Juneteenth celebrations blossom online and throughout Iowa, Illinois

A three-day virtual festival, comedy nights, protests, family-friendly gatherings, concerts, and online events of all kinds are honoring Juneteenth like never before this year. The annual June 19 celebration, which honors the date that slavery was abolished, is receiving long overdue nationwide focus in light of the recent rash of police killings of black men. The entire state of Illinois will lower its flags to half-staff in honor of the holiday. More than 70 Chicago restaurants have joined to offer Juneteenth specials, writes Chicago Eater. Many cities, including Chicago, have…

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“The Negro Artist,” award-winning poet, opens up at 8 pm virtual reading tonight

While many of his fellow young Black men joined protests after the killing of George Floyd, Caleb “The Negro Artist” Rainey had different reactions: he felt paralyzed, catatonic, isolated, foolish and arrogant. Paralyzed and catatonic, because he felt stuck in 2011, when Eric Garner’s death by police choking was captured on video and first propelled Rainey to devote himself to improving Black lives. Isolated, because Floyd’s death made him feel as though society didn’t value his life or those of other Black men. And foolish and arrogant, because Rainey had…

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Your Words: “He”

Due to popular demand, we are adding a new feature in The Real MainStream: “Your Words,” featuring poetry and prose submitted by our readers. Our debut poet: Coralville resident Katie James, pictured here with her son Ro. “Basically, I am a gay mom who is also raising a 13-year-old trans guy. Being the parent of a trans kid is a unique experience, but seeing your child bloom into exactly the person they were meant to be is one of the most rewarding things any parent can witness. There are so…

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To step into your writer self, read your own story

I constantly have conversations with people who commend me for being a writer and within the same breath, assure me that they could never be one. Here’s a story about one of those people. A student of mine, we’ll call her June, regularly attends the weekly IC Speaks workshops at her school, and it’s undeniable–nearly contagious–how excited she is about writing and performing.  One week, she brought a friend (or more accurately, dragged her friend) into the workshop by the wrist, amidst groans and protests.  When I asked our visitor…

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Slam poetry in Iowa born 19 years ago

In the documentary, “Louder Than a Bomb,” a poet takes the stage and says “poets, breathe now.” Though I wasn’t a poet yet when I saw the film, I held my breath and then released it with him. In that electrifying and powerful moment, I breathed life into a poem for the first time. I felt the poetry begin to pulse through me.  That’s how Heather Knowles (aka Heather K, aka Slamama) remembers feeling when she saw “SlamNation,” shortly after founding the Des Moines Poetry Slam, Iowa’s first-ever poetry slam,…

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The marginalization of spoken word, slam poetry

[et_pb_section fb_built=”1″ _builder_version=”3.22″ _i=”0″ _address=”0″][et_pb_row _builder_version=”3.25″ background_size=”initial” background_position=”top_left” background_repeat=”repeat” _i=”0″ _address=”0.0″][et_pb_column type=”4_4″ _builder_version=”3.25″ custom_padding=”|||” _i=”0″ _address=”0.0.0″ custom_padding__hover=”|||”][et_pb_text _builder_version=”3.27.3″ background_size=”initial” background_position=”top_left” background_repeat=”repeat” hover_enabled=”0″ _i=”0″ _address=”0.0.0.0″] Them: “So, what do you do?” Me: “I’m a poet.” Them: “Me too! What kind?” Me: “Spoken word.” Them: “Oh, cool. Like rap and stuff? I write normal poetry.” There it is. The divide. It pops up constantly in conversations, the idea of “normal” poetry (or even worse, “traditional” poetry) that actively excludes spoken word poetry. It’s a common misconception that there’s a difference between spoken…

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A self-made author shares his inner journey

Since he released his first book, “Look Black Boy,” this spring, Caleb “The Negro Artist” Rainey has been the subject of many articles and interviews. Here, he shares some of his inner-most thoughts and feelings about putting himself out there. I published a book. That sentence is so much bigger than the four words that contain it. Most days I still can’t believe it. Since I was in seventh grade I knew I was meant to be a writer, but being a published author is one of those dreams–and we…

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What’s it like to self-publish a book? Ask Caleb Rainey!

I published a book. That sentence is so much bigger than the four words that contain it. Most days I still can’t believe it. Since I was in seventh grade I knew I was meant to be a writer, but being a published author is one of those dreams–and we all have them–where you simultaneously feel like you can do it, and it’s always out of reach. For so much of my life, there was always another step I needed to take: finish high school, get a college degree, get…

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Award-winning Iowa City poet combines drive, talent, discipline to self-publish

He works four jobs. He self-markets and books his own competitions, readings and performances — often working in the middle of the night or between shifts. And he wrote his book in about two months. Caleb Rainey, a University of Iowa graduate, is combining highly-crafted word-smithing, with self-coordinated time management that rivals the best professional systems, with old-fashioned hard work and sacrifice, with sheer drive to put his stage poems “to page.” The 24-year-old is in the midst of a national tour of competitions, performances, and readings to promote “Look,…

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