By Brian Dunlap
Earlier this week three L.A. poets, Irene Monica Sanchez, Angelina Sáenz and T. Sarmina got accepted into the prestigious VONA/Voices of Our Nation summer workshop at Realm Academy in Berkeley. The workshop is for emerging poets and prose writers-of-Color.
Irene Monica Sanchez’s words express how important an achievement being accepted into the VONA/Voices of Our Nation summer workshop is:
I got into VONA! Letting this sink in, saw this between my first two classes. Just got to the next school to teach my third. I’ll worry about housing/funding in a little (yes I’ll be reaching out cause teachers don’t get paid summers). Nonetheless I’m super thankful. Pink Door was the first writing workshop I applied to/got into last year. I’m glad I took a chance again and now I get to learn poetry from Willie Perdomo and be apart of the Voices of Our Nations Arts Foundation (VONA) community. ✊🏽
T. Sarmina commented on Facebook, “Third time is a charm. VONA 2018, I’m finally here.”
Irene Monica Sanchez is an educator, poet, public scholar, and writer from Riverside committed to social justice. She engages with people through projects she works on and centers social justice in her work by producing stories, essays, talks, presentations, workshops, poetry, and academic research/writing. She has had her work/writing featured by KPFK 90.7 Los Angeles, KPCC-Southern California Public Radio, Latino Rebels Radio, Telesur English, Inside Higher Education, NASPA, The American Federation of Teachers, and more!
Sáenz is a poeta, madre, viajera, Budista, profesora and host of the monthly open mic La Palabra at Avenue 50 Studios. She is from North East Los Ángeles and continues to live and be an active community member there. Sáenz piloted the acclaimed Aldama Elementary Dual Language program in northeast Los Angeles in 2008 and served as lead teacher from 2009-2013.She is a poet who has been published in university journals and online. She graduated from Occidental College in 1998, with a bachelor’s in theater and anthropology and and received her master’s in education in 2001 from Claremont Graduate University.
T. Sarmina is a xicanx, a queer poet/a, writer of songs they sang to stray kittens when they were growing up in the Central Valley and 826LA’s Writers’ Room Coordinator Manual Arts High School. Their work focuses on liminality: the liminal spaces we collect memories from, like inside a monther’s womb, or the spaces between fiction and nonfiction. Their words are rooted in the landscapes of a California Central Valley in drought.
Vona/Voice of Our Nation, as they say on their website, “is the only multi-genre workshop for writers of color in the nation, brings writers of color from the margins to a community where their work is centralized and honored. At VONA, developing writers find a place where they can:
- Explore their craft in an atmosphere of support and understanding
- Exchange ideas and inspirations with established writers
- Gain empowerment to move from VONA to a writer’s life with authority and confidence.”
There aim is to amplify the often-silenced voices of color bringing their writing forward in defining and contributing to our individual and collective experiences. Over 2,400 writers from around the globe have participated in VONA since 1999. More than 400 alums have published books. Many alums also establish presses, create anthologies, receive literary prizes, participate in fellowships, teach in academic programs and offer community workshops.
Congratulations to Irene Monica Sanchez, Angelina Sáenz and T. Sarmina, three hard working poets and educators, on their acceptance into VONA/Voices of Our Nation’s Summer workshop. Be on the look out for their work and any readings they are a part of.