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Steve Sumerford

In the week since Luis Rodriguez's reading at the Carolina Theatre, I have heard great praise for him and for the program. But, numerous people have noted their disappointment at the turnout. The house manager at the Carolina Theatre estimated 450-500 people, about half of the audience we had for Rita Dove and Billy Collins. The publicity we did for Rodriguez was probably more comprehensive than we did for the other two, so I don't think that is the explanation for the smaller crowd. If I had to guess why we had a smaller crowd, I would say that I think that Greensboro's non-Latino community is not yet ready to spend an afternoon celebrating Latino culture. I fully expected to see all of my nonprofit-sector friends there --- all of the people who talk about "reaching out to the Latino community." But they were not there, for the most part. I fully expected to see a lot of the same poetry crowd that we had for the other two readings, but they were noticeably absent.

Rodriguez, by the way, was an amazing man to spend time with. He was delighted by the Centro de Accion Latino teens and families. He spend Monday morning talking to them about the problems that they face as Latinos in our community. He then went to the jail to meet with about 20 Latino men. Within 5 minutes he had their trust and they opened up to him about their lives.

Even though the audience on Sunday was smaller than I had hoped, I still believe that he was an excellent choice for this year's Poetry GSO headliner event. Maybe, if we bring him back in a few years, the Carolina Theatre will be full and Greensboro will be ready to spend the afternoon with a poet who can give them deep insight into the life of a Latino man.

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