Writers Resist

IMG_2837 (1).JPGNo rhyme can be said where reason has fled.                                                                                                  June Jordan

The Bay Area Writers Resist event last night in Oakland was the most uplifting few hours I’ve spent since November 9. The Starline Social Club was packed to capacity in both bodies and spirit. The place became electrified with one phenomenal poet after another. The readings started with Ishmael Reed and went on with many of our finest poets. I was thrilled to hear the radical voices of Tongo Eisen-Martin and Elena Rose and Javier Zamora and Arisa White and Jane Hirshfield and more. I sat in close and felt illuminated by their words.  The event was a benefit for the Southern Poverty Law Center, the International Institute of the Bay Area and the Transgender Law Center. If you missed the event, you can still donate. These organizations need our support more than ever.

For more Bay Area Writers Resist – there’s another event in San Francisco on January 18. We are fortunate to live in the Bay Area among these great poets. Go early, sit up close and get inspired.

Litquake asks a panel of writers to respond to President-elect Donald TrumpLitquake asks a panel of writers to respond to President-elect Donald Trump. (Photo: Image courtesy of Litquake)

 

A Sad Day in Our Nation’s History

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Fifty-three years ago today, I sat in my English class in Dallas and doodled spirals on my notebook. The next week would be Thanksgiving, and I was dreaming about my four-day holiday. One year earlier, my family had moved to Dallas from Baltimore, and I thought we had landed in a different universe — in a place where kids of color attended separate schools, in a place where drinking fountains were marked “white” and “colored.” I had never seen those signs before.

A few desks were empty that day. The President of the United States was in town, and my classmates had gone to Dealey Plaza to watch the motorcade. Our teacher, Mrs. Rudd, always followed her lesson plans, but that day was different. She turned on the radio. “Our president and our governor have been shot,” the announcer said. Then he said something about Parkland Hospital. And then, “The President is dead.”

I didn’t hear anything after that. I stared out the window looking for signs of life. The playground was empty. There were no cars on the street. It was as if a bomb had dropped. (I feel much the same way now.)

We weren’t dismissed from school. After English, I went to Latin where Mrs. Vernon insisted on giving us a quiz, and then to Geometry for a test. Some children were crying as they tried to calculate circumferences.

Students burst into the halls between classes. I heard one boy say, “I’m glad he was shot, because he was Catholic.” The intensity of his hatred reverberated against the walls, the venom in his voice palpable. I stood frozen in fear as I watched him and his buddies saunter down the hall.

Over fifty years have passed, and I no longer hear about Catholics as the targets of hate. Now that poison is thrust at Muslims and Latinos and African Americans and Gays and People with Disabilities. Anyone and everyone who is labeled different. Have we moved back to signs on drinking fountains?

I’m still frightened by the bigotry that continues to thrive in our country. I see no guidance from the president-elect or his appointees in reversing this trend. After Kennedy was assassinated, I never thought our country lacked leadership. I question that now.

I don’t want to end this post with a lament. It’s not 1963, and I’m not the petrified kid I was then. You’ve probably read the many ways you and I can take a stand against hateful acts and the people who propagate them. Here are only four of the many organizations involved in this effort.

Southern Poverty Law Center

American Civil Liberties Union

Bend the Arc Jewish Action

Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund

There are many others. Most important is to do something. Be vigilant. Protest. Join. And don’t leave anyone out.