Jimmy Santiago Baca

Photo by Esai Baca


POET and activist Jimmy Santiago Baca will visit Adams State University on Cesar Chavez Day. After spending the day with students and faculty, Baca will read his poetry at 7 p.m. on Thursday, March 31, in McDaniel Hall 101. The event is free and open to the public. Masks are now optional at Adams State.

A Chicano poet, activist, and literary icon, Baca endured a difficult childhood and adolescence before going to prison in 1973 at age 21 for drug charges. Illiterate upon his arrival to Arizona State Prison, Baca taught himself to read and write, began publishing his own poetry while still imprisoned, and upon release five years later went to The University of New Mexico, where he received his B.A. in English.

Adams State students have been the central force for planning the event including Educators of Tomorrow and the Pen & Inkwell Writers Guild, supported by the School of Teacher Education and the English, Communications, and Media Department.

“I’m excited for the opportunity to bring people together to share work with an author who has a lot of perspective and a healthy way of looking at life,” said Angel Guerrero, president of Educators of Tomorrow and secondary English major. “We hope as many people as possible will attend from the middle schools and high schools, ASU faculty and staff, and community.”

Ben Key, president of Pen & Inkwell Writers Guild and English literature major, agrees. “I’m excited for the workshop, not only to bring Baca, but also to have a public reading, workshop with faculty, spend a whole day with him and get his perspective.”

Since his release from prison more than three decades ago, Baca has published several works of literature. Notable works include the lengthy narrative poem Martin and Meditations on the South Valley, the memoir A Place to Stand, and the screenplay for Blood In, Blood Out. In 2004, Baca founded the nonprofit Cedar Tree, Inc., whose mission is to transform lives through reading and writing.

Center High School students will join Adams State for the morning session with Baca.

Keaton Gregg, a concurrent student, English major and a member of both Pen & Inkwell and Educators of Tomorrow, said: “It’s hard to feel a presence like Baca’s and think about our differences.” The event is sponsored by the PPOHA Expanding Access grant.