Local Writers Resist Takes Part in a National Cause

January 20, 2017 by JULIE GARISTO | LITERATURE
Pedro El Poeta at the Writers Resist event in St. Petersburg. Photo by: Daniel Veintimilla
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All images by Daniel Veintimilla for Creative Pinellas

On Sunday, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday and the beginning of President-Elect Trump’s inauguration week, hundreds of writers and artists gathered at 50-plus Writers Resist events across the nation and abroad to voice their rallying cry to uphold human rights and, in the words of many, “re-inaugurate democracy.”

In St. Petersburg, some 23 orators of different backgrounds — from well-known scribes to academics to artists in other fields to recent grads, spoken word artists and poet laureates — congregated for Writers Resist at Mt. Zion Progressive Missionary Baptist Church. They joined the likes of Michael Cunningham, Rita Dove, Rick Moody and other famous writers who simultaneously spoke at events elsewhere.

Sarah Kristine Laine, a teacher at the Art Institute of Tampa and a poetry instructor at the Dr. Carter G. Woodson African American Museum.

Sarah Kristine Lain, a poetry instructor at the Dr. Carter G. Woodson African American Museum, coordinated the event and infused her introduction with words of gratitude and a reading of the Preamble of the U.S Constitution.

Participants included notable local writers such as Florida Poet Laureate Peter Meinke and Helen Pruitt Wallace, Poet Laureate of St. Petersburg plus Hassan Shibly, Executive Director of the Council on Islamic American Relations; spirited rapper Pedro El Poeta, poet Gloria Munoz and author Steve Kistulentz.

“It was powerful to hear so many diverse poets,” said attendee Anda Peterson. “I was very moved and inspired by Jimmy Dunson of Loves Knows No Borders, who spoke a passionate, brilliant ‘Two Poems of Liberation.’”

The tone and personality of each piece did indeed vary from one presenter to the next. From the irreverent and feisty “Closets are for Clothes, NOT People” by recent UT MFA grad Rob McCabe to Meinke’s more reflective piece on the soldiers who sacrifice their lives for their country, the gamut of human rights was succinctly covered.

Terri Lipsey Scott declared “I’m not a poet and I know it,” but dispatched an eloquent and heartfelt manifesto with “Resolutions,” in which she said, “I resolve this year not to let my silence speak for me.”

Meinke made the crowd chuckle with a self-deprecating joke about the somber tone of his poem but rallied the writers to stay involved with social issues.

“Tough times are ahead,” he warned. “Stay alert and keep writing.”

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