IN THE BEGINNING . . .
Michelle Myers and Catzie Vilayphonh met in the summer of 2000 when they participated in a writing/performance workshop called "Something to Say" at the Asian Arts Initiative in Philadelphia. The workshop was led by acclaimed playwright and theater director Gary San Angel who also founded NYC's performance collective Peeling the Banana. During this workshop, Catzie and Michelle collaborated on their first group poem "I'm a Woman Not a Flava" and debuted it in a "Something to Say" performance event at the Asian Arts Initiative in September of 2000.
AND THEN THERE WAS DEF POETRY . .
Michelle and Catzie gained national attention several months later when they first competed as "Black Hair, Brown Eyes, Yellow Rage" in the first leg of the national Def Poetry Slam tour which began in the fall of 2000. The day after the Slam, Yellow Rage was Invited by Def Poetry producers Deb Pointer, Bruce George, and Danny Simmons to audition in NYC to be part of the first-ever Def Poetry Jam show at the 2001 HBO U.S. Comedy Arts Festival in Aspen, Colorado. After auditioning along with dozens of other hopeful poets, Yellow Rage was selected by the Def Poetry and HBO producers to represent Def Poetry Jam in Aspen; they shared the stage with spoken word poetry veterans Jessica Care Moore, Taylor Mali, Steve Coleman, and Black Ice. The show was filmed by HBO Def Comedy Jam director Stan Lathaan and became the pilot which was pitched to HBO producers to create a Def Poetry Jam television series. Production for the television show began in the summer of 2001; in October 2001, Yellow Rage received a full-house standing ovation when they performed during the filming for the first season of the critically-acclaimed HBO television series Russell Simmons Presents Def Poetry. Catzie and Michelle appeared in the second show of the first season, which aired in December 2001; the show can currently be seen in reruns on HBO as well as on the Russell Simmons Presents Def Poetry, Season One DVD. Yellow Rage also performed as part of the Def Poetry Jam College Tour through the early part of 2003.
PLACES AND SPACES WE'VE BEEN . . .
Yellow Rage has performed coast-to-coast in the U.S., has gained an international following, and has been recognized for their artistic achievements. Some of their national performance credits include the 2001 HBO U.S. Comedy Arts Festival in Aspen, Colorado; the 2001 and 2007 APIA Spoken Word Summit in Seattle, WA and NYC respectively; the 2001 NY International Fringe Festival in the show Asians Misbehavin'; the 2002 and 2005 ECAASU (East Coast Asian American Student Union) Conferences at Duke University and the University of Pennsylvania; the 2006 GiRL FeST Bay Area Conference at the University of California-Berkeley; the 2006 Soroptomist International of the Americas International Convention in Philadelphia, PA; and the 2008 Campus Progress National Conference in Washington D.C. Artist awards include a Windows of Opportunity Grant awarded by the Leeway Foundation in August 2002 which enabled Catzie and Michelle to travel to Hawai’i (Oahu) where they performed for the local poetry organization/collective Wordstew and attended the Globalization Research Center’s Trafficking of Asian Women and Children Conference. In 2006, Michelle and Catzie were awarded an APIA Residency (Artists & Performance in Action) by the Asian Arts Initiative which partially funded their second CD. Their poetry on human trafficking and modern-day slavery was featured in the book Speaking Truths: The Poetics of Defining Human Slavery, published by Achiote Press in 2007. Yellow Rage has produced two CDs: "Black Hair, Brown Eyes, Yellow Rage, Volume 1" and "Handle With Care, Volume 2."
OUR POETRY, OUR MISSION . . .
For more than eight years, Yellow Rage has sought to make a positive impact through their poetry. Drawing from their own unique experiences, individual political ideologies, and personal life philosophies as Asian American women, Michelle and Catzie's group and solo poems address issues which explore the intersections of race, culture, gender, community, and self. Core issues examined by Yellow Rage include human trafficking, sexual slavery and modern-day slavery; anti-Asian violence; domestic violence; cross-cultural conflict and misunderstanding; cultural commodification; racism and sexism; mixed race identity; class divisions; and self-identity. At the heart of Yellow Rage's poetry is a desire to present a perspective that challenges ignorance and hatred and holds people of any race, gender, ethnicity, religious belief, etc., accountable for ideas and behaviors which in turn facilitate divisiveness rather than understanding. Through anger, pain, joy, celebration, sarcasm, and humor, Catzie and Michelle strive to facilitate honest dialogue with their poetry and hope to move themselves and others towards some universal Truth--to recognize the humanity of others and acknowledge the human desire for peace, healing, happiness, and love. Employing multiple poetic forms and delivery styles--including hip hop-influenced rhyme, character depictions, theatrical monologue, song, and free verse--Yellow Rage seeks to connect people, bridge cultures, and initiate a movement of positive and progressive change.