Welcome to Young Poet Spotlight, where Poet Astrid chooses a local L.A. poet to introduce to our community. Each edition will include an original poem followed by information about the poet’s journey, background, and style. Please enjoy this first edition of the series, which starts with a new poem by Eddy M. Gana Jr.
Art Inspires Action & Action Brings Change
Eddy M. Gana Jr. is a poet and community organizer for the Filipino community in Los Angeles.
He was originally born and raised in Union City in the San Francisco Bay Area. Growing up, Eddy felt he could only relate to rappers such as Tupac and Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, because they were the only mainstream media artists who represented people of color.
It was not until Eddy’s sophomore year at James Logan High school, where he witnessed a poem performed by a good friend on patriarchal society. It was a huge wake-up call. Eddy realized you don’t need a beat to connect with people. “It doesn’t have to be stoic. It’s active, it’s real.” This inspired him to revisit his love of poetry. At first Eddy found himself writing about love and family, but he progressed to topics about social justice and the Filipino community.
A few years later, Eddy relocated from the Bay Area to attend UC Irvine. During his senior year, Eddy worked for a program called COACH. The program allowed him to mentor students. However, he did not want to feel inadequate when helping others before helping himself first. Although poetry provided an outlet, he did not always express his true feelings due to certain audience members. Eddy then decided to enroll himself in therapy to seek additional guidance. COACH later proved to be the stepping stone behind his future aspirations.
Once Eddy graduated with a BA in Psychology and Criminology, he began working a 9 to 5 job but found himself yearning for creativity. In 2011, Eddy and his wife, Stephanie Sajor, formed a spoken word group with two of their friends: Mark Maza and Susan Diep. The four members became known as, forWord.
By 2012, Eddy and Stephanie started an open mic with a friend, Janice Sapigao, called Sunday Jump. It is currently the only Filipino founded open mic in Historic Filipinotown, Los Angeles. “Express, Not Impress. Free Speech, Not Hate Speech” is the open mic’s slogan. The trio has since grown to include the following members on their team: Natasia Gascon, Jaynese Poole, Alyssa Gonzales, Vatche Yousefian, and Juan Espinoza.
An interesting feature at Sunday Jump is the Community Spotlight segment. Community organizations, businesses, and services are highlighted during a break. Some of these include mental health, domestic violence, police brutality, gentrification, etc. “It’s not just poetry, it’s also what you do after.” Sunday Jump does not only serve members of the Filipino community, but it aims to serve all people of color through art and poetry.
On the other hand, Eddy is not afraid to admit his own need for a listening ear. His efforts to remove the stigma behind boys/men who are pressured by hyper masculinity, stems from his own realization that it is okay to ask for help. “Therapy is there to guide, but ultimately I make the decisions. I can be in control of my life and things will get better when I’m ready.”
On and off the stage, Eddy has developed his skills as a good listener. He is currently pursuing a Master’s Degree in Social Work at the University of Southern California, interns for Kaiser Permanente as a Medical Social Worker, and works alongside families diagnosed with Autism as an Advanced Behavior Technician.
Help us join Eddy in his fight to represent Filipino communities, dismantle colonized mentalities, and destigmatize masculine stereotypes through freedom of expression and mental health!
If you’d like to learn more or want to keep up with Sunday Jump, please refer to the social media outlets listed below for more information. The open mic occurs the 1st Sunday of every month in the Pilipino Workers Center (PWC) from 5PM-7PM.