Black lives have always been endangered and extinguished at the hands of the police, for as long as there have been police in the US. The police violence we are presently gripped with is neither new nor a moment – but there is true and new momentum toward the essential work of abolition, and The Poetry Project is committing unequivocally to this.
We believe a safer, more equitable, more loving world is possible if we fully critique and begin to materially dismantle the present structure of our police and incarceration systems – and move instead toward frameworks of mediation, restorative justice, and ongoing mutual aid.
There are architectures of language which we can bring to this work as poets. We need to speak it to make it so. But there is substantive and structural work we need to prioritize beyond this as well. We are seeing the failings and shortcomings of our civic institutions and elected officials to address continued and now escalating brutality. And so it is incumbent upon our cultural institutions – who bring both resources and visions of community – to seriously present the alternative models of aid, care, and action that will bring about change.
The Poetry Project is using the resources we have and thinking of what more we can give. We have created an overnight sanctuary space at St. Mark’s for protestors and individuals leaving jail / jail support. Our Board and staff are collectively contributing $1,000 to The Loveland Foundation, which provides mental health, therapy, and wellness services for Black women and girls. And we are dedicating budget resources to seriously consider what the work of anti-racism, equity, and justice means for us.
We must let the conviction we could do more compel us to do more. We must give up more of what we have. We are continuing to consider the resources we have and finding new ways to use them – including and especially those ways which test our comfort and the bounds we are expected to observe.
We are pleased to share with you this week some work from our archive, which we hope might be particularly meaningful right now. We’re presenting never-before-released archival media of Audre Lorde, Amiri Baraka, Ntozake Shange, Gwendolyn Brooks, Ted Joans, and Jayne Cortez reading at The Project, along with new resources of places to contribute and engage in the movement for black lives.
In solidarity and with humility, we are grateful to be with you.
The Poetry Project