On May 2, it was learned that long-time community activist, poet and educator Al Robles has passed away.
Along with Bill Sorro, Robles was a key figure in the eviction protest and the rebuilding of the I-Hotel in San Francisco through the Manilatown Heritage Association.
Also with Sorro, Robles brought his Education InAction students from City College of San Francisco to the Manzanar Pilgrimage and Manzanar After Dark (now known as Manzanar At Dusk) programs for several years. That continued until a few years ago, before Sorro passed away in August 2007.
Robles has been missed at the Manzanar Pilgrimage. Now he will be missed by everyone whose lives he has touched.
For more…the Hyphen Magazine blog was the first to break the story of Robles’ death…R.I.P. Al Robles.
Valerie Soe, who teaches at San Francisco State University, wrote a nice tribute to Robles.
LEAD PHOTO: Al Robles. Photo: Valerie Soe.
Watch video of a tribute to Robles in San Francisco’s Manilatown on May 3:
Here’s another video tribute to Robles
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Al was brilliant. I loved seeing him saunter into the Manzanar After Dark programs in Independence for years. He was laughter and humbleness and poetry in motion. His poems were written on scraps of paper that had to be turned in circles to read them for they were written on every available space, along every margin.
I too miss having Al (and Bill) at Manzanar At Dusk. They contributed greatly to the program each year. Al’s poems were the best. And when I think of their work on the I-Hotel…they will be missed tremendously.
I’m so sorry to hear this news. Al was like the pied piper to me, as he was always surrounded by students eager to share their experiences at their first pilgrimage. He always encouraged them to express themselves, and he walked the walk and talked the talk with them. My deepest sympathies to all who loved him.
Al gave all of us who wanted to be creative a chance by paving the road that allowed us to travel a creative path. He will be missed. Here is a link to a series of pieces I wrote in his memory:
A gift for the man who gave us so much. Uncle Al gave me the chance to write again, something I gave up on but was inspired back into by his guiding hand. This is part of a 20 poem series about Manong Al:
Your seed now planted
It’s weeds now grow
Through sidewalk cracks
Through Brick wall
Old Manong, we find a way
To write our poems
Like the weed we grow strong
We will not stop
Our ink spills like blood
Crimson across the pulp
A thousand hands now write as one
Your inspiration gives us life
Our pens once dry
Now run with ink
Our hearts once heavy
Now lighten with a faith
A faith born from your promise
Your gift unseen
To those who cannot understand
Our pens now glide
Across the paper landscapes
Across our imaginations
Your gift, in our hands
Like raw clay waiting for shape
Our minds now churn
Churn with the pulse of our ancestors
Tradition burns like desire
Deep within darkened city streets
Our thoughts now travel
Across the seas of time
Our thoughts now cry out
The chain broken
Once holding us back
Now setting us free
Your gift ten thousand flowers
Blooming under a blood red moon
Images brought forth in pain
Now soothed with the balm of kindness
You give us life
As you walk past death
No chains hold you now
You are free
To watch over your children
Child of the pen
Born to the paper
Our gift is yours