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 City Lore                                                                May, 2011  


• Festa Junina: a Brazilian Poetry Dinner and Dance 
• City Lore Whirlwind • Native American Poetry Reading 
• Steve Zeitlin’s Writing New York Stories Class through Cooper Union
• Touring New York’s Chinatowns • Save the Diversity of American Music at the GRAMMYS!
• City Lore Whiz Quiz – Shopper’s Paradise


Dear Citylorists,

Please enjoy our Tours and Tales May 2011 e-letter!

Grupo Ribeiro Samba de Roda
Grupo Ribeiro

• Festa Junina: a Brazilian Poetry Dinner and Dance  JOIN US for a raucous Festa Junina (June Festival) celebration on the Lower East Side. Revel in a quadrilha! Learn to dance thexaxado! Sip hot wine, enjoy delectable dishes! Watch the flying legs of capoeiristas! Hear improvised poetry to the berimbau atFesta Junina & Other Traditions from the Brazilian Northeast, cosponsored with Afro Brazil Arts and the Clemente Soto Vélez Cultural and Educational Center. Associated with community bonfires honoring St. John the Baptist, Festa de São João is celebrated across Brazil, though most fervently in the Nordeste(Northeast). Festas Juninas are associated with a style of folk dance called the quadrilha and with particular dishes including vinho quente, which means hot wine. Part of the Clemente Soto Vélez Cultural and Educational Center’s Fiestas del Año celebrations, and City Lore’s People’s Poetry Project, this celebration includes additional dance and poetry traditions from the Brazilian Northeast including capoeira and maculele. A complimentary dance lesson taught by Quenia Ribeiro and a buffet of delectable Brazilian dishes are included!

When: Thursday, June 30, 6:30pm – 9:30pm
Where: Flamboyan Theater, Clemente Soto Vélez Cultural and Education Center, 107 Suffolk St, Lower East Side, Manhattan (Between Rivington and Delancey)
Admission: $30 ($25 for City Lore and Clemente Vélez members, seniors, and students) 
For more information: 212-529-1955, x 306

Photo by Jenna Bonistalli

• City Lore Whirlwind  Even the staff at City Lore could barely keep up with the whirlwind of activities the past few weeks. We were pleased to cosponsor performance of the Shahnameh epic at the Asia Society. Performed in both English and Persian, the performance enacted a section of the national epic of Iran in which a father slays the son he’s never met; with his dying breath his son utters a famous poignant and ironic line, "my father will avenge me." We also enjoyed Pakistani poets at the Mushaira at the Asia Society, where the audience traditionally cries "WAWA" to get the poet to repeat a line they particularly enjoyed. We had the opportunity to hear the scholar and activist Reza Aslan describe how the first revelation of the Qu’ran to Mohammad in the 12th century came to him in poetry, and how the poetries of the Qu’ran are so tied into the words themselves that a translation can not be a legitimate Qu’ran unless the original Arabic is inscribed in the volume, however small. On Saturday, May 7, at our day-long Illuminated Verses program, we watched our re-enactment of a Yemeni wedding procession, and listened to a group of remarkable scholars illustrate how poetry is central to the "Arab Spring" across a host of nations. Later that same night the POEMobile all decked out and beautiful appeared at Cooper Union, projecting poems on to their new building as well as the New Museum. (Watch for it at Lincoln Center Out of Doors in August.) Then on Monday, May 16th, a group of indigenous speakers from New York read sections from the Endangered Cento – a 100 line poem in which every line is from a different endangered or minority language – at the Forum for Indigenous Peoples at the United Nations. The poem closes with one of my favorite lines by the late Tigrinyan poet Reesom Haile, "Welcome to our language, taste the sauce."

• Native American Urban Beat: an Evening of Music, Poetry and Film  Hosted by Danielle Soames, Native American Urban Beat opens with a musical performance by Soni Moreno Caballero, formerly of Ulali. The poets are Eloise de Leon, Pena Bonita, Khadeejah Gray, Kim Snyder, Vickie Ramirez, Andrew Colarusso, and Eugene Billie, a number from the American Indian Community House Writing Circle. We close with the hour-long documentary, "Little Caughnawaga: To Brooklyn and Back," Winner of the "Best Feature Documentary" at the 2008 Aboriginal Film & Video Festival, Winnipeg, Canada. The film’s Director, Reaghan Tarbell, is from the Kahnawake reservation in Canada, chronicled the community of Mohawks ironworkers in Brooklyn. Mohawks from Kahnawake and Akwesasne came to New York City to work beginning in 1917 with the construction of the Hell Gate Bridge. By 1920 there were three gangs of Mohawks working in the City. Since then Mohawks have worked on most of the major iconic structures in the City including the George Washington and Verrazano-Narrows Bridges, the Empire State Building, the Chrysler Building, Metro Tech, and the World Trade Center. By the 1940s there was a community of 700 Mohawks living in North Gowanus (now the neighborhood is known as Boerum Hill). By the 1980s there were only a few Mohawk families left in that neighborhood, though in the 1990s, Mohawks made up 10% of NYC ironworkers.

When: Thursday, June 9, 7:00pm
Where: American Indian Community House (AICH), 11 Broadway, 2nd Floor (take the 4 or 5 train to Bowling Green), Manhattan 
Admission: Free 
For more information: City Lore 212-529-1955, x 306 or Soni Caballero at AICH 212-598-0100 x 241

Steve Zeitlin
Photo by Martha Cooper

• Steve Zeitlin’s Writing New York Stories Class  This popular writing workshop is a celebration of New York City in words. Participants have a great opportunity to write about their favorite urban legends, local characters, subway stories, childhood games, vanishing occupations or endangered spaces, and to discover their own voice in the process. Students develop writing exercises in class, and write sketches and stories at home that they read aloud in class. The class assists each writer with the process of discovering what forms they gravitate towards and what is distinctive about their own writing. A number of essays by students have later been published in a variety of publications, and a reading by students and formers students takes place each year at the Bowery Poetry Club at the conclusion of the class. The instructor is the director of City Lore and the People's Poetry Gathering, as well as the author of a volume of award-winning books for both children and adults. The class is taught at City Lore on the corner of First and First, a corner once described on Seinfeld as the "Nexus of the Universe."

When: Tuesdays 6:30pm – 9:30pm; 9 sessions starting May 31, 2011, ending July 26, 2011
Where: City Lore, 72 E First St (closest subway stop: 2nd Ave on the F; or take the #6 to Bleeker St), Manhattan 
Tuition: $300.00 
For more information: 212-353-4195

Alvin Eng
Image by Christine Voros

• Touring New York’s Chinatowns  This month in honor of Asian Pacific American Heritage month, our Place Matters Place of the Month is Chinatown’s remarkable senior center on 70 Mulberry Street, and City of Memory highlights Ng Sheung Chi performing Tai San storytelling songs known as Muk’yu in Chinatown from the extraordinary 1991 film " Singing to Remember." You can also follow playwright, performer and educator Alvin Eng as he takes us on a highly entertaining and enlightening visit to his old Flushing neighborhood, as it changed from a Jewish neighborhood to a Chinese and Vietnamese community beginning in the 1970s.

On Thursday, May 26, you won’t want to miss Sounds of Immigrant New York: 150 Years of Chinese Music in New York City featuring ethnomusicologist Su Zheng (Wesleyan University).Sounds of Immigrant New York is a ten-part series of free public lectures by leading scholars on the continuity and development of diverse music and dance traditions in New York City’s immigrant communities.

When: Thursday, May 26, 6:30pm – 8:30pm
Where: Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA), 215 Centre St in Manhattan’s Chinatown 
Admission: Free, need to RSVP at
For more information: MOCA website or 212-571-1555

• Save the Diversity of American Music at the GRAMMYS!  The ill-advised April 6th announcement by National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS) to cut thirty-one categories from the celebrated Grammy awards is alarming for anyone concerned with cultural equity and cultural diversity in the U.S. Latin Jazz, Contemporary Jazz, Cajun, Zydeco, Hawaiian, Polka, Traditional World, Classical, and certain Gospel, Blues, R&B, and Mexican categories, among others, have all been unceremoniously erased. Many believe this stemmed from a reaction by large recording labels to the selection of Esperanza Spalding over Justin Beiber for Best New Artist, since Beiber sells far better and makes far more money for the labels than the relatively unknown jazz performer. For related background info, articles, letters to and from NARAS, and tosign a growing petition with more than 3000 signatures, etc., please visit

Ann Banks
Ann Banks

• City Lore Whiz Quiz – Shopper’s Paradise  This month we ask the journalist and diehard New Yorker Ann Banks to suggest the second City Lore Whiz Quiz. Her chosen theme is "Shopper’s Paradise." She asks questions like, Approximatelywhen in January does Bergdorf’s take its second markdown? Where can you get a bra made entirely of candy? Where does Carrie Bradshaw on Sex and the City buy her cupcakes? The winner will receive a free copy of Myra Alperson’s Nosh New York, and City Lore’s Hidden New York.

Congratulations to the winner of last month’s City Lore Whiz Quiz, Alice Kasten. She wins a DVD of the wonderful, New York Street Games and Rule Book. The key answers assuring her victory were,

In stoopball when the ball hit the edge of the step and shot quickly back at you it was a Pointer;

In NY you played with a spaldeen, in Philly the ball of choice was a Pimple Ball;

In skelly/skully/skellsies after you traversed the board going from 1 – 13 and back, you gained a new power and you were now a called a Killer.

Thanks again to Hugh McNally and Mick Green from for the great Quiz!


Please forward this email to your friends and encourage them to join the City Lore’s email list!

Enjoy the City!


City of Memory is sponsored by City Lore and Local Projects.  It was funded by The Rockefeller Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts.

City Lore is part of a cultural coalition called CATCH, to promote the City’s cultural heritage. Check out the web sites of our wonderful partners, the Center for Traditional Music and Dance, the Latino Children’s Theater, SEA, and the World Music Institute.

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