In Recognition of Martin Luther King Jr

No school on Monday January 20, 2014 at Ventura College! Celebrate MLK’s birthday and honor him by being of service!

Note to current students: links to today’s readings and discussion materials embedded here to make it easier for us to prepare for class.

art predator

From Martin Luther King’s “Drum Major Instinct” sermon, given on 4 February 1968:

Everybody can be great, because everybody can serve.

You don’t have to have a college degree to serve.

You don’t have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve.

imagesYou don’t have to know about Plato and Aristotle to serve. You don’t have to know Einstein’s theory of relativity to serve. You don’t have to know the second theory of thermodynamics in physics to serve.

You only need a heart full of grace, a soul generated by love. And you can be that servant.

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Actions for Bicycle Awareness + Safety

VCCool is leading three upcoming actions, starting with a ride tomorrow, Sat. Nov. 23, 2013:

1.) Bicycle Awareness Ride
Saturday, November 23, 2:00pm-4:30pm,
Starting at the HUB Community Bike Shop
1150 N. Ventura Avenue, Ventura

Wear signs about the SOLUTION!!
This is not a ride of silence. What’s our message?
Same Roads, Same Rights, Same Responsibilities.
“We’re all in this together!” or “Bicycling Makes Life Wonderful.”
Or “Coexist!”
The Route: Ventura Ave/Main St/Loma Vista/Then Back

My students can join the ride for extra credit or to make up an absence.

2.) Letters to the Editor
Share how our dangerous roads affect you, your family, and our community. What are some solutions that would serve all of us? What does the freedom to bicycle and walk in our City mean to you? Do you have a kind message that you think might educate readers?

Please take a few minutes in the next day or two to write and email or snail mail your letter in advance of the council meeting and to follow-up awareness after the ride.  My students can write AND SEND a letter for extra credit. Include the published letter in your portfolio.

3.) Bring the Issue to City Council
Monday, December 2
6:00pm- 7:30ish (come early to get a seat and fill out a PINK comment form)
Ventura City Hall
501 Poli St., Ventura, CA

Students can attend for extra credit–even more if you prepare something to say, speak, and include your notes/speech in your portfolio.

Read more details here. Students looking for extra credit or for a new research project might want to look into this more!

Summer Students Celebrate With a Publication Party at Art City July 31

Gwendolyn Alley’s Ventura College writing students  invite you
to celebrate the publication of an anthology of our creative & academic writing

Tues. July 31, 2012
6-9pm Open Mic! Poetry! Music! Art!
Monotypes by Gary Chafe
Stone Sculpture by Paul Lindhard

 Art City
197 Dubbers * Ventura, CA
6pm: Potluck, bonfire, explore, music
6:30pm: Open mic sign-ups
7pm: Open mic

Free—donations for Art City accepted
* Bring a chair * Family friendly *Questions?

Download this flyer pubpartySum2012 Thanks to Lori Lindhard for getting Gary Chafe’s art to us to use. Thanks to Art City–Russel, Paul, Lori, Joanne et al for hosting us and supporting spoken word in Ventura!

VC Spring 2012 One Act Play Fest Opens Th 2/2/12 at Wright Library

Enjoy an evening of affordable live theater during the next two weeks as the Ventura College Student One Act Play Festival opens Thursday February 2, 2012 and features four short one-act plays, “The Wedding Story,” “The Fourth Wall,” “Smokes Scenes,” and “Drugs are Bad.”

In “The Wedding Story,” a brave narrator attempts to tell the “perfect” wedding story while being interrupted repeatedly by the bride and groom revealing the “real” story.

“The Fourth Wall” explores what a play might look like if the actors’ mistakes were actually part of the script.

“Smoke Scenes” brings together two clever actors who decide to conceptualize smoke 50 different ways in 10 minutes.

“Drugs Are Bad” shows how two parents deftly influence their son’s behavior.

All four plays will be presented at each performance. Costumes are designed by students, and Isabelle Perez is stage manager. The Festival showcases the writing, performance, and production skills of numerous Ventura College Theatre students.

A free preview performance will be presented on Thursday evening, February 2, at 8 p.m., followed by performances on February 3-4 at 8 p.m., February 9, 10, 11 at 8 p.m., and a Sunday matinee on February 12 at 3 p.m. All performances will be held in the Wright Library, 57 Day Road, Ventura. Tickets: $7 General Admission, $5 Students/Staff/Seniors. Tickets available at the door onl

For more information, contact Judy Garey, Ventura College Theatre Arts Department, email or telephone (805) 654-6400 (ext. 3236).

My students can get in free to performances and write about it for extra credit or to make-up an absence.

It’s National Coming Out Day: It Gets Better

Recently, six young people committed suicide: they just couldn’t take being bullied any more for being different. They felt alone and hopeless; they gave up the fight.

In response to this, sex columnist Dan Savage started a you-tube channel where people can post videos of encouragement–to show that it does indeed get better, that they will one day find acceptance, love, and community. Read more about it in this article from the LA Times from Sunday October 10, 2010 by Nicole Santa Cruz.

In addition to you-tubes, there is a body of literature which provides narratives of surviving the pressures of the dominant culture. I teach as many of these narratives as possible each semester to help us all understand each other, including an essay by Bernard Cooper.

Most of my students in my classes express to me in various ways how much they enjoy the diversity of readings I assign for class and how they like seeing someone they can identify with in print. However,  some do not “get it”–that by learning about other cultures and ethnicities, and the experiences of others from and outside the dominant culture, we learn about ourselves, we learn about our neighbors, we learn how to empathize, and we see how we are more alike than different. Some students go so far as to insist that the readings are racist against white people, that there aren’t any or enough by “whites.” In fact one student went so far as to say the college itself is racist against white people.

This gave me cause to count the number of texts by people of color and by the dominant culture. I’m embarrassed to admit that even with my best effort to balance the curriculum so that we read works not written by the dominant culture, the texts are still primarily written and produced by whites (my best guess anyway):

Writing texts:
all written by whites

Botany of Desire
by Michael Pollan (white)

Assigned essays from 50 Essays edited by Samuel Cohen–
9 essays by people of color, 13 essays by whites (edited by a white man)

2 chapters from Splinter in the Mind (handouts) by Matt Lawrence (white)

Today, I hope you will join me in standing up for helping it get better for everyone who is outside the mainstream and to support the learning of those people in the dominant culture to help them come to terms with their issues and fears.

Class Activity Invites Students to Share Food & Stories about their culture

Yesterday was our second day of three days of presentations when students share the story of why they have the name they do, bring in a cultural artifact, and share a food with the rest of the class.

What a feast! We had food from around the world–lumpia, chicken mole, hot chicken wings and more which we ate while we watched the film Food Inc.

I’ve done variations of this activity since I began teaching 20 years ago. The current version builds from an assignment I read about online. My students and enjoy really enjoy it: we become closer and we learn about other cultures in a really fun way. It also helps the students work together in groups and have discussions when they know each other’s names and a little about them.

The activity ties in with essays we’ve read by Eric Liu, Brent Staples, Bharati Mukherjee, Maxine Hong Kingston, Mike Rose, Sherman Alexie, Gloria Anzaldua, James Baldwin, Bernard Cooper, Nancy Mairs, and more. On the midterm, I ask a question about what they learned from it.

A Self-Awareness Activity * Presentations of artifact and food by arrangement

Education is all a matter of building bridges. –Ralph Ellison

Insight, I believe, refers to the depth of understanding that comes by setting experiences, yours and mine, familiar and exotic, new and old, side by side, learning by letting them speak to one another. –Mary Catherine Bateson.

Real education should consist of drawing the goodness and the best out of our own students.  What better books can there be than the book of humanity? –Cesar Chavez

The more deeply you understand other people, the more you will appreciate them, the more reverent you will feel about them.  To touch the soul of another human being is to walk on holy ground.–StephenCovey


*To facilitate personal and cultural self-awareness.

*To help you become better acquainted with classmates.

*To give you tools to look beyond stereotypes.


ARTIFACT. Select an artifact that tells a story about your cultural background that you can share with the class. This artifact can be a picture, a coat of arms, or an object (a piece of clothing, jewelry, a tool etc.).  You will probably want to select something that is easy to transport to class.  If possible, choose an item that illustrates something about your cultural background that is not obvious.  We want to learn something about your background that is not readily apparent. If you cannot find a “hidden” part of your background, teach us about what we may not have known about your culture.

NAME. As part of your presentation, prepare to tell us about your name. How does it reflect your cultural heritage?

FOOD. Each person will also bring a family food item to share during class by arrangement.

Turn to your family members to learn more about your background.  If that is not possible, do research so that you have something significant to share with the rest of the class about your cultural heritage. If you do not have an object to bring from home, copy an appropriate picture from a magazine or book, download an image from the Internet, etc.  Remember, the visual component of this exercise is important.

Be prepared to do a 3 minute presentation using written notes to tell the origin of your name, describe your artifact, explain why you selected it, answer any questions, and talk about your food item (when you share it). These notes will be a part of your portfolio. You can write a thought paper on this, but don’t read your TP for your presentation.

When we are finished, we will do an in-class writing activity about what you learned about your background, yourself, and our class from this exercise so you will want to take notes during each presentation. Questions to consider include: *What was the purpose of this activity? *How did this activity help you learn about or increase your awareness of yourself?  Of others? *How does the difference between how you perceive yourself and how others perceive you affect you as a student? *What have you learned about culture? Can you draw connections between this activity and some of the readings?

Train Night At The Artists Union Gallery Tues. 9/14


read on the theme of TRAINS!

Tuesday, Sept. 14 at 7:30 p.m.

Artists Union Gallery
330 South California Street, Ventura

Hosted by Roe Estep
Open mic follows…

The Painting Locomotive, by Van Gogh

By ellen

Near the end of his life
Vincent said to Theo
I am the painting locomotive
as he splashed his canvass with unbearable blue
slashed the spectrum of hues
from yellow to ochre’s billowing wheat
daubed those black marauding crows
in a feverish race—his eyes
piercing twin tracks of light
suddenly bullet-stopped
like a coal fired steam-engine’s
great screeching brakes.

Excerpt from NIGHT TRAIN

By Enid Osborn

He wanders long and long

the whole long train,

chaste and astonished by their faces, their losses,

and lost in the rhythmic, now arhythmic beat and clack

of the rails, rough and missing

like a faulty heart

The locomotive’s sad herald cry barely reaches him

from another realm, another train

Not this one he prays over,

not this long night,

not this long train he wanders aching through

He is far away from the world,

from the miles of ramshackle track

where fallen spikes lie rusting in the rocks,

reaching for their lost beds,

and the oily, split tyes

yawn in tortured speech

to bear the terrible heat and fire spark

of countless train tons laboring through the night…

Every Tuesday you can find an open mic and every other Tuesday a featured reader or two at the Artists Union Gallery. It’s free–but they often take donations to give to the poet.

To find more poetry, take a ride on the Monday Poetry Train!

Sonnet for September 11, 2001 (via art predator)

There’s been a lot of animosity today it seems–lots of arguing about burning the Koran and whether it is ok or not to build a mosque 2.5 city blocks away from where the World Trade Centers stood. In Michael Moore’s article “If the ‘Mosque’ Isn’t Built, This Is No Longer America,” he argues:

Why? Because I believe in an America that protects those who are the victims of hate and prejudice. I believe in an America that says you have the right to worship whatever God you have, wherever you want to worship. And I believe in an America that says to the world that we are a loving and a generous people.

I wrote the following sonnet for September 11 on Sept 13, 2001; a broadside of it (as illustrated) was published in ArtLife Limited Editions October 1, 2001.

Sonnet for September 11, 2001 Sonnet for September 11

thursday i listen to radiohead
in a new purple polka dot sundress
& i am trying to feel so modern
i search for more warmth for this sunny day  … Read More

via art predator

Ventura’s Rubicon Theater Does Macbeth This Weekend (via art predator)

There’s lots of Shakespeare going on this summer under the stars and in theaters. This performance is in the old church on Laurel street. Check it out and support the young thespians–you might even know some of them! This weekend only! (PS For my Ventura College students, this definitely counts as a cultural or literary event!)

Ventura's Rubicon Theater Does Macbeth This Weekend This summer, a group of teens explored a classic play and the results will hit the boards this weekend. Veteran actor Joseph Fuqua directs this year’s Rubicon Acting Intensive class of 17 young actors in Shakespeare’s play Macbeth and they promise to illuminate this classic tragedy in a modern context. The show runs this weekend  Thursday July 15- Saturday July 17 at 8pm plus Sunday, July 18 at 2:00pm. Pre-sale Tickets are $10 and it’s $15 at the … Read More

via art predator