Once upon a time (well, about a year ago), in the city of Riverside, CA., in the basement of a little downtown coffee shop, Artists Against Cultures of Violence was born. Artists, friends of artists and our families gathered in our pain, our frustration, and disbelief over the recent string of violence toward black men and women by law enforcement: Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, Eric Garner, Reynesia McBride, and others. We began with readings from 5 women, who addressed these recent killings and other social justice issues close to our hearts. While we read – artist, Jessica Cruz, sketched a small baby cloaked in rhinoceros skin, representing how we as a society must protect the most vulnerable among us. We listened to my dear cousin, Ramone Lewis, sing “Walk Around Heaven” a spiritual, that for me, invokes the desire of freedom to “be,” to enjoy movement in spaces without the imposition of critique or judgement, and without fear of violence against us, and then, the catharsis that accompanies that freedom – a comfort, perhaps that with our culture’s history with violence, most recently the mass shootings in Charleston, Texas and Oregon – is something all of America may feel slipping away, but for people of color, women and children, it has been and is a more illusive reality.
While we plan for our next annual event, I am not only incredibly honored to have worked with some of the finest writers in the LA area, and some of the most active in that literary scene, but I also have the privilege of sharing their work in another format, born out of that first meeting.
In our first publication, Rhino Baby Press features the work of Natashia Deon, Ruth Nolan, Hope Wabuke, and Simona Supekar. These women are fabulous writers and poets, caring activists and all-around beautiful people. Check out their work in our first edition of Rhino Baby Press. You can also read more of their work by clicking on their names above. Look for more from Artists Against Cultures of Violence and our little press that arose from that heightened place of emotion where the artist feels most compelled to create.