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Rick Kearns, aka Rick Kearns-Morales is a poet, freelance writer and musician of Puerto Rican (Spanish/Taino) and European background based in Harrisburg, Pa. He was named Poet Laureate of the City of Harrisburg, Pa in 2014. Kearns is listed in the Poets & Writers Directory. He was also included in the national database of Latino Poets Laureate of the US in 2019, a listing sponsored by the Latino Book Review.
Kearns’ poems have appeared in the following anthologies: Undocumented, Great Lakes Poets Laureate on Social Justice (MSU Press, 2019), Arbolarium, Antologia Poetica de los Cinco Continentes (Spanish language collection), (Fundacion Pibes, Buenos Aires, Argentina 2019); OIR ESE RIO, Poetry Anthology from Five Continents (Fundacion Pibes, Buenos Aires, Argentina 2017); BULLYING Replies, Rebuttals, Confessions and Catharsis (Skyhorse Publishing, NY 2012); I Was Indian (before being Indian was cool) (Foothills Publishing, NY 2009); El Coro/A Chorus of Latino and Latina Poetry (Univ. of Massachusetts Press, Amherst, 1998); and ALOUD; Voices from the Nuyorican Cafe (Henry Holt & Co., NY, 1994. Winner of the American Book Award.) His work has appeared in 80 literary reviews including: The Massachusetts Review, Letras Salvajes (literary review from Puerto Rico), Letras (lit review of the Center for Puerto Rican Studies, Hunter College, NY), Conversation Quarterly (UK), Painted Bride Quarterly, Chicago Review, Revival Literary Review (Ireland), ONTHEBUS, Poetry Motel, The Blue Guitar, Drum Voices Revue (So. Illinois University Edwardsville), The Patterson Review, HEART Quarterly, Big Hammer, Palabra: A Journal of Chicano and Literary Art, Yellow Medicine Review, Fledgling Rag, Revista Isla Negra (Argentina), Kweli Journal (Poets for Puerto Rico project), Palabritas (Latino poetry review run by students at Harvard University), and others.
His poem "Everyday We Remember Oscar Lopez Rivera" won an honorable mention award in the national Split This Rock social justice poetry contest of 2017.
Kearns has given readings of his own poetry as the featured reader in Harrisburg, Lancaster, York, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, New York City (Capicu, May 2012), Baltimore, Camden (NJ) and other places since 1988, including colleges and universities such as Cedar Crest College, Penn State University, Swarthmore College, Harrisburg Area Community College, and Rutgers University. Much of his work deals with his Puerto Rican heritage and identity, including his feelings about his Taino heritage. He has performed his work with musical accompaniment on various occasions, including sessions with: tabla; flamenco guitar; Latin percussion-congas, timbales, etc.; jazz saxophone; upright bass; jazz quartet of trumpet & congas, upright bass, guitar, sax & clarinet - the Con Alma Quartet from 2010 to 2014.
Rick Kearns and the Con Alma Quartet featured the blending of Kearns' poetry with established jazz tunes that typically include improvised interactions between the poet and the musicians. From 2010-2014 the group performed at a variety of venues including: the Harrisburg Riverboat; the Central Pa Friends of Jazz Jazz Picnic; the Ware Center for the Arts, Lancaster, Pa; Open Stage Theater, Harrisburg, Pa; the Wildwood Writer's Festival, Harrisburg Area Community College; the Culture & Main TV show, WRCT, York, Pa; and the Yocum Institute for Arts Education, Wyomissing, Pa.
Rick Kearns and the Con Alma Quartet released a CD of their collaborations in December of 2013.
Rick Kearns has been a professional journalist since 1987. As a journalist Kearns has written for daily, weekly and monthly news publications since 1986. In the last two decades his work has focused on Latino and Native American issues. From 2006 to 2017 Kearns wrote about indigenous Latin American issues for “Indian Country Today” which became "Indian Country Today Media Network" (www.indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com) the nation’s largest Native American news publication, with special focus on stories from Bolivia, Ecuador, Columbia, Mexico, Chile, Brazil, Guatemala, Paraguay, Honduras, Costa Rica and Puerto Rico among others. Over 30 of his pieces dealt with Native American stories based in the US and Canada. By Sept. of 2017, when ICTMN ceased operations, the magazine had published well over 460 of his articles, several of which have been reprinted in over 60 online publications including a few in Latin America and Europe. His article, “Native Environmental Hero” appeared in Native American Voices, a collection of poetry, prose and articles used in Native Studies courses in over 50 universities.
From 1994 to 1998 he wrote for El Hispano, a bilingual weekly newspaper based in Philadelphia, Pa. In 1998 he won Best Interview of the Year from the National Federation of Hispanic Owned Newspapers for his interview with Manuel Rodriguez Orellana, spokesman for the Puerto Rican Independence Party. Since 1999 his articles have appeared in national magazines and newspapers such as Hispanic, Native Peoples, City Paper, and Native Americas.
In 2020 he will re-publish an eBook: Tainos in New York. Articles about Taino History and the Taino Cultural Restoration Movement. This collection includes articles from regional and national publications covering the years 1997-2013.
Kearns gave a talk, “No Longer Waiting for Justice/The Rise and Return of Indigenous Latin America” at Millersville Univ. or Pa in November of 2008.
He received a B.A. in Spanish from Millersville University of Pa. (1984), and an M.S. in Journalism from Columbia University School of Journalism (1986).
From a very young age Kearns has played music. Starting on accordion as a child, then as the singer for a garage band in the 70’s, to playing bass for a New Wave band called The Hormones in the early 80’s, playing music has been a significant part of his life. He then became enamored with percussion, and Kearns played percussion for 4 flamenco troupes in the Harrisburg, Pa area. He played bongos, congas, bodhran, and cajon for Danzante between 1994 to 2001. He played cajon and bodhran for Zambra Flamenca from 2002 to 2013. Cocina Flamenca between 04-06. Flamenco Aqui y Ahora from 06-10