Dance Night, December 11th, 1971, at Resurrection Hall
This poem is the moment. It is part ekphrasis, fiction, and history. The location is real, after 40 years, it is still a part of the community. The need is real – a simple fundraiser; a “benefit dance” created by the parishioners of Church of the Resurrection as part of a larger community effort to support Houston’s new “Huelga Schools” – a Chicano movement response to an unlawful desegregation plan (the plan called for the busing of black and “white” students into local schools – the white kids were really MEXICAN/ MEXICAN -AMERICAN children; no white child was affected by the plan in 1970) where parents boycotted the Houston Independent School District from 1970 – 1973. This poem then, represents a moment of what activism looked like. It looks like a dance, like a stand-up moment in the dark, in the streets, in a baile.
This poem is a snippet of a larger project – an Anthropoesia project. I am continuing the research I began about two years ago while still in my MFA program at the University of Texas @ El Paso. An Anthropoeta uses the tools of an anthopologist to uncover a history of culture – in this case, a piece of history within the Chicano Movement here in Houston, TX. I have engaged the hidden history of Houston with interviews, with old photos, one small book (BROWN, NOT WHITE by Guadalupe San Miguel) and older Chicano newspaper articles. I have taken to writing poetry and flash fiction about the Huelga Schools (huelga meaning strike). This history is still fresh. Many of the students and the teachers are still alive. It is a story of necessity.
I imagine myself as both the man’s voice as well as the children, playing in the dance hall- el salón, los musicos and the people who created the flyer. This is what life is. An action, a series of actions, a moment that resonates into something much more powerful. All you have to do is get dressed.
It is empowering to know that the folks that decided to go to that dance that night, to listen to Marky Lee & the Brown Magics, were in fact unknowingly the activistas and rebeldes that were needed. Eso mero.
Watch two more poems from Lupe Méndez: