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Teen Love for the Central Library

Vi Ha, Senior Librarian, International Languages Department,
sunrise graphic with book

There is a strong cadre of teenagers that love the Central Library. Teens get the same wow factor of seeing the building and also thinking about how this space is built to store and share knowledge, learning, and books. With that love for the Los Angeles Public Library's mission, they feel strongly about representing how wonderful and important the library is to their friends, family and community. What follows is my current challenge to the teen volunteers of Teen'Scape. To the teens, I tell them: "If you love the Library, you must be able to share your love of the place with others. How do you do that?" Francesca, one of our teen volunteers, took up the challenge to write about some of the programs she's attended.

From LA To DC Poets Laureate

2017 National Youth Poet Laureate recites her poem

I am the type of person who doesn’t mind going out and exploring new things. The Central Library provides that outlet for me as I can attend different programs ranging in technology, social justice, and art especially in the Taper Auditorium. LA Made at the Los Angeles Public Library hosts different events with local artists and writers. I have been going to the library ever since I was four years old. My mom had worked in Downtown, and would always bring my siblings and I to the Central Library. Now I am a teen volunteer at the Central Library’s Teen‘Scape and still love going there for new experiences that I’ve had the pleasure of exploring. The head of volunteer activities for Teen'Scape, Librarian Vi Ha, informs volunteers of upcoming events which is where I heard about LA Made. I had the pleasure of attending the “From LA to DC Poets Laureate” featuring 2017 National Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman and Los Angeles Poet Laureate Robin Coste Lewis. I had also encouraged my best friends to listen to Amanda Gorman and Robin Coste Lewis read their poems and communicate their journey to their honor in the panel discussion.

Because I love poetry and literature in general, I was interested in attending the program. When I arrived, Mila Eve Cuda, 2017-18 Los Angeles Youth Poet Laureate had opened the event with her own poem. I was literally so excited because I had watched her recite her poems online on the YouTube channel, Button Poetry. Listening to one of the many poets that I adore was the best way to start off the program. I was open to listening to both the newer artists and the poet laureates. After Mila had recited her poem, they introduced Amanda Gorman, who is very close to Mila. They are both so young and an inspiration to young women everywhere who love poetry. Amanda is so down to earth; she talked about her struggle with her speech impediment but explained how she overcame it with the support of her teacher who pushed her to focus on spoken word poetry.

I recorded some of the verses from one of Amanda’s poems and her word choice and the image it creates is so vivid and powerful. I had recorded parts of her poem on my phone that was inspired by Gwendolyn Brooks and the verses that caught my attention were “howling from handfuls of jazz and gin/ our lust thick wet oak/red and ripe as dawn/I don’t know you/ he plays pool real cool/ but you want to.” She is so young and has done so much in using her voice as a platform for things she believes in. Robin recited her poems and talked about how there was one poem that she had made in her own language, the language she had made up with her friend and spoke when she was a kid. During the panel discussion, I recorded the last statements she made, “I think that poetry is such a powerful art form, that it can change things often quicker than legislation.” In watching and listening to spoken word, I hear each person’s perspective on life, politics, and social issues. I’m grateful for spoken word because it continues to educate me on social issues of racism, sexism, discrimination, and all unfair treatment. I related poetry to all forms of expression and communication. There is so much words can do and so much change that can happen with them. A simple apology, a compliment, or even an insult.

Janiva Magness Sings to my Blues

Janiva Magness performing music

The day before the LA Made event, I was volunteering at the library; I suddenly stopped at a poster of Janiva Magness, Grammy-nominated artist. I was instantly intrigued by her accomplishments and wanted to go, but never really thought much of the event at that moment. The next day, I am scrolling through my Instagram and find a post on the account ‘womeninmusic.’ (I myself want to pursue a career in music and saw that one of the people I had met who is also a woman in music had shared her experience in one the panel discussions hosted by ‘Women In Music.’) I wanted to see if I could attend the last event hosted by them and did not expect to have it be at the Mark Taper Auditorium. Right away I knew it was a sign. I hadn’t RSVP’d, but the event was so organized that I was able to sign in on the spot. Now I had no idea who Janiva Magness was. On the poster, her picture showed her to be pretty young. When I saw all these older people, mostly Caucasian, waiting for the event to begin, I thought that these 40-60-year-olds were pretty hip because they are in line to watch such a young artist. But I was mistaken. I was probably the youngest person in the audience. When I saw Janiva Magness come on stage, she was a bit older than I had thought, but that did not matter.

She first shared an excerpt from her memoir and I teared up. The excerpt was about the first time that she heard Otis Rush live. I remember she shared that as a teenager she was not in a good state because of her personal problems. When she heard his songs, she said the music took over her. I was tearing up. The way that she had first discovered the blues in the state that she described was the same as how I was, in a way, escaping from my thoughts while at the event. It was as if she was singing to my blues. Janiva spoke so passionately about music which inspired me to think about the positive influence I can have if I spoke about my passions in music. Her band was amazing. She performed her whole album Love is an Army and the way the lights on the stage matched each song compelled me. As soon as the music started everyone literally bobbed their heads including me. It was surreal. When you see a live performance with real instruments, to me the only thing that I was thinking about was the music. It was so captivating. The guitar solos, the drums beat, but most of all Janiva’s wide vocal range. I was in love with her vocals. She is so talented because she could hit the high notes, sing falsetto, and belt the lyrics.

My favorite songs that she performed have to be, Black to Blue, Tell Me, Down Below, What’s That Say About You, and the heart wrenching Some Kind of Love. She explained that her whole album was about standing up, sticking up for yourself, and using your voice to say something. She mentioned the teenagers all over the country especially in Florida who are using their voice to create a change in our society motivated by violence. As the teenager there, I felt that it was my duty to share my experience and her music to inspire love. The whole experience was so eye-opening. She talked about living through the Vietnam War and it's so interesting how everything connects because I recently learned it. It wasn’t that long ago when war was the answer, and her album comments on that because it should be that "Love is an Army." Love is the answer and it will fight harder than any weapon could.