Better Ancestors

Next event is Thursday, July 6, 2023

@ Museum of the African Diaspora, San Francisco

Photo courtesy the author

Mimi Tempestt (she/they) is a multidisciplinary artist, poet, and daughter of California. She has an MA in Literature from Mills College, and is currently a doctoral student in the Creative/Critical PhD in Literature at UC Santa Cruz. Her debut collection of poems, the monumental misrememberings, was published by Co-Conspirator Press in 2020. In 2021, she was selected for participation in the Lambda Literary Writers Retreat for Emerging LGBTQ Voices & writers, and was a Creative Fellow at The Ruby in San Francisco. She is the 2023 recipient of the SFF/Nomadic Press Literary Prize in Poetry. Her second book, the delicacy of embracing spirals, is forthcoming with City Lights in the Fall. Her works can be found in Foglifter, Interim Poetics, and The Studio Museum in Harlem.

Photo courtesy the author

My name is James-Amutabi Connie Haines (They/He) and I am BaltimorePiscataway born and OaklandOhlone raised. I am a multimodal artist who uses performance, facilitation, dance, music and writing as parts of my process. I am committed to creating art and opportunities that inspire people into using creative expression, their bodies, their experiences of pleasure and possibility to emphasize abolitionist sensibilities for visioning beyond the edge of their discovered imagination. I enjoy the way somatic practices, movement, and mindfulness call me into appreciating the dynamic ways we have chosen to choreograph our humanity. I am committed to restor(y)ing my life through vulnerability, courage and a mindset that honors the ancient, the present and our potential futures. I am grateful for my ancestors who have walked in dignity through the complexities of this world, demonstrating what is possible, both in light and shadow, many blessings.

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Dr. Jeanne Powell is an award-winning poet and essayist with five books in print. Her poetry collections include My Own Silence, Word Dancing, Two Seasons, and Deeply Notched Leaves from Taurean Horn Press. Her essays appear in Carousel, a book published by Regent Press. Dr. Jeanne’s connection with spoken word began with attendance at open mics. For 10 years she hosted “Celebration of the Word,” a popular weekly open mic in SF, and published three chapbooks of her poetry during that period: February Voices, Cadences, and Tangerine Dance. She established a micropress and published the work of 16 other poets. When she realized how many local poets were not being published, she created the Living Treasures series and raised funds to publish four poetic elders before they died, including Leonard Irving and Anne Bacon Soule. Read more about Dr. Jeanne here.

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Terry Taplin is a poet and Berkeley City Councilmember representing District 2, West and Southwest Berkeley. A mobility and environmental justice activist, Terry has led on housing, green transportation, and fights for a climate resilient future. As a West Berkeley native, Terry envisions a future where West Berkeley is at the center of an economically vibrant, innovative, and sustainable East Bay.

Hosted by

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Charles Orgbon III (he/him) is an environmental sustainability consultant by day, and freelance writer by night. When it comes to writing, Charles has done a variety of creative projects, from personal essays to news journalism to even comics and songwriting. He has two music projects out now, “A Survivor’s Reward” and “Blackberry,” both available anywhere you listen to music. He loves writing about identity, culture, and sexuality.

performances by

Duane Horton
Rebecca Samuelson
griffin jing martin
Charles Orgbon III
ayodele nzgina

still by Evan Karp

About the series

One of Quiet Lightning’s efforts to diversify and move toward racial equityBetter Ancestors is a new quarterly showcase of writers of color. Developed in partnership with Michael Warr, the series features 5 authors reading or performing whatever they choose. Each author selects one performer for the following show, so the series – and community – is self-generating. All authors are paid and published in an end of the year anthology.

Why Better Ancestors? As one of our initiatives to diversify from a board that has historically been mostly white, this showcase aims to provide a long-term, forward-thinking goal. As a society, we are suffering the consequences of pervasive systemic injustice against people of color, queer and trans people, the poor, disabled, and otherwise disadvantaged. But we are all ancestors of the future. If the planet is to remain inhabitable; if the function of humanity is not to sort and oppress our descendants based on their skin color, accent, or material property, we must be better ancestors. This begins by listening to one another, and by giving each other space to be heard.

Better Ancestors was made possible with support from California Humanities, a non-profit partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Artist Profiles & Previous Events

Rebecca Samuelson
Griffin Jing Martin
Charles Orgbon III
ayodele nzinga
Tongo Eisen-Martin
Briana Grogan
Dazié Grego-Syke
Duane Horton
Alie Jones
Briana Swain courtesy the author
Briana Swain
Sarai Bordeaux
Nazelah Jamison
TJ Sykes
SevanKelee Boult
Hilary Cruz Mejía
Meilani Clay
Lorenz Mazon Dumuk
Donté Clark
Kevin Madrigal Galindo
Landon Smith
Dr. Allison E. Francis
adrienne danyelle oliver
Christine No
Danny Thien Le
Tez de la Tierra
Jeneé Darden
Karla Brundage
Cinthia Marisol Lozano
Quynh-Mai Nguyen
Youssef Alaoui-Fdili
Valentina De Roca Fuerte
Kelechi Ubozoh
Lourdes Figueroa
Teju Adisa-Farrar
Kai Sugioka-Stone
Amanda Muñiz
Isabelle Khoo-Miller
Arlene Biala
Melissa Merin
Nia McAllister
Josiah Luis Alderete by Michelle Kilfeather (cropped)
Josiah Luis Alderete
Brontez Purnell
Greer Nakadegawa-Lee
Aja Couchois Duncan
Aja Couchois Duncan

About Michael Warr

Michael Warr’s books include Of Poetry and Protest: From Emmet Till to Trayvon Martin, edited by Michael Warr (W.W. Norton), and from Tia Chucha Press The Armageddon of FunkWe Are All The Black Boy, and Power Lines: A Decade of Poetry From Chicago’s Guild Complex. In 2017 he was named a San Francisco Library Laureate. Other poetry honors include a Creative Work Fund award for his multimedia project Tracing Poetic Memory in Bayview Hunters Point, PEN Oakland Josephine Miles Award for Excellence in Literature, Black Caucus of the American Library Association Award, Gwendolyn Brooks Significant Illinois Poets Award, and a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship for Poetry. Michael is the former Deputy Director of the Museum of the African Diaspora and has extensive experience in community-based arts. He became a board member of the Friends of the San Francisco Public Library in 2018. In 2020, he was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Berkeley Poetry Festival. Follow his creative work at

About Quiet Lightning

Now in its 13th year, Quiet Lightning is a literary movement to create and foster community around the written and spoken word. QL aims to democratize public space by offering performances, curation opportunities, and programming with no barriers to entry, providing a launchpad for new and emerging artists, a reliable platform for professional writers, and an inclusive, accessible gathering place for the public. QL is committed to care-taking and progressing the rich threads of literary culture that exist in the San Francisco Bay Area. Recognized by the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts as one of the 100 “people, organizations, and movements who are shaping the future of culture”, Quiet Lightning’s flagship is the literary mixtape, a submission-based series with a blind selection process and different curators for each show. The shows, which are free to attend, are published as books, handed out free to the first 100 people, and all participating artists are paid. QL has now produced 147 shows featuring 1,796 readings by 964 local authors in 91 venues, ranging from dive bars and art galleries to state parks and national landmarks, and has published 119 books and produced two films, all selected by 77 different curators. In 2019, Quiet Lightning pioneered an application process for limited-term board-membership, called Disruptors, to regularly bring new ideas and energy into the organization. QL maintains, a daily calendar of literary events.

Make a one-time donation or support us on patreon

Every tax deductible donation helps Quiet Lightning invest in a sustainable, ethical arts ecosystem, with the goal of building that culture into the fabric of our lives. You can donate by Venmo or PayPal or pledge a recurring donation by becoming one of our supporters on Patreon, which comes with a few additional perks and helps us expand on the work that we do.