“Persephone’s Daughters” Statement on the Murder of George Floyd; Racial Justice Funds

George Floyd in 2016/ source WP:NFCC#4 / used here under Fair Use

“Spring irises bloom.
The caged bird no longer sings—
a knee on his throat.”
Kamand Kojouri



Dear Persephone’s Daughters readers, contributors, and community,

It is with outrage, grief, and solidarity that we join the voices of those worldwide condemning the heinous, racist acts of police brutality that directly resulted in the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25th, 2020.

As a literary and arts journal with staff members and readers from all over the world, and a home base in Minnesota as our Editor-in-Chief’s place of residence, we grieve for the pain not only of our reeling community in the Twin Cities, but also for all those worldwide who have lost loved ones to police brutality.

Our mission is to uplift the voices of those pursuing peace after trauma, and to provide community and calm through healing art and storytelling. We envision, one day, a world free from violence. Not only from domestic and sexual violence and child abuse, of which many of our readers and contributors have survived, but also from racism, police brutality, systemic oppression, and the sharply entrenched inequities upon which the United States is historically built.

As artists and writers, we hold both the power to bring healing, and the power to illustrate and narrate the violent acts which deny, disrupt, and prolong it. As artists and writers giving voice to other artists and writers, we refuse to remain silent in the wake of abject, intentional terror.

In 2016, in the wake of Donald Trump’s election, we brought you the Post-Election Mini Issue, a compilation of voices expressing their pain and anger at the election of a racist, ableist, misogynistic, xenophobic and homophobic individual to one of the highest offices in the United States. Make no mistake – racism is alive and well in America in 2020 because America is an inherently racist project. Racist systems and racist individuals are killing Black men, Black women, and Black transgender folks at epidemic proportions, all with the direct support of this nation’s president.

We implore you to join us in action, however that action may look. Through protest, through provision of bailout funds, through distribution of food and basic necessities to BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) communities, to a commitment to hire and value BIPOC leadership, to challenge and actively work to dismantle, everyday, the systems that benefit white communities at the expense of BIPOC communities.

Silence in the face of this terror is in itself a violent act. We encourage you to do all of the above, in addition to donating to the following racial justice funds:

The George Floyd Memorial Fund supports George Floyd’s family with funeral and burial expenses, mental health counseling, lodging and travel for court proceedings, and basic necessities in the days, weeks, and months to come.

Minnesota Freedom Fund, a community-based nonprofit that pays criminal bail and immigration bonds for individuals arrested. Note: MFF has received a significant influx of donations and is requesting that donations be given to orgs such as Black Visions Collective and Reclaim the Block, detailed below.

Black Visions Collective, a Black, transgender, and queer-led organization committed to long-term success and transformation in Minnesota’s Black communities.

Reclaim the Block, a coalition that advocates for and invests in community-led safety initiatives in Minneapolis neighborhoods such as violence prevention, housing, and responses to opioid and mental health crises.

Campaign Zero, an organization that utilizes policy solutions to end police brutality through limiting police interventions, improving community interactions, and ensuring accountability.

Northstar Health Collective, a radical healthcare initiative providing health care services and other resources to marginalized communities; currently, they are on the frontlines, safeguarding the health of protestors.

National Bail Fund Network, a compiled list of bail funds across America. Donate to your local bail fund to support protestors in your area!

For those looking to learn more about the racist bedrock of policing, here are some educational resources to get started with:

Transform Harm, a resource hub about ending oppressive violence.

#BecauseWe’veRead, a reading list on policing and police/prison abolition.

A World Without Police, an organization that has compiled a study guide on the police.

@thegreatunlearn on Instagram & Patreon, a series of resources and critical discourse created by Rachel Cargle to aid in unlearning, including self-paced syllabi on racial justice.

In previous communications to our readers, we had stated that all proceeds from the print version of Issue 6 would be donated to the Northwest Network of Bi, Trans, Lesbian, and Gay Survivors of Abuse. We will now be splitting all proceeds and donating 25% to the Northwest Network and the remaining 75% to Black Visions Collective.

Please join us.

In solidarity,

Persephone’s Daughters

Meggie Royer, Founder & Editor-in-Chief

Bhargavi Goel, Prose Reader & Editor

Mikey Jakubowski, Poetry Editor & Film Judge

Taylor Pevey, Prose Reader & Newsletter Staff

Uma Dwivedi, Prose Editor

Elena Torry-Schrag, Poetry Reader

Siam Hatzaw, Poetry & Prose Editor

Delaney Dunn, Prose Reader

Jessica Mazzeo, Art Evaluator & Social Media Team Member

Elijah Noble El, Persephone’s Daughters Film Division Co-Founder

Avleen K Mokha, Poetry & Prose Editor

Eleanor Hough, Poetry Editor

Sarah Shaughnessy, Prose Editor & Poetry Reader

Kim Kaletsky, Prose Reader

Catherine Luo, Art Evaluator

Tanvi Deshmukh, Poetry Editor & Art Evaluator

Rachel Hultquist, Prose Editor 

Lakshmi Mitra, Poetry Editor

This post is courtesy of Persephone’s Daughters and is shared here with permission; Mr. Floyd’s photograph is from Wikipedia. 


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

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

Claude McKay, Gifted Writer of the Harlem Renaissance (1918-mid-1930s); “If We Must Die”

Photo of the poet, novelist and short story writer Claude McKay

“I know the dark delight of being strange, The penalty of difference in the crowd, The loneliness of wisdom among fools . . . ” Claude McKay



If We Must Die

If we must die, let it not be like hogs
Hunted and penned in an inglorious spot,
While round us bark the mad and hungry dogs,
Making their mock at our accursèd lot.
If we must die, O let us nobly die,
So that our precious blood may not be shed
In vain; then even the monsters we defy
Shall be constrained to honor us though dead!
O kinsmen! we must meet the common foe!
Though far outnumbered let us show us brave,
And for their thousand blows deal one death-blow!
What though before us lies the open grave?
Like men we’ll face the murderous, cowardly pack,
Pressed to the wall, dying, but fighting back!

– Claude McKay

Mckay says of this sonnet that it is ” … a poem that makes me a poet among colored Americans.” Nonetheless, it is a poem that inspires many of the world’s peoples in their struggles for justice. Though The Poet by Day does not endorse violence, the poem is shared today because of  – among other things – its historic significance. It was published in the July 1919 issue of The Liberator. McKay wrote the poem as a response to mob attacks by white Americans upon African-American communities during Red Summer (1919). The poem was reprinted in The Messenger and the Workers’ Dreadnought (London) later that year. The poem was also read to Congress that year by Henry Cabot Lodge, the Republican Senator from Massachusetts. Wallace Thurman considered the poem as embodying the essence of the “New Negro*” movement as it was not aimed at arousing sympathy, but rather consisted of self-assertion. The poem was recited in the film August 28: A Day in the Life of a People and during Episode 3, Season 4 of The Man in the High Castle (TV series) (air date of November 15th, 2019) prior to a dangerous mission against an authoritarian regime. 

* “The New Negro”, a term of the Harlem Renaissance implying an assertive advocacy of dignity and a refusal to submit quietly to the practices and laws of Jim Crow racial segregation.  

Portrait of McKay in 1920 / Public Domain

CLAUDE McKAY (1889-1948) was a Jamaican writer and poet, a seminal figure in the Harlem Renaissance. He wrote five novels including: Home to Harlem (1928), a best-seller that won the Harmon Gold Award for Literature, Banjo (1929), Banana Bottom (1933), and in 1941 a manuscript called Amiable With Big Teeth: A Novel of the Love Affair Between the Communists and the Poor Black Sheep of Harlem which remained unpublished until 2017. McKay also authored collections of poetry, a collection of short stories, Gingertown (1932), two autobiographical books, A Long Way from Home (1937) and My Green Hills of Jamaica (published posthumously in 1979), and a non-fiction, socio-historical treatise entitled Harlem: Negro Metropolis (1940). His 1922 poetry collection, Harlem Shadows, was among the first books published during the Harlem Renaissance. His Selected Poems was published posthumously, in 1953.

McKay also wrote Romance in Marselle, recently unearthed after ninety years in archive and published this year by Penguin Classics. It ” traces the adventures of a rowdy troupe of dockworkers, prostitutes, and political organizers–collectively straight and queer, disabled and able-bodied, African, European, Caribbean, and American. Set largely in the culture-blending Vieux Port of Marseille at the height of the Jazz Age,” The publisher calls it, “The pioneering novel of physical disability, transatlantic travel, and black international politics. A vital document of black modernism and one of the earliest overtly queer fictions in the African American tradition.” McKay never came out but it is widely believed that he was bisexual.

McKay with Grigory Zinoviev and Nikolai Bukharin in 1923 / Public Domain

McKay was attracted to communism in his early life though he asserted that he never became a member of the Communist Party USA. Some scholars dispute this claim, due to his close ties to active members, his attendance at communist-led events, and his months-long stay in the Soviet Union in 1922–23, which he wrote about very favorably. Over time McKay became disillusioned with communism. By the mid-1930s had begun to write negatively about it. By the late 1930s his anti-Stalinism isolated him from other Harlem intellectuals. In 1942 he converted to Catholicism and left Harlem. He worked for a Catholic organization until his death.

This post was complied with material from my bookshelf, Wikipedia, Amazon, and YouTube. I believe that McKay’s poems are all in the public domain at this point.  HIs U.S. Amazon Page is HERE.


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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

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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

CELEBRATING AMERICAN SHE-POETS (13): Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey, writing at the intersection of personal and cultural history

Natasha Trethewey (b. 1966), U.S. Poet Laureate, Poet Laureate of Mississippi, Pultizer Prize for Poetry, Robert W. Woodruff Professor of English and Creative Writing at Emory University
Natasha Trethewey (b. 1966), U.S. Poet Laureate, Poet Laureate of Mississippi, Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, Robert W. Woodruff Professor of English and Creative Writing at Emory University

After hearing Natasha Trethewey read at a poetry festival, Librarian of Congress Emeritus James H. Billington said he was “struck by a kind of classic quality with a richness and variety of structures with which she presents her poetry … she intermixes her story with the historical story in a way that takes you deep into the human tragedy of it.”

Natasha Trethewey is perhaps uniquely equipped by personal history, American history and public discourse, place of birth, education, inclination and innate talent to address a cruel and criminal aspect of our culture that dogs us unrelentingly: the roots, memory and legacy of racism. She is the daughter of a white father (poet Eric Trethewey) and black mother (social worker Gwendolyn Ann Turnbough).  Her background is rooted in the South. Born in Mississippi, when she was six years old her parents divorced and her young life was then split between Louisiana and Georgia. In Trethewey’s hands the juxtaposition of her biracial heritage and our shared history of colonialism, slavery and racism make a powerful case for the role of poetry to effectively and unflinchingly deliver truth.

At the time of her parent’s marriage and Trethewey’s birth anti-miscegenation laws were still in place, making their marriage illegal. Our laws against interracial marriage were struck down in 1967:

“Loving v. Virginia, 388 U.S. 1 (1967),[X 1] [X 2] is a landmark civil rights decision of the United States Supreme Court, which invalidated laws prohibiting interracial marriage.

“The case was brought by Mildred Loving, a black woman, and Richard Loving, a white man, who had been sentenced to a year in prison in Virginia for marrying each other. Their marriage violated the state’s anti-miscegenation statute, the Racial Integrity Act of 1924, which prohibited marriage between people classified as “white” and people classified as “colored”. The Supreme Court’s unanimous decision determined that this prohibition was unconstitutional, reversing Pace v. Alabama (1883) and ending all race-based legal restrictions on marriage in the United States.” [Wikipedia]

51T8yxaK1xL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_ Thrall: Poems (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, 2006) – a sequel to Native Guard (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, 2005) –  is breathtakingly eloquent. Trethewey explores her relationship with her father in the first poem about a fishing trip. Written as an elegy though he is still alive, it tells him in effect that she is the better poet . . . or so I infered.

Tretheway moves on from that quiet meditation to questions of identity and race, exploring colonial attitudes about race reflected in the art of Spanish painters and the Casta (caste, categorization of mixed-race peoples) Paintings of 17th and 18th Century Mexico. I was unfamiliar with most of the paintings and painters, chose to look them up.  That, however, did not detract one iota from engagement with this collection.

The work is exquisite: formal, clear, precise, perceptive … Although the material is distressing, I find Trethewey’s style understated. These poems are not strident but they have sinew and bone. Her forms are mostly free verse. One poem is a series of cinquains and another is a villanelle.

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In the video below, Trethewey offers some insight into the development of the collection and reads the eponymous poem. You will also find a sampling of her poems HERE.

Note: The painting Thrall that inspired the poem is by Juan de Pareja who was apparently the child of indentured servants and left as property to the Spanish painter Diego Rodríguez de Silva y Velázquez to whom he became an assistant. Juan de Pareja was born in 1606, freed in 1650 and died in 1670. The painting featured on the book’s cover is Spaniard and Indian Produce a Mestizo by Juan Rodríguez Juárez (1675-1728).

If you are reading this post from an email, you will have to click through to the site to view the video.

© 2016, essay, Jamie Dedes, All right reserved; Natasha Threthewey’s photograph, Jalissa Gray under CC BY-SA 3.0; cover design, publisher