CCSF Diego Rivera

Art Project



Jeff Kaliss


Celia, born in Brazil, has long been an enchanting songwriter and entertainer in the Bay Area,  an activist advocate for the rights of the people of her native and adopted countries and of the rights of the women of the world, and my fascinating friend. This story-poem is told in her voice.



I feel very connected with you

            as I am writing this

            but also reading this

            for the first time,

            just like you.


And you:

            Will you be cared for

            as I was, by Iaia,

            as a little girl in Rio,

            where my crazy flower of a Momma

            left my Father, the man in the television,

            left him helpless

            to put order in our hearts?


Are you holding my hand?,

How do you feel

            when you read how much

            I care about your caring

            About me?


Iaia, dear Iaia,

            she was from Bahia,

            the warm womb of Brazil,

            she’d come with Candomblé,

            the river on which the African saints

            had sailed westward in chains,

            on slave ships in dark days.

Iaia cooked us cozido and pirão

            and delighted with us

            in our girlish dancing.


Luiz Gonzaga Malheiros,

            our esteemed Papa,

            could never be a Mama,

            so he sat himself

            at a worn wooden desk

            to prove the inexistence

            of God.


Maria de Gloria,

            in her separate sticky room

            in Copacabana,

            missing the mothering of me,

            did auditions for Death.


Thanks be, neither Luiz nor Maria succeeded!

And in between them,

            I began to hear the music:

            the breath of the waves,

            the clamoring coro of the sidewalks,

            and my way started

            to compose itself.


I bloomed,

            and learned to be plucked,

            and tested my browned and blonded body

            by quickening its head

            with smoke and colors.

            Sometimes I saw

            what Mama saw

            and was glad and sad

            to see it.


Papa send me away

            to the Disneyland North,

            where I learned to order

            greasy food

            with hard consonants.


But I remembered to sing,

            and I found America yearning

            towards my tangy dipthongs,

            seeking my salt-watered

            musical memories,

            needing curing

            from my dear dead Iaia.


Are you listening now,

            as I sing choro and bossa?

Have you married me

            and made a mother of me?

And now,

            are we world enough?


                                                        — by Jeff Kaliss,

                                                        MFA, San Francisco State University,

                                                        Creative Writing Certificate,

                                                        City College of San Francisco


Poet’s Statement –

Through numerous discussions with Celia Malheiros, the inspiration of my epoymous poem, I became convinced of the progressive and international approach to social and cultural issues Celia shares with me and that we both share with antecedent creative artists such as Diego Rivera and his wife and artistic partner Frida Kahlo. Frida, whose representation in the mural has been called insufficiently prominent, has been a particular model for Celia. Celia’s full expression as both artist and activist led to her ultimately separating from her original musical and marital partner. Respect for the power and wisdom of indigenous culture, much represented in Rivera’s CCSF mural and embodied in Frida’s lifestyle, is also shared by Celia, who has benefitted from voyages of discovery into the northern jungles of her native Brazil.

Biography –

After completing an MFA in Creative Writing at SFSU, Jeff Kaliss commenced creative writing and other courses at CCSF, where he completed the Creative Writing Certificate, was published in Forum, the College’s literary magazine, and founded the Poetry for the People Podcast. Jeff is a longtime, widely-published music journalist and author, and during the pandemic he’s read poetry with fellow poets in the US and abroad.


Tehmina Khan




At The No Business As Usual Exhibit Of Protest Art,
City College Of San Francisco, December 2019

                                                                     A necklace of scissors

Candles of remembrance

                                                                                            A skeleton rising up in the
                                                                                            graveyard for the murdered.

                                                                                                                  A vigil for the disappeared:

metal arts                                                              
                                                               figure drawing

                                                                    Casualties of a war on creativity.

                                                                                                     A green serpent with
                                                                                                     a moneybag for a head
                                                                                                     fangs ready to pierce

                                                                   The last screen print from CCSF, three of them in a row.

                                                                                                                                                        A colorful fist raised.

                                                                                                     Schedule of classes shredded into ribbons.

                                                                                     “LIES” written in red
                                                                                     over the promise of graduation.

                                                                                                     “BS” over the slogan
                                                                                                     Students First.

                                                                                                                                                        Scissors, snip, cut, silence.

                                                                  Testimony of immigrant women learning to weld.

                                                                                               Dreams of city people, working people                                        
                                                                                               longing for words, numbers, stories, skills.

                                                                  Dreams deferred. Who’s making a profit?

                                           Who is the green serpent with fangs pointed at us?

From a painting on the wall,
Frida and Diego watch what we do.

They’ve been here before.

Poet’s Statement –

This Poem, “Casualties of a War on Creativity,” reflects on the consequences of losing art classes at City College.  An ekphrastic poem, it takes inspiration from the No Business as Usual Exhibit of Protest Art at the now closed Fort Mason Campus.  The poem draws upon images of corporate greed, which drive the downsizing of urban, working class arts classes.  The final stanza specifically names Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, noting that we continue their struggle.



Poetry Month, 2019


We are Poets for the People

gathered tight

in a City College classroom

in the presence of Maya Angelou

resurrected by memory and love.


We rise

to speak her words

in Tagalog







We rise in Hawaiian

           in Tigrinya

           in Arabic

           in Japanese


With drum beat

and guitar strums,

we speak her words,

witness four hundred years

of resistance,

and emerge in silver sequins

like our ancestor the fish,

rising out of the ocean

to start life anew.


Poets for the People,

we seek that maternal

heartbeat of the earth,

holding us close,

then lifting us up.


In these new nights of terror,

what choice do we have?

Poets must do what poets do.

We rise.


Yes, they want to see us broken.

This is nothing new.

They want to shut us down

and shut us up.


But we are Poets for the People,

a black ocean

swelling with truth.


And Maya Angelou

in the Great Beyond?


We have her poem.

And we rise.


Poet’s Statement –

This poem, “Maya Angelou at City College of San Francisco” reflects on a celebration of Maya Angelou’s poem “Still I Rise,” which took place in my Poetry for the People classroom. We recited the poem in multiple languages, speaking to our own resilience in the face of a history that seeks to crush us. We made this poem our own and we rose together. Maya Angelou lived and worked in the spirit of Diego Rivera’s mural, celebrating love and beauty in the face of oppression and pain.

Biography –

Tehmina Khan is a daughter of Indian immigrant scientists who has spent her adult life writing, teaching, resisting, and mothering. She has taught science to preschoolers, citizenship to octogenarians, and literary translation to elementary school students; she now teaches English and poetry at City College of San Francisco, where she defends everyone’s right to a quality education on whatever terms we choose.  She has taken CCSF courses in Chinese, photography, literature, and gender studies.  City College is the people’s college, which serves a multi-ethnic, multi-generational, neurodiverse, and multilingual student body, who come to class ready to defend their education and their democracy.  Tehmina is humbled to be part of this community.

Maria Fe Picar



We once were united around a campfire, telling stories that would be passed down from
generation to

generation by word of mouth,

Stories that shared our love of tradition, cuture, and relations to neighbors north and


Then came quiet sittings in coffeehouses with that steaming cup of joe and a
newspaper that

kept us captivated for hours that we could sometimes never know.

After that we only knew what we heard on the radio, saw on the t.v. and maybe in
books, typewriters

dial up phones, the beginning of video games, BETA, VHS, and pagers galore.


Whatever you needed was easily accessible to be mailed from a catalog or bought in a
nearby store.

We started to manufacture more and more disposable waste as our population grew
and so did the

need for readily available cosmetics, paper products and instant food


What we know now, but didn’t know then,

was that we were slowly polluting oceans and land

with the use of these products and necessities no longer made by hand


The emergence of the internet created the ability to communicate on a global scale,you
only needed

a computer and the ability to e-mail.

Poet’s Statement –

I was inspired to write this poem by looking at the picture that you had in the Face Book ad that looked like a person telling a story around a campfire and was reminded of how technology has erased the personalized touch of telling stories by “word of mouth”. We are now so inundated by technology that these traditions and stories have gotten lost in society and maybe we need to rekindle that feeling, that method of not only telling stories but also communicating in general on a personal level.

Biography – 

City College of San Francisco has been like a second home to me. Right out of high school I loved being a part of Dance Department and performing with teachers that inspired me like Paula McCullum Epperson. She is long gone now, but she motivated me to follow my dream of being a dancer and then dance instructor and choreographer. I opened my own dance studio shortly after that called Ingleside Creative Arts. My two daughters also went to school there, one majoring in Visual Art and the other in Special Education. But I also learned my love for the Dramatic Arts and Film by participating in Vocal Classes with Judy Hubbell and Drama with Deborah Shaw and Susan Jackson and also participated in a couple of Musical Theater productions. The Theater has always been the place where the mural stood and reminded me that I was there to fulfill my dreams of being a performing artist. To this day I am a filmmaker and actress and co-founded my production company called Asian Mainstream Productions. We have made award winning films that have been accepted into national and international film festivals. City College was the sign for me to do what I was passionate about and will always be a place of learning and education. The teachers were the best and still are. I hope future students experience the college the way I did- a place to follow your dreams and fulfill them!