Ex-Striker Hosts Poetry Reading during Ethnic Studies 50th Anniversary Celebration

The school hosted a week of events to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the founding of the College of Ethnic Studies. Ernie Brill, one of the students involved the 1968 strike, emceed a poetry reading on Tuesday night, featuring local Bay Area poets.

Each of the five poets was given 10 or so minutes to perform one to five poems. The poets picked pieces that they felt reflected experiences of people of color in the United States and related to ethnic studies.

The first poem of the night, performed by E.K. Keith, was about her experience growing up being a white passing Latina.

Leslie Simon performed five poems, two of which were about being Jewish. The first was about anti-Semitism, and the second was about the Israel-Palestine conflict.

Simon says being Jewish is really important to her.  “You know, I’m not a religious Jew, but I’m proud to be Jewish, but I’m very, very upset as you can tell, about Israeli policies.”

L. Abdul Kenyatta first provided the audience with an anecdote about his son being excited to play him a new rap song in the 1980s. He then performed a humorous poem about meeting a woman and falling in love with her.

“I like sharing that piece. And also it usually makes people smile or laugh. You know? So that’s one of the reasons I do that,” said Kenyatta. “The other piece I call The Zebra. It’s about the zebra case and I purposely don’t do much funny stuff during that particular piece.”

The zebra case involved a group of black men who, in the 1970s, committed a series of murders in San Francisco. This resulted in SFPD stopping and frisking hundreds of black men while trying to identify the murders. Kenyatta was one of these men, and after the fact did not tell his wife, but did tell his sons.

The event was held in the reading room of the library and lasted two hours. Afterwards, attendees were invited to view the striker gallery next door.