Our Voices Matter: Writing as Activism Creates a Space for Community Members to Speak With Their Pens

 William Morris said, “History has remembered the kings and warriors, because they destroyed; art has remembered the people, because they created.” On Saturday morning, June 20, people across the community came together and created. Marianne WorthingtonCentral Kentucky Kentuckians for the Commonwealth and The Carnegie Center for Literacy and Learning hosted a writing workshop to empower people to use the written word to effect social change.

“Our Voices Matter: Writing as Activism” taught by Marianne Worthington poet, editor of STILL magazine, KFTC member, and professor of communication arts at the University of the Cumberlands was a space for community members to come together and be empowered by reading examples of activist writing, generating new work through writing exercises, sharing their work in a community workshop setting, and talking about ways to get their writing into the world. “One of the tenets or purposes of the workshop is to share the thought that words and language and writing skills are empowering,” Worthington said. “Sometimes when we feel the most helpless, writing can help us overcome because it forces us to think straight and logically and even creatively about problems.”

KFTC Steering Committee member Meta Mendel-Reyes has been working on using writing as a means to further her activism for quite sometime. “The workshop taught me that writing is a form of empowerment, a way for my voice to be heard. In KFTC, we focus on speaking – to a state senator, to a reporter – and that’s right. But some of us speak more loudly through our pens.” That morning Meta was able to produce a new piece of writing through one of the writing exercises in the workshop that she used on the We Are Not Trayvon Martin blog. Meta wrote:

Our Voices Matter workshopThe Color of Tongues

She lies there, black hair framing her brown face, wearing a lacy white dress.  “She looks so young,” we say to each other in a whisper, as we file past the coffin.  Afterward, each of us approaches her husband, warily, as if afraid to catch the contagion of death.

Driving to the wake, Carlos had told me the story.  Sometime after giving birth, Lucia felt a sharp pain in her stomach.  She called for help, but no one spoke Spanish, and the little niece who was the family’s only interpreter was in the restroom. By the time a nurse realized something was wrong, Lucia was gone.  In death, we all speak the same language.

Language can be, literally a matter of life and death.  You could say that it wouldn’t happen today, when almost all hospitals provide interpretation.  “No fumar/No smoking” everywhere you look.

But has the injustice really disappeared or has it taken on another guise?  The mother reaching helplessly for her child as the Border Patrol drags her away.  The young man whose papers are demanded, just because of the color  of his skin. 

Discrimination speaks its own language – the slow death of not being heard due to the color of your tongue.

And, not only was this a great opportunity for members and community members to come together and speak with their pens, but it provided a space for more people to become a part of Kentuckians for the Commonwealth. KFTC gained fifteen new members that morning and people created work that can help move KFTC’s work forward in the years to come.

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