The Saint Paul Almanac continues its year-round literary celebration of the capital city with an entertaining and thought-provoking schedule of free author events throughout February. The events kick off with the Monday, February 1, Lowertown Reading Jam from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at the Black Dog Cafe, 308 Prince Street, by the Farmers’ Market in Saint Paul’s Lowertown. Hosted and produced by Tou SaiKo Lee, this month’s Reading Jam features the voices of more than a dozen local Hmong men.
About the Performers
Event curator, Tou SaiKo Lee believes in building an influential movement within the Hmong community through the arts. He is a spoken word artist, mentor and hip hop activist. Lee is part of a dynamic hip hop duo called Delicious Venom and lead MC for a socially-conscious, funk/hip hop band called PosNoSys (Post Nomadic Syndrome). For five years he has organized a monthly, all-ages, open mic event called I.C.E. (Innovative Community Elevation). On occasion, he teams up with his grandmother, Youa Chang – who does the traditional Hmong art of kwv txiaj (Hmong poetry chanting) – to perform as “Fresh Traditions.” A mentor for youth at schools and community centers across the country, he speaks about issues that include human rights, diversity, racism, gang violence and arts for social change. Tou SaiKo Lee is the co-founder of “The H Project” a compilation music CD inspired by the human right violations of Hmong people in the jungles of Laos.
Originally from Chiang Mai, Thailand, Logan Moua is a singer, songwriter and poet who has performed at many community events including CHAT’s Annual Arts Festival. His songs about community issues and personal experiences bring awareness of Hmong cultural change and create community connections. He has performed at venues as far-flung as Yale University, and closer to home at Hamline University, BonXai and Destiny Cafe.
Now 19 years old, Houa Lor has been writing music and poetry for six years. He performed last year at a benefit concert for Fong Lee, and has appeared at smaller events in schools and the Boom Bap Village. He is part of a non-profit organization called In Progress In Saint Paul that provides opportunities for youth to express themselves through media arts such as digital video, photography, and music. Last summer he collaborated with other local up-and-coming hip hop artists in the Twin Cities to create a popular mixtape called Blackbird Elements.
David Vu has been writing poetry for about 12 years. His influences come from hearing stories of Hmong people in the jungles of Laos, social issues, grave desecration, and cultural conflicts between generations. This will be his debut performance.
Peter Yang is a literary and media artist living on the East Side of Saint Paul. His work has been published in Paj Ntaub Voice and the Hmong anthology, Bamboo Among the Oaks. He is happy to share his life and joy with his family, while working to improve the Hmong community. His philosophy is, “A single pebble can start a ripple that can form into a tidal wave.”
David Kao Xiong (aka D.E.I.) was born and raised in North Minneapolis. He has been writing and rapping for seven years and just released his first solo album, Change of Plans. He has performed at such events and venues as CHAT’s Annual Arts Festival, Boom Bap Village, Hamline University, Ausburg College and Stargate Night Club.
Kevin Xiong is a proud, gay Hmong. He has a BS in Business Administration and Human Resources Management, and is looking forward to attending Metro State University in 2010 to get his Masters Degree in Sociology and Cultural Diversity. The Executive Director of Shades of Yellow, the world’s first Hmong LGBTQ organization to create positive cultural and social changes in the community, Kevin has also served on the board of Hmong American Partnership and ColorCordination. He has been singing Kwv Txhiaj for the past five years and began writing about his personal life experiences three years ago.
Also appearing at the Reading Jam will be Nhia “Monie” Lee, Tayo Yang, Xiong Pao Lee, Jon Thao, Jeremy Thao, and special guest: Sai, the Funny Guy.
The ongoing Lowertown Reading Jam Series continues at the Black Dog Cafe on the first Monday of the month through July 2010. Each session is hosted by a well-known local writer or spoken word artist, and each month, Saint Paul artist Lara Hanson interprets the readings through live drawings using Japanese ink brushes. Free hors d’oeuvres are served, and the Black Dog Cafe offers its “Monday Madness” special featuring a large pizza and bottle of wine or a large pizza and four Summit beer taps for just $20. All Reading Jams are ASL interpreted. Complete details on these and other upcoming Saint Paul Almanac events are available online at saintpaulalmanac.org.