Timed for Election Season, PEN America Launches Free Speech 2020

 

George Orwell statue at the headquarters of the BBC courtesy of Matt Brown under CC BY 2.0

“If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear”, words from George Orwell’s proposed preface to Animal Farm (1945)



PEN America launches Free Speech 2020, a yearlong initiative to mobilize writers and readers to elevate free speech issues and defend free expression throughout this election season. Deploying on social media and at PEN.org, the initiative will feature Q&As with presidential candidates, authors, and activists about the value of free speech; research profiling the major threats to free expression in the U.S.; and resources to guide PEN America Members and partners to defend against those threats. Free Speech 2020 will also mobilize PEN America Members and supporters across the country with a series of events, trainings, and conversations about the importance of protecting our right to speak.

With this ” . .  . the American people start making their voices heard [with the kick-off of] an election season that promises to be a pivotal moment for free expression in this country. That’s why we feel it’s the perfect time to unify our commitment to defending free speech under this organization-wide initiative,” said Summer Lopez, senior director of Free Expression Programs at PEN America. “We’ll be building on our existing work and expanding our national footprint to fight for free expression across the country.”

Free Speech 2020 will continue through November, highlighting four major themes:

  • Defending press freedom. PEN America will build on its landmark report on the local news crisis; continue fighting in the courts to defend press freedom; conduct trainings and assemble resources for reporters to know their rights; and lead nationwide media literacy trainings.
  • Combatting disinformation. PEN America will partner with tech companies, government entities, and parties and candidates from across the political spectrum to push back against misleading information. The organization will also lead media literacy trainings, build on its pathbreaking disinformation report, and call on the digital platforms to step up their efforts to battle false information.
  • Fighting online harassment. PEN America will fan out across the country to engage with writers, journalists, and newsroom leaders in the best practices to strike back against online abuse, which imperils free speech and free dialogue. The organization will build on its Online Harassment Field Manual and additional resources.
  • Upholding protest rights. PEN America will speak out against violations of the constitutional right to demonstrate throughout the election cycle, fightingrestrictions such as the DC Mall Protest Tax, and will also publish research on legislative trends that threaten the right to protest.

“We’re at a key inflection point in the U.S., and this election season is already bringing new and unique threats to free speech,” said Nora Benavidez, director of U.S. Free Expression Programs at PEN America. “Across the country and across our digital platforms, we’re mobilizing to stand up for the public’s right to speak out and the public’s right to know. As writers, readers, and defenders of the written word, that’s our driving mission this election year.”

Through February, PEN America will be featuring Q&As with presidential candidates Sen. Bernie Sanders, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, and Andrew Yang (PEN America has contacted all major-party candidates for interviews). Also this month, PEN America will include video, audio, and web interviews with authors about their perspectives on free speech in 2020, which kicked off with an interview from author Mira Jacob.

For more information, visit pen.org/free-speech-2020.

***

PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. It champions the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Its mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible.


Jamie Dedes:

Your donation HERE helps to fund the ongoing mission of The Poet by Day in support of poets and writers, freedom of artistic expression, and human rights.

Poetry rocks the world!



FEEL THE BERN

For Peace, Sustainability, Social Justice

The Poet by Day officially endorses Bernie Sanders for President.

The New New Deal

Link HERE for Bernie’s schedule of events around the country.

“Democracy is not a spectator sport.” Bernie Sanders



“Every pair of eyes facing you has probably experienced something you could not endure.”  Lucille Clifton

Presidential Griot, a poem by Mbizo Chirasha and your next Wednesday Writing Prompt

Courtesy of Kevin Nice, Unsplash

“Human rights don’t trickle down.” Heather Marsh, Binding Chaos: Mass collaboration on a global scale



Sometimes memories smell like a dictator’s fart
We once jived to our own shadows under the silver moon and our shadows
danced along with us, we rhymed to the nightmares of hyenas and
hallucinations of black owls. Our desires sailed along with gowns of
fog back and forth at village dawns. Wood smoke smelt like fresh baked
bread. Time bewitched us, we ate William Shakespeare and John Donne.
We drank lemon jugs of Langston Hughes and Maya Angelou.
Soyinka’s lyrical whisky wrecked our tender nerves.
We bedded politics with boyish demeanor and dreamt of the black
cockerels and black Hitler’s
Sometimes time is stubborn like a sitting tyrant
Last night, commissars chanted a slogan and you baked a dictator’s
poetry sanguage. Zealots sang Castro and Stalin and you brewed a
socialist crank, the president is a stinking capitalist. I never said
he is Satanist. Back to village nights, hyenas are laughing still,
black owls gossiping, silver moon dancing still over rain beaten paths
of our country dawns.
Sometimes time stinks like a dictator’s fart
Your lyrical satire sneaked imbeciles through back doors. Your praise
sonnets recycled suicidal devils and polished revolutionary rejects
Back then, smells of fresh dung and scent of fresh udder milk were our
morning brew and under the twilight the moon once disappeared into the
earthly womb, Judas, the sun then took over and every dictator is an
Iscariot.
I never said we are now vagabonds
Sometimes time smells like a dying autocrat
Mwedzi wagara ndira uyo tigo tigo ndira – the moon was once sour milk
silver white and fresh from the Gods’ mouth and sat on its
presidential throne on the zenith of bald headed hills and later with
time the moon was ripe to go mwedzi waora ndira tigo tigo ndira
Sometimes wind gusts whistled their tenor through elephant grass
pastures, we sang along the obedient flora Chamupupuri icho…oo
chamupupuri chaenda chamupupuri chadzoka
Chamupupuri icho…oo!
Our poverty marinated , yellow maize teeth grinned to sudden glows of
lightening, the earth gyrated under the grip of thunder, then Gods
wept and we drank teardrops with a song mvura ngainaye tidye makavu ,
mvura ngainaye tidye makavu .. Pumpkins bred like rabbits, veldts
strutted in Christmas gowns. Wild bees and green bombers sang protest
and praise. I never said we are children of drought relief.
Sometimes time grows old like a sitting tyrant,
Tonight the echo of your praise poetry irk the anopheles stranded in
tired city gutters to swig the bitter blood of ghetto dwellers, gutter
citizens eking hard survival from hard earth of a hard country , their
rough hands marked with scars of the August Armageddon , their sandy
hearts are rigged ballot boxes stuffed with corruption ,they waited
and sang for so long .
Chamupupuri icho…oo chamupupuri chaenda
chamupupuri icho…oo chamupupuri chadzoka
Chamupupuri icho..oo

© 2020, Mbizo Chirasha

Thanks to Zimbabwean poet in exile, Mbizo Chirasha, for hosting this week’s prompt.  Just a reminder to readers: Mbizo is still in search of safe harbor and we continue to seek a host in Germany or other viable state. If you can help or have leads, please email me at thepoetbyday@gmail.com

WEDNESDAY WRITING PROMPT

Mbizo invites us to write a poem or poems that are anti-corruption in government.

  • please submit your poem/s by pasting them into the comments section and not by sharing a link
  • please submit poems only, no photos, illustrations, essays, stories, or other prose

PLEASE NOTE:

Poems submitted through email or Facebook will not be published.

IF this is your first time joining us for The Poet by Day, Wednesday Writing Prompt, please send a brief bio and photo to me at thepoetbyday@gmail.com to introduce yourself to the community … and to me :-). These are partnered with your poem/s on first publication.

PLEASE send the bio ONLY if you are with us on this for the first time AND only if you have posted a poem (or a link to one of yours) on theme in the comments section below.  

Deadline:  Monday, February 24 by 8 pm Pacific Time. If you are unsure when that would be in your time zone, check The Time Zone Converter.

Anyone may take part Wednesday Writing Prompt, no matter the status of your career: novice, emerging or pro.  It’s about exercising the poetic muscle, showcasing your work, and getting to know other poets who might be new to you.

You are welcome – encouraged – to share your poems in a language other than English but please accompany it with a translation into English.


Jamie Dedes:

Your donation HERE helps to fund the ongoing mission of The Poet by Day in support of poets and writers, freedom of artistic expression, and human rights.

Poetry rocks the world!



FEEL THE BERN

For Peace, Sustainability, Social Justice

The Poet by Day officially endorses Bernie Sanders for President.

The New New Deal

Link HERE for Bernie’s schedule of events around the country.

“Democracy is not a spectator sport.” Bernie Sanders



“Every pair of eyes facing you has probably experienced something you could not endure.”  Lucille Clifton