A decade ago today an avowed white supremacist entered a San Fernando Valley Jewish Community Center and shot 70 rounds, injuring five people. He later killed a Filipino American mail carrier. The gunman’s serving a life sentence in prison. The racially motivated shootings rocked the Southland. KPCC’s Adolfo Guzman-Lopez has this report about a group of poets staging a commemorative reading tonight they’re calling the “Poetry of Tolerance.”
Adolfo Guzman-Lopez: Television news coverage of the shootings shocked George Kalmar. He’d left Eastern Europe in 1965 hoping to escape anti-Semitism.
George Kalmar: For me this was kind of a flashback to what was happening in Europe after the war, and of course during the war, to the Jewish community.
Guzman-Lopez: He hadn’t expected anyone to target Jews like him in the United States. Kalmar’s a professional sculptor who’s also written poetry for decades. He’s composed something new for tonight’s reading.
Kalmar: This poem is called “The Dark Will Be Forgotten”:
Then this arm rose and swept aside the Roman chariots
Only to be sacrificed in the dark clouds of Masada’s wails...
Guzman-Lopez: Images from Jewish history intertwine with a remembrance of the shooting’s one casualty, mailman Joseph Ileto, and Kalmar’s belief that society is approaching a point at which tolerance will overtake hatred.
No one can turn our skins inside out on this new dawn, On this journey to oneness.
All faces will be one face, and all skins will be one skin;
All children will be mine and yours,
And, like in the beginning there will be only one father and one mother.
On that day Joseph Illeto will return and he will tell tales in Polish And Russian and Slovak, And at his side a little black haired boy with a kipa will sing a song In Togalog and dream of Zamboanga or Lubao; and on that day, and not before, the dark will be forgotten.
Guzman-Lopez: Three other poets plan to take part in the Poetry of Tolerance reading. They include a Japanese-American who’s written about anti-Asian violence and an Iranian poet inspired by the death of family members after Iran’s Islamic Revolution 30 years ago.