In Memory of Piri Thomas

Freedom Voices
Piri Thomas

Piri Thomas was born in New York City in 1928 and died in his home in El Cerrito Califronia on October 17, 2011.  He was 83 and died surrounded by his children and his wife Suzanne Dod Thomas. Piri was Freedom Voices eldest poet and a mentor to many of us. He had a passionate, personal, and spiritual presence which healed  and educated. He remained committed to doing readings and workshops in prisons, in the Tenderloin and in many, many communities until his health gave out a few years ago.If you wish to post a tribute to Piri pleease use the comment form below.Memorial services arrangements are pending and we will announce them here.

As an international best-selling author, with Down These Mean Streets, still in print well after 40 years, Piri influenced millions. In 2006, we were honored when he chose Freedom Voices to bring out a new edition of his wonderful collection of short stories, Stories From El Barrio with five new stories.

The oldest of seven children,he grew up in Spanish Harlem, where he became involved with gangs and drugs. After seven years in prison he returned to his old neighborhood as a youth worker. His first book, Down These Mean Streets, now considered a classic, was followed by Savior Savior Hold My Hand and Seven Long Times. He is the author of a play, The Golden Streets, and numerous articles, many of which have appeared in the New York Times Magazine. He has been the subject of three award-winning documentary films, the latest of which is Every Child Is Born a Poet. He also created two CDs of poetry with music, which feature first rate salsa musicians from NY and the San Francisco Bay Area.

We will miss him--but we will still feel his "flows". The energy he gave to the world is still circulating and in our hearts we can see and feel his mischevous grin.  He was a man who had suffered hard times and good times--but he loved and enjoyed life and shared that joy with us.

We love you Piri!

In memory of Beth Stanford, Ardath Saunders, Bone Blossom

Freedom Voices

Ardath Elizabeth Saunders Stanford, aka Beth and also Bone Blossom was born in Little Rock, Arkansas on December 21, 1948 and died in February 2011 after a long struggle with Lupus related illnesses.  

Beth was a close friend of Mary TallMountain and was the executor of her estate and a co-founder of the TallMountain Circle.  As a member of the Freedom Voices Editorial Collective, she  also filled many important roles at Freedom Voices including--at various times over 20 years--the administrator, bookkeeper, treasurer and secretary. A former board member of the Tenderloin Reflection and Education Center, Beth gave of her skills and energy freely, but with great precision.  She hated to waste time. She loved to share a good meal, a nice walk, a powerful ritual or a spiritual quest-- but she was eminiently practical--balancing the budget and keeping the books--even as she journeyed into the farthest realms of spiritual practices.

At the suggestion of Jim Stanford, her husband, we are inviting you, if you wish, to make a donation in memory of Beth.

Translations from Silence

Clifton Ross
Winner of the 2010 PEN Oakland poetry book award.

with an introduction by Jack Hirschman

“Clif Ross is among the most highly respected activists of the Left Coast… His own poetry, a generation of works, is here warmly presented in the context of a maturation of tone and voice that is quietly remarkable--and very much like himself. Ross is a fusion of a lyric realism and the power of metaphor. His voice isn't of the plosive kind. He writes an organic lyric, resisting any attempt on the part of the "Poet" in himself to overcome himself by a kind of verbal oblivion. His poems are expressions of his determination that friendship triumphs through beautiful communications that make one feel solidarity without feeling one's being indoctrinated or recruited.”
Jack Hirschman
Poet Laureate of San Francisco
from the introduction to the English edition.

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Song of the Flies

María Mercedes Carranza
[An Account of the Events]

Translations by Margarita Millar

Available now!

Canto de las Moscas (Song of the Flies), by the late Colombian poet María Mercedes Carranza, was published for the first time in 1997, following a decade marked by extremely high levels of violence in Colombia. At this point the country had already endured nearly half a century of armed struggle between government and rebel groups, and had more recently experienced the emergence of paramilitary forces and warring drug lords.

Carranza wrote these twenty-four poems, each bearing the name of a town or city that had been the site of large-scale violence, as a sort of chronicle and commemoration of the tragedies the people endured. The titles reflect a contradiction characteristic of Colombian reality: the beautifully-musical and whimsical place-names stand in cruel contrast to the events that marked them as massacre sites. Written in a form similar to Japanese haiku but not adhering to its strict line-and-syllable counts, the poems are short and spare.

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Rhett Stuart in Memoriam

Rhett Stuart
Rhett Stuart died on October 11, 2009 in San Francisco, California.

He was the first poet published by Freedom Voices (in 1989) and his book, Man Offbeat, is still in print.

Rhett Stuart grew up on the James River in Virginia with dreams of becoming a singer. In the 50's he studied journalism in Europe and music in New York. In 1960 he came to California where he sang baritone in a show at the Pasadena Playhouse. A Tenderloin District and San Francisco resident for many years, Stuart performed and read at diverse venues in the Bay Area including: the San Francisco Press Club, the 509 Cultural Center, Intersection for the Arts, Small Press Traffic, KPFA radio, and cafes, libraries, and senior centers. He was an active member of the San Francisco writing community and before his death lived in the Hayes valley neighborhood.

A memorial service for Rhett was held on January 9th, at Hospitality House. You can view the photo gallery at

If you knew Rhett and would like to post a picture or comment please send email to following address, You can read the comments so far posted by clicking the comment link below. An obituary appeared in the S.F. Chronicle November 15, 2009.

Man Offbeat

Rhett Stuart

This collection of poetry and prose tells the story of one man's liberation. Reading it, we join him as he spirals outward from the sound of the word, to the sound of the street, from a story of everyday life, to the inner magic of creative transcendence. His love of language and of people vibrates almost musically on each page. Stuart finds himself always out of sync. Offbeat. . . articulating hope in a place where sleeping on the streets is as common as being housed.

ISBN: 0-9625153-5-3
60 pages
Perfect bound paperback $9.95

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Image and Imagination

Ben Clarke, Editor; Photographer, Dorothea Lange

Writer-in-residence at the Oakland Museum of California and the Oakland Public Library, Ben Clarke, re-examines Dorothea Lange's photographs along with collaborating artists including: A.K. Black, Scott Braley, Lucha Corpi, Kitty Costello, Maketa Groves, Richard Oyama, Margot Pepper, Eric Robertson, Clifton Ross, Abena Songbird, and Rhett Stuart. Using poetry, personal essay, rap and contemporary photography the artists explore the intersection between Lange's documentary photography and current realities.

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Stories from El Barrio

Piri Thomas

Piri Thomas, who reached millions of readers with his bestselling autobiography, Down These Mean Streets, now gives readers of all ages a vivid slice of the life in El Barrio—a place where people face their problems with energy, ingenuity and love. He draws vivid stories from his past experiences and makes us feel what it means to be poor and proud and generous; to be streetwise and full of bravado but frightened, too; to struggle to go straight; to be ashamed of being ashamed; to dream. Speaking in the voice of the streets and from his heart, Piri captures the spirit, the laughter and the hope of his people.

“Stories From El Barrio is a crystal clear reflection of the general facet of Piri Thomas’s literary power. It is tender, powerfully compassionate, humanely provocative.”
Claude Brown, author of Manchild in the Promised Land

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Through the Wall: A Year in Havana

Margot Pepper

Margot Pepper's memoir propels us through the blockade to post-cold war Cuba. It's a surreal world where high-ranking officials are required to pick up hitch-hikers. Root canals, cosmetic surgery and graduate school are free, but toilet paper is exorbitant. There's no income tax nor homelessness, yet no house-paint either. As the story unfolds, Margot pursues a passionate love affair with a penniless Mexican poet who shakes up her views about Cuba. With cinematic vividness, Through the Wall reveals the failures and successes of one of the few functioning alternatives to corporate-run government, and draws out lessons that will be embraced by all who believe another world is possible.
ISBN: 0-915117-17-7 $19.95

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Living in the Land of the Dead, the poetry anthology co-created by the MBS class of 2014-15 with sage words from the poets, and

Freedom Voices
Friday, April 28 from 5:00 PM to 7:00 PM FROMM HALL Room 125 - Maraschi Room University of San Francisco
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