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!
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.
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
- 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!

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