In My Country is In My Heart


Tiny - Posted on 06 January 2011

Author: 
Tiny aka Lisa Gray-Garcia/Indigenous Peoples Media Project @ PNN

“In My Country” is a country that knows no borders; it’s a country of the heart”.  Tony Robles, revolutionary poet, nephew and son of many diasporas spoke about his inspiration for the beautiful short story, “In My Country” published in Mythium magazine (www.mythiumlitmag.com) and nominated by Mythium editor Crystal Wilkinson (www.crystalwilkinson.com) for the esteemed literary honor known as the Pushcart Prize--a well deserved honor for Tony, a deeply rooted community story-teller and poet of the people, who follows in the footsteps of his uncle, the late Manilatown poet and historian Al Robles.  The Pushcart Prize winners are to be announced in May 2011. 

From being a tenant organizer for elders in poverty in the Tenderloin, Mission and Manilatown districts of San Francisco to being the co-editor and contributor of one of the most revolutionary media organizations in the nation, POOR Magazine/Prensa POBRE, Tony has never compromised his values, his community or the voices of his multi-racial family of Filipino and African descendent resistance fighters based in the increasingly gentrified San Francisco Bay Area.

This dedication to community, ethics and resistance began as a young child with the teaching he received from his family of brilliant, conscious artists  and organic revolutionaries who, like Tony, supported their families with work in the janitorial or service industry. Through-out his life of work and in the last two years, Tony has worked as a security guard. Through his own lens this “revolutionary worker scholar” as is the title of his POOR Magazine/PoorNewsNetwork column, he has penned a series of brilliant narrative essays and short stories about workers, workplace injustices and peoples struggling with poverty, houselessness and racism in the US.

“In my country was inspired by poverty and migrant scholar Jose Sermeno of the Apollo hotel located in San Francisco’s Mission’s District,,” Tony said as he described his connection to the protagonist from In My Country, Tony went on to point out that Jose was a tenant representative and worked with other migrants in poverty like himself who were working as day laborers.

In addition to working as a tenant advocate and community journalist, Tony authored two bilingual (English and Tagalog) children’s books, published on Children’s Book Press: Lakas and the Manilatown Fish and Lakas and the Makibaka Hotel. As well, Tony is a teacher and playwright who authored a play, Hotel Voices, which he co-produced with, Lisa “tiny” Gray-Garcia, co-founder and co-editor of POOR Magazine. Hotel Voices is an innovative theatre production which took place in the Single Room Occupancy Hotels of San Francisco and included a 20 week script-writing and performance workshop and was performed to sold out audiences across the Bay Area in 2009.

The phrase “In my country”, according to Tony, means in my heart, and with his heart, the protagonist of the story, like Tony himself, brings his country, his heart and his humanity into the struggle for place, home, memory and justice into the increasingly cold and bereft land where all of us poor workers, migrants, elders and families struggle to dwell.

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