JANUARY 31, 2017
BY WENDY LEVY
with help from Kaveh Akbar
On Monday, January 30, award-winning poet Kaveh Akbar posted poems on his Twitter account by poets from nations banned by the immigration block. Libya, Iran, Somalia, Sudan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen—incredible words of vision, hope, truth. Words like this:
“Curse the dictator
Forsake the Party
Clap with flowers in your hand for America, her wall”
Amal Al-Jubouri (Iraq), translated by Rebecca Gayle Howell and Husam Qaisi
“My country is handed over from one tyrant to the next,
a worse tyrant; from one prison to another,
from one exile to another.”
Abdullah Al-Baradouni (Yemen), “From Exile to Exile”
Let us remember that culture changes before policy does, and that the new, true stories we tell are how we will uphold and protect our freedom.
We feel from Kaveh’s work, and through the words of the poets he shared, and the pictures made by photographers, and the stories created by filmmakers and the creative voices and bodies rising from communities in these very challenging times—just who is excluded when the pathways to justice are destroyed. Arts and culture organizations across this country are sharing declarations of solidarity and conviction in support of the immigrant communities in their circle. This gives us hope. City councils across the country are passing referenda against religious registries. More hope.
Let us not forget the many battles that still need us in this country: Black Lives Matter, women’s health, poverty and homelessness, LGBTQ equality, indigenous rights, mass incarceration, environmental justice, and so much more. Let us remember that culture changes before policy does, and that the new, true stories we tell are how we will uphold and protect our freedom.
Storytelling matters. Truth-telling matters. It is our collective imagination and our dogged willingness to work across boundaries that will get us through this time.