Root for the Underdog: A Reading & Poets’ Conversation

Please join us on Friday, March 17, as Beyond Baroque celebrates Meliza Bañales and their new book and share a conversation with fellow poets inspired by the title, ROŌT FOR THE UNDERDOG, which is a work of sacred memory keeping, of 1990s San Francisco Mission, queer, Latina, femme poet life and the life twenty years later when condos take over those poetry bars. It’s a disabled, brown femme reckoning, telling honest stories of grief, love, desire, and survival.

Angela Aguirre, Sean Hill, and Brian Sonia-Wallace will join for our evening and read their selected work. After the readings, the four poets will discuss the theme “root for the underdog,” facilitated by Jen Cheng. Come early for the reception with food & light refreshments and stay for book signings.

Doors open at 7:30 p.m. Readings begin at 8:00 p.m.

About the Authors:

Meliza Bañales, also known as Missy Fuego, is an author, advocate, and adventurer. Their new book, roōt for the underdog, features tales of strife, strength, and community. In addition to creating daring work across more than two decades of books and anthologies, Meliza has received praise from feminist and queer magazines like Autostraddle and Bustle. They were a 2016 Lambda Literary Finalist for Best LGBTQ Debut Fiction for their novel Life Is Wonderful, People Are Terrific. Meliza rocked the slam poetry scene of 1990s San Francisco, taught at UC San Diego, and now lives in Los Angeles and the Central Coast. @MissyFuego

Sean Hill is an award-winning multidisciplinary artist and humanitarian with the focus of supporting universal inner and outer peace in a realistic, fun, and passionate way. As a SAG actor, host, speaker, a touring spoken word artist, and workshop facilitator, he has shared stages and pages with Oscar winners, platinum singers, Grammy winners, literary giants like Kevin Powell, V (formerly Eve Ensler), Jessica Care Moore, Nikki Giovanni, and children from youth homes sharing poems for the first time. He traveled to help build two gender equal schools in Malawi & Nepal. “It is better to light a candle than to curse the dark.” / All Social: @LetsBendReality /

Angela Aguirre is a Chicana author, speaker, and teacher. A fierce advocate for women and youth in her community, she believes in using her platform to empower. Angela started her journey at Da Poetry Lounge in Hollywood in 2010 and has been writing and performing her work since. In 2016, her book of poetry and writing prompts Confessions of a Firework was published. In 2017, she was the youngest honored as one of ten Women of the Year by Senator Anthony Portantino. In 2018, she gave the opening talk at TEDxCal State LA. In 2019, she launched The Millennial Mija Podcast. In 2020, she created a healing workshop series called Season of Self which has created a community for women and femmes on their individual journeys to self-discovery and growth. In 2022, she was given the Women for Racial Justice award by the YWCA. She has done keynotes and workshops for conferences, graduations, and corporate events. Her work has been featured by Latina magazine, All Def Digital, Voto Latino, KCET, and The Huffington Post.

Brian Sonia-Wallace is a poet and cultural worker interested in themes of intimacy, service, debt, queerness, grief, authorship, memory, and transcendence. He is the West Hollywood City Poet Laureate, an 2021–22 Academy of American Poets Laureate Fellow, and the author of The Poetry of Strangers: What I Learned Traveling America with a Typewriter. His book chronicles long-term project RENT Poet, which invites the public to share their stories in exchange for poems about them, written in real-time on a vintage typewriter. Brian runs a queer open mic in a trashy gay club and was once quote-tweeted by Bjork.

Jen Cheng is an alchemist, a creator of poetry, songs, books, and film. As a queer, lesbian daughter of Chinese immigrants, Jen is a cultural translator with a commitment to social justice and community building. She wrote and produced a Burmese LGBTQ family drama, Shadow of Love, and is developing a character-driven mystery series, Lucky Penny. She is also a co-creator of Fly Away, a series that centers on an intercultural friend group of tween girls, talented gymnasts, and budding artists, set in the 1990s. Jen is a founding member of Pride Poets and hosts a BIPOC-centered literary salon, Palabras. More about Jen on or social media (Twitter/IG): @jenCvoice. If you want to see her dog steal the stage, find them walking in West Hollywood or on this Instagram @jen.and.potato.



This event is Free & In-Person at Beyond Baroque. Masks are required while inside our center.

Event attendees are expected to behave in a respectful and considerate manner while in our space. Beyond Baroque reserves the right to remove individuals from our events, virtual or otherwise, if they are not respecting the space, fellow attendees, or performers.

If you can’t join us in person, the event will be live streamed on Beyond Baroque’s YouTube channel at the scheduled time of the event.

Please RSVP if you are planning to attend this event. We accept walk-ins, but priority will be given to people that have registered. Limited seating is available; we recommend arriving early.