Member Profile: Floyd Salas and Tony R. Rodriguez



MEMBER PROFILE: Floyd Salas
President, PEN Oakland

When did you become a member of PEN Center USA?
In 1989.

Why did you become a member of PEN Center USA?
To establish a multi-cultural PEN chapter, if not a center, in the United States. In 1989, PEN Oakland Secretary-Treasurer and fellow founder Claire Ortalda and I travelled to the PEN International convention in Madeira to press for a third center devoted to multi-cultural writers in the United States but were denied on the basis that the U.S. was only allowed two PEN centers, in New York and L.A. Our aim was to support American writers who were being suppressed.

What is most exciting to you about PEN Center USA?
PEN Oakland’s programs and Freedom to Write programming.

What is your favorite memory/story of PEN Center USA or a PEN Center USA event?
We rarely go to PEN Center USA events because we live in Berkeley and they’re all in L.A. My favorite memory is when we organized, in 1991, a town hall meeting in Oakland to discuss PEN Oakland’s boycott of major network news to protest televised racism. Over 400 people attended and the line to speak was literally out the door. See our website at penoakland.com.

PEN Centers share a Freedom To Write mission, which means we believe that people should be able to read and write freely. What does Freedom To Write mean to you?
I have long pressed for PEN to support United States writers who are suppressed. For instance, I urged PEN Center USA to support prison writer Dannie Martin, who wrote about prison life and was published in the San Francisco Chronicle’s Sunday Punch section. However, when he wrote about abuses, such as poor medical care in the prison system, he was taken from Lompoc federal prison, put on a plane, and flown around for so many hours shackled without being able to move that his ankles swelled alarmingly. He was then transferred to another federal prison. This is the kind of domestic terrorism against our own writers—from our penal authorities, in that particular case—that I would like to see PEN Center USA’s Freedom to Write program support.

What do you wish other people knew about PEN Center USA?
I wish that PEN Center USA would encourage the membership as a whole to learn more about and support PEN Oakland, which fights against the suppression of writers in America, with particular emphasis on multicultural and marginalized writers, including prison writers.

In light of the changing ways in which news is being shared, what role, if any, do you think writers and journalists play in disseminating information or encouraging action?
The role they should play is to disseminate non-establishment views which means greater press freedom.

What are you reading now?
I’m reading, belatedly, Dark Alliance by Gary Webb, to whom we gave a PEN Oakland Censorship Award, prior to his death. As you may recall, he was the journalist who uncovered the Iran-Contra/crack cocaine connection and was fired from the San Jose Mercury News, blackballed by other journalistic outlets, and later found dead in his bathtub under suspicious circumstances.

Tell us a story in one sentence.
Long ago and far away, some outcasts fled to the new land of the Americas in order to find freedom and the right to self-governance, and they succeeded—everybody from Washington, who fought the British, who thought they owned America, to Lincoln, who was born in a log cabin and became one of the greatest men of his time because of his humanity, to Martin Luther King, Jr., the descendant of slaves who also became one of the greatest men of his time and who fulfilled Lincoln’s dream of the downtrodden ascending and lighting the way for others to ascend.

Floyd Salas is a critically-acclaimed, award-winning author of five novels, a memoir, and two volumes of poetry. His novel, Tattoo the Wicked Cross, earned a place on the San Francisco Chronicle's Western 100 List of Best 20th-Century Fiction. Tattoo and Buffalo Nickel are featured in Masterpieces of Hispanic Literature.

floydsalas.com

 


 



MEMBER PROFILE: Tony R. Rodriguez
Board Director, PEN Oakland

When did you become a member of PEN Center USA?
Not quite sure—a few years ago, perhaps.

Why did you become a member of PEN Center USA?
I’m a board member of PEN Oakland, a chapter of PEN Center USA. Membership is respectfully obligatory.

What is most exciting to you about PEN Center USA?
Receiving PEN Center USA’s e-mail notifications discussing the many roles of activism and awareness PEN Center USA plays in various diverse communities.

What is your favorite memory/story of PEN Center USA or a PEN Center USA event?
Discussing Fightin’ Words—the PEN Oakland anthology of literature, poetry, and multicultural studies—with Michelle Franke and Adam Somers.

PEN Centers share a Freedom To Write mission, which means we believe that people should be able to read and write freely. What does Freedom To Write mean to you?
It means we keep it on the real—legitimately and daily.

What do you wish other people knew about PEN Center USA?
Its many involvements within social justice causes.

In light of the changing ways in which news is being shared, what role, if any, do you think writers and journalists play in disseminating information or encouraging action?
They’re performing in the critical roles they’ve so conscientiously chosen to play, for better or for worse.

What are you reading now?
Some unpublished works by select Bay Area writers.

Tell us a story in one sentence.
And it was then that the vermin gathered further and flung out their social hexes to the lockstep protestors that value and de-value human life.

Tony R. Rodriguez is a board member of PEN Oakland, and novelist of five books, including the best-selling Under These Stars (Beatdom Books, 2014). His novels have been published in Scotland and the United States of America. He has prefaced Norman Mailer. His work has been studied at the University of Texas Pan American. And he’s rocked the casbah.


Check out our past Member Profiles here.