We join the world in mourning the loss of Toni Morrison …

Street art depicting Morrison in Vitoria, Spain courtesy of Zarateman under CC0 license

“Anger … it’s a paralyzing emotion … you can’t get anything done. People sort of think it’s an interesting, passionate, and igniting feeling — I don’t think it’s any of that — it’s helpless … it’s absence of control — and I need all of my skills, all of the control, all of my powers … and anger doesn’t provide any of that — I have no use for it whatsoever.” Toni Morrison during an interview with CBS radio host Don Swaim, September 15, 1987. 

This is a message for our times. Thank you to the anonymous person who shared this elsewhere online.



Toni Morrison (February 18, 1931 – August 5, 2019) was truth, hope, and inspiration. She lives on in our minds and hearts as we begin rereading her monumental works.

Toni Morrison was a friend and colleague of the literary organization PEN America. When she died on Monday at the age of 88, PEN America CEO Suzanne Nossel issued the following statement:

PEN America mourns long-time member Toni Morrison, 1993 Nobel Prize winner, 2008 PEN Literary Service Award winner, and 2016 PEN/Saul Bellow Award winner. Her unmatched ability to use story to kindle empathy and rouse the imaginations of millions to contemplate lived experiences other than their own has transformed our culture. Her faithfulness to fellow writers and the cause of literature was unparalleled. To have her voice silenced at this moment is an almost unbearable loss.  Our society would do well to recall her maxim just now, ‘If there is a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, you must be the one to write it.’”

– Jamie Dedes


RELATED:

  • Toni Morrison, Nobel Lecture
  • Toni Morrison, The Pieces that I Am, Trailer
  • Dangerous Work: An Evening with Toni Morrison. Here is the video of this tribute to Toni Morrison, 2016 PEN/Saul Bellow Award for Achievement in American Fiction Winner. It features actress Adepero Oduye, actor Delroy Lindo, jazz pianist Jason Moran, and mezzo-soprano Alicia Hall Moran. The Master of Ceremonies is Kevin Young, Director of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. (If you are viewing this post from an email subscription, you’ll likely have to link through to the site to view this video presentation.)


ABOUT

Recent in digital publications: 
* Five by Jamie Dedes, Spirit of Nature, Opa Anthology of Poetry, 2019
* From the Small Beginning, Entropy Magazine (Enclave, #Final Poems)(July 2019)
* Over His Morning Coffee, Front Porch Review (July 2019)
Upcoming in digital publications:
* The Damask Garden, In a Woman’s Voice (August 2019)

A busy though bed-bound poet, writer, former columnist and the former associate editor of a regional employment newspaper, my work has been featured widely in print and digital publications including: Levure littéraireRamingo’s Porch, Vita Brevis Literature, HerStry, Connotation Press, The Bar None Group, Salamander CoveI Am Not a Silent Poet, Meta/ Phor(e) /Play, Woven Tale PressThe Compass Rose and California Woman. I run The Poet by Day, a curated info hub for poets and writers. I founded The Bardo Group / Beguines, pushers of The BeZine of which I am managing editor. Email me at thepoetbyday@gmail.com for permissions or commissions.

ACLU Sues ICE and PEN America Files Legal Brief Calling for Release of Student Detained for Reading Poem

“It’s not unpatriotic to denounce an injustice committed on our behalf, perhaps it’s the most patriotic thing we can do.” E.A. Bucchianeri, Brushstrokes of a Gadfly



Two days after he read this poem at a TRUTH Act forum in Bakersfield, California, ICE arrested Jose Bello. The ACLU sued. ICE cannot intimidate us into silence. Visit facebook.com/FreeJoseBello for updates.

PEN America filed an amicus curiae brief urging a federal appeals court in California to immediately release a student arrested and detained by ICE for publicly reciting a poem. The brief, filed in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, is in support of student Jose Omar Bello Reyes, arrested in May of this year.

“No one should go to jail for reading a poem. Yet, it appears that ICE agents targeted Bello as a result of his poetry reading. When government officials wield their power to silence their critics and suppress lawful, protected speech, they undermine the core protection established by the First Amendment,” said Nora Benavidez, PEN America’s director of U.S. free expression programs. “In our filing today, we are calling on the Ninth Circuit to affirm Jose Bello’s political and artistic speech by fortifying his right to be free from government retaliation. Protest poetry has a long and proud tradition in the United States that must be vigorously defended in our courts of law.” 

In its supporting brief (accessible here), PEN America urges the Ninth Circuit to grant his motion for release and affirm the constitutional guarantees afforded by the First Amendment. PEN America argues that “Mr. Bello enjoys a constitutional right to speak freely, to be free from retaliation for that speech, and to be free from efforts to restrain his ongoing speech on matters of public concern. Moreover, listeners and participants in the ongoing immigration debate have a concomitant right to receive his expressed viewpoints, without government officials deliberately interfering with the flow of that information with a censorial and retaliatory motive and effect. Despite these protections, ICE acted in retaliation for protected speech that was critical of them, striking at the very heart of the First Amendment.”

ICE officers arrested Bakersfield College student Bello May 19 at his home in Bakersfield, California. Bello’s arrest occurred 36 hours after he appeared at a public forum held by the Kern County Board of Supervisors and recited his poem “Dear America,” which included criticisms of current federal immigration policy. After his arrest, the ACLU of Southern California filed a habeas petition on Bello’s behalf, arguing that his detention was retaliatory and violated his First Amendment rights. On July 16, a federal district court judge denied the petition but found the timing of the arrest to be “highly suggestive of retaliatory intent.” The case is now on appeal before the Ninth Circuit.

PEN America has previously expressed its concern about the enforcement action taken against Mr. Bello, as well as the broader issues around the erosion of free speech through ICE’s targeted enforcement actions. Most recently, it joined amicus briefs on behalf of detained Tennessee journalist Manuel Duran Ortega, who was arrested in April 2018 while reporting on a protest, and immigrants’ rights activist Ravi Ragbir, who was detained and targeted for deportation following his criticism of ICE at public rallies and on media outlets.

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This content is courtesy of PEN America, the ACLU, and Bakersfield.com.

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.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is a nonprofit organization whose stated mission is “to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States.”Officially nonpartisan, the organization has been supported and criticized by liberal and conservative organizations alike.[9] The ACLU works through litigation and lobbying and it has over 1,200,000 members and an annual budget of over $100 million. Local affiliates of the ACLU are active in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. The ACLU provides legal assistance in cases when it considers civil liberties to be at risk. Legal support from the ACLU can take the form of direct legal representation or preparation of amicus curiae briefs expressing legal arguments when another law firm is already providing representation.

New Anthology of Essays, Memoir, Stories and Poems by NYC Immigrant “Dreamers”

With an Introduction by Mexican novelist Álvaro Enrigue, the Collection is the Product of PEN America’s “DREAMing Out Loud” Workshops for CUNY students



Enrigue at the 2016 Hay Festival courtesy of Andrew Lih under

PEN America today published an anthology of writings by young aspiring writers and students who struggle with the day-to-day difficulties of their immigration status. The collection, DREAMing Out Loud: Voices of Undocumented Students includes fifty-nine personal essays, short stories, memoir and poems with an introduction by award-winning Mexican novelist and essayist Álvaro Enrigue, who, along with writers Charlie Vazquez, and Lisa Ko, mentored the students as part of PEN America’s DREAMing Out Loud writing workshop series. Enrigue is the founder of the program with PEN America.

The collection is available at Amazon for $9.95. All proceeds benefit PEN America. More details about the book and PEN America’s “DREAMing Out Loud” workshops HERE.

The collection captures both personal and political views, along with remembrances, of the young writers who came to the United States as children from nearly every continent and from diverse settings: conflict zones and farms to urban centers and rural outposts.

For them, debate over Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and other legislative immigration proposals is not an abstract political discussion; rather, it is their lived experience and a constant reminder that at its core, the debate centers on whether their voices—and existence—are welcome in the United States.

So-called “dreamers,” who were brought into the country before they were sixteen years old and without legal immigration authorization, have long faced a variety of financial, legal and cultural obstacles in their pursuit of higher education. The DREAMing Out Loud workshops provide an avenue for Dreamers to build their sense of community on CUNY campuses in Manhattan, the Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens, as they develop their writing and other skills for self-expression.

Susanne Nossel

PEN America CEO Suzanne Nossel said: “At PEN America we recognize that freedom of speech depends upon conscious efforts to ensure that the most silenced voices in society are heard. Facing pressures that most Americans can scarcely imagine, these young writers have dared to tell their stories with candor and great insight. We are thrilled to be able to present their writings to the public amid a raging national debate about how we treat newcomers to this country, and whether we stand by the ideals enshrined in our constitution and embodied in our Statue of Liberty. We hope this collection gives readers a sense of the human faces and experiences behind the headlines, forcing us to confront the individual and collective costs of the societal choices we make and tolerate.”

Anne del Castillo, commissioner of the New York City Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment (MOME), commented:

“The stories we tell shape our understanding of the world and ourselves as individuals and as a society. We are proud to support the important work of the DREAMing Out Loud program as it empowers DREAMers to tell unfiltered stories about what it means to be young immigrants. The publication of DREAMing Out Loud: Voices of Undocumented Students ensures that the voices of DREAMers will be heard in a field often dominated by political rhetoric—and it recognizes the importance of these stories to our collective understanding of the true American experience.”

MOME supported PEN America’s successful application for a Mayor’s Cultural Impact Grant from the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs, and gave matching funds or the expansion of the program.

The writing reflects the duality of the young authors’ existence and the richness of their cultural backgrounds: they ruminate about their lives, sometimes with longing and sometimes with sadness, as memories and connections fade.

“At first the border between my immediate family in America and the rest of my family in Mexico was mitigated by calls which became fewer and shorter through the years. The border grew wider and thicker until it completely filled the space between us,” writes workshop participant Yesica Balderrama in her essay.

Other writers look critically at American society and its treatment of immigrants. “She’d also watched shows and movies about the U.S. that portrayed America as though it was the place to be so much so that was somehow inevitable that she ended up here. And yet after shoving America’s so-called greatness down everyone’s throat the powers that be castigated people like her for wanting a slice of the American pie,” writes workshop participant Ophelia Kanjo.

In his introduction, Enrigue writes:

“This book gives testimony of one of the most extreme and literary ways of being an American writer in our days. As with Segismundo, the members of the DREAMers Workshop Project have a constant persistent consciousness about the fact that our peaceful everyday life is not given but something we have to fight for, staying strong and alert and outsmarting the system every damned minute of our lives. Resistance is a topic for most of us, for a DREAMer it is breakfast, lunch and dinner.”

PEN America created the DREAMing Out Loud workshops in 2016 to counter the anti-immigrant sentiment on the rise in the United States and to amplify the voices of many living in this country who are marginalized because of their immigration status, race, religion, gender, sexual orientation or simply for being perceived as “other.”

A potent and inspiring example of PEN America’s dual mission to celebrate literature and writing as an essential form of free expression, the program is also a means to build a diverse talent pipeline for careers in the literature and publishing industries. The program offers tuition-free writing workshops for the students in New York City. This year, the program was expanded with a Mayor’s Grant for Cultural Impact. The expansion included new City University of New York sites in the Bronx at Lehman College, Flushing at Queens College & Central Brooklyn at Medgar Evers College and strengthened professional development.

PEN America has a long history defending and championing all voices, along with a commitment to the idea that cross-cultural exchange is essential to a free flow of discourse.

Amid a climate of retrenchment in principaled American leadership both around the globe and within our borders, open discourse is a potent catalyst for cross-cultural understanding, cooperation and progress. The PEN World Voices Festival, founded in the aftermath of Sept. 11, 2001 to broaden avenues of dialogue between the United States and the world, is perhaps the best known public program devoted to this mission. The weeklong annual festival has presented writers and artists from 118 countries speaking 56 languages.

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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.


ABOUT

Recent in digital publications: 
* Four poemsI Am Not a Silent Poet
* Five poems, Spirit of Nature, Opa Anthology of Poetry, 2019
* From the Small Beginning, Entropy Magazine (Enclave, #Final Poems)(July 2019)
* Over His Morning Coffee, Front Porch Review (July 2019)
Upcoming in digital publications:
* The Damask Garden, In a Woman’s Voice (August 2019)

A busy though bed-bound poet, writer, former columnist and the former associate editor of a regional employment newspaper, my work has been featured widely in print and digital publications including: Levure littéraireRamingo’s Porch, Vita Brevis Literature, HerStry, Connotation Press, The Bar None Group, Salamander CoveI Am Not a Silent Poet, Meta/ Phor(e) /Play, Woven Tale PressThe Compass Rose and California Woman.

I run The Poet by Day, a curated info hub for poets and writers. I founded The Bardo Group/Beguines, a virtual literary community and publisher of The BeZine of which I am the founding and managing editor. Among others, I’ve been featured on The MethoBlog, on the Plumb Tree’s Wednesday Poet’s Corner, and several times as Second Light Live featured poet.

Email me at thepoetbyday@gmail.com for permissions or commissions.

PEN America Calls for Trump Administration to Open Migrant Camp to Journalists’ Scrutiny; What You Can Do to Close the Camps by Kella Hanna-Wayne

100-mile border region on the U.S.–Mexico border courtesy of the Environmental Protection Agency / Public Domain

“A crude age. Peace is stabilized with cannon and bombers, humanity with concentration camps and pogroms. We’re living in a time when all standards are turned upside-down, Kern. Today the aggressor is the shepherd of peace, and the beaten and hunted are the troublemakers of the world. What’s more, there are whole races who believe it!” Erich Maria Remarque, Flotsam



Climbing the Mexico–United States barrier fence in Brownsville, Texas courtesy of Nofx221984 and generously released into Public Domain

PEN America issued the statement [below] in response to The Washington Post’s report that the Trump Administration is blocking journalists from accessing migrant detention camps on the southern border to see the facilities for themselves and speak to children, who are reportedly held in squalid conditions.

“It is shocking that the American public largely must learn about the dangerous conditions at these detention centers not through reporters being able to cover the news, but through second-hand reports from lawyers and advocates granted access under a legal agreement with the U.S. border patrol,” said Nora Benavidez, PEN America’s Director of U.S. Free Expression Programs. “The fact that journalists are being sealed off and held behind a wall of secrecy, unable to show the American people the faces and voices of those who are suffering in squalor is one more unconscionable aspect to this epic horror story on the southern border.”

“Cutting the press off from this story to hide what is going on is unacceptable and unwarranted; professional journalists are well-equipped to handle issues of privacy and consent, and this should pose no barrier to press access. The American public has a right to see for themselves what is happening in these camps through first-hand accounts, images and video documented by professional journalists. Indeed, the fact that every story that does make it to a reporter galvanizes public attention and action demonstrates the importance of that reporting. PEN America calls on the Trump administration to open the camps to the scrutiny of the press–and thus, the American people–immediately, and end this effort to keep what is happening in the detention centers a secret.”

PEN America has previously spoken out and advocated about press access to migrant detention centers and the situation for journalists covering the immigration crisis on the border. In October 2018, it hosted a panel discussion at the Texas Book Festival entitled “Stories (Un)told,” featuring journalists speaking to the challenges of covering child detention issues and immigration more broadly. Following months of tracking and public comments on the situation of lawyers and journalists being surveilled at the southern U.S.-Mexico border, PEN America joined a coalition of human rights and media freedom organizations in sending an open letter to the Department of Homeland Security in May, 2019, expressing concern for the privacy violations and explicit targeting by Customs and Border Protection of journalists, activists, and lawyers working on issues around the “migrant caravan”. Following our letter, the Department of Homeland Security acknowledged it had engaged in the surveillance and tracking of these individuals. PEN America has also condemned the unacceptable practice of the government’s surveillance of journalists reporting on this issue and authored a petition urging the administration to stop monitoring journalists at the border. That petition has garnered more than 58,000 signatures to date.

*****

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.


From Kella Hanna-Wayne, poet, blogger, activist

“Today, I read something terrible; a story that possibly upset me more any other news story from our current administration and it filled me with helplessness.

“Over the past year, Trump’s immigration policies have become increasingly strict and dehumanizing. Detention centers, separation of families without keeping records, poor hygiene, inadequate access to food, water, and medical attention, children in cages– these were all themes among reports of the horrifying conditions our government was signing off on for immigrants, regardless of their documentation.

“But in the last week, it came to light that not only is Trump using Fort Sill– the base used to hold Japanese-Americans in concentration camps during WWII– to hold immigrant children, but that our government is now using concentration camps as a strategy to manage the influx in immigrants coming to the US. “

Kella goes on from these introductory remarks to provide a comprehensive list of tips and resources: What You Can Do to Close the Camps. I particularly appreciate it when folks don’t just regurgiate the bad news we’re all reading anyway but who go on to provide tools for mitigating the travesties. Bravo, Kella!

Stay tuned for a comprehensive interview with Kella here on The Poet by Day.


ABOUT

Recent in digital publications: 
* Four poemsI Am Not a Silent Poet
* Remembering Mom, HerStry
* Three poems, Levure littéraire
Upcoming in digital publications:
* Over His Morning Coffee, Front Porch Review
* From the Small Beginning, Entropy Magazine (Enclave, #Final Poems)

A mostly bed-bound poet, writer, former columnist and the former associate editor of a regional employment newspaper, my work has been featured widely in print and digital publications including: Ramingo’s Porch, Vita Brevis Literature, Connotation Press, The Bar None Group, Salamander Cove,I Am Not a Silent Poet, Meta/ Phor(e) /Play, The Compass Rose and California Woman. I run The Poet by Day, a curated info hub for poets and writers. I founded The Bardo Group/Beguines, a vitual literary community and publisher of The BeZineof which I am the founding and managing editor.


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