Community members gathered at the Kenworthy Performing Arts Centre in Moscow on Sunday night to read and listen to writing and music as part of a local hosting of the international “Writers Resist” movement.
The event was one of over 90 reportedly happening around the world in celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
“The whole idea was that it would be a good time with so many hate crimes happening and so many questions about the direction that our democracy is going for people to come together and uphold the tradition of writers speaking out for social justice,” Alexandra Teague, who organized the event, said.
Teague said she heeded the call of poet and activist, Erin Belieu, who launched Writers Resist, for people to host the event in their local cities and towns. Saying she knows of many people in the area who are concerned about hate crimes and want to speak up for the community’s most vulnerable citizens, she started planning the event in December.
Teague read from MLK Jr.’s famous 1963 Letter from Birmingham Jail before introducing a programmed list of readers to take the stage one by one.
Readers read passages addressing issues, including race and sexual assault and spanned various media from song, to poetry, to email excerpts, to screenplays. Some read work from other authors and poets while others read their original writing. The stage was then open for 30 minutes to the public.
As an assistant professor of poetry at the University of Idaho, Teague said she has organized readings for her students before, as well as smaller scale events.
“Honestly, when I originally said I’d do it, I was picturing something smaller and more low-key,” Teague said.
A Gofundme page was set up in the last month to fund the event. Teague said most of the money she raised was collected within a week of posting the request.
At 8:30 Sunday night, $620 of her $550 goal had been raised.
“It feels wonderful,” Teague said of the support she had received. “I love Moscow, and I knew that this was a place where people would come together. Moscow and Pullman, the whole broader Palouse area.”
Teague said any extra money raised will go to the American Civil Liberties Union.
Jeff Jones, an organizer for the event, said he and Teague both felt the need to get together to host an event to resist hate.
Jones said he taught in the English department at the University of Idaho for 11 years before stepping away this year to work on writing.
He said he has seen evidence of hate nationally, as well as locally, specifically referencing a Washington State University student who reported he found gay epithets spray-painted on his car in the days after the presidential election, and the Planned Parenthood clinic in Pullman that was severely damaged in an arson attack in 2015.
“People are so emboldened by hate at the moment that it has had kind of the opposite effect, and it has made us more bold to speak out against hate,” he said.
Jeff said the movement is not politically affiliated, but was specifically timed before MLK Jr. Day to celebrate democracy and resist hate.
Jones said that level of hate has always existed, but now it is out in the open.
He participated in the event himself, reading the poem, “I Woke Up,” by Jameson Fitzpatrick.
“I chose that poem because it speaks to how public policy affects everything in our lives, essentially,” Jones said.
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