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ivoh | December 7, 2017

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Writers Resist in a pre-inaugural protest on MLK’s birthday

Writers Resist in a pre-inaugural protest on MLK’s birthday

Promo images for Writers Resist event in Tampa Bay. Graphic art by Annelise Sandberg

 

 

 

On ivoh.org, we’ve noted how poetry has inspired hope and provided solace in the wake of recent events and tragedies. Two days after the election, The Atlantic published, “Still, Poetry Will Rise,” an interview with the editor of Poetry Magazine that shed light on why poetry became viral after the 2016 presidential election. People often seek poetry when experiencing momentous emotions. Poetry has the power to connect people and elicit reflection and dialogue.

Poet and educator, Erin Belieu, recognized this power and the urgent need for artists to unite after an election that left many in the nation divided and confused. Shortly after the election, Belieu began organizing: first, with a few emails, and then with a Facebook post that would quickly evolve into Writers Resist, a national network of writers “driven to #WriteOurDemocracy by defending the ideals of a free, just, and compassionate democratic society.”

Belieu’s Facebook post ended with this call to action: “We will come together and actively help make the world we want to live in. We are bowed, but we are not broken.”

The Writers Resist Organizing Forum on Facebook now has 2,383 (and counting) community leaders planning events in their cities. This Sunday, on the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (January 15), writers across the world will unite to lift their voices in support of democracy.

“We believe people need something to be for in this anxious moment,” the Writers Resist site reads. “The only thing we ‘resist’ is that which attacks or seeks to undermine those most basic principles of freedom and justice for all.”

Belieu, a co-founder of VIDA, a feminist organization dedicated to gender parity in the literary landscape, told Bustle that Writers Resist was formed in response to the election and her increasing concern over “over public cynicism and how disdain for truthfulness seems to have eroded democratic ideals.”

As stated on the Writers Resist site, Belieu “believes for us to move forward, individually and as a nation, we must recommit our focus as writers to the fundamental ideals of democracy and social justice.”

Hundreds of writers and activists will take part in more than 75 events throughout 50 cities on three continents. Participating cities include: Seattle; London; New York; Saint Petersburg, Fl.; Boston; Los Angeles; Oakland, Calif.; Austin, Texas; Omaha, Neb.; Zurich; Hong Kong, and Singapore. The wide-range of participants included former poet laureates, educators, spoken word artists, community activists, and journalists.

Despite taking place five days before the presidential inauguration, Writers Resist protests are intended to be peaceful and unaffiliated with any particular party. Local organizers and speakers are encouraged to foster unity and hope rather than negativity at all events.

Local Writers Resist organizer, Sarah Lain told ivoh about the diverse range of voices that will speak at the Tampa Bay event which will take place in Saint Petersburg. “We have speakers who are Standing Rock water protectors, Muslim, Latinx, African American, gay, Christian, men, women, young and old: but most of all: HUMAN BEINGS willing to listen to other human beings who would like to see each other living in freedom, celebrating each others’ unique voices,” Lain said. “ … It’s an opportunity to reaffirm the necessity of individuality — that unity is most loving when it embraces diversity.”

Lain is an poet, educator and activist who has noticed a rise in fear and racial injustice leading up to and after the presidential election. When asked how Writers Resist will help create unity and dialogue in her community, Lain said: “Writers are the front line of truth. The truth in my America right now is that there is a great deal of oppression and fear in my immediate circle. …  In the last few months, I’ve gotten calls or messages in my inbox, or have personally witnessed, friends who have experienced trauma simply for being a particular sexual orientation, or skin tone, or gender, or economic background. These instances have gotten progressively more frequent. This is my truth. I’m a writer, so I write it. As a loving human, I resist the oppressive silence in favor of a loud, loving, articulate voice.”

Writers Resists events will take place around the nation and world on Sunday, January 15. Find a Writers Resist event near you, here.

Note from editor: Gloria Munoz is a poet participating in Writers Resist.

Related: Jodie Jackson challenges the media to #PublishThePositive | Media practitioners, artists and communities celebrate pride and remember Orlando around the world | The State recognizes anniversary of Charleston church shooting with front-page poem | Five media & art projects that take a nuanced approach to covering transgender stories