Jimmy Santiago Baca

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Jimmy Santiago Baca

In Residence at Unit One/Allen Hall  September 24–28

Jimmy Santiago Baca is an award-winning American poet and writer of Chicano descent. While serving a five-year sentence in a maximum security prison, he learned to read and began to turn his life around, eventually emerging as a prolific artist of the spoken and written word. He is a winner of the prestigious International Award for his memoir, A Place to Stand, which is now also a documentary by the same title. His book, Martin & Meditations on the South Valley, received the American Book Award for poetry and the Hispanic Heritage Award in Literature. In addition to more than a dozen books of poetry, he has published essays, stories, and a screenplay, Bound by Honor, which was made into a feature-length film. Baca has conducted writing workshops in prisons, libraries and universities across the country for more than thirty years.

Jimmy Santiago Baca is being brought to campus in collaboration with the Honors Living Learning Community and the Office of Inclusion and Intercultural Relations. Paid for in part by Student Cultural Programming Fee.

All programs are free and take place in Allen Hall, 1005 W. Gregory Drive, Urbana. Free parking is available after 5:00 p.m. in the garage across the street. 


Sunday, September 24

7 p.m. – A Place to Stand: film screening and Q&A with Jimmy Santiago Baca (Main Lounge of Allen Hall)

Jimmy Santiago Baca had little to live for when he entered Arizona State Prison, yet beyond the rage and desperation he found a new center – the quiet strength of poetry – and he blazed its trail with a fire that still burns today. A Place to Stand is the amazing true story of how Baca —a man with seemingly no future— became a celebrated teacher, poet, novelist, and screenwriter. Based on the memoir of the same name, A Place to Stand takes viewers into Jimmy’s past and present to uncover how the power of the written word lifted him from the violence and pain that had defined his early life. With powerful revelations from family, friends, and fellow inmates, as well as incredible insight into the early writings that first captured Jimmy’s imagination, audiences learn why it’s never too late to turn your life around – as long as you have a place to stand.

Monday, September 25

7 p.m. – An Evening with Jimmy Santiago Baca: Talk and Reading with reception to follow (Main Lounge of Allen Hall)

Award-winning poet and writer Jimmy Santiago Baca will read some of his poetry and talk about the power of literacy, not being defined by grammar, and how to express what is in our hearts without a shield.

Tuesday, September 26

7 p.m. – From the Inside Out: Mass Incarceration. A panel discussion with formerly incarcerated individuals and community activists, moderated by Jimmy Santiago Baca (Main Lounge of Allen Hall)

The topic of mass incarceration is an imperative permeating through many facets of our society. Educator, poet, and activist Jimmy Santiago Baca’s work has given him a voice and an opportunity to be heard on this issue. Baca will moderate a panel discussion with individuals directly impacted by the American prison system who are taking action to serve those experiencing the ripple effects of mass incarceration while educating others on the issue.

9:30 p.m. – Tea Time (guest apartment)

Wednesday, September 27

7 p.m. – Writing Workshop (South Rec Room of Allen Hall)

Jimmy Santiago Baca has conducted writing workshops in prisons, libraries and universities across the country for more than thirty years. In this workshop Jimmy will explore the idea of a writer’s life, allowing individuals who are interested in writing, no matter their skill level, to explore the writing process. What times in your life have you felt empowered? How have you been able to manifest substance into your own humanity? With various activities, Baca will work with participants to explore these questions and help them convey a message through poetry.

Thursday, September 28

7 p.m. – Where Do We Go From Here? A conversation on the importance of igniting activism within our communities (SDRP Multipurpose Room, 4th and Gregory, C)

In 2005 Jimmy Santiago Baca established the nonprofit Cedar Tree Incorporated. The foundation works with individuals to conduct literary workshops in prisons, detention centers, community centers, and schools for at-risk youth. In this lecture, Jimmy will discuss the importance of activism, helping individuals in their ability to recognize the path to getting involved and becoming active in their own communities.