Week Four: Solidarity
Curated by Jai Dulani
White supremacy, slavery, genocide, and colonization have shaped our here and now – we inherit history and the material conditions of power and privilege produced by it. Solidarity calls for an intimate awareness of how systems of oppression target and impact us differently – both within Asian American communities and more broadly. Grace Lee Boggs said “Movements are born of critical connections rather than critical mass.” This call to make critical connections with one another is the heart of solidarity – it is the fire of knowing that our liberation is intertwined with one another’s.
The following are solidarity poems by Asian American poets. These are poems that make critical connections – honoring people targeted by interpersonal and state violence, by systemic injustice. These are poems that speak up in solidarity with those who are fighting still and light a path to liberation.
- Suheir Hammad’s “First Writing Since” blew me away when it was written back in 2001. I needed this poem. So many of us needed this poem. Hammad talks about the many layers with which she experienced 9/11 - the intersections of heartache, the multiplicity of identity – being Palestinian, American, a woman, from Brooklyn - Hammad reflects back to us the interlocked experience of survival and solidarity.
- Purvi Shah’s “Shooting for the Sky” is written in solidarity with Marissa Alexander, a Black woman survivor of domestic violence and state violence. The story of Marissa Alexander is that when Alexander’s estranged husband threatened to kill her, she fired a warning shot and was sentenced to twenty years in prison. Alexander had sought self-defense immunity under Florida’s stand-your-ground law but was not granted it. Just three months prior, George Zimmerman had shot and killed Trayvon Martin, claiming self-defense under the stand-your-ground law and was found not guilty. Alexander served three years and was ultimately released after a new trial and plea deal. In her stirring poem, Shah seamlessly weaves through the racial and gender injustice ever present in this case, calling attention to who is allowed to fight for their life and whose life the justice system deems disposable.
- Craig Santos Perez’s “Water is Life” was written as the subtitle says, “in solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and all peoples protecting the sacred waters of this earth.” The context is that in early 2016, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe began opposing construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline, which would run through indigenous land, disrupting sacred burial grounds and affecting water quality. “Water is Life” was the rallying call of the grassroots movement that sparked the largest gathering of Native Americans in 100 years and inspired thousands of allies to join in support, nationally and internationally. In his moving anaphora poem, Perez pays intimate tribute to the personal and political stakes of water being under attack.
- Kenji C. Liu’s “So that you are always sir, dear sir” was written for the 43 teachers' college students kidnapped and murdered in Ayotzinapa, Mexico. The mass murder sparked widespread protests in and beyond Mexico. Many solidarity protests in the U.S. made connections between the state violence in Mexico to the state violence experienced by Black people in the U.S. being murdered by police.
- “One Year Later: A Letter” by Chen Chen was written “In memory of Christopher Andrew “Drew” Leinonen, 32, murdered with his boyfriend, Juan Ramon Guerrero, 22, in the shooting at Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, June 12, 2016.” The massacre at Pulse shook the queer community, especially the Latinx queer community – it was a reminder of how our identities shape how vulnerable we are to interpersonal and state violence. This poem is heartache and pays tribute to the love, the people who loved, the people who loved and danced and were killed for being who they are.
- From “Black Lives Matter” to “me too” to “Water is Life” to “We’re here because you were there” to “Stonewall was a riot” – social justice movements are full of messages that reclaim truths and put forth critical analysis. Write an anaphora poem inspired by a movement chant or slogan. An anaphora is a repetition of a word or phrase at the beginning of a line such as the word “becuz” at the beginning of each line of Craig Santos Perez’s “Water is Life” poem.
- Support Someone’s Freedom (Literally): Mass incarceration disproportionally affects Black communities. Many people are in jail because they can’t afford bail. Donate to National Bail Out because money shouldn’t be in the way of someone’s freedom and we have the power to change that.
- Become a Pen Pal: Black & Pink is an organization that describes itself as “an open family of LGBTQ prisoners and “free world” allies.” Black & Pink has a pen pal program where you can help break the isolation of an LGBTQ person in prison by becoming pen pals. Learn more about the program here.
- Become a Hotline Volunteer: If you are in New York City, volunteer with the Anti-Violence Project. The Anti-Violence Project supports LGBTQ survivors of violence. Join their team of certified hotline volunteers. After a 40-hour hotline training course, participants are certified as Rape Crisis Counselors by New York State Department of Health and serve on their 24-hour bilingual (English/Spanish) Hotline.
Jai Dulani is a Desi queer writer and artist whose work has appeared inSAMAR, bustingbinaries, Black Girl Dangerous, Teachers & Writers, Open City and the anthology, “Experiments in a Jazz Aesthetic.” Dulani has been a Kundiman Fellow, a VONA/ Voices Fellow, and a BCAT/ Rotunda Gallery Multi-Media Artist-in-Residence. He has worked with young people in New York City, facilitating youth leadership programs with an anti-oppression framework at organizations including Global Action Project, Sadie Nash Leadership Institute, and South Asian Youth Action. From 2011–2015, Dulani served as Co-Director of FIERCE, an organization that builds the leadership and power of LGBTQ Youth of Color organizing at the intersections of gentrification and police violence. Dulani is co-editor of the anthology The Revolution Starts At Home: Confronting Intimate Violence in Activist Communities. He was a 2016 Open City Fellow through the Asian American Writers Workshop.