April 4

What a night!  Opening with Martin Luther King, Jr.’s haunting, inspiring last speech, and topped by a surprise Kazim Ali guest appearance, April’s Resistance Mic! featured an incredible range of poetry by Stephanie Burt, Kevin Holden, and Jill McDonough.  Together they traveled from the lyrical and spiritual to the bluntly embodied, bringing into vivid color both the despair of urban prisons, and the industriousness of the sparrows gracing shopping malls.  Bethany M Allen took the audience along on an intense personal journey of identity, and Sari Boren evoked up-close encounters with the 9/11 and the ancient Hebrew Temple memorial walls.  Kazim Ali showed the spirit of resistance as it reached from a Hyderabad home to the grandest aspirations for a life of dignity; Greg Harris read Indonesian author Seno Gumira Ajidarma’s protest story “Eyewitness” as warning of what happens when courtrooms shift from the business of seeking justice, to denying it.

 

 

Bethany M. Allen is the Boston Program Director at Peer Health Exchange, a national organization that provides a skill-based mental health, sexual health, and substance use education program in communities that experience health disparities. She is the former Statewide Initiatives Director for the Boston Alliance of GLBT Youth (BAGLY), one of the nation’s oldest and largest LGBTQ youth organizations, and co-chair of the Board of Directors for the Hispanic Black Gay Coalition (HBGC). She frequently facilitates community reading circles for Mass Humanities and “Act II” talkback conversations at the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge. Her work focuses on creating opportunities for radical, deep connections within and across communities to promote transformational social change rooted in racial and gender equity. She grew up in Maine and later raised three queer black children (who are now young adults) while attending Harvard, experiences she often wrote about in a biweekly column for Africana.com from 2000-2005, “Brown Eyed Girl”.

Sari Boren is a writer and museum exhibit developer who’s worked on dozens of museum exhibits across the country. Her essays have been published or are forthcoming in Lilith Magazine, Copper Nickel, The Southeast Review, Alimentum, and Hobart, among others. She was awarded a 2016 Emerging Artist Award in Literature from the St. Botolph Club Foundation and a 2014 finalist grant from the Massachusetts Cultural Council’s Artist Fellowship Program. Sari teaches creative nonfiction at Grub Street in Boston and is a co-manager of the Four Stories reading series.

Stephanie Burt is Professor of English at Harvard and the author of several books of poetry and literary criticism, most recently Advice from the Lights (Graywolf, 2017).

Greg Harris is the Editor of Pangyrus LitMag. He was born in Boston and received his MFA in Creative Writing from Oregon State University. He has taught writing at Harvard University since 2003. Greg has been recipient of a Fulbright Fellowship and grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities and Oregon’s Regional Arts and Culture Council. His audiorecording “Champion of Hot Peppers” won a 2001 National Parenting Publications Association Gold Medal for storytelling. His translation of Seno Gumira Ajidarma’s novel Jazz, Perfume, and the Incident was published as part of the Modern Library of Indonesia (2012).

Kevin Holden is a poet, critic, and translator. He is the author of six books and chapbooks of poetry, including Solar, which won the Fence Modern Poets Prize, and Birch, which won the 2014 Ahsahta Chapbook Award. His writing has appeared in magazines and journals such as Conjunctions, The New Yorker, Denver Quarterly, Lana Turner, 1913, and Jubilat, and his translations of poetry from French, German, and Russian have been widely published. He holds graduate degrees from the University of Cambridge, the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and the department of comparative literature at Yale, and has taught at several colleges and universities including Iowa, Bard, Stonehill, and Harvard. He is also an activist, and his political work has been dedicated to three primary areas: to the labor movement, to queer rights and expression, and to ecological activism. He is currently a junior fellow at the Harvard Society of Fellows and is the writer-in-residence of Kirkland House at Harvard. https://kholden.net/

Timothy Patrick McCarthy (@DrTPM) is an award-winning scholar, educator, and activist who teaches at Harvard University. He is author or editor of five books from the New Press, including Stonewall’s Children: Living Queer History in the Age of Liberation, Loss, and Love, forthcoming in 2018. He is also the host and director of the A.R.T. of Human Rights series. Find him at https://www.hks.harvard.edu/faculty/timothy-patrick-mccarthy.

Jill McDonough is the author of Habeas Corpus (Salt, 2008), Oh, James! (Seven Kitchens, 2012), Where You Live (Salt, 2012), and Reaper (Alice James, 2017). The recipient of three Pushcart prizes and fellowships from the Lannan Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Fine Arts Work Center, the New York Public Library, the Library of Congress, and Stanford’s Stegner program, she taught incarcerated college students through Boston University’s Prison Education Program for thirteen years.  Her work has appeared in Poetry, Slate, The Nation, The Threepenny Review, and Best American Poetry.  She teaches in the MFA program at UMass- Boston and directs 24PearlStreet, the Fine Arts Work Center online. Her fifth poetry collection, Here All Night, is forthcoming from Alice James Books.

 

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March 7

The snowy evening of March 7, Resistance Mic! rocked Cambridge with its most dynamic evening yet.   The Youth Underground Theater Project dramatized everyday racism, poet Krysten Hill blew the room wide open with the intensity of her language of personal witness.  After a sobering reading of Langston Hughes’ “Black Clown,”  Davone Tines floored the audience with the deep (in every sense of the word) song of protest and hope.  Spoken word poet and global health advocate Kat Geddes evoked the pain and beauty of a mixed Australian-Korean cultural heritage, comedian Carolyn Riley took the battle of the sexes to new levels, and Steve Almond capped off the evening by reading his hate mail from the right wing, and brilliant rejoinders, leading to his confession that he comes from a long line of chickenshits, including that distant middle-eastern ancestor who preached ‘turn the other cheek.’

February 7

February 7, at the Oberon in Cambridge, Resistance Mic! began and ended with powerful music:  the jaw-dropping, powerful harmonies of the Kuumba singers, and the direct, resonant voice of Dom Jones.  Pangyrus author Sebastian Johnson found the perfect metaphor for the accumulated slights and threats against black Americans  with “The War at Home.”  Richard Hoffman’s poems set the current moment in terms that recalled our deepest history and most immediate experience.  Obehi Janice invited the audience into the experience of growing up Nigerian-American and having the Lion King as an image of home (and encountering strangers who had even worse-informed images they were only too happy to share).  Sonya Larson’s fiction brought us into the deeply uneasy class and racial dynamics of a kidney donor meeting the object of her beneficence.  And Destiny Polk spoke to the internal management we all need to practice in this era, the balance between outrage and depression and just plain affirming life and…dare we say it…resistance.

Co-hosts Tim McCarthy and Sarah Sweeney riffed on Trump’s latest tweets, posing them against the postcards you, Resistance Mic! participants, sent to the White House.  We don’t need to tell you which were the more articulate, pointed, funny, and humane messages.

Also, this night we debuted special Resistance-themed cocktails:  the Russian Interference, the Trump and Stormy, and the Covfefe Negroni!

sonya larson reads

About the Artists:

 

Richard Hoffman
Richard Hoffman’s four volumes of poetry have won multiple awards. In his poems and his celebrated memoirs Half the House and Love & Fury, he unflinchingly interrogates the sometimes painful, always challenging bonds of family and class and race. His work, both prose and verse, appears in such journals as Agni, Barrow Street, Harvard Review, Poetry, Witness and elsewhere. A former Chair of PEN New England, he is Senior Writer in Residence at Emerson College in Boston.

Obehi Janice
Obehi Janice is an award-winning actress, writer and comedian, named “Boston’s Best Actress” by The Improper Bostonian in 2014. Her comedic short, BLACK GIRL YOGA, won the Reel 13/AfroPunk Film Competition (WNET/New York Public Media). She is a Luminary Artist at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, with recent stage credits that include Oleanna, The Gift Horse, Love’s Labour’s Lost, We’re Gonna Die (IRNE Award, Best Solo Performance), and her solo show FUFU & OREOS. Her plays have been developed or seen at the Gardner Museum, Off the Grid Theatre Company, SpeakEasy Stage Company, Boston Center for the Arts, and elsewhere. 

Sebastian Johnson
Sebastian Johnson is a contributor to Pangyrus Literary Magazine, whose writing has also been featured in The Washington Post and The Los Angeles Times. Sebastian is a Senior Associate with Freedman Consulting, LLC, and was previously the State Policy Fellow at the Institution on Taxation and Economic Policy. In 2016, Sebastian gave a TEDxMidAtlantic talk titled “The Case for Basic Income.” Sebastian is a graduate of Georgetown University and the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. 

Dom Jones
Dom Jones, from Oakland, CA, is a voice principal at Berklee College of Music and the Editor-in-Chief of Berklee Groove. The Founder and Principal Artist at Dom Empire, she weaves her passion for music, media, and social justice through various projects. An International Songwriting Competition Winner in 2014, Dom released her first album, Wingspan, that same year. Dom’s writing has appeared at Ebony.com, TeenVogue.com and Blavity. Her latest work, Blackbird, explores black struggle and triumph.

Sonya Larson
Sonya Larson’s short fiction and essays have appeared in Best American Short Stories 2017, American Short Fiction, American Literary Review, Poets & Writers, and elsewhere. She has received honors and fellowships include the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, University of Wisconsin-Madison, and the Vermont Studio Center. She directs Grub Street’s annual Muse and the Marketplace literary conference, as well as GrubStreet’s race and advocacy work. She received her MFA in fiction at the Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College.

The Kuumba Singers
Founded in 1970, The Kuumba Singers of Harvard College is the oldest Black undergraduate organization on Harvard’s campus. Kuumba is a Swahili word meaning “to create” and expresses our mission to celebrate Black creativity and spirituality through various mediums of creative expression: song, dance, poetry, theater, and visual art. Kuumba is dedicated to singing music from the African Diaspora (spirituals, gospel, R&B, jazz, etc.), and serving as a source of community.

Destiny Polk
Destiny Polk is a poet, choreographer, producer and founder of art-activist platform Radical Black Girl, which strives to inspire transformation of self and communities through art. When she is not creative consulting, creating community programming and art showcases with a focus on collective identity and healing, she is leading poetry and movement based workshops. Her most recent project Resist(d)ance, enlivened the Oberon Theater with interactive protest art and celebration of local Boston based artists.

Opening Night: November 8

Opening Night of Resistance Mic! featured original and powerful performances from celebrated authors Anne Champion, Boyah J. Farah, Jessica Halem, Grace Talusan, Regie Gibson, and Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich.  Sarah Sweeney shared harrowing tales from her dates with Trump supporters.  And Tim McCarthy gave a stirring reading of the Declaration of Independence.