On January 10, PPF-PA hosted a virtual “People’s Poetry” workshop followed by Arts and Culture night. The event was put on by the Community Care and Base Building teams, with the idea that expressing ourselves together can be a way of taking care of each other in painful, isolating times, as well as developing our connectedness, clarity, and commitment to the struggle.
The first hour was a poetry workshop, where we looked at the words of past leaders in our movement – Albert Turner, Ella Baker, Fred Hampton, and Martin Luther King, Jr. – as prompts for our own writing, which we then shared. The next hour and a half was Arts and Culture night, where people continued to share their poems, alongside other pieces of culture from PPF-PA members and others: songs, videos, writing, visual art.
The event felt like a big success, with dozens of attendees, from longtime PPF-PA members to brand new contacts. Even through the virtual medium, there was a strong feeling of love and support for each other, in the zoom chat, in our faces, expressing our joy at witnessing and learning from each other. Through it all was the understanding that sharing arts and culture is not a nice sideline to organizing, but it is organizing: fortifying each other for present and future struggles, remembering what we share, what we need, and what we’re fighting for.
Reflection from Beckett, Philly Healthcare Rights Committee (HRC) & Base-building team
Poems from the Workshop
Poor Revolution Kenneth Daly, Philly HRC People say we need to have money. People say we need to have media. People say we need to have guns. They’re talking about a revolution for the haves. We’re talking about a revolution by the have-nots. A poor revolution. For that we first need ourselves alone.
Thank you, Chairman Fred Brother Mark, The People-Pueblo Party Thank you, Chairman Fred Although you were only 21 years old when they ended your life you are still with us today. You are still speaking to us, showing us that the way to defeat Counter-Revolution, disease and death is through Love, Unity, Political Education, and Action. All Power to the People!
Borderlands Fran Gilmore, Montco HRC They say the borderwall is like a scar on the heart That some who went around or through or over died nameless in the desert sand. We come to this place with arms around each other’s shoulders, learn to hold our scars beloved, wisdom lines. We bring water and love to heal them. We seek the tracks of our heroes, Tubman, DuBois, King and Hamer Davis, Hampton and Baptist. We listen to the music of our bards, Langston, Woody, Pete and Jacob. We listen to the music of the clouds and stars, coax a song from the furrowed earth, a chorus of corn and wheat and kale, food for all, as we honor the fallen buried deep below. We draw power from the wind and sun, from the tides, from our collective will to live, to heal, to be among each other, among the future born.
Untitled Frank Scarsella, Johnstown HRC If we are to Uplift the People, we first have to understand How we Got Here. Teaching the People means Hearing them. Seeing them. Being them! Being of the people! Because no Outsider will ever Uplift US. We must see the past Clearly! The valley was shaped by the river but cannot see the changes in itself that it brings. What we must do is rise above it, see the changes. See the years that shaped the valley - that shaped the People - and then Redirect the River.
Up in the Limbs and Leaves Gabrielle Angelino, Montco HRC This tree I live in is very old. It’s withering and rotting from the inside out. It was here long before our ancestors were brought here Chained - ankle to ankle, wrist to wrist- in the humid hulls of ships: built with the carcasses of our tree’s own ancestors. Up in the limbs and leaves -the skin and bones of our tree- curls and leans underneath the pressure of oppression. The skin hates the bones for not holding it up; the bones hate the skin for sagging. Neither blames the roots who have carried poison throughout this tree for years under the cloak of nutrition. This tree I live in is scarred by war and marred by self-loathing. If only it could look down at what lies just beneath its feet.
Rooting for Gold Harrison Farina, Montco HRC We gotta get to the roots Don’t play with no leaf or no limbs We gotta take back our fruits And give them out 1 by 1. Go down to the root Like Albert Turner said A doctor that can shoot A dose of reality to the head Cause we’re making room And we gotta Zoom, now! But not too fast, without looking Cause then we’ll fall down and not know how. But there’s something solid We’re standing on It doesn’t go down with the dawn That’s our dignity, always under us though some times We need a remindin’ But that’s where our collective Rushes in with the findin’. Cause we’re looking for gold Just like you Not just roots but gold, gold! And not just a few. Cause there’s a lot of us And we’re here to stay And we can’t afford to play With falling leaves and branches. Not just gold, but roots are important too Grasp them if we want to get through And make sure to wear gloves… They’ll poison you while you say ah-choo! We’re up against something big, but we can dig Get to some solid ground And look there! Roots Turnips, beets, and all kinds of fruits! Take em’ out, and take a bite And kick the ass of the ruling class With all our might!