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Writers Rally Against Anti-Asian Hatred Amid Pandemic; May 27, United Against Hate: A Day of Online Solidarity

Man Mo Temple; Hollywood Road, Tai Ping Shan, Hong-Kong, Hong Kong, Photograph courtesy of Nicolas Hoizey, Unsplash

“We realize that this anti-Asian sentiment comes alongside an equally troubling uptick in xenophobia, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, and anti-Black violence,” said writer and PEN America Trustee Min Jin Lee. “This is a clarion call that all forms of racist hatred, especially at this moment, are unwelcome, unacceptable, and intolerable. As writers, we reckon with the power of words each day, and we know that along with the physical violence, poisonous rhetoric is also visiting a different kind of violence on all too many people. We’re here to say: We won’t stand for it.” 



PEN America and the Asian American Writers’ Workshop today released a joint statement from well over one-hundred writers, artists, actors, and creative professionals calling for an end to anti-Asian and Asian-American sentiment amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Signed by Riz Ahmed, Ayad Akhtar, Alexander Chee, Min Jin Lee, Celeste Ng, Viet Thanh Nguyen, and C. Pam Zhang, among many others (click here for a full list of signatories), the statement comes as the two organizations also announced a May 27 online day of action “United Against Hate: A Day of Solidarity” to condemn hate and celebrate Asian, Asian American, and Pacific Islander writers.

“The time to turn back this wave of hate is now,” the statement reads (full text below). “We, the undersigned, call on everyday citizens to join us in standing in solidarity with all those targeted by hate during COVID-19. Together, we can use the power of our collective voices to call for a more just, equal, and inclusive society. As members of the global literary community, we know well that diversity is a pillar of any liberal democracy, providing rich and varied stories to celebrate.”

The statement comes against the backdrop of a surge in hate crimes, violence, and other assaults against Asians, Asian-Americans, and Pacific Islanders, spurred by hateful rhetoric and often taking place in public spaces. The statement also highlights that public officials and leaders have not taken sufficient steps to address such attacks, and in some cases are promoting theories that blame Asian people for the coronavirus pandemic.

“We realize that this anti-Asian sentiment comes alongside an equally troubling uptick in xenophobia, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, and anti-Black violence,” said writer and PEN America Trustee Min Jin Lee. “This is a clarion call that all forms of racist hatred, especially at this moment, are unwelcome, unacceptable, and intolerable. As writers, we reckon with the power of words each day, and we know that along with the physical violence, poisonous rhetoric is also visiting a different kind of violence on all too many people. We’re here to say: We won’t stand for it.”

“The long history of organizing in the AAPI community parallels a longer history of anti-Asian bigotry, and the recent wave of hate is an unfortunate reminder that these racist tropes have been harming Asian American communities for decades,” said AAWW’s executive director Jafreen Uddin. “The AAWW is proud to partner with PEN America in taking a stand against this dangerous rise in bigotry. Our partnership embodies the spirit of coalition-building that has long been at the heart of organizing within the Asian American community and the AAWW’s own work in amplifying marginalized voices through the power of storytelling. History has proven time and again that we are stronger together, and with allies like PEN America on our side, we are able to meet the challenge of this moment as a forceful, united front.”

UNITED AGAINST HATE:

A DAY OF SOLIDARITY

On Wednesday, May 27, PEN America and AAWW will host a virtual day of action “United Against Hate: A Day of Solidarity.” The daylong program will include readings, lectures, poetry, and a teach-in to discuss strategies for combatting and defending against hateful actions and rhetoric. Click here for the full lineup.

Events include a teach-in featuring Jennifer Ho, Floyd Cheung, Pawan Dhingra, and Kathleen Yep; an AAWW Lit Lunch on Instagram Live with Huiyan B. Chan; a panel on countering hate speech with Nadine Strossen, Ishmael Beah, and Helen Zia; and a poetry reading with George Abraham, Kazim Ali, Regie Cabico, Marilyn Chin, Staceyann Chin, Tarfia Faizullah, Kelly Zen-Yie Tsai, Jenny Xie, Monica Youn, and others.

STATEMENT OF SOLIDARY

AGAINST ANTI-ASIAN HATRED

The surge in hate crimes, violence, and verbal assaults against Asians, Asian Americans, and Pacific Islanders in recent months is a painful reminder that racism, bigotry, and xenophobia are persistent challenges in the United States. Many of these attacks have been brazen, occurring in public spaces and online. They have been egged on at times by an administration drawing on racist tropes and stereotypes, eager to distract from its own missteps.

Reports of any individuals being spit on, stabbed, beat up, or verbally assaulted are disturbing enough when they are isolated incidents. However, when such attacks are collectively driven by hate, and when they occur in such large volume, the onus lies heavily on civil society and on our elected representatives to condemn them. Shamefully, such voices have been too few in recent months. Attacks continue to be reported in large numbers, and one recent poll found that 32 percent of Americans have witnessed someone blaming Asian people for the coronavirus pandemic. The alarming rise in xenophobia, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, and anti-Black violence during this pandemic demands a robust civic response.

The time to turn back this wave of hate is now. We, the undersigned, call on everyday citizens to join us in standing in solidarity with all those targeted by hate during COVID-19. Together, we can use the power of our collective voices to call for a more just, equal, and inclusive society. As members of the global literary community, we know well that diversity is a pillar of any liberal democracy, providing rich and varied stories to celebrate. On behalf of PEN America and the Asian American Writers’ Workshop, we invite you to join us on May 27 for a day of action to condemn this scourge; celebrate Asian, Asian American, and Pacific Islander writers; and to raise your voice to call out hate in all its heinous forms.

Click here to add your name.

This post is courtesy of and in support of PEN America and the Asian-American Writers’ Workshop.


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

Maintain the movement.

“Democracy is not a spectator sport.” Bernie Sanders



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

MAMA, Goddess of All Times, An Eulogy to Mother (Part 1) by Zimbabwean Poet in Exile, Mbizo Chirasha

Mbizo’s Mom

“In all her doings my mother influenced me to have endurance, dedication, resistance, and faith.” Mbizo Chirasha



Recently, Zimbabwean poet, Mbizo Chirasha, lost his mom. Knowing that his sense of loss and grief is compounded by the fact of his exile and an inability therefore to be with her in her last days and hours or to attend whatever funeral and memorial services are customary in his country, I invited Mbizo to write about his mom, explaining that today in the U.S. we celebrate mothers. We publish Part 1 in this post, an interview, to be followed by a hybrid poem in Part 2. / Jamie 

1.) JAMIE: Mbizo, I’m sorry to learn of your loss and thank you for being willing to share some of your thoughts and poetry with us on what is Mother’s Day here in the States. When you think of your mom, what is the characteristic that stands out most?

MBIZO: I was born during the 1970s liberation struggle and my mother still even suckling a baby who was myself. She remained dedicated as the struggle collaborator. She trudged in many areas working hand in glove with combatants of the struggle, cooking for them, washing for them, and working as messengers of the war against colonialism.  Nights they endure the brunt of war violence, heavy rains and ravaging wild animals, walking war bases for vigils and all night chores . Thus, she was a great example of unmatched resilience and dedication to change, to freedom for positive transformation.

My mother was gifted with the spirit of hardworking mother love. Everything we ate came from hard work, days of sweat and scramble in the fields to plant, cultivate, weed and harvest food and cash for uniforms and other necessities. She had a blessing of collectivism. She believed in collectivist approach in life. We used to have traditional beer gatherings that involved a lot of relatives, neighbors, and fellow villagers. Mother would send out a call to villagers who thrashed millet and shelled maize, from which the beer was traditionally brewed. It was shared along with goat meat and nonalcoholic traditional beverages.

We were taught to be focused, work hard, and nurture the spirit of never giving up through all those years of menacing when my mother would walk miles and miles in the scorching weather with other women. Their resolute intention was  to fetch and hunt for food for our survival. We were taught to be strong, diligent, creative, hard working. We were taught to live according to our means. A great mother indeed. A dedicated soul.

2.) JAMIE: I remember that your dad was a griot, so some of his influence on you is clear in that very title.  In what ways did your mom influence your love of and work on arts and literature?

MBIZO: Yes, my father was daring with words: poetry and other literature and stories. I learnt reading, spelling and writing from him from the tender age of four. My mother played a big role in everything to make me understand I must work hard in everything I do. After the death my father, she carved a creative spirit in me.  She never gave up life. Her ways remained intact. She remained loyal to our clan. She never got married again but she continued to look after us throughout the conflicts. Her leadership, her energy, her resilience, her dedication to life is in my DNA, carried with me as the seed that sat in her womb.

She might not have known much of literary arts but the kind of shaping she did gave us our character, our life and everything is what you see today as I work to grow my griot career. Like my mother, I never have given up , I survive and soldier on even in traumatizing challenges. It is a gift from a mother who was a diligent formidable spirit. Thanks to her, I can be an unrelenting griot. Thanks to her I learned to think outside the box, to the rise to every occasion that warrants attention, to challenge naysayers. My mother was a tigress, unrelenting in her fight.

3.) JAMIE: How did your mom influence your activism?

MBIZO: She was part of the liberation struggle system, that were unrelenting in the struggle for the freedom of the country we have today.  I believe they did their part well. However, in post-independence Zimbabwe we as people we have issues with the way the country is being governed.  There is a lot corruption since 1980.   Masses are suffering. Hence, I understand that freedom does not come on silver platter but its fought for with faith and resilience. Thus today I switch my roles to writing, activism, and spoken word performances. today I stand fighting to right wrong perceptions with the guiding example of our mothers and fathers who fought their own war and they won. I fight my war through literary activism . In all her doings my mother influenced me to have endurance, dedication, resistance, faith and resilience.

© 2020, Mbizo Chirasha (Mbizo, The Black Poet)

Link to Part 2 HERE.

MBIZO CHIRASHA (Mbizo, The Black Poet) is one of the newest members of The BeZine core team. He is the founder of Womawords Literary Press, which is dedicated to giving space to the voices of women and girls and is a partner in The BeZine International Poetry Month,a blog event. He is a multi-award winning poet from Zimbabwe who is on the run. We have been coordinating in the search for safe harbor. In part I am posting this today to remind everyone that while we’ve made progress with funding, we still need to find a host for Mbizo, preferably Germany. Open to suggestion.  Connect with me if you are able to help, have leads, or have questions. You can read more about Mbizo and his story: Zimbabwean Poet in Exile: Award-Winning Poet Mbizo Chirasha, A Life on the Run, Interview.


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

Sustain the movement.

“Democracy is not a spectator sport.” Bernie Sanders



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

 

Federal Court Confirms Literature Is a Vital Component of Education

Photograph courtesy of Element5 Digital, Unsplash

“The main hope of a nation lies in the proper education of its youth”  Dutch Philosopher and Scholar of the northern Renaissance, Desiderius Erasmus Roterodamus (1466-1536), The Erasmus Reader



The right to basic education should be a given in a developed country of the 21st Century. Apparently it’s not:  The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals found it necessary to affirm last Thursday that the right to a basic education, meaning one that provides access to literary education, is a fundamental right under the Constitution. The court made this holding in the case of Gary B. v. Whitmer, a lawsuit brought by students of several of Detroit’s worst-performing schools. The case will be sent back to a lower court for a new ruling.


Photograph courtesy of U.S. National Archives and Records Administration / First Lady Barbara Bush at the 1989 UNESCO International Literacy Day celebration / Public Domain

“Plaintiffs in this appeal are students at several of Detroit’s worst- performing public schools. They credit this substandard performance to poor conditions within their classrooms, including missing or unqualified teachers, physically dangerous facilities, and inadequate books and materials. Taken together, Plaintiffs say these conditions deprive them of a basic minimum education, meaning one that provides a chance at foundational literacy*.

“In 2016, Plaintiffs sued several Michigan state officials, who they say are responsible for these abysmal conditions in their schools. Plaintiffs allege that state actors are responsible, as opposed to local entities, based on the state’s general supervision of all public education, and also on the state’s specific interventions in Detroit’s public schools. The state argues that it recently returned control to local officials, and so it is now the wrong party to sue.” United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit

* Functional Literacy: “reading and writing skills that are inadequate to manage daily living and employment tasks that require reading skills beyond a basic level.”  Shaking Up the Schoolhouse, How to Support and Sustain Education Innovation, Phillip C. Schlechty


PEN America filed an amicus brief in support of the students’ position that access to literacy is a fundamental right. In response to the news, PEN America’s deputy director of free expression research and policy, James Tager, said:

“This ruling affirms one of the most commonsense yet profound concepts in society: There is a fundamental right to read. Literacy is the spark that animates the First Amendment. Without access to literacy, freedom of speech and of expression are just words on a page, inaccessible to broad segments of the population. In order for our democracy to function, every citizen must have the opportunity to fully partake in public life. As this case continues, we hope that the circuit court’s decision will translate into real change for these students who are fighting for their own right to a basic education.”

RELATED:

The content of this post is courtesy of the United States Court of Appeals, Wikipedia, Shaking Up the Schoolhouse, and PEN America.

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

Maintain the movement.

“Democracy is not a spectator sport.” Bernie Sanders



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

Beyond Yearning to Hope, a poem. . . and your next Wednesday Writing Prompt

Courtesy of Nick Fewings, Unsplash

“This virus is teaching us that from now on living wages, guaranteed health-care for all, unemployment and labor rights are not far left issues, but issues of right versus wrong, life versus death.” Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, American Protestant minister and political activist. Rev. Barber is the author of several recommended books. His Amazon page is HERE.



The dreams can drive you crazy sometimes
The ones that envision a just world, one
Where equity is the backbone of endurance
A vineyard of bliss, so to speak, a garden of joy
Relative to the greed times of unworthy living
In a penthouse with a golden toilet, while
Others sleep on cardboard outside, urinating
In the streets, begging for lunch and walking
Barefoot in the snow, betrayed from day one
By the false ideal of rugged independence,
Of monied might is alright, of resource hording
By the richest and unconscionable trafficking of
Children for the unhinged pleasures of the elite
Oh my God, how did this happen? and who
Might have thought that the munitions factory
Of a deadly virus would bring us nose to nose?
How COVID-19 recognizes no bank account or
Prestigious position, just drops its noxious tidbits
Indiscrimanently, into lungs of princes, prime ministers
Those sleeping rough on city streets, its travels
Enhanced by an uneven distribution of access
To water, healthcare, space, living wages,
Paid time off, the rudiments of a civilized life
Girded by compassionate societies, lessons
Learned, we await implementation, and
Dare we move beyond yearning to hope

© 2020, Jamie Dedes

This poem and post are dedicated to the much admired Rev. William Barber and to Bernie Sanders. 

WEDNESDAY WRITING PROMPT

This week we focus on right versus wrong, life versus death, on living wages, guaranteed health-care for all, unemployment and labor rights. Dare we move beyond yearning to hope.  Tell us you thoughts in your poem/s and

  • 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 on theme in the comments section here will be published in next Tuesday’s collection. Poems submitted through email or Facebook will not be published. If you are new to The Poet by Day, Wednesday Writing Prompt, be sure to include a link to your website, blog, and/or Amazon page to be published along with your poem. Thank you!

Deadline:  Monday, April 6 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

“Democracy is not a spectator sport.” Bernie Sanders



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