Writers Resist Philadelphia

Faces of the resistance

This weekend was the inaugural meeting of Writers Resist Philadelphia -- you know, the inaugural before the inauguration. Writers Resist is a new national movement that hopes to protect civil rights and freedom of expression under the incoming Trump administration. On Sunday, Writers Resist rallies were held around the United States, and here, the National Museum of American Jewish History hosted an event organized by Stephanie Feldman, Alicia Askenase, and Nathaniel Popkin in an overflowing house.

United we stand, but that day we sat (and listened).

The revolution will not be televised

Broad Street Review was well represented in the audience. I attended, as did BSR associate editor Alaina Mabaso, podcaster Darnelle Radford, and freelance writer Stacia Friedman. If I missed some others, it's only because the crowd was so big. The event lasted three hours, and featured nearly 40 professional writers -- including such local literary lights as Diane McKinney-Whetstone, Lorene Cary, and Leonard Gontarek -- reading excerpts from some of their favorite poems, speeches, essays, and more, all celebrating the spirit of freedom. 

If you're unfamiliar with Jameson Fitzpatrick's 2016 poem "I Woke Up," read that day by author Lauren Grodstein, get familiar with it. If you've never considered Elie Wiesel's 1999 speech at then-President Clinton's Millenium Lecture series, "The Perils of Indifference," which Temple University writing professor Kelly McQuain chose to read, it's time to start considering it. If you haven't thought of Langston Hughes's poem "Let America Be America Again," in the context of our President-elect's campaign slogan, which poet and memoirist Thomas Devaney did when he dedicated his reading to civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis, get thinking. 

But even more important, scroll down to meet some of the people in your city who have chosen the pen over the sword, and who are using their words to make a difference. 

Clockwise from l: Lori Tharps, Aida Malia-Tharps, Manuel Malia, Esai Malia-Tharps, Addai Malia-Tharps. Author and journalist Lori Tharps read from Franklin Delano Roosevelt's 1936 acceptance speech for renomination and says she brought her family to show them that whatever their interests, they can still be politically active.
Clockwise from l: Lori Tharps, Aida Malia-Tharps, Manuel Malia, Esai Malia-Tharps, Addai Malia-Tharps. Author and journalist Lori Tharps read from Franklin Delano Roosevelt's 1936 acceptance speech for renomination and says she brought her family to show them that whatever their interests, they can still be politically active. "Activism," she says, "doesn't have to look like one thing."
Rigoberto Hernandez moved here a year and a half ago from California. He writes for 'Distillations' magazine. When he arrived, he said he expected the event to be
Rigoberto Hernandez moved here a year and a half ago from California. He writes for 'Distillations' magazine. When he arrived, he said he expected the event to be "insufferable." By the time it ended, he found it "cathartic." He said he's not used to hearing the Mexican-American experience represented in Philadelphia, and that he felt McKinney-Whetstone's reading of Gloria Anzaldua's poem "How to Tame a Wild Tongue" spoke to him directly.
Carlos Pérez Sámano, a freelance writer and construction worker, read John Trudell's 1980
Carlos Pérez Sámano, a freelance writer and construction worker, read John Trudell's 1980 "We Are the Power." He said he's starting to feel a little afraid--not of violence, but that the "ambience" in the United States is becoming more tense. He never considered himself Mexican, but rather human, until recently. He feels it's been hammered at him by people yelling from passing cars and the like while he's on the job. He wears the number 43 to raise awareness of the 2014 Iguala mass kidnapping, in which 43 boys were taken from a school trip in Mexico. Most are still missing, and all are presumed dead.
Jennifer Anolik is a poet who also writes curricula for Moving Traditions, a program that helps Jewish teens examine issues of identity and society. Anolik attends a writing workshop with Writers Resist organizer Alicia Askenase, and believes the written word can be a powerful form of activism.
Jennifer Anolik is a poet who also writes curricula for Moving Traditions, a program that helps Jewish teens examine issues of identity and society. Anolik attends a writing workshop with Writers Resist organizer Alicia Askenase, and believes the written word can be a powerful form of activism. "If you value the written word," she explains, "you value freedom of expression."
Carol McCullough, chair of the Writer's Room Advisory Committee at Drexel University's Dornsife Center for Neighborhood Partnerships, writes poetry and memoir. She believes our nation is facing a major change and
Carol McCullough, chair of the Writer's Room Advisory Committee at Drexel University's Dornsife Center for Neighborhood Partnerships, writes poetry and memoir. She believes our nation is facing a major change and "it's important to listen to voices from the past who have faced potential conflict." She attended the event, she says, because she likes "the idea of coming together in the creative spirit to forge a path of resistance."
Harlan Wiener is a high school student, and--full disclosure--we're related. He listens to music that reflects his interests and concerns: Kevin Abstract, Frank Ocean, Solange. He's nervous about the incoming administration and wonders what will happen to queer people in America, or music and the arts. He says,
Harlan Wiener is a high school student, and--full disclosure--we're related. He listens to music that reflects his interests and concerns: Kevin Abstract, Frank Ocean, Solange. He's nervous about the incoming administration and wonders what will happen to queer people in America, or music and the arts. He says, "They're in such a good place right now. Will they be censored?" He believes journalism and other writing are very important. "Poetry will do for some what music does for me; it helps people feel stronger and more empowered."

To hear Darnelle Radford's podcast interview with Writers Resist organizer Stephanie Feldman, click here.

To read Stacia Friedman's essay about her experience at the Writers Resist rally, click here.

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