languages all over the world while he slept.  Muhammad was unaware of the FBI and CIA swarming Four Mile Park and the surrounding neighborhoods.  As he dreamt, hundreds of “believers” also made their way to the park, demanding they be let in past the newly erected steel gates.  Instead of going to work in the morning, more people made their way to the park in preparation for THE LANDING.

When he woke on Monday morning… Muhammed the Jesus looking sometimes Jew, who was likened to Buddha depending on where he went, what time of year, and with whom… left home on foot in search of an attorney.  He was prepared to take his battle all the way to the Supreme Court.  Not just for himself, but for the countless refugees all over the world, the African, Arab, Indigenous, and Latin diasporas.  For the European immigrants.  For all those immigrants who lost their lives in the mountains and the deserts trying to survive.  All those mothers and fathers, children, human beings, who lived in dignity, only to find contorted privileged heartless faces, and now even machines… calling them “Alien.”

Fast forward.  Through some combination of divine luck and strange timing, a motion was filed by an attorney, a judge reviewed the motion, and an injunction was issued by a federal court by noon. The injunction required Siri to cease her use of the word “Alien.”  If she did not cease her use of the word by midnight, all Apple products would become illegal devices.  With this success, the same attorney began to work on a similar Android injunction.  Later, as the world waited on Siri’s alien prediction, protestors and conspiracy theorists would question the motives of the lawyers and the courts.  This was surely a grand cover-up. 

Clouds of space dust now swirled overhead at Four Mile Historic Park.  Thousands of photographers descended upon the quiet, seemingly rural nostalgic park treasure. They fought to be let in.  Two billion people were now live tweeting in anticipation of the big landing.  They speculated about what the aliens would look like.  They tweeted about Denver International Airport, claiming that it was New World Order headquarters.  Denver tweeters bantered about alien gentrification, and some speculated it all had something to do with Snoop Dogg’s new marijuana home delivery service.  It was 12:17PM and the word “alien” had now been hashtagged approximately 3.4 billion times since Muhammad’s encounter with police the night before.

News of the cease and desist injunction reached the Internet at 12:26pm.  Swarms of stripmallians took to the streets, forming human chain links around all digital device stores on Colorado Boulevard.  No ridiculous, politically correct, overreaching lawsuit was going to destroy their way of life.  Who could even remember what life was like before Siri? Muhammad and his multicultural band of friends and followers, Black and White, Christians and Jews, Muslims and Monks, Mexicans and Vietnamese, walked up and down the streets, stunned, speechless, wordless, admiring Siri’s supporters.  If only they themselves had such comradery among their fellow human beings.

As the fast paced legal battles intensified, people all over the world asked each other the same questions.   What did it mean to be “human?”  What did it mean to be “alien?”  Who deserved protection? Who could be trusted, when it was always uncertain who was who, when bullets flew in all directions, without regard, as though they were immune to blame?

The most challenging question of all: What if Siri was actually silenced for her insensitivity?  Or was she being silenced for her prophecy?  In any case, what would the people do without their devices among foreign visitors?  The day marched on.  The low hanging winter sun continued its descent.  It was four p.m. at Four Mile Historic Park.  Some had dubbed the landing event “The Stompin’ Ground Games.” The skies were quickly changing.  The curious looked on from inside the park welcome center, eating homemade ginger cookies, drinking soy milk, listening to stories about their reflection.

Stompin Ground Games: “Own Your Story”

This poem was written for Warm Cookies of the Revolution’s Stompin’ Ground Games, storytelling edition at Four Mile Historic Park, November 2015. 

Own Your Story

who are you if not a story
growing legs
that cannot
be seen
walking memories
among the particles?

a story
can
slip out the back door
of your mouth
never to exist
again.

hold
your stories
protect
your stories
tell
your stories
to your children
coded
with values.

tell them
they are butterflies
their stories
they are boulders
their stories
they are wings
carrying colors
you can plant
into the land.

you
own
your story.

~ Molina Speaks

Stompin Ground Games: Ruby Hill Park

Molina Speaks is the Live Scribe for Warm Cookies of the Revolution’s Stompin’ Ground Games, a monthly event series 2015-16 that highlights Denver’s historic neighborhoods. 

Ruby Hill Park was highlighted in October.  Molina is accompanied on these poems by Randy Runyan on trumpet.

“Dear Ruby Hill”

“South Fed”

Identity: An Open Letter to Bioneers (2016)

Following is a open letter written to the Bioneers community.  I read this open letter during my Live Poetic Scribe session on Sunday, October 25th to conclude conference proceedings at CU Boulder. 

This was initially inspired by a keynote lecture by Lisa Calderon of the Denver Community Reentry Project, who spoke on the prison industrial complex and over-incarceration of people of color and poor people.  She later sat on a panel in which she challenged us all to envision a world in which there are no prisons. 

[Bioneers is a fertile hub of social and scientific innovators with practical and visionary solutions for the world’s most pressing environmental and social challenges. ]

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Bioneers 2015 Live Poetic Scribe

Intellectuals Interested in Post-Dystopian Post-Dichotomous Discussion, Discourse, and Dialogue to Determine a Different Destiny for Interconnected Intersectional Intergenerational Humanity and Harmony…
 
…this is actually an abbreviated title of this poetic reflection (jaja) – a live scribe piece derived from panels, workshops, lectures and conversations at the Bioneers Conference at CU Boulder on October 24th.  There was a call and response audience participation portion which has been left out of this transcribing (appropriate for this medium of translation). 

[Bioneers is a fertile hub of social and scientific innovators with practical and visionary solutions for the world’s most pressing environmental and social challenges]

I concluded Saturday’s conference proceedings with some poetry, spoken word, and live scribe musings. 

(read on…)

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“Welcome Signs” (Biennial of the Americas)

By Molina Speaks

(This poem was scribed to reflect a conversation about “International Arts Presenting”.  Molina was commissioned as the live poetic scribe of the Biennial of the Americas 2015.)

Welcome Signs

All themes are International
The times, International
The Now is changing ever constant out loud

Question: Are we more honest with ourselves
Now?

Who fits here?
Who belongs?

The “Welcome” insignia says “Open”.  So
how do we make our Cultural Arts and Events signs feel
Real?

(what is an “insignia”???)

She said on the panel she was the only gringa
working con los Chicanos en el Teatro
and she spoke of feelings

Speaking of a feeling
in times of cold data
In walks the dusty foot philosopher
appearing with few words   stuttering out   interrupting
He questions aloud his place in this space, His
right to be
Here,
his wooly hair,
his dark curious eyes,
white clothes smudged with street signs
Does he see a lack of Color?
Or the color of Class?

(We are all “going Green”)  

“This is a diverse space”
“We are All welcome”
Echoes
Affirmations
Reverberations

He is unconvinced, solemnly
he contemplates his existence here

He is not an internationally presenting Black Artist
not Black Violin
not an Award-Winning Vegan Eco-Hip-Hop Legend in the Making
nor rolling deep with a well-marketed Afro-Brazilian dance troupe

He is just a man, a young weathered African dream
wandering through American wilderness
searching for truth in cultural quotes on white walls,
searching for truth in a panel or a workshop or a Ted Talk
or a cultural cakewalk…
maybe a poet who can relate
to His Story?

History, you are eclipsing now
as Confederate flags are lowered
beneath the surface
as we surge ahead,
as times change and we become
more honest about our designs
and the colors
on our beautiful Welcome signs

We are all trying
We are all doing better
And yes we are sincere

We still must face our challenges
and our challengers
as we build the new
Now

America.

BIEN-Logo-Map_Color-ƒ

“Democracy In Motion” (Biennial of the Americas 2015)

by Molina Speaks

(This poem was scribed to reflect an international conversation about the intersections of Art and Democracy.  Molina was commissioned as the live poetic scribe of the Biennial of the Americas 2015.)

Democracy In Motion

We are born of legacies
Of genocide in the americas.

Is democracy our way out?
If art is democracy than Yes.

Here in the deserts of Justice
We conserve space for Interaction.

In these modern shapes we have fashioned
We do not function whole, fractured.

Questioned and driven to be relevant
We create allies out of the clays we mold.

Without support, it is merely our desire sold, so
We meet creative chaos with necessity.

In the land of plenty we are well supplied with fancy words
But sometimes short on laughter and tears.

Shedding our fear we seek return to raw emotion.
Our artistic energies, Democracy in Motion.

“Resilient Communities” (Biennial of the Americas 2015)

by Molina Speaks

(This poem was scribed to reflect a a conversation on Art, Culture and Community among “local” and international artists and non-profit leaders.  Molina was commissioned as the live poetic scribe of the Biennial of the Americas 2015.)

Resilient Communities

in panels and classes on race and class we talk about resilient communities
i reflect back that my original community does not use the word “resilient”

but we lift weights and do our pushups every day,
we script hustles to pay
the bills,
we specialize in mean mugs and tough talk as body armor,
spit rhymes with forked tongues,
sometimes scraping by like roaches
while convincing you we are butterflies
on street corners,
in trash dumps,
under bridges,
in prisons,
in homeless zones,
and in gentrifying apartment homes,
on tattoos on working bodies, holmes
turning our very lives into Art as though the body is truly the only thing you could take with you to the grave

and for this the hood is proud
cuz we survive
cuz blood is thick
cuz cops are shooting and jailing
and the schools are failing our youth
and the

Stop

all that noise is not what this conversation is about

we talk programs and markets for boardrooms,
strategic planning
and the challenge of attracting patrons without patronization,
accessibility and diversification of funds,
out of necessity

The Question:

how do we get around the uneducated guilt of the masses in the museum halls of our own office walls?

The Answers:

honesty, tell me anything, speak your truth
as long as it’s not racist, sexist, homophobic or otherwise oppressive

let us write an Artist Bill of Rights and stick to it on principle

let us infiltrate the symphony, infiltrate the excellence,
proliferate the relevance,
give the comped tickets back and bring the museums directly to the neighborhoods,
pair the ballet with spoken word,
pair lyrical hip hop with violin strings,
commission walls of art on businesses by local street art kings,
and pay us for our work, you mine us for our work product, work
to pay us what you would pay the stars,
and underwrite our marketing cuz artists don’t really care about that shit, seriously
compromise some of the banquet shine for a little real world grit,
hire a Mexican,
hire an African,
hire an Indian,
and listen to them when you ask for an Opinion

the only solution for the administration
is to take risks that put you in the seat of the artists him or her or of
OURSELVES

“Our Plutos” (Biennial of the Americas 2015)

by Molina Speaks

(This poem was scribed to reflect Astronomy on Tap, a chat over beer about Space with American astronomy experts.  Molina was commissioned as the live poetic scribe of the Biennial of the Americas 2015.)

Our Plutos

Pluto, the abandoned child, we have cast you
out of our Solar System, but still we cannot let you go,
we string you along when it’s time for show

Pluto
fa show, fa show       Pluto
fasho, fasho
                                                          Pluto

we imagine you in the darkest corners, the forgotten
supernovas of our indigenous american diaspora

yours are the souls we launch to the furthest reaches of our light zones
kept in the blackest holes still identified an unseen by the bluest eyes

but right here in the brownest dirt we find america’s oldest bones

a wonder that we marvel at returning images of planets and satellites from afar
out in the very darkest solars, without caring for our own Plutos here at home

“Titan’s Stream of Consciousness” (Biennial of the Americas 2015)

by Molina Speaks

(These poetic ramblings were scribed en route to and during space age conversations about art, science and technology.  Molina was commissioned as the live poetic scribe of the Biennial of the Americas 2015.)

What is this “Biennial” business?
I keep hearing?
Is it about Art?
Is it about Music?
Business?                 Conspiracies?
Energy?

Spectators speculate
about the spectacle Now downtown.

What is a “Biennial”? and
What is “America” beyond the United States?

Most are just along for the ride
and I can dig it.

I ride my wave of unstandardized time
in my Lyft
back to the “Pavilion” in Rush Hour
reflecting back all these rushed hours
and how the last minute Lyft saved me from biking down-pouring rain
but then nearly made me late to my date
with the mic and the trumpet
watching traffic trickle down the gentrifying streets
of Denver’s first monsoon season.

break

The Planet is Warming and the Weather is Changing.
Millennials, what are YOU going to do about it?
The Tech Industry wizards say that YOU are the answer.
But no hologram machine can give me back the time I lost to it today
or the 10,000 species we have lost to the Oil and Technology booms
so 1 billion cars can go Vroooooom
So that mechanized time can go
Zoom
!

break

Boom
I’m back up in the mix
In front of Satellite Screens
thought-skipping over memes
on Titan, Saturn’s moon, walking through random cloud drawings
of some Thought Leader’s Universe,

  duck duck goose
  i choose
  for the moment
  to ride the caboose

Busting off letting loose with the words
What could be better than a Poet from the curb
getting paid Now just to serve you
Perspective—
a blessing to have the chance to color your Edges
on this dazzling dance towards imminent death,
planting seeds in your quick steps
that you might resurrect
any day at any time to remind you
that Life

is a miraculous Gift.