Poet performed in a one-man show, “Prieto,” a coming-of-age story
By Robert Airoldi
Coach Jim Green, longtime educator after whom the Britton Middle School Gymnasium is named, sent us a photo of Al Alciati, a basketball player from the class of 1967 and his coach Duane Asplund of the Live Oak Acorns; they’re both holding a program from the 1966 Peninsula Basketball Tournament. Before the creation of the Central Coast Section and the California Interscholastic Federation, there were prestigious postseason tournaments of league champions. It seemed that either Coach Asplund of Live Oak High School or Bob Hagan of Gilroy High School took turns representing the Mission Trails League. Thanks for the history lesson, Coach!
Local author William Briggs will be discussing his new book The Star, The Saint and The City at 6 p.m. Feb. 15, at BookSmart in the Vineyard Town Center.
The origins of San Francisco and early California journalism are the focus of the book by regional historian-author Briggs. From the discovery of the great bay to the arrival of a shipload of the first Yerba Buena immigrants and the subsequent transformation into the city of San Francisco, the book traces this history through the first San Francisco newspaper, The California Star and the dramatic life of its publisher Samuel Brannan.
According to Briggs, a California State University emeritus dean and retired journalism professor, history has marginalized the importance of Sam Brannan, and the enormous role played by the original Mormon religious refugees he led to California in 1846. Not only did they colonize Yerba Buena, but his fledgling newspaper renamed it San Francisco and two years later broke the news about the discovery of gold at Sutter’s Mill, launching the Gold Rush and transforming California.
“Brannan was the city’s biggest promoter, its first entrepreneur and California’s first millionaire, but many people are less familiar with that part of the story for any number of reasons,” Briggs said. Brannan argued that California should become the Mormon capital instead of Salt Lake, and he traded his religion for everything else California had to offer. “He’s an extraordinary historical figure who deserves more attention.”
Set against the tapestry of westward expansion and Manifest Destiny leading up to the Gold Rush, The Star, the Saint and The City follows Brannan’s epic sea pilgrimage from New York around Cape Horn to escape religious persecution in the East, only to arrive mere weeks after California had already been annexed by the United States from Mexico.
The book chronicles the contentious relationship between Brannan and Mormon leader Brigham Young, and studies Brannan’s conflicting nature which ultimately resulted in his split from the Latter-Day Saints but freed him to pursue his great dreams. And the book provides a fresh look at the evolution of California journalism through the pages of The California Star and the role of its boy-editor, Edward Kemble, Brannan’s young assistant.
With its publication, the book completes what author Briggs calls his Golden State trilogy of lesser-known history stories. Previous books include “Badass Lawman,” and “That Pirate, Bouchard.”
The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors appointed San José resident Yosimar Reyes to the honorary post of Santa Clara County Poet Laureate for a two-year term ending Dec. 31, 2025. In this role, Reyes will help promote the art of poetry at local community events, including during National Poetry Month, represent the County of Santa Clara County through outreach related to poetry, and act as a resource for the Santa Clara County Library District.
“The Poet Laureate position offers a chance to hear different voices and consider fresh perspectives in the realm of poetry and the spoken word,” said County Librarian Jennifer Weeks. “We look forward to seeing what Yosimar brings to this position and stand ready to assist with hosting community events and helping to spread the word about the majesty of all types of verse.”
Reyes draws inspiration in his work from his personal experiences as an immigrant from Guerrero, Mexico, and as a member of the LGBTQ+ community. He is a former Lambda Literary Fellow and Undocupoets Fellow who has toured across the country delivering keynote addresses, writing workshops, and performing his one-man show, “Prieto,” a coming-of-age story about migration, sexuality and socio-economic struggle.
“I am a proud product of an undocumented immigrant community in Eastside San José,” he said. “It is an honor to represent us in such an esteemed position.”