Voices from the Gaps
Last Thursday my roommate and I went to a Voices from the Gaps 10th Anniversary reading. I didn’t really know what to expect from this reading, all I knew was that there would be two minority women reading excerpts from their work. The two readers were Latasha Natsha Nevada Diggs and Ana-Maurine Lara. Voices from the Gaps, or VG, is a web based organization who’s goal is to recognize the works of women artists and writers of color that might not otherwise get the recognition they deserve. The website was started here at the University of Minnesota by the American Studies and English departments in the College of Liberal Arts. However, tens years after its beginning the organization has stretched its reach far beyond the University. It reaches the public domain via the Women’s Prison Book Project and reaches out to high schools and the community through literacy and learning programs. The website (voices.cla.umn.edu) provides links to biographies about the different artists that have been featured, events that are up and coming, and a blog that discusses the different projects, authors and works on the site.
The first of the two artists to read was Latasha Natasha Nevada Diggs. She is an artist from Harlem. She is a sound artist and a poet who writes about anything and everything. At the reading on Thursday she organized some of her works into three categories T.V. (or pop culture), language and dealing with a death in the family. In her first reading she used the black face characters from Pokemon and Dragon Ballz to make observations about the representations of blacks in the media whether it be in cartoon form or real people. In another selection in the pop culture grouping, she discusses and pokes fun at the Tom Cruise, Katie Holmes, scientology and daughter Suri media bit. She covers the ridiculousness of Tom Cruise’s behavior to the ridiculousness of Tom Cruise’s behavior. The Language grouping uses pieces of languages ranging from English to Spanish to more unusual ones like a native Cherokee language or oriental dialects like Japanese. It was interesting to hear the different tongues put together to make different pieces of work. She provided translations to these readings after each one, but I think to really understand what statement she was trying to make with these one would have to sit down and really look at them because just listening to them and a quick translation could leave you kind of confused. The last works were deep and moving. Talking about the different things we go through when trying to deal with the death of a family member. She covered murder, slow peaceful death and unexpected occurrences. She was a great presenter who really evoked emotion into her reading. It’s easy to see why the women on the VG board selected her as one of the artists to be honored at the 10th anniversary celebration by presenting some of her work.
Unfortunately I was not able to stay to hear the reading of novelist Ana-Maurine Lara, but they did provide some background on her and why she was the other of the talented artists to be selected for this celebration. She is an Afro-Dominican writer who was raised in East Africa and Mount Vernon, New York. She graduated from Harvard University. Her breakthrough novel, Erzulie’s Skirt, is about growing up in the Caribbean. While this is her major breakout piece, she has also had fiction writing and poetry published in journals. Lara is a writer and an activist working to improve things for women and especially women of color.