The Saint Paul Almanac’s popular monthly Lowertown Reading Jam series continues in May with an evening showcasing what it means to be a Cultural Worker and the power of using the arts to heal, create and build community.

Hosted by Deborah A. Torraine, the Monday, May 3 Lowertown Reading Jam takes place from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at the Black Dog Café, 308 Prince Street, located across the street from the Saint Paul Farmer’s Market. Joining Torraine for a lively and inspiring event will be several local writers, poets, storytellers, playwrights, a gospel singer and spoken word artists.

Deborah A. Torraine has worked as a theater artist in the San Francisco Bay Area, Washington, DC, and Minnesota. She is an award-winning short story writer, has written five plays produced locally,  and is a member of the 2010 Givens Griots. Torraine describes herself as a “nosy, curious, and meddling organizer – a healing warrior for the people.”

Louis Alemayehu, a Minnesota poet, is a product of the Chicago Black Arts Movement. He became rooted in Minnesota to connect with his Anishinabe roots. Alemayehu is the director of the poetry-jazz ensemble Ancestor Energy and the winner of an Urban Griot Award in 2009.

Lisa Brimmer, is also a 2010 Griot, a program of the Givens’ Foundation for African American Literature.  She has been writing in the Saint Paul area for the last six years. She is a poet and experimenting playwright. Brimmer is currently in collaboration with local jazz musicians.

Claire DeCoster is part of Playback Theater which uses a community process to create a healing space where audience stories are played back by a performance ensemble through improvisational storytelling. Born and raised in Saint Paul, DeCoster lived many years away doing theater and drama therapy in big northern cities before returning to Minnesota in 1995.

Lenora Harris, a native of Minnesota, is 19 and has been writing since the age of 11.

Lynette Harris began signing in church at the age of 9, and she has signed professionally for the last 15 years. She runs a food shelf called Moms on the East Side of Saint Paul.

Michael Haynes is an experienced corporate manager, consultant, environmentalist, and fledgling writer. As the son of a civil rights activist and community leader, he struggles with a society that departmentalizes, classifies, sorts and labels its humanity. It is written and spoken word that Haynes uses to reach inward to re-claim quiet simplicity.

Q was born in Chicago and raised on the north side of Minneapolis. He is also a 2010 Givens’ Griot and he began writing in 6th grade and was published in 7th grade for a poem entitled “Questions about Love.” Moore graduated from the University of St. Thomas in 2009 with a B.A. in advertising and a minor in sociology.

Leonard Wilkes, a native of the Twin Cities, is committed to creating healthier communities and supporting pathways out of poverty. He believes that a healthy body, mind and soul come from eating healthy whole foods, and he encourages people to make healthier choices. Wilkes is committed to helping rebuild the shattered lives of youth and minorities.

The Lowertown Reading Jam Series continues at the Black Dog Café on the first Monday of the month through July. Each session is hosted by a well-known writer or spoken word artist, and Saint Paul artist Lara Hanson interprets the readings through drawings using Japanese ink brushes. Free hors d’oeuvres are served, and the Black Dog Café offers its “Monday Madness” special featuring a large pizza and bottle of wine or a large pizza and four Summit beer taps for just $20. All Reading Jams are American Sign Language (ASL) interpreted.

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