For Fedya, for Arizona

Monday night was one of the artistic highlights of my life.

I had the privilege of hosting Youth Speaks’ 15th annual Bringing the Noise for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr celebration in front of 1,200 people at the beautiful Herbst Theater in San Francisco. Anyone who knows me, knows hosting is my favorite part of being an artist. More than performing or teaching or producing the event. Hosting combines all of that…and I just get to be a hype man for 2 hours. Throw in some jokes, some politics, and we’re good. I love it.

Bringing the Noise was the perfect show for me to host for just that reason — it’s a tribute to the words and actions of America’s greatest poetic revolutionary, Martin Luther King. And it’s a remix of the ’60s movements, shining light on the issues and voices of our generation. I played my spoken word hype man role to the fullest, an easy job considering the beautiful poems from O.G.’s (Rafael Casal and Aya de Leon among them) and the new voices (Joshua Merchant, Ashley-Rose McDonough, etc). Beloved community, indeed.

After two hours of cheers, tears, and collective healing, I was given the job of closing out the night with a piece of my own. I shared a piece I had written only days earlier, thinking about the recent shooting in Arizona and the climate of hate towards Latino immigrants and dissidents that has cast a shadow over the state. My family has our own history of harassment by U.S. government agencies, and my great-grandfather paid a terrible price for his politics and his passport.

So this is for you, Fedya.