Monday, October 31, 2011


New online resource reveals writers’ homes and history in the nation’s capital

A new online resource for lovers of literature and history has been launched in the nation’s capital.  DC Writers’ Homes, at, celebrates the rich literary heritage of Washington by mapping former homes of novelists, poets, playwrights and memoirists.  Some authors remain famous, such as Paul Laurence Dunbar, Zora Neale Hurston, Sinclair Lewis, and Katherine Anne Porter.  Others are rediscoveries. 

Over 120 homes included on the website represent every major period of Washington's history and span the range of urban architectural styles. The earliest documented writers' homes include those once occupied by: Francis Scott Key, the lawyer-poet who wrote the lyrics to the US National Anthem; Horatio King, who served as Postmaster General during the Civil War and hosted a popular literary salon in his home; and Frederick Douglass, whose remarkable autobiographies remain deservedly beloved.  The most recent include authors who passed away in the last few years.

The project was conceived, researched, and created by DC writers Kim Roberts and Dan Vera, who spent more than five years tracking down and photo-documenting house locations.  Only authors who have passed away, and whose houses are still standing, are included.  Most houses are privately owned and not marked by historic plaques.  "We wanted to claim our literary forebears," Roberts states.  "We don't want our history to be lost or forgotten."

The project is a collaboration among five groups that support or present the literary arts in the city.  Split This Rock, whose festivals of "poets of provocation and witness" bring nationally-acclaimed authors to the city, is the sponsor.  The Humanities Council of Washington, DC, provided funding.  And three other organizations signed on as partners: The American Poetry Museum, Beltway Poetry Quarterly, and Poetry Mutual.  Sarah Browning, Director of Split This Rock, calls DC Writers' Homes "an extraordinary gift to DC."

Authors are sorted by the geographical location of their houses, as well as by affiliations.  Users can easily find authors, for example, who taught at or attended Howard University, served as US Poets Laureate at the Library of Congress, wrote on environmental themes, or were Latino.  Every author is cross-referenced into at least two categories.
Kim Roberts and Dan Vera will present a slide/lecture on the making of DC Writers' Homes on Friday, December 9 at 6:30 pm.  This event, at the Institute for Policy Studies, 1112 16th St. NW, Suite 600, is free and open to the public.  A reception will follow the presentation. 

ABR speaker brings poetry, activism and network to Crossroads
Victoria Advocate
Literary activist and poet E. Ethelbert Miller is expanding his worldwide network to include the Crossroads.

Chat Online with Wes Moore:
Connect with New York Times bestselling author Wes Moore Tuesday, Nov. 1, 7 p.m. in DC Public Library’s online chat room to discuss “The Other Wes Moore” in celebration of DC Reads 2011. Submit your questions and comments one hour prior to the chat. Log on at

Dear Ethelbert:

As I know you are, I am incredibly distressed that arts funding in DC keeps being cut. 

Local politicians are not hearing our community, and our individual advocacy efforts have been ineffective. Arts funding for the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities has withered from over $10 million dollars in 2009 to under $4 million dollars for the current year, and all DC arts organizations are suffering because of it.

This past year our neighbors with the MD Citizens for the Art were able to maintain level funding for the Maryland arts commission at 13 million, and Virginia Citizens for the Arts successfully beat back a potential massive cut suggested by their governor. Why have we seen cuts in DC, while Maryland and Virginia have avoided cuts?

The answer is simple: those advocacy organizations have staff. Our organization needs staff to accomplish its mission.

The value proposition the organization represents is simple, and has been proven through investments made in similar organizations across the country. A relatively small investment in our organization will lead to an increase many times that amount in funding for the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities this coming budget year. We must grow organizational capacity to increase funding for the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities, and we need to raise money to pay for staff time to do that. Organizing takes time, and information gathering takes time. Creating and placing press releases takes time, and attending hearings and roundtables takes time. Maintaining a website and communicating with members takes time. We have been non-profit for less than one year, but our goal - and we understand it is an ambitious one - is for the organization to be able to hire a part time organizer to manage DC's upcoming Arts Advocacy Day this budget season.

I need your help to accomplish that. Please forward this email and the attached member form to anyone you know interested to support arts funding in the District, and our organization. I’m happy to meet individuals and present to small groups in the coming months, and my contact information is below. Thank you for your service on the Advisory Board of the DC Advocates for the Arts, and your support for our mission.


Robert Bettmann
Board Chair
DC Advocates for the Arts
(202) 210-2181


Sunday, October 30, 2011

Our servant, the mind

When we look for the mind, we can't find any shape, or color, or form. This mind that we identify as the self, which we could call ego-mind, controls everything we do. Yet it can't actually be found—which is somewhat spooky, as if a ghost were managing our home. The house seems to be empty, but all the housework has been done. The bed has been made, our shoes have been polished, the tea has been poured, and the breakfast has been cooked. The funny thing is that we never question this. We just assume that someone or something is there. But all this time, our life has been managed by a ghost, and it's time to put a stop to it. On one hand, ego-mind has served us—but it hasn't served us well.
– Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche, "Searching for Self"
Read the entire article in the Tricycle Wisdom Collection
Guernica: a magazine of art & politics
Dear readers,

Brian Turner takes a turn as guest editor, and an emerging poet wins a big prize. You could say we're even more excited that usual about Guernica's poetry section. In his moving introduction, "Poetry's Urban Landscapes," Turner explains, "The stanza (or 'room' in Italian) is given literal rooms, building,s corridors, walls, and windows through which one can view the wolrd without or the world within." As guest editor, Turner chose five poets whose work in some way interacts with place, from Gaelic usage in Billy ramsell's "Distant Fears" to lyric list-making in Dunya Mikhail's "Hong Kong." These poets weave in and out of cities, street, and yes, rooms.

"My Father's City" by Pascale Petit: All of Paris is quiet , while the oxygen machine / struggles to fill your lungs. 
"Smoke" by Michael Symmons Roberts: What new edifice / hardens within, waits for the world to sharpen.
"Hong Kong" by Dunya Mikhail: Through windows of no glass / in houses that leak water and fish.
Jovanovic "Distant Fears" by Billy Ramsell: At night she wakes and feels the money move.

"The Sleepwalker" by Matthew Sweeney: The sleepwalker shot himself / on the bridge over the freeway, / while the cars sped on to Dallas.

In March of this year, we nominated Adam Day for a PEN Emerging Writer Award. His poems are formed with a scalpel's precision, and yet the subject matter could not be wilder. In the poem Guernica published, gods explain the process of making a badger: "We pour the eyes in with a ladle / like post-holes half-filled / with mud-water, tap them in / with it if we have to. " With lines like these, is it any surprise he won? We send our heartfelt congratulations to Adam, and we thank you for reading.
To follow Guernica and the lauded writers and thinkers of the Guernica blog on Twitter, go here. Facebook, here.

Guernica Membership
Best Wishes, Erica Wright & the Guernica staff
POET LORE:  Subscribe before Halloween. Don't hide behind the mask.
So much race matters in the E-Notes today. Tomorrow must be Halloween. We Wear The Mask?


Well let's see what the Redskins will do today. I expect the Bills to just run over this team. Next week the 49ers will find gold too. Oh, and the real low might be a defeat by Miami on November 13th.
I have to take Brady over the Steelers...sorry Bovey.

In 2010, an entirely black penguin was discovered in Antartctica.  This was not new.  There is a miniscule genetic possibility of an all-black or all-white penguin.  The following is taken verbatim from a Reuters news report covering the discovery…
“An all black penguin has been discovered in Antarctica.  It seems to be
assimilating nicely and has even found itself a black & white mate…
…recently discovered all-black penguin seems unafraid to defy convention…
biologists say that the animal has lost control of its pigmentation.  Other than (that) the animal appears to be perfectly healthy. ‘Look at the size of those legs’ said one scientist, ‘It’s an absolute monster’”

The all-black penguin speaks.
17 facts you did not know about me.

1. I was born here; raised here, met my mate and warmed my eggs – here.
2.  Fully ten seasons passed before you noticed me.  Don’t make up theories now,   
3.  Penguins are color blind.
4. Fuck your bell curve, motherfucker – I know that’s not a fact. It’s an imperative.
5.  Penguins deliberately don’t read so we wouldn’t have to learn words like assimilate, like discriminate, like       mutate.
 6. We pray every day.  It’s a simple chant:
Evolve, Evolve, Evolve
7. Can’t you see it’s getting warmer?  Don’t you see the ice melting? 
8. I know the word rhetorical, bitch.
 9. I’m actually the same size as all the other penguins.
 10. You suffer from ocular negrophobia, the condition in which all black (all-black?) things look really large and scary.  Yes, I know that’s a fact about you, motherfucker.
 11. I hate you.
 12. I don’t believe in the same God as you.
 13. Evolve, Evolve, Evolve.
 14. There are two other all-blacks. We do not know each other.
15. I’m prettier than you.
16. I’m making up a song about you.  It’s called albino motherfucker.
17. We have a few all-white penguins here.  We’re cool.  They hate you too.

To schedule a reading or an appearance please contact Ofer Ziv at Blue

Flower Arts at 845-677-8559 or email

Listening to THE HARDER THEY COME soundtrack.
What a classic. I love every song on this album.

Charles Johnson has the answer on the E-Channel:
Thy brother Cain is on the move up. If he continues to do well in the polls people will soon start talking about him as a possible "vice-president" candidate. When you see this happening in the media - take a "race" blood count. It means something is happening and they can't explain it. Can you Mr. Jones? Race this time is the elephant in the room. How are we to make sense out of it?  Very easy. Politics has been reduced to nothing but pure entertainment. How else could a nation even consider Palin for president?  Cain is a joke looking for a comedian. We are a fast food nation about to elect a guy who sells pizza? This a deep pan crisis. Is it possible the November 2012 election will find Cain running against Obama? Not impossible. Call it black on black crime. Two black men slugging it out like characters in a Ralph Ellison novel. Is somebody about to turn the lights out on America?  Looks like it's getting too black in here to see. Write to me - The Racialist- if you want candles for the coming darkness. Oh, and don't answer the door if the guy outside says he's the pizza man making a delivery.

Saturday, October 29, 2011


Democracy is not a slogan, it's how one loves. The first democratic institution to protect is the heart.

    E. Ethelbert Miller
Corresponding with my friend Lauren in the Bay Area...
Maybe she just coined an expression for 2012:


Maximilian C. Forte
With Muammar Gaddafi buried in a secret desert grave this week,
Maximilian C. Forte, in this article written earlier this year,
outlines the ten myths that served to justify the NATO-led war on
Libya and advance the cause of 'war corporatists, transnational firms,
and neoliberals'.
The World Series is over. How long will the Occupy Wall Street movement last?  The good vibe will last until there are new negative images of someone getting hit in the head by the police. Also, the destruction of property and a few riots will set our nation back. What will happen at the political conventions (next year) when we nominate our candidates for president?  Will the speeches and balloons be overshadowed by protesters?

One thing to monitor is the slogan or issue that will move to the front of the 2012 debates. Look for it to be a new issue or maybe an old one kicked into our faces again. Who will have their day of fame next year? What little monster will we all go "gaga" over?  What country will be in the center of the news next year?  What natural disaster might hit one of our major cities and wash away or bury some of our historical treasures?  The future is bright or bleak depending on which way you face. Oh, and you don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.

   VISIT THE E-SITE:   E. Ethelbert Miller and Joy Zarembka (IPS)

El Sistema

* UNSUNG HEROES of WW2 finally get the proper recognition on the screen *
"Red Tails" tells the brave story of the Tuskegee Airmen, the first African-American pilots to fly in a combat squadron during World War II. They claimed their heroic achievements mainly by defending the US bombers through courageous and fearless air battles.

Coming to theatres on January 20, 2012
Starring: Cuba Gooding Jr., Terrence Howard, Ne-Yo, Method Man, David Oyelowo, Bryan Cranston, Tristan Wilds, Andre Royo


Friday, October 28, 2011

Have you noticed a number of V masks showing up in the OM?  Who is writing this script?  Might we expect a serious confrontation on November 5th?  That was the key date in the movie "V for Vendetta." Horizontal democracy can only go so far. At the end of the day one has to know how to run the State. Sooner or later we are going to have an increase in violence. When the rocks begin to fly, the glass will fall from windows and then the police will step in. Acts of violence in American streets will harm the overall image of the OM. Folks will scream "Europe" and the next thing you know Multiculturalism is dead and our nation gets a grade in torture.So- Cry Me A River...

Poet E. Ethelbert Miller Helps Celebrate Takoma Park Library Birthday
Takoma Park Library is 100.  Join the celebration at a kickoff event on Monday, Nov.17, 6 p.m. featuring nationally-known poet E. Ethelbert Miller, a host of fun activities and a birthday cake, of course.  A month-long series of activities for children, teens and adults are planned.  

Baseball will break your heart and still make you cheer. I thought Texas was going to win the 6th game of the World Series. Twice being just one strike  away from a championship - whew. I've never seen a team hit so many home runs and come up empty at the end. You have to love Nolan Ryan taking it all in with a quiet dignity. So what will happen in a few hours?  Can the Cardinals keep this run going?  Game 7 and you'll know where I'll be.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Don't Diss The Drum Circles: Why Hippie Culture Is Still Important to Our
National News Takeover 160x601
The Washington Post Thursday, October 27, 2011 5:20:53 PM

U.S. drone base in Ethiopia is operational

The Air Force has been secretly flying armed Reaper drones on counter-terrorism missions from a remote civilian airport in southern Ethiopia as part of a rapidly expanding U.S.-led proxy war against an al-Qaeda affiliate in East Africa, U.S. military officials said.
Howard University's Department of Theatre Arts in conjunction with the Fall Production of "For Colored Girls" presents A SYMPOSIUM ON BLACK WOMEN PLAYWRIGHTS.
Wednesday, November 2, 2011. 4-6 PM
Blackburn Center Forum
Howard University


Jacqueline Lawton
Dr. Dana Williams
Dr. Sandra Jowers-Barber
Patricia Elam
Dr. Sandra Shannon
Karen Evans
Quote of the Day:

The death of an idea, even the removal of a word from the dictionary, is never enough. Something better has to replace it, or the old reflexes will remain.

    - THE AMERICAN CONSERVATIVE  (Vol. 10, No. 10, October 2011)

Emily Schwartz Greco
Managing Editor,
Op-Ed Manager,
Institute for Policy Studies
(202) 297-5412 (m)
(202) 234-9382 x 5226 (o)

I’m writing with Khalil Bendib's blessing to ask you to help get our remarkably talented mutual friend the audience — and the compensation — he deserves.

As you well know, Khalil deftly uses humor to advance progressive views and inspire action on a wide array of issues. His witty and insightful take on everything from the Arab Spring to the death penalty to the Occupy Wall Street movement epitomizes the intersection of arts and politics.

OtherWords, a unique non-profit editorial service run by the Institute for Policy Studies, works with Khalil and other fresh, talented voices to help interpret and explain our world to the heartland of America. Each week Khalil's cartoons and our commentaries appear on the editorial pages of more than 260 newspapers across the country with total circulation in excess of 5.5 million, as well as on dozens of online outlets and blogs.

Khalil's cartoons make regular appearances everywhere from the Providence (RI) Journal, to the Inez, (KY) Mountain Eagle, to the Mexican-American Sun in East Los Angeles. He provides an important voice in these papers, merging a progressive political perspective with art. The result is a creative and inspiring message that's often lost in simply words alone. He's an invaluable messenger for a progressive future for our country.

We’re seeking your support for Khalil's work. We need to raise $10,000 to compensate him and to help widen his audience. Your gift will mean millions of people will have an opportunity to see and be impacted by his great cartoons. If you can write a check for $500 — or whatever amount you can manage — it would make a huge difference.

If you prefer, we welcome monthly sustainer pledges. A $45 monthly contribution would mean a little more than $500 a year. All gifts are completely tax-deductible.

Masters of the Universe, Unite!
OtherWords cartoon by Khalil Bendib distributed on October 24, 2011.
You can mail a check payable to the Institute for Policy Studies/OtherWords to IPS; 1112 16th Street NW, Suite 600; Washington, DC 20036. You can also contribute on the

To express our gratitude, we'll give you a copy of a Khalil's book Mission Accomplished: Wicked Cartoons by America's Most Wanted Political Cartoonist, for contributions of $250 or more — or a monthly $25 pledge. We'll also include as a premium a copy of Zahra's Paradise, his new graphic novel about Iranian repression and resistance for a gift of $500 or more — or a $45 monthly pledge.

We appreciate your support for Khalil. His voice is vital in shaping a more progressive future.
Warm regards,

Emily Schwartz Greco
Managing Editor, Otherwords/Institute for Policy Studies

Thanks Lauren.
Leaving Boston

    (for Liz Lerman)

Outside the terminal
planes rest in the rain.

The yellow tag on my bag
no longer afraid of flying.

        - E. Ethelbert Miller
So there I was yesterday having a brief chat with former DC Mayor Anthony Williams in the Boston airport. We happened to be getting on the same plane going to DC. Williams sat all the way in the back - maybe the last row. It was as if he was suddenly Aristide heading back to Haiti. I thought of how Washington was now "Gray" --a political fog settling over the city. What might a poet like myself do with a few troops?

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


The Harvard University Speech/ October 23, 2011

                           Oppressed people cannot remain oppressed forever.
                                    - Martin Luther King, Jr.

I want to share with you two short poems I wrote a few weeks ago. I’ll use these poems to frame my comments this afternoon. I think the poems explain how I look at the world
and what I believe in.

Here are the poems:

          (for Me-K)

When you rise
fix something that is broken.

It will make a difference
between yesterday an today.

Repair your heart
before you love

Touch another person
with hand that whisper
(or kiss)

     (for Bovey)

Is not paper

It is something

at times
bleeding (but free).

The artist
Must take

A knife
to the world.

Let me discuss these two poems.  How did they begin to breathe?  What first light did they witness?  I would have to begin by talking about the dedications.
“Fix Something That Is Broken” was written for my friend Me-K, a Korean American fiction writer currently teaching English in Seoul, Korea. Me-K and I first met when she was enrolled in the Bennington Creative Writing Program. She is a Korean adoptee who grew up in Minneapolis. From her I’ve been learning about concepts of erasure as well as how to fix or repair things associated with identity. How does one overcome depression, and move from one day to another? How does one love after having been perhaps rejected?

“The Cutting Edge” was the outgrowth of weekly conversations with Bovey Lee,
a Chinese artist living in Pittsburgh. I met Ms. Lee when we were both residents at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. Ms. Lee’s medium is paper. She is often in her studio cutting, producing work that contains stunning detail. We’ve been talking about doing a collaborative project that might take the shape of a book. During our weekly Skype conversations, I listen to Bovey talk with passion about the Pittsburgh Steelers, politics, and of course art.

As activists we are often committed to struggle and social change. Many times we are outspoken against injustice. We often construct our art around protest. But it’s very important to ask yourself (from time to time) what do you believe in?  What do you wish to change in the world and why? I think if we look around, we can find many things that are broken. Things that might have been broken before we were born. Things that we (ourselves) broke during
our time here. In very small ways we can repair things. This repairing  is how we measure progress from one day to the next. It can be the difference between yesterday and today. Yet, even before we repair something, there is an interior conversation we must have with ourselves. Who am I? is the question  we should always place before ourselves. It is a question forever seeking an answer.

The act of repairing something might be seen as direct action. This is similar
to what Martin Luther King Jr discusses in his “Letter From Birmingham City Jail.” Sometimes our art – the things we do dramatizes an issue that cannot be ignored. Sometimes art is responsible for stimulating tension and dialogue; and is necessary for our growth as human beings and as communities.

But my first poem reminds us that we first repair our hearts. What does this mean?
I think our desire to change the world must be seen through the prism of love.
That we understand the difficulty it comes with simply loving one person; the disappointment, the failure, the blues that we so often encounter when we try to love another. It is often too difficult to even love ourselves?  Many of us dislike how we look, or we are not satisfied with who we are.

And so this love begins with the touch, the whisper and the kiss. Our actions however can become problematic on a daily basis.  I recall, last year riding in the Washington Metro, and encouraging a fellow traveler to get on the escalator in front of me; I made a welcoming gesture with my hand – and my hand touched the back of this black man. And immediately I encountered what I call a “Fanon” moment. An incident lifted from the pages of THE WRETCHED OF THE EARTH. I was riding with the oppressed and the cup of violence had been knocked over again – this time not just spilling on me but rising up to drown me if I did not back away. And back away I did – and what could I assume – had this black man been incarcerated. Had he been somewhere, where a touch was a reason to fight, to control one’s own personal geography? I look around the city in which I live and I see many black men who are broken. And this breaks my heart.

So, I find myself on the “cutting edge.”  I look around the world and come to the conclusion that if we are to repair ourselves, we will need tools. The image of a knife came to me because of what Bovey  Lee uses to create her art. The knife need not be viewed as a tool of violence but instead one of healing. A tool used to cut out and remove a cancer. Or a knife used in the rituals of scarification. A knife carving memory and myths into our souls –so that we might face history and be renewed.

And what is this thing called democracy?  Is it as essential as the air we breathe?  I think it is for the artists to answer these questions. I know that art is not created in a vacuum and it should not remain in one. For what we as poets, singers, dancers do is communicate; we celebrate the language of performance, on the page as well as the stage. At the end of the day we are responsible for the narrative and the storytelling. Yes, we entertain but we educate, we dance with knives. Art that is dangerous is alive – moving us to the cutting edge.

I think it was the great jazz musician Charlie Parker who said, “I can hear the new music, I just can’t play it yet.”

When I look around the world, at the politics of this world, no matter if it is spring or autumn, I see a world that is broken, and shattered into homeless pieces. I hear the shouts and demands for democracy, but it seems as if for many – this is the new music. We hear it, but we can’t play it yet.

Next month, I’ll be 61 years old. I’ve written many poems, but I’ve also written two memoirs. I’ve examined my life, doing what I call “mapping” and “mining.”  Charting the distance traveled as well as the depth achieved.

In 2011, I call myself a literary activist. Back around the late Sixties and early Seventies, I defined myself as a black poet, around the early 1980s I preferred the term cultural worker. I think I heard the term being used by Bernice Johnson Reagon, one of the original Freedom Singers and founder of the singing group Sweet Honey In The Rock. The tem cultural worker had a tint of Marxist coloring to it as well as the reminder that I was not just an artist but also a worker. This made me more aware of what I was producing and for whom. I began to look beyond the black community in an attempt to understand the role culture played in a society or nation that was transforming itself.

In 1978, I was part of a small group of artists in Washington, D.C. who came together and published two journals called Working Cultures.
The key figure and energy behind the production of this journal was a woman who became a close friend and mentor to me – Gabrielle Edgcomb. Prior to her death in 1996 Edgcomb published the book FROM SWASTIKA TO JIM CROW. In the first issue of Working Culture she would write the following:

Work and culture is where there is human life. In our society, work is defined as that activity which earns a living: culture is defined as art, entertainment, recreation - that which is not essential to the functioning of the society, but an enhancement, a decoration. While much lip service is paid to the importance of ART and CULTURE, and while even the government is expending some money on the Endowments for the Arts and Humanities, the majority of cultural workers must depend for their living on jobs unrelated to their painting, writing, dancing, singing, playing. There is, to be sure, a profitable arts industry: the galleries, the stage, the movies, even television, which make use of cultural workers. But except for the relatively few stars, or American Federation of Musicians permanently employed, the profits, or even steady livelihoods, go to investors and entrepreneurs, managers and other business people. Cultural workers are, therefore, usually estranged from their workplaces; hence, from the beginning of capitalist history, the artist has been the stereotyped bohemian, weirdo, eccentric, in bourgeois characterizations. The artist, in fact, has been and continues to be, a figure hostile to the powers that rule.

So why another product? Because we want to have a space, here in Washington, where cultural workers - poets, graphic artists, photographers, story tellers, designers can show their work, where there is a shared consciousness of how the world is, what is to be done, and particularly, what the task of the cultural worker is. To expose is necessary, but not sufficient. We must also exhort, delight, amuse and help people to carry on the fight for a new world.

Looking back, I think what made me open to working with Edgcomb and others was the influence the woman’s movement had on my life and work. I might never had made it out of the shadows of the Black Arts Movement of the 1960s if it had not been for the Women’s Movement and my friendships with writers such as June Jordan, Alice Walker, Thulani Davis and Ntozake Shange. My friend Barbara Berman and I started Anemone Press in 19--. We defined it as a feminist press and published chapbooks by the poets Thulani Davis and Lee Howard. Berman and I published my anthology WOMEN SURVIVING MASSACRES AND MEN. This small but important anthology would be reviewed in MS magazine. I would also receive two letters from fellow writers. One was the feminist Adrienne Rich, who praised the book and the other from Ishmael Reed who questioned if I was a massacre or a man.

I think social movements define our lives and our art. Even if we decide not to be active participants, the motion of history still pulls us along. I saw this happening when I wrote the poem “I Have Always Wanted A Woman To Be My Lover” while living in Las Vegas around 1994.

How can it be morning in two places at once?
I was so happy when I moved into this house.
Finally a place where I can grow and hang my plants.
Finally a lover to love my difference and my sex;
her tongue discovering the secret parts of me.
I have always wanted a woman to be my lover.
How many men find this strange?
Once my father found his way to my bed.
He was not lost. I did not surrender.
I fought and was beaten and wet my bed with his blood.

Now a woman holds a knife to my throat
and I am speechless...

I did not know she would do such things.
How unnatural for a woman to beat another woman
after being lovers. Did she not whisper one night
when I was in her arms - no man would ever treat me 

In “I Have Always Wanted A Women To Be My Lover” I am talking about domestic abuse among lesbian couples. This is not often discussed openly in mainstream media. But we as poets, and as artists are sometimes called upon to cross borders and push aside boundaries. We are reminded of this by Naomi Shihab Nye in her poem “Cross That Line.”

Paul Robeson stood
on the northern border of the USA
and sang into Canada
where a vast audience
sat on folding chairs
waiting to hear him.

He sang into Canada.
His voice left the USA
when his body was not allowed
to cross that line.

Remind us again, brave friend!
What countries may we sing into?
What lines should we all be crossing?
What songs travel toward us
from far away
to deepen our days?

I think those of us to decide to call ourselves literary activists (and the only other person I know who does is Nathalie Handal on her website) must be committed to crossing lines, as well as building what I call cultural bridges between communities and nations.

As a literary activist I place a strong emphasis not only on publishing and promoting  but also on documentation and preservation.
This is why I see the interviews I conduct as very important and building archives are essential.

This year I undertook the task of creating my E-Channel. It’s a one year online project with the Seattle based novelist Charles Johnson. Johnson the author of MIDDLE PASSAGE and DREAMER is one of America’s leading  novelists as also one of the leading African American voices on Buddhism.

Almost daily I send Johnson questions that I post. Coming up with questions to ask an author throughout an entire year is extremely challenging. The rewards however have been unbelievable. Johnson’s editor is interested in turning the E-Channel into a book. The Modern Language Association (MLA) plan to offer the E-Channel link to all their members when they have their national conference in Seattle in 2012. The African American Review, one of the leading publications on African American literature has created a link from their website to the E-Channel. This is all wonderful but I think what is more important is the structure that has been created by one individual. I didn’t sit back and wait for anyone. I used the technology that I had access to in a new and creative way. I slowly taught myself to play the keys.

We too often shy away from the label activist, as if just the mere mention of this word opens the door to politics and struggle, or the ongoing, endless debate about art and politics.

Yet, as I look around at all that is broken – it makes me unbowed and unrepentant.  As I enter my own dusk of dawn; I look around and conclude that there is much work to be done.

But if the bridges are built and made strong. Many will follow and cross over.
If Langston dreamed a world, we cannot dream less.

If Whitman claimed multitudes – what do you claim?

I want to hear America Singing again.  Do you?

Let our art teach us how to play, sing, and love.

   - E. Ethelbert Miller