Dear Poetry, Music, & Arts Community,
Mr. Hip Presents: Reading Series is not just a poetry reading series, but we more so function as a literary community. We function as a community so everyone has an equally heard voice at the table and in our reading space(s). We are an inclusive community that promotes the works and poetry of many marginalized and discriminated discourse groups as well in order to bring poetry a wider and more relatable audience.
With that said, please see the message below from the Enough is Enough planning group. Although the call is for NYC stakeholders, this is also important to the reading community throughout the New England States as well since many people within the literary community also travel to and fro quite often to share their work and creativity.
On behalf of the Mr. Hip Presents staff, I would like to use this platform to answer the questions posed and I hope you as editors, venue managers, curators, and others involved within the literary community can also begin to answer these questions for yourselves.
1. As a community stakeholder, I plan to be a voice in the community. Silence speaks volumes and we as a reading series will speak out against any and all activity detrimental to the success of the literary community. As a writer and reader of others, I plan to share resources and valuable information regarding anything important to the liberation of the literary community.
2. Speak up! Be an ally! Many people/poets/readers enter the Mr. Hip Presents reading community with a sense of assurance that they can be themselves and share their stories, poems, and histories. If reports of assault, abuse, and/or harassment occurs, we will deal with it to the best of our abilities and will allow for zero-tolerance of this behavior at our events. We have zero-tolerance for poets and readers who have a history of assault, abuse, and harassment as well. We are a safe place and would like to remain so especially regarding the vulnerability of our community space.
3. Any places we support and host events are considered and defined as safe spaces. If it is brought to our attention otherwise, we won't host events at or support those venues. Safe spaces to us at Mr. Hip Presents are defined as: A reading community where each and every poet, audience member, and performer feels comfortable to share their words and arts without fear of retaliation due to discrimination or assault of various degrees. I'd also like to meet with reading venues, managers, and editors within the Boston community to shed light on his important matters as well. (Please reach out to us and let's discuss)
4. As an organizing body, Mr. Hip Presents could use your help by sending us resources and educational information regarding these important matters. We would love to be a hub and internet space to post information on your behalf and the sake of the literary community's behalf. We as Mr. Hip Presents are here to provide a service for poets, spoken word artists, and musicians alike and hope that we can work together to be a voice for the NYC poetry community.
I am including two resources brought to our attention that I would like to share with you all below:
- The Revolution Starts at Home: Confronting Intimate Violence Within Activist Communities: http://lgbt.wisc.edu/documents/Revolution-starts-at-home.pdf
- Litany for Survival by Audre Lorde: http://www.interactivetheatre.org/resc/litany.html
Very special thanks to Ben Pease for bringing this to our attention.
Mr. Hip Presents
And please see the questions and meeting notes from Enough is Enough Planning Group below as well:
WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?
A final version of this document will be made available online. The link will be shared in the Facebook invitation for this event, so please keep your notifications on or check back in.
By December 31, 2014, we ask that friends, allies, and NYC poetry stakeholders (editors, venue managers, magazine contributors, series curators, etc.) moved by tonight’s meeting or otherwise committed to change send us your immediate concrete steps towards making our spaces safer, more equitable, and more liberatory.
We are interested in the actions you plan to take as individuals but are particularly interested in changes on a systemic/organizational level that will have broad and long-lasting impact.
Please send your notes to: email@example.com
QUESTIONS YOU MAY WANT TO CONSIDER:
How do you plan to respond to the concerns/questions we have shared with you tonight? As an individual poet/writer? As a community stakeholder?
How will you as a curator/editor/venue manager/writer respond to reports of assault, abuse, and harassment from members of the poetry community moving forward? How will you express support for and solidarity with survivors who have experienced harm?
How will you define and support safe(r) spaces within the spaces/venues/magazines you manage? How will you make this information public?
How can we, as an organizing body, support you in bringing your action steps to life?
WE HOPE THIS GATHERING INSPIRES YOU TO:
ASK MORE QUESTIONS.
HOLD MEETINGS amongst yourselves to further your thinking and continue building community around these issues.
REFLECT on how you listen and respond to allegations of abuse and harassment in the poetry community and whose voices you privilege.
MAKE A PLAN about how you will join or be an ally in our efforts.
WRITE about what you heard tonight and share information with others not present.
READ and educate yourself on these issues.
PRELIMINARY suggestions for making our spaces safer, more equitable, and more liberatory:
As curators, implement a standard for achieving a balance of genders and sexualities among your readers. This means making an effort to include female-identified, gay, lesbian, queer, trans, and gender-nonconforming people, among others.
As curators, implement a standard for achieving racial diversity among your readers. At the same time, challenge yourselves to avoid tokenism. This may require you to broaden your literary and social horizons significantly.
As organizers, take responsibility for what happens at your events. This includes monitoring your drinks table, having non-alcoholic beverage options, and staying sober or appointing trusted people to stay sober and be vigilant. If someone seems extremely intoxicated, take care of them or find someone who can be trusted to take care of them and make sure they get home safe.
If you see someone at an event behaving in a way that compromises the safety or well-being of one or more people there, let them know that you're not okay with it by directly addressing that person’s behavior both with them and with event organizers. Keeping lines of communication open in this manner is one key tactic for intervening in a culture of permissibility. Another tactic is having an ally present when directly addressing an offender -- someone with you to bear witness to the exchange. This allows for mediation (if necessary), protection, and support, and could be useful in preventing future miscommunication (he said / she said).
If you hear of an incident of sexual assault in your space, address it publicly and in a timely fashion, expressing genuine concern and soliciting feedback about how to ensure it doesn’t happen again. Use all of the platforms on which you typically advertise your events and activities to spread information and seek suggestions from the community.
If you are in a position of hiring or promoting and you are made aware of wrongdoing (assault, harassment, discrimination, etc.), be prepared to take steps that could be publicly messy in order to make change. There are people who abuse positions of power, who still get invited to do readings, to teach, to publish, to mentor, who still have careers, because of a status quo silence or worse, fear or passivity. Are you willing to fire someone or otherwise refuse to bolster the career or legacy of an abuser? If not, consider whom and what you are protecting.
Consider your relationships with people who have been accused of sexual assault, abuse, and/or misogyny. Do you want to continue curating them into your series and allowing them into your spaces? If so, why? Whom might you be excluding by working with and supporting these individuals?
- Consider your relationships with the people you organize events with. Are they committed to creating spaces that are safe(r), equitable, and liberatory? If not, why are you continuing to organize with them?
Consider your friendships. Have any of your friends been accused of assault, abuse, or misogyny? Have you spoken with them in depth about these accusations? Did their responses seem appropriate to you? Can you trust that they won’t commit similar acts in the future? If not, ask yourself why you are still invested in these relationships. Where is the line between friendship and apologism?
Consider doing the right thing. Consider saying something. Consider being true to yourself. Consider being true to others. Consider burning bridges. Consider the possibility that it doesn’t have to be this way forever.