“Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world …”

“I remember thinking that if we were rioting in 120 countries for sure you’d see us on CNN.  It’s a sad reality in today’s world that good news doesn’t travel well or far.” Jamie Dedes, How 100,000 Poets Are Fostering Peace, Justice & Sustainability, YOPP Voice



Thanks to Kella Hanna-Wayne, Creator of YOPP!, social justice blog dedicated to civil rights education, elevating voices of marginalized people, and reducing oppression, for helping to further our goals for a better world by publishing a feature I wrote on 100TPC.

Shelly famously wrote and is frequently quoted for saying, “poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world.”  Activist poetry in the service of making change, of protesting war and injustice and in giving voice to the oppressed has a long and honorable recorded-history and probably started before written language. It didn’t come to me as something approaching a way of life until I was benched by a disability and forced into medical retirement.

Ruderal species of plants are the first to colonize lands disturbed by natural events or human activities. Typically, they dominate the disturbed area for a time, gradually losing ground to the competition. In extraordinary circumstances, the ruderals may become permanently established.

In 2011 poet Michael Rothenberg posed a question on Facebook: “Would you be willing to organize a day of poetry to celebrate change in your community?” That question went out into the social networking sphere like ruderal seeds in the wind.  Poets and even other artists responded enthusiastically.  READ the rest at YOPP!



ABOUT 

Jamie Dedes. I’m a Lebanese-American freelance writer, poet, content editor, blogger and the mother of a world-class actor and mother-in-law of a stellar writer/photographer. No grandchildren, but my grandkitty, Dahlia, rocks big time. I am hopelessly in love with nature and all her creatures. In another lifetime, I was a columnist, a publicist, and an associate editor to a regional employment publication. I’ve had to reinvent myself to accommodate scarred lungs, pulmonary hypertension, right-sided heart failure, connective tissue disease, and a rare managed but incurable blood cancer. The gift in this is time for my primary love: literature. I study/read/write from a comfy bed where I’ve carved out a busy life writing feature articles, short stories, and poetry and managing The BeZine and its associated activities and The Poet by Day jamiededes.com, an info hub for writers meant to encourage good but lesser-known poets, women and minority poets, outsider artists, and artists just finding their voices in maturity. The Poet by Day is dedicated to supporting freedom of artistic expression and human rights.  Email thepoetbyday@gmail.com for permissions, commissions, or assignments.

Testimonials / Disclosure / Facebook

Recent and Upcoming in Digital Publications Poets Advocate for Peace, Justice, and Sustainability, YOPP! , September * The Damask Garden, In a Woman’s Voice, August 11, 2019 / This short story is dedicated to all refugees. That would be one in every 113 people. * 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 * Three poems, Our Poetry Archive, September 2019


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

Putting the “active” in activism: An interview with activist writer and blogger Kella Hanna-Wayne

The longest running peace vigil in U.S. history, started  in 1981. White House Peace Vigil, Lafayette Square, Washington, D.C. The peace vigil was started by activists Thomas and Concepcion Picciotto.  / Photo courtesy of moi 84 under CC BY-SA 3.0 license

“There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.”  Elie Wiesel



Toward the end of June this year I was introduced to Kella Hanna-Wayne’s (Yopp) work via a Facebook link shared by my colleague and friend, Michael Dickel, which he in turn received from his daughter. I subsequently included info on Kella and her post HERE. That’s the way the world moves these days. Though technology and social networking are mixed blessings in some respects, they’re effective tools for people like Kella and I who have work to which we are committed but deal everyday with serious physical disabilities that constrain (in my case prohibit) activity outside the home.

The link of which I speak was to a  post in which Kella provided some well-considered guidelines and resources for protesting the migrant travesties on the U.S. Southern Border. As I investigated Kella’s site, I was impressed with her thoroughness and clarity. I wrote to her about doing an interview on The Poet by Day for our activist poets, writers, and friends. She agreed. Here it is. Read on. / J.D.


JAMIE: Kella, you have taken on such a range of causes, all of them important, critical. Not everyone can do that. I hear people talk about “compassion burnout,” which is understandable but irritating. It’s a luxury oppressed people don’t have. I usually respond with “pick a cause. Pick one cause and focus on that.” What’s your advice?

KELLA: I think all of us, including activists, can agree that social justice is simply overwhelming. There are so many causes, there’s so much to learn about every cause, and to make things even more complicated, the needs of each cause are constantly progressing and changing. It’s a lot to keep up with.

But one of the fundamental ideas behind my blog is that there are a basic set of guidelines that you can follow that will help you understand any source of oppression. Instead of learning about male privilege, and then white privilege, and then financial privilege, why not learn how the concept of privilege works so that you can apply it to any new cause you learn about? There are so many challenges marginalized groups face that they have in common with one another: microaggressions, oppressive language, policing of their emotions/bodies, even difficulty accessing medical care. I think that if you learn the functionality of the oppressive systems that are at work and all the basic components of social justice, it enables you to support these groups of people much more effectively and thoroughly than if you were trying to learn one cause at a time from scratch.

I also think that even if you do choose to focus primarily on one cause, it’s important to be aware of the basics of the other ones because social justice issues are all inextricably connected to each other and ignoring the way intersectionality impacts the problems that we’re tackling tends to leave holes in our solutions.

JAMIE: What then are the steps activists can take to minimize burnout?

KELLA: No matter how narrow your focus, social justice issues are far bigger than any one person can solve. Because activism has to be a collective effort, I think it’s really important to recognize that completely fixing the problem is an impossible standard to hold yourself to. You are one piece in a much larger effort to create change. Even when you are focusing on what is within your personal power, you have to be realistic about what you can actually accomplish. If there are 20 different tasks that you could do as an activist and each one is individually within your ability to do, it’s likely doing all 20 of them is not. You have to choose what it is that you are going to do.

To make that choice, I recommend focusing on forms of activism that…

  • Are sustainable so that you can continue to do them over time
  • Are empowering to you so that you feel motivated to continue
  • Aren’t deeply upsetting or draining in such a way that the cost of the task is greater than the positive impact the action has
  • Feel right to you.

Which forms of activism meet those criteria is going to be different for everyone. For example, I believe that calling your representatives is an effective way to impact the future of our country but I find making phone calls incredibly anxiety-inducing and I have to spend a lot of energy to get myself to make one. That’s not a good use of my resources. On the other hand, writing comes easily to me, I find it rewarding, and it’s something that a lot of other people can’t contribute. I can accomplish way more by writing on behalf of activism than I could if I were using the same amount of resources to make phone calls. Whenever I feel the push to do more for a cause, I re-center on the importance of my writing and how much I’m offering in the work I already do.

A philosophy I carry around with me wherever I go is that everyone has something of value to offer. You have to find what your offering is.

JAMIE:  Tell us about Yopp Academy.

KELLA: Yopp Academy is a section of my blog that focuses on educational material. It’s where I’m outlining that basic set of social justice guidelines I mentioned earlier.

To distinguish the amount of prior knowledge that’s needed to understand a given article, I used a college-style course numbering system, so articles are sorted into 100 level, 200 level, 300 level, etc. If you’re brand new to social justice, you start with the 100 level articles and work your way up. It really does function like a set of college courses in that articles of higher levels directly reference ideas from the level 100 articles, so the more of them you read together, the better your understanding will be of the subject as a whole.

The articles I have published currently only go up to level 300 because I’ve been putting my focus on establishing all the basic concepts before adding more advanced stuff. I’m currently working on a lesson plan of over 40 educational articles to serve as a foundation of knowledge which you can use regardless of your level of involvement with activism, which will include higher-level articles in the future.

JAMIE: Tell us about your Facebook debates.

KELLA: I’ve always had a lot of friends on facebook who are into social justice and some of them have such large friends list that anytime they posted something controversial, it would spark a discussion/debate. I started jumping into these discussions and offering my opinion and I got a reputation for being good at explaining basic social justice concepts to people who weren’t familiar with them and for clearly outlining the problems in someone else’s argument.

I used Facebook debates to practice my writing, increase my own understanding of social justice, it introduced me to a bunch of other amazing people that cared about the same things, and because managing my disability/mental illnesses made traditional activism prohibitive, it gave me a way to be involved in causes I cared about. Spending so much time arguing with people who I disagreed with also gave me a lot of insight into the places people were most likely to have holes in their understanding of our social systems which in turn has really informed the content and the structure of my blog. I often say the reason I started a blog in the first place was that I got tired of writing out the same explanations/arguments over and over again, and just wanted to write out the article once to link to every time I came across the same issue again.

I know I differ from a lot of people in that I believe debates on social media, even the “unproductive” ones, are an important branch of activism. Not only do they spread information to larger audiences of people (while only 10 people might be commenting, 1,000 could be reading the comments) but they serve as a means of socializing bigots to understand that their bigotry will be met with hassle and frustration rather than easy acceptance like they’re used to. I think that practice has a lot more power than people think it does.

JAMIE:  So many people – like you and me – live with chronic, even catastrophic, illness. What can these illnesses teach us about social justice and advocacy?

KELLA: If you hold a conference for activism regarding chronic illness but you organize it in a similar way that you would any other business conference, your collection of speakers, organizers, and attendants are likely to be mostly healthy people rather than chronically ill people. If it’s energy-intensive to leave your house/travel, if you need frequent breaks or a special housing set up, if you have extensive food restrictions or you need to hire a carer to accompany you, it’s going to be very difficult, resource costly, and risky to go to a conference that healthy people can attend with ease. Even in attempting to center the chronically ill, if you organize from the perspective of a healthy person, you will leave chronically ill out of their own activism. That’s because the default systems that we have in place for most aspects of society make it very difficult for chronically ill people to participate let alone succeed.

Anytime you design a solution for the social issues chronically ill people face, you have to start by adapting your mindset and prioritizing accommodation of an experience that you’re not familiar with, or you’ll fail at your advocacy from the beginning.

And this idea is not at all exclusive to chronic illness. You see the same problem with white people organizing on behalf of people of color, cis people organizing for trans people, abled people organizing for disabled people, etc. You have to go in understanding that in order for your advocacy to be successful, you have to dismantle the relevant oppressive systems that are within your scope of power and create new systems, a new foundation before you attempt to build any kind of structure on top.

JAMIE: Your site is about eighteen months old as we work on this post. What are the goals for the next couple of years?

KELLA: I’m still very much working out what my ideal version of Yopp would be or what I want it to accomplish but so far, my concrete plans are:

  • Switch over to a new, more modern and accessible website
  • Finish writing the basic building blocks for Yopp Academy (all 40 of them!!)
  • Build up my Patreon supporter base– my first goal is $800 a month
  • Acquire enough sponsorships that I can publish up to 4 times a month

© 2019, Kella Hanna-Wayne

Kella Hanna-Wayne

KELLA HANNA-WAYNE (Yopp) is a disabled, chronically/mentally ill freelance writer who is the editor, publisher, and main writer for Yopp, a social justice blog dedicated to civil rights education, elevating voices of marginalized people, and reducing oppression; and for GlutenFreeNom.Com, a resource for learning the basics of gluten-free cooking and baking. Her work has been published in Ms. Magazine blog, Multiamory, Architrave Press and is forthcoming in a chapter of the book Twice Exceptional (2e) Beyond Learning Disabilities: Gifted Persons with Physical Disabilities. For fun, Kella organizes and DJ’s an argentine tango dancing event, bakes gluten-free masterpieces, sings loudly along with pop music, and makes cat noises. You can find her on Facebook, Twitter, Patreon, Medium, and Instagram.



ABOUT 

Jamie Dedes. I’m a Lebanese-American freelance writer, poet, content editor, blogger and the mother of a world-class actor and mother-in-law of a stellar writer/photographer. No grandchildren, but my grandkitty, Dahlia, rocks big time. I am hopelessly in love with nature and all her creatures. In another lifetime, I was a columnist, a publicist, and an associate editor to a regional employment publication. I’ve had to reinvent myself to accommodate scarred lungs, pulmonary hypertension, right-sided heart failure, connective tissue disease, and a rare managed but incurable blood cancer. The gift in this is time for my primary love: literature. I study/read/write from a comfy bed where I’ve carved out a busy life writing feature articles, short stories, and poetry and managing The BeZine and its associated activities and The Poet by Day jamiededes.com, an info hub for writers meant to encourage good but lesser-known poets, women and minority poets, outsider artists, and artists just finding their voices in maturity. The Poet by Day is dedicated to supporting freedom of artistic expression and human rights.  Email thepoetbyday@gmail.com for permissions, commissions, or assignments.

Testimonials / Disclosure / Facebook

Recent and Upcoming in Digital Publications * The Damask Garden, In a Woman’s Voice, August 11, 2019 / This short story is dedicated to all refugees. That would be one in every 113 people. * 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 * Three poems, Our Poetry Archive, September 2019


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

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