Even More Protests Planned at This Week’s AWP Conference in D.C.


More writers are joining and planning protest events at the AWP conference in Washington, D.C. which begins this afternoon, a development that seems particularly important in the wake of Betsy DeVos’s confirmation as Secretary of Education as well as more lies about and to the press from administration figures. A literate response in the face of these forces for ignorance isn’t just important, it’s absolutely vital. The flurry of activity around AWP is hopefully only the most major kickoff of a long period of writerly rebellion.

Last week Flavorwire reported on two such events, a pre-planned lobbying excursion on Friday (which has spawned its own post-meeting rally at the Library of Congress at 4.30pm) and a candlelight vigil on Saturday.

In addition to these events, a concurrent march and postcard campaign are both in the works. On Friday a group of writers spearheaded by poet D.A. Powell and Writers Resist’s Erin Belieu are encouraging writers to walk together to “Write Our Democracy.” They’ll be marching from the conference hotel to Capitol Hill to show strength in numbers.

Powell offered me a statement on the planned action:

We’ll leave the conference as a group, starting from the Marriott Hotel and walking to the Capitol. This is a peaceful, non-violent action. Our motto is “Use Your Words.” Writers and poets understand the power of language and can harness that power for positive change. Our reasons for marching are 1) to resist the authoritarian rule of government, 2) to build solidarity with writers who are being silenced or ignored, particularly 3) to support a free and independent press that does not function as a mouthpiece for the sitting administration, 4) to end discrimination and to block legislation that targets people based upon their religion or national origin, 5) to affirm the value of diversity and the strength of a nation whose people are of many orientations, genders, races, colors, creeds and faiths and 6) to exercise and guarantee the right to petition government and to assemble in opposition to unjust laws.

Another group of writers is doing a postcard campaign over the course of the conference, calling it “I Dissent. Do You?” Organizers Danielle Lazarin, Celeste Ng, and Danya Kukafka will be walking around the conference with postcards that attendees can write and send on the spot to their elected officials. “Our goal is that this coordinated effort to mail nearly 3,000 postcards from Washington DC will represent our varied concerns and voices to the current administration, their appointees, and our Senators and Representatives,” their Facebook group reads. “At AWP next week, look for folks wearing the ‘I Dissent, Do You?’ buttons. We will have specially-designed postcards, stamps, and a good number of addresses on hand.”

Ng told me about the genesis of the idea, which just began last week. “All of three of us —Danielle, Danya and I— were looking for ways to get the attention of our representatives,” she explained. “Danielle had just done a postcard drive at her daughters’ school opposing the travel ban, so we decided to scale that idea up. The three of us pulled the campaign together in about 2 days, with many others chipping in help along the way.”

Between writing campaigns, in-person meetings with elected officials, and symbolic marches and vigils, the writers at AWP will be able to choose from a smorgasbord of protest types. There will also be, I imagine, a lot of informal activist-minded networking and strategizing happening over the conference’s four days.

Here are the Facebook pages for the “I Dissent” postcard campaign, the Writers Resist Trump lobbying event, and the Candlelight Vigil for Free Speech. In addition, several other writers reached out to me with events both during and around the conference that they hope will be hubs for discussing how writers can resist the administration. They are listed below, in the words of the organizers.

  • Immigration Panel: Join a very timely conversation at #AWP on – “Immigration: Cultural Binding, Creative Chaos and the Survival of International Writers.” — Kalpna Singh-Chitnis
  • Literary Death Match: We’re using Literary Death Match as a vehicle of protest for the foreseeable by focusing on featuring only women, people of color, LGBT and immigrants at our shows — here’s our lineup for our DC show. The response to our lineups, and desire for inclusion in LA and Brooklyn (our first two shows of the year) has been powerful. And it’s been fun to write my monologues for the show, focusing on Trump’s abuses (using a literary lens), women, immigrants, LGBT and people of color, as well. — Adrian Todd Zuniga
  • Thought Crime Press: Our press will have a table at AWP. We’ve put all other projects on hold to produce an anthology called “Not My President,” a call for voices standing up to fascism and hate. http://thoughtcrimepress.com/not-my-president/ — Josh Gaines
  • Political Poetry Panel: I am the moderator of a panel which occurs on Thursday, February 9, at 10:30 to 11:45 am at AWP. The panel is about political poetry and examines how writers should react to political injustice. — George Higgins