Mayda Del Valle
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Mayda Del Valle

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"Mayda Del Valle featured at White House"


Mayda Del Valle, Chicago poet, featured at White House poetry jam
By
Lynn Sweet
on May 12, 2009 3:21 PM |

WASHINGTON--Chicago poet, writer, performer Mayda del Valle, a 1996 graduate of Maria High School, is one of the featured players Tuesday night at a White House celebration hosted by President Obama and First Lady Michelle.

The evening entertainment will focus on poetry, music and what the White House called the "spoken word." White House Social Secretary Desiree Rogers reminded me that a poety slam is a competition; this is a non-competitive jam

Featured performers include: actor James Earl Jones: author Michael Chabon his wife, essayist Ayelet Waldman; vocalist Esperanza Spalding; pianist Eric Lewis; actor, writer Lin Manuel Miranda and Del Valle. Also on the bill: Jamaica Heolimeleikalani Osorio- HBO's Brave New Voices Youth Poetry Finalist, Joshua Brandon Bennett- HBO's Brave New Voices Youth Poetry Finalist. - blogs.suntimes.com


"White House poetry: Chicago poet Mayda del Valle visits the White House"

President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama invite del Valle and eight other performers for an evening to celebrate poetry, music and the spoken word

By John McCormick | Tribune reporter
May 13, 2009

When Chicago native Mayda del Valle walked into the ornate East Room of the White House on Tuesday evening to recite a newly written poem about a grandmother she barely knew, it took all of her professionalism to disguise her nervousness.

A nationally known poet and performer, del Valle has appeared on high-profile stages before, from Broadway to the University of Southern California to HBO. Still, asked about the condition of her nerves, del Valle said this particular gig had gotten to her.

"Are you kidding me? I can't keep my hands from shaking," she said. "I hardly slept at all last night."

While a poetry jam that mixed smooth jazz with groovy verse may seem more fitting for a coffeehouse than the White House, President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama invited del Valle and eight other performers for an evening to celebrate poetry, music and the spoken word.

Related links

*
'A faith like yours' by Mayda del Valle

The gathering was not a competition, so it was not technically a poetry slam, a phrase often credited to Chicago poet Marc Smith.

"We're here tonight not just to enjoy the works of these artists, but also to highlight the importance of the arts in our life and in our nation," said Obama, who wrote some poetry for a literary magazine produced by Occidental College in California where he studied in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Michelle Obama instructed the audience to "have fun" and "be loose." She said she wants the White House to be "a place where all voices can be heard."

As the Obamas seek to create their own style in the White House, the event evoked the kind of cultural evening the Kennedys used to host. But the new First Couple seem to be working toward an urban cool more accessible than the Kennedys, more multicultural than the Clintons and livelier than the Bushes.

For their first formal White House dinner, for example, they had R&B band Earth, Wind and Fire as the entertainment. Stevie Wonder, an Obama favorite, was also honored with a White House concert.

Other performers Tuesday included actor James Earl Jones, writers Michael Chabon and Ayelet Waldman (husband and wife), jazz bassist and vocalist Esperanza Spalding, pianist Eric Lewis and playwright Lin-Manuel Miranda. The event, streamed live on the Internet, also featured two finalists for an HBO youth poetry competition.

The appearance by del Valle, 30, had been in the works since late March, when she said she was asked by Mark Eleveld, a poetry advocate and English teacher at Joliet West High School, if she might be interested.

Then, about two weeks ago, the White House called to ask her if she was available. "I jumped up on the couch and said yes," she said.

Del Valle's parents still live in Chicago, although she now calls Los Angeles home. She attended Maria High School on Chicago's Southwest Side before attending Williams College in Massachusetts.

It was as a high school student that del Valle found poetry through an organization called the Southwest Youth Collaborative. She is the daughter of Puerto Rican parents, a retired forklift operator and homemaker, and has two siblings who are Chicago police officers.

Del Valle, a petite woman with a powerful voice, said the 492-word poem she read at the White House, "a faith like yours," was written during the last week. It was about her grandmother, a woman named Segunda, who died in Puerto Rico when del Valle was a small child.

One part of the poem might have resonated with the president, who has ties to both Chicago and a more exotic locale, Hawaii:

some say faith is for the weak or small minded

but I search for your faith everywhere

I need it to reassemble myself whole from these shards of Chicago ice and island breezes so I can rewrite the songs of your silence and pain



Del Valle said she read Obama's first book and likes his writing style.

"It's kind of cool that the president is a writer," she said. "We share a common goal for storytelling."



http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/chi-white-house-poet-13-may13,0,2311229.story - chicagotribune.com


"Mighty Mouth"

Mighty Mouth
Spoken-word artist Mayda del Valle brings to life "democracy writ large in poetry"


* By Serena Kim
* Smithsonian magazine, October 2007





http://www.smithsonianmag.com/specialsections/innovators/del-valle.html - www.smithsonianmag.com


"Poetry Jam At The White House"

John Lundberg
Posted: May 17, 2009 09:00 AM


As part of her remarks introducing the first ever White House Poetry Jam, Michelle Obama said of democracy, "It has room for lots of voices, which sometimes take us out of our comfort zones, but that's what makes it so meaningful." One could say the same thing about poetry, and the art's big tent was certainly on display Tuesday night at an event that placed spoken word poets alongside a reading from Othello.

The great James Earl Jones read the Shakespeare monologue, but the slam poetry was performed by three relative unknowns: Mayda Del Valle, a native of Obama's hometown of Chicago; and two finalists in HBO's Brave New Voices Spoken Word Poetry competition: Jamaica Heolimeleikalani Osorio and Joshua Brandon Bennett (HBO will be rebroadcasting the event).

Chicago native Mayda del Calle read a poem about a grandmother she never got the chance to meet:

Some say faith is for the weak or small minded
but I search for your faith everywhere
I need it to reassemble myself whole from these shards of Chicago ice and island breezes so I can rewrite the songs of your silence and pain.

It was a poem that Barack Obama, a product of "Chicago ice" and "island breezes," and who lost his grandmother just before the election, no doubt could relate to.

One could, in fact, find ties to Obama in all three of the young poets. Jamaica Osorio is Hawaiian, and her poem "1893" -- featured on HBO's Brave New Voices website -- is a passionate plea for the preservation of Hawaiian culture.

But I'll show you my pride...
Who my loyalty is tied to,
what nation my heart sings to
I'll sing for you
I'll chant continuously to show you that I am Hawaiian
I will stand, fight and chant and never be compliant
because the second I start worshipping the red, white and blue
pledging allegiance to a nation that turned out eyes red
people white, and eyes blue
is the second I know that the fight is through

Josh Bennett, finally, is an African American attending the "elitist" (in election-speak) University of Pennsylvania. Here's an excerpt from his poem "Carbon Copy":

My father is no hero
He's a postal worker
A Vietnam vet with a jim crow education
Six children and enough regrets to fill a casket with
Sometimes sleeps with his eyes open
As is he's looking for 3AM redemption from whatever
Insomniac angels may still be watching over him
And with all of his flaws, I still love him.

The administration invited local college students to attend the event, seeing it as an opportunity to open up the white house to the DC community. But they opened up the white house to the poetry community as well. Obama described the evening as a chance to "celebrate the power of words and music to help us appreciate beauty, but also to understand pain... to lift us up out of our daily existence, even if it's just for a few moments." It's sure nice to have a President who appreciates that.

* Michelle Obama
* Barack Obama

As part of her remarks introducing the first ever White House Poetry Jam, Michelle Obama said of democracy, "It has room for lots of voices, which sometimes take us out of our comfort zones, but that'...
As part of her remarks introducing the first ever White House Poetry Jam, Michelle Obama said of democracy, "It has room for lots of voices, which sometimes take us out of our comfort zones, but that'...
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http://www.huffingtonpost.com/john-lundberg/poetry-jam-at-the-white-h_b_204012.html - www.huffingtonpost.com


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Bio

Mayda del Valle performed in the Tony award winning Russell Simmons Def Poetry Jam on Broadway. She performed at the White House for President Obama in 2009 as part of the White House Poetry Jam. The show traveled to Scotland for the prestigious Edinburgh Fringe Festival. This native of Chicago’s south side has been featured in 4 of the 5 seasons of the HBO’s Def Poetry Jam. She’s been in El Diario, Urban Latino, Source Magazine, Latina Magazine, and the New York Times. With her first competition, she became the youngest poet and the first Latina to become Slam Champion at the internationally respected Nuyorican Poet’s Cafe. In her second poetry competition Mayda became the first poet from the infamous Nuyorican Poets’ Cafe, the youngest poet and the first Latino person to win the Individual NPS title in Seattle. The 'Chi-Town Rican' has showcased in each of NACA's seven regional conferences(some several times) and has been on the NACA National Conference's Mainstage twice in just four years. Since 2003, she has performed at more than 300 colleges, for VH1 and for the Lincoln Center. Nationally, Mayda has toured with Def Poetry Jam and legendary director Norman Lear’s Declaration of Independence Tour.