The City of Culver City will present Speak Easy, an evening of poetry and performance, featuring slam poets Michael Cirelli, Souleymane Diamanka and Rouda and moderator Dominic Thomas, on Friday, May 18 at 7pm in the Mike Balkman Council Chambers at City Hall. This spring’s Speak Easy program is a participating event of Vis-à-Vis: A Festival with French & American Writers presented in association with the Cultural Services of the French Embassy in the United States along with the UCLA Department of French and Francophone Studies, the UCLA Center for the Study of Global France, PEN Center USA, and the Institut Français in Paris. Speak Easy is a unique cultural program that features improvisational collaborations between distinguished performers. Speak Easy, which had been funded by the Culver City Redevelopment Agency, will receive alternative private funding this year and will not be supported by the City General Fund.
For more information regarding Speak Easy please call the Cultural Affairs Hotline or visit www.culvercity.org.
The second edition of Vis-à-Vis: A Festival with French & American Writers features readings, in both French and English, of contemporary writers which will be performed by authors of both nationalities. The festival’s slam poetry evening on May 18 will feature Michael Cirelli, Souleymane Diamanka, and Rouda and it will be moderated by Dominic Thomas of the UCLA Department of French and Francophone Studies.
Michael Cirelli is the Executive Director of Urban Word NYC, a grassroots non-profit organization that provides free, safe, uncensored, and ongoing writing and performance opportunities for NYC teens. He is also the director of the Annual Spoken Word & Hip-Hop Teacher & Community Leader Training Institute at the University of Wisconsin that won the 2007 North American Association of Summer Sessions “Creative and Innovative Program Award.” He is the author of the award-winning teaching guide, Hip-Hop Poetry & the Classics (Milk Mug, 2004). His collection of poetry, Lobster with Ol’ Dirty Bastard (Hanging Loose, 2008) was a New York Times Book Review independent press best seller. He was previously the director of PEN Center USA’s Poet in the Classroom program. He was featured on season five of Russell Simmons Def Poetry, and has his MFA in poetry from the New School, and a certificate from the Columbia School of Business, Institute for Nonprofit Management.
Souleymane Diamanka was born in Senegal and grew up in France. Diamanka has worked with John Banzaï and Grand Corps Malade and has written material for the popular neo-soul band, Les Nubians. Diamanka is a member of the creative collective ECHOS, a collection of French and American urban poets. With fans in Canada, New York, Bretagne, and beyond, Diamanka is an internationally recognized artist.
Rouda was born and raised in Paris suburbs. He is one of the most famous slam poets in France. A member of “129H”—the first French slam poetry crew—he released his first album “Musique des Lettres” in 2007, at Harmonia Mundi. His course of international activism has led him to Bamako, Dakar, Marrakesh, Cairo, Haiti, and Noumea. While in France Rouda continues to perform at hip-hop and slam poetry events and regularly hosts writing workshops.
Other Vis-à-Vis events will occur on May 19 in Culver City at the Ivy Substation and include readings and discussions on “French Theory in America & French Theory in France: The Semiotext(e) Experience”, “Hollywood and Fame through a French Lens”, and “City of Lights, City of Noir”. More information is available by visiting www.visavisla.wordpress.com. For any questions on Vis-à-Vis, please contact Mr. Benjamin Maftoul, Deputy Press Attaché at the Consulate General of France in Los Angeles ([email protected]).
PEN Center USA is a programming partner of the City’s Speak Easy event and a co-sponsor of Vis-à-Vis. Founded in 1943, PEN Center USA is a literary arts and human rights organization with a mission to stimulate and maintain interest in the written word, to foster a vital literary culture, and to defend freedom of expression domestically and internationally.