The Bandana Republic: A Literary Anthology by Gang Members and Their Affiliates

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Louis Reyes Rivera, Bruce George
Soft Skull Press, Apr 21, 2008 - Fiction - 288 pages
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Urban youth gangs are typically viewed as no more than training grounds for thugs and felons. This breakthrough anthology presents a far different picture, revealing present and former gang members’ and street activists’ artistic impulses, emotional sensitivities, political beliefs, and capacities to assess the social conditions that created them. The Bandana Republic contains powerful writing: fiction and essays, poetry, and polemics written by adolescents from gangs like the Crips and Bloods and the Mexican Mafia. There's also creative work by ex-gangbangers who have become activists, artists, musicians, and movie stars. J. Sheeler’s “Seven Immortals” finds grim poetry in a young girl’s gang initiation. Jaha Zainabu’s “The Jungle (Blood Territory)” is a lacerating portrait of an L.A. Blood. Commander’s “The Brothas Gunnin’” piercingly profiles a neighborhood — and a world — under siege. These writings give voice to an American subculture far richer and more complex than the headlines indicate.

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IITelling the Tale
IIIOn The Count
IVThe Politics We See
VHard Love
VINew Leaves Turning

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About the author (2008)

A former street gang member, having come from one of the more notorious New York urban gangs of the 1950s, the Chaplain Nation, which once comprised as many as 19 separate divisions throughout the borough of Brooklyn, poet/essayist Louis Reyes Rivera is now known as the Janitor of History. He has been studying the craft of poetry since 1960 and teaching it since 1969. The recipient of over 20 awards, including a Lifetime Achievement Award (1995), a Special Congressional Recognition Award (1988), and the CCNY 125th Anniversary Medal (1973), Rivera has assisted in the publication of well over 200 books, including editing Bum Rush The Page: A Def Poetry Jam (Crown Publishers, 2001) with Tony Medina.
Considered by many as a necessary bridge between the African and Latino American communities, he is a professor of Pan-African, African-American, Caribbean and Puerto Rican literature and history whose essays and poems have appeared in numerous publications, including Areyto, Boletin, The City Sun, African Voices, and in award-winning collection, including ALOUD: Live from the Nuyorican Poets Cafe, Of Sons And Lovers, and his own Scattered Scripture.
Since 1996, Rivera continues to host a bi-monthly 1st & 3rd Sundays Jazzoetry & Open Mic @ Sistas' Place (where he also conducts his writing workshop), in Brooklyn. He appeared on C-SPAN, as part of the REPARATIONS NOW! rally held in Washington, D.C. and on Russell Simmons' Def Poetry on HBO. Currently, Louis Reyes Rivera can be heard every Thursday, at 2pm, on radio station WBAI (99.5 FM), hosting his show Perspective. Louis Reyes Rivera lives in New York City.

A former gang member, Bruce George has been writing poetry for over 25 years. He is co-founder of Russell Simmon’s Def Poetry Jam, for which he received a Peabody Award, and executive producer of the spoken word documentary Bone Bristle, currently in post-production. Bruce George has served on panels for Harvard, The New School, Medger Evens and the Schornburg Center for Research in Black Culture, and has judged hundreds of poetry contests. Bruce George is currently Executive Consultant for the Reverend Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow Push Coalition. He was born, raised and currently lives in New York City.

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