Last Thursday, I co-hosted an event with the Pilipinx American Library at San Francisco Public Library’s new Public Knowledge Branch at SFMOMA. What a mouthful.
It was called “Transcribing Herstory: Contemporary Filipinx Voices.” Also a bit of a mouthful, but so it goes.
The all Pinay panel consisted of Elaine Castillo, Melissa Sipin, Trinidad Escobar, Janice Sapigao and Renee Macalino Rutledge. Each one with powerful and personal stories to tell. Castillo recently published “America is Not the Heart” to national rave reviews. Sipin is working on her forthcoming novel and recently returned from a research trip to the Philippines. Escobar is known for her poignant comics. Sapigao shared a few poems and a personal essay. And Rutledge read an excerpt from her novel, “The Hour of Daydreams.”
I was nervous. This was the biggest event I’ve organized while at SFPL thus far. I was dealing with strangers and a new venue. And the ever-terrifying specter of public speaking. I’m always certain my voice shakes and that my sweating is apparent to everyone in the audience.
However, as people began to trickle in, my nervousness started to disappear! I think I was just relieved that patrons were showing up. I imagined a crowd of 20, but we ended up with roughly 70 bodies in seats. A massive coup for a reading on a Warriors game night.
The evening was powerful, to say the least. To see and feel yourself in writing is a profound experience that white readers may not necessarily understand. It’s both uplifting and exhausting, because so many of our stories are full of trauma and heartache. But our stories are important and need to be shared.
A number of people wanted more events like that, and I hope to be able to give them more. A number of my friends came to support me, and I even spotted an old middle school friend in the crowd. By night’s end, I was exhausted but still thrilled. The event was more successful than I’d ever dreamed. It left me glowing, and feeling vindicated on so many different levels.
Many thanks to the generous writers who shared so much of themselves with all of us.
Thanks to PJ and the Pilipinx American Library. It was a pleasure organizing this event with you.
And thanks to the Filipino Community Center for volunteering and helping us out with the merch table.