A Poetic Tour of Denver’s Shifting Landscapes

Stompin’ Ground Games: A Poetic Tour of Denver’s Shifting Landscapes, by Molina Speaks

In collaboration with Warm Cookies of the Revolution, I have completed and printed a new chapbook of poetry dedicated to the city of Denver.  This is a limited edition chapbook.  There are now 300 copies in print.  Following is the Forward, or as I called it here, For Word.

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This collection of poetry is for and about the people of Denver.  As Live Poetic Scribe of Warm Cookies of the Revolution’s Stompin’ Ground Games, October 2015 – August 2016, I have been walking the city’s streets, visiting her corners and cafes, listening to her stories and her heartbeat, her conversations, her sounds, her poetry, her secrets, her trees and weeds, and the jackhammers and bulldozers that are redefining our experience within Denver.  It has been my job to transform observations and realizations into poetry and prose.  In addition to readings and performances in the neighborhoods reflected, these writings are compiled here as a time capsule to the city.

I did not set out with an agenda or a particular story to tell.  Yet as I began the process of choosing and editing material for this chapbook, the theme of swift, defining and dramatic change was evident.  The cultural, political and economic changes within this city within this moment are a microcosm of the shifts that are redefining social and structural landscapes across the planet.  In these mechanized times of comfort for the few and survival of the many, my goal here is to present threads of our humanity.

We should not fear change.  We are self-defeating when we loathe in our perceptions of powerlessness.  We also should not feel compelled to accept change that does not serve us, we the people, the community.  As poet—as architect of the palabra—I recognize our power to inspire ideas that provoke conversations that lead to intentions and actions that Manifest our outcomes.

We are in need of new realities for humanity.  We cannot remain within the old frameworks and old tropes.  We must speak, write, and create new stories for our seeds, our cultures, our townships, and our planet.

In palabra, in celebration of Denver’s history and future,

Molina Speaks

August 10th, 2016

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”

“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

“A Poetic Ode to S.T.E.A.M.” (Biennial of the Americas 2015)

by Molina Speaks

(This poem was scribed in reflection of conversations about S.T.E.M. and S.T.E.AM. in Education.  Molina was commissioned as the live poetic scribe of the Biennial of the Americas 2015.)

A Poetic Ode to S.T.E.A.M.

(science, technology, engineering, ARTS, math)

mi poesia es mi corazon
mis artes, mi cuerpo
these relics, these stones
what is life
without these poems? 

what are your numbers worth?
sin musica?
sin danza?
your math, without design?

what are your buildings worth
if they don’t stimulate my mind?

mi alma, my technology
mi sciencia, the wings of las mariposas
the songs that keep my dreams alive

what are your lab results worth
without appreciation for the particles
that dance across my skies? 

mi poesia es mi corazon
mis artes, mi cuerpo
these relics, these stones
what is life
without these poems?

“Opening Sounds” (Biennial of the Americas 2015)

By Molina Speaks

(This poem was scribed to reflect the opening night street concert by the band Flobots.  Molina was commissioned as the live poetic scribe of the Biennial of the Americas 2015.)

I want to be free from this history
I want to be free from this history
I want to be free from this history

I see you,
I too
want to be Free
yet I am tethered
to a reality paved for me

Ya Basta!
I take a sledgehammer to past paths I did not lay

Ya Basta guay!
Ya Basta!
I take a sledgehammer to future paths I did not lay

Railroad tracks
for trains of thought
conveyed Now

I am an agent of change
yet I am tied to my history,
unforgotten
and unforgettable

I hold our people’s struggles and victories as my Truths, so I
fight with fight with fight with
Tools

break

The conscious performance landscape
has changed:
a milieu of arms crossed and fists raised,
who is who?

Fists don’t fly free to the sky the way they used to
like flags melting down the molten ticks of our times
speaking urgency
unrecognized

The boom lights rise to the righteous sound bouncing
through the darkness off the corporate towers downtown
juxtaposing,
contradicting,
conflicting,
merging,
communicating Love into the confusion  and chaos
of Now

break

“Opening Words” (Biennial of the Americas 2015)

By Molina Speaks

(This poem was scribed to reflect the Opening Symposium of the Biennial of the Americas 2015.  Molina was commissioned as the live poetic scribe of the Biennial.)

Suit Jackets and Ties
Live at the Americas
Cocktail Dresses and Heels
Costume and Curtain Time, Shine

The Beautiful People shuffle truths and disguise Now
Live at the Americas

Let us talk Money
Let us talk Business and Big Names
Politics and Community

Tell me about the Thought Leaders in the
“The Conceptual Economy”
I will tell you about the hood
and the ideas that are mined from our lives
by monopolies

It is a privilege to be Here
I will soak it up and plant a flag
A seat at the Table for the Poet reading shadows
I am honored to be of Residence here

Now

Let us talk of Now

Pull out the Resumes, Bios and the Script,
under-rehearsed name pronunciations
and Million Dollar accents
on Investment

Meet the Talent
Enunciate your Passions in Fluctuating Times

Now!
Meet the Millennials!
Meet the Billennials!!, the bilinguals

Meet the Now Statistics as America Browns

Do not panic, America
is Browning

Do not call me “Hispanic”
Another conversation for another time…

(do not panic)

For now we are speaking of Now
The Millennials are coming!!
The Millennials are coming!!!!

I counted 27.5 uses of the word “Millennial”
in session
and perhaps one mention of “justice”

Education and Choice, Taxonomies
Digital Currencies and Technologies
Old standards and Domains irrelevant
Times of Informal Educations and Social Media hype
Now

Where will you find Yourself a  m  e  r  I  c  a ? ? ?

Interesting… these times are “interesting”
(every intellectual’s favorite word, including mine)
Call and respond with me…

    When I say, “Well, what do you think ??? hmm…”
     You rub your chin and say “Hmm mmm I  n  t  e  r  e  s  t  I  n  g …”

Ready:

The experts say you can Now learn to computer program in about six months flat through some diligence and a free online class at Harvard… in exchange for your $70,000 receipt of debt from a university of your choosing: 

“Well, what do you think ??? hmm…”
“… Hmm mmm I  n  t  e  r  e  s  t  I  n  g …”

The experts say we are obsessed with public persona, that we are distracted, that we have redacted focus, that we are not engaged in the Now but instead are infatuated with the Packaging of Now…

“Well, what do you think ??? hmm…”
“… Hmm mmm I  n  t  e  r  e  s  t  I  n  g …”

(COMES NOW from Molina Speaks, you can find me on twitter at @ Molina Speaks that’s M-O-L-I-N-A S-P-E-A-K-S)

The experts say that the future of social media is really about teaching us how to set boundaries for ourselves…

Well, what do you think ??? hmm…”
“… Hmm mmm I  n  t  e  r  e  s  t  I  n  g …”

Finally, when asked, “what is the key to happiness?”, the experts say:

In a nutshell, “Happiness is about American Exceptionalism and Investment Potential…”

“Happiness is about Impact and Purpose…”

Another expert made it about “The Chicken or the Egg”, then babbled on about qualities and quantities, qualitative and quantitative data, extended wordiness and finally proclaimed that “It cannot be contained in mere words…”

Lastly, she said Happiness was about her Job, Success, and “Kicking Ass”

Well, what do you think ??? hmm…”
“… Hmm mmm I  n  t  e  r  e  s  t  I  n  g …”

Interesting indeed.

a  m  e  r  I  c  a
Look back at your history so that you can us where we are going
Let us play Definition together
as we sit Now at your Table: 

What
Would
Make
You 
Happy

NOW
America?

The Wings of La Mariposa

On this day the governors of La Alma
proclaimed Youth On Record
a social justice organization

It was a day some snickered,
some sneered, some jeered

The community at large cheered La Mariposa
peering into mirrors of self doubt,
inferiority complexes and barrels of disbelief,
turning over leaves from falling dreams,
from making something out of nothing
to taking old things we knew
and making them new,
speaking truth to news cameras
in search of sound bites,
barking at the heavens
a triumph
of horn lines,
rapping 16 bars at a time
about transformed lives,
watching the street signs change
under disappearing telephone lines,
in gentrifying times
we thought we might change something too

So we asked You
to support a vision

My son asked me last week about Capitalism
My response was a story about $2.1 million
collective footnotes in history, a building
that would broadcast the next seven generations,
constructed on the backs of artists,
activitists, dusty foot philosophers
and working class dreamers,
brave enough to collaborate with bigger money,
and big money brave enough to collaborate with the people

A step in a direction
of shedding the divisions
that imprison humanity’s wings

It was a day of celebration en La Alma,
a day we all breathed with less fear,
a day we knew you would remember us
standing here
speaking with you
the wings of La Mariposa.

 

~ a poem to mark the grand opening of Youth On Record’s Youth Media Studio on the West Side of Denver

 Speaks, Kalyn, Yoda, Nate

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What The TheloniUs

#WhatTheTheloniUs

Thelonious Monk inspired scores of jazz and hip hop legends, but in his time he was that artist who contemporaries thought was crazy because he did things his way. They didn’t know if he was garbage or genius. History has proven Thelonious a complicated and brilliant visionary. His rhythms, patterns and textures continue to inspire musicians and poets alike. We are TheloniUs when we are not afraid to be ourselves, regardless of whether people “get it.” We are TheloniUs when we take what is old and make it new with our own original wild style. #WhatTheTheloniUs is a journey through jazz and lyrical improvisation.

Concept by Molina Speaks
Produced by Diles for Visceral View Entertainment

Vocals performed by Molina Speaks and guest emcees
Beats and Mixes by Diles
Mastered by DJ Icewater

1. #WhatTheTheloniUs features guest vocals by Ill Seven and Yuzo Nieto on Saxaphone. Written, recorded and improvised start-to-finish to Diles beat in a two-hour studio session at Dryer Plug Studios, October 2014.

2. #Check features guest vocals by Mike Wird, Asia Fajardo on Saxaphone, and Chris G on Flute. Written, recorded and improvised from scratch including beat in a two hour studio session at Cherry Sound Studios, February 2014.

3. #TimePiece features Randy Runyan on Trumpet. Written, recorded and improvised start-to-finish to Diles beat in a two-hour studio session at Dryer Plug Studios, August 2014.

4. #Hustle features Joshua Trinidad on Trumpet. Horns recorded at the end of #WhatTheThelonius session at Dryer Plug Studios, lyrics written in a 30-minute stream-of-consciousness session on a Wednesday morning at sunrise, then recorded in a 90-minute studio session at Late Nite Studios.

Molina Speaks - What The Thelonius

Future Town

Future Town
     by Molina Speaks

The future of music lifts
Ancient hieroglyphs in sound waves
Modern airplay must give way
The new creative class is coming

Humming, hovering, hustling
to be heard, our words curve
Mockingjay designs, dagger verbs
our picket signs

Old lines become shadows and we shade
Done standing in lines, music will even pay to play

We drown days of sorrows in cluttered bedrooms, unfinished basements, gentrified stoops, street corners, opening garage doors,
planting miracles into unlit space, endless time,
designing our own futures so we will not be swallowed
by dust bowls or ghosts in the machine

We are
not the mere relics of strange fruit,
not the forgotten hands of intertwined roots
We sculpted the bricks, leveled the floors and mixed cement for these buildings, and we want more than what we have been given access to

We deserve to be heard, so yes, we will even pay to play
Even if it’s just to spit the fire of lyrics to near nonexistent crowds, most whom will not hear the brilliance in the poetry of even one verse over the roar of beer, cell phones, sidetalk
We still write in chalk on sidewalks
You never know how you may reach the next one like you

Art will always say “I am Here”,
riding a bucking bull into Future Town waving two fish,
carrying two buckets of water and organ keys
into Aquarius

Be you Ol Skool, True Skool or New Age
the tags on the high beams are always the same
Adapt or Die
That’s music

We weather the edges left of center with our right brains
saddling it, circling days of crows that cray the decays of the age

Do you see a web that could upend the top down and flip it on its head?
Do you envision a collapse and a revision of disposable culture?
Or just The Collapse?
Can you envision a new system of economic and cultural exchange?
Or do you only see the cash?

Reset
We thread
Skill sets
As artists
We flex
Next

Whether you wax Dystopian Utopia or Utopian Dystopia
We do not wait for outcomes, we create the context

Response:
A call to La Alma we address the most pressing issues of this design
The artist knows she can confront the education crisis, and through music, reverse the school-to-prison pipeline
The focused activist knows it is not about solving but experimenting
He actively addresses the systems’ isms
A life vision that reengages disenfranchised suns and daughters
Deeper relationships within the village
Land, food,clothing, shelter, water and music

Time:
To crowdsource the alleyways
Provide direct access to the underserved
Convert startup and revenue streams to unsuspected dreamers
Create capacity for new content in up-and-coming markets
Draft policies to make up-and-coming a reality for communities who are not, but need to be, and deserve to be
Up-And-Coming

Reality.

Remember:
It is our responsibility to activate ourselves, advocate wealth, and create healthy space in vibrant places where the soul of humanity speaks loudest through the teeth of resilient youth who don’t give a FUCK
about any of this fancy language

They came to sing
They came to shimmy, to shake
They came to two step, doo wop, lindy hop, gogo, break
Pop, lock, salsa, merengue, bachata, krump, twerk–Orale!
They came to smile
They came to laugh
They came to play

We owe it to ourselves to be there with them
In the schools, in the parks, in the heart centers of Community
Downtown, uptown, ghettotown, underground, aboveground

Future Town.

 

[Live poeticizing at the Future of Music Coalition Policy Summit in Washington, DC.  Presented October 28, 2014 on a panel featuring Youth On Record, recognized for music education.]