Writer’s Resist Movement to Happen Across the Nation January 15th, 2016

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I’m posting a letter from my friend Erin Belieu who has started a national movement entitled Writer’s Resist that is encouraging writer’s all over the country and in Europe to speak out against vitriolic and divisive language to stand behind the belief that words do matter. Get involved if you can. Don’t hesitate to contact us at info.poems2go@gmail.com if interested in more information on how to participate. Poems2go wants to emphasize that this is not an “anti” movement but rather a movement to embrace the positive values that bring us together.

Dear Friends,

The response to my call for writers and organizers to help create a national day of resistance to what the election has unleashed has been truly heartening for so many people who’ve said, “I want to do something.”

I am working with a couple other folks, Tom Healy, Kevin Prufer, Jonathan Wells, Russell Bennetts (in London), and Keith Kopka to help make this happen. Pen America has undertaken to organize a flagship event in New York City that will take place on Sunday, January 15th on the steps of the New York Public Library in Midtown Manhattan. They will also urge their members across the country to initiate or feed into local events. We hope Writers Resist moves beyond this single day of events, and becomes a network for activists both in the states, and in Europe. This will be the ultimate goal.

Please forgive the mass message. Several hundred people have written to become involved in the last few days. For the sake of expedience, I need to address you this way. But please know how very grateful I am to all of you. It has lifted my spirits profoundly. Thank you.

Here’s an update, with more detailed info to follow in the next weeks.

 The date we have chosen is January 15th, MLK’s birthday. Both for the essential spirit of what his birthday celebrates, and because the following day is a federal holiday, making it more possible for people to travel for events if necessary (as most have that Monday off).

Writers Resist events will arise and thrive based on local initiative.  We are deliberately not setting out a single template or format, but are looking to local organizations and organizers to make the event their own.

We have decided not to specify what goes after the “Writers Resist:  ____” prefix so that different events can address individualized goals, consistent with the overall objective of defending freedom, equality, fairness, and social justice issues in our country.

For example, because PEN America’s mission is the defense of free expression, their NYC event will have that as a central focus and is tentatively titled:  Writers Resist:  Louder Together For Free Expression (to get a sense of the post-election free expression agenda for writers you can visit http://www.pen.org and sign up for their daily post-election newsletter and more).

As Pen America develops materials and other resources for their NYC event, they have offered to share them with the wider WR network. If you would like to be connected to them to help with the NYC event, please reach out to Clarisse Rosaz Shariyf at clarisse@pen.org

We are envisioning our events as a “re-inaguration,” rekindling our citizens’ commitment to compassion, equality, free speech, and our ideals of social justice.

With that, we organizers have discussed making this event inaugural in its shape, with writers not only reading their own work as appropriate, but most especially highlighting relevant readings from the constitution, and from other voices throughout history that speak to the ideals of democracy.

We also feel it’s important to focus the event on moving forward in a positive way as much as possible. Like Mrs. Obama, we would prefer to keep the president-elect’s name out of our mouths at the Writers Resist events. Many of us are struggling with our shock, fear, and pain at present. We believe people need something to be for at this moment, and that we should strive to look forward with our message.

This approach also makes it more possible for non-profit organizations to participate and sponsor as they feel comfortable with these events, protecting their 501C3 status.

What you can do at present to start to organize;

1) Identify a venue that will serve the estimated numbers you expect for your event. This could be anything from a theatre, to a public outdoor space, a bar or restaurant, or simply someone’s home. Please observe applicable permit requirements where necessary.

2) Contact your mayor’s and representatives’ offices. Let them know what you’re doing and invite them to participate and offer support and resources, as appropriate.

3) Identify local/national organizations for which the event will raise donations, as is appropriate to your community. At present, we’re thinking Kickstarter will be the simplest easiest way for people to donate. We will send more info on this in the coming week as soon as we have it. It is Probably best to have a Writers Resist MC who can invite people to donate throughout your event.

3) Plan for the diversity of your event. Given that people of color, LGBQT+ community members, people dealing with difference and disability, feminists, and people of non-Christian faiths are at the center of this coming administration’s bulls eye, it is doubly important for their voices to be at the center of our efforts.

4) Develop a media plan and prepare live streaming for your event. One of my major goals with this is to absolutely flood social media with live streams and tweeting of Writers Resist events all throughout January 15th.  We would also like traditional media to pay attention to our efforts. Identify contacts that have savvy in this area if it’s not something with which you are familiar. Develop a one-page press release to send to all local/national media before your event.  We will use the hash tag #WRITERSRESIST. Please remember to use this, and to include it on all messaging and materials.

5) Invite others to work with you on this effort. We all have busy lives, and identifying people with various skills and resources to help you will make the lifting less heavy. Though, given that I am coordinating much of this, if you would please choose one person from your group to be your contact with me, that’d be much appreciated.  Trusted volunteers can be used to help scout and arrange venues; promote the event via social media; outreach to local businesses for free advertising and other support; recruit writers and dignitaries to participate; curate readings and secure any necessary permissions; create and post flyers; stage-manage the event; make and carry signs if the event is out of doors; serve as ushers and other onsite helpers.

6) Activate others to host a Writers Resist event in other places in your state. Again, folks outside of cities may have a harder time gathering a large group of writers together, but house parties in these smaller markets will be effective, too. We want everyone to feel included, and those who support our cause in more rural areas must be feeling especially isolated these days.

Finally, the urge here may be to add many other groups and issue areas to your event effort. Having discussed this with PEN, we’re agreed that the event focus and media impact could easily get watered down if we don’t stick to the basic “inaugural” shape planned, and keep the emphasis on writers.

We’re grateful for sponsoring organizations to join us, and we definitely want more mainstream writers participation so that we may reach a larger audience than the strictly “literary” designation affords. But please make sure that Writers Resist is in bold and at the top of any media info and programs that you make for the event, with sponsoring info below this.

That’s it for the moment. Again, all my gratitude to you for your support, energy and good spirit. It’s a very beautiful thing.


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