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Storied: San Francisco

Aug 18, 2020

Poet Tongo Eisen-Martin was born into a revolutionary home.

Tongo's parents met in Chicago but moved to San Francisco soon after. He was born and raised in an apartment at 25th and Valencia, part of a communal environment that taught him to question and analyze institutions from a young age.

He got started with poetry in elementary school doing a rap for Jesse Jackson when Jackson ran for president in 1988 (Tongo was 8 at the time).

Tongo started seeing poetry all around The City and the Bay Area before heading to New York City for college, where he soon discovered Nuyorican Poets Cafe. He ended up working in arts-based education with imprisoned youth at Rikers Island before returning to San Francisco to teach chronically truant kids through a YMCA program.

Check back Thursday for Part 2, when Tongo will tell us more about his teaching career and his poetry. He'll also recite for us his poem "The Course of Meal." You don't wanna miss this.

​We recorded this podcast in San Francisco during quarantine on Zoom in July 2020.

Photography by Michelle Kilfeather