"OccuPeep D.C."

Photograph by Deborah Linsday of the Washington Post for Katherine Boyle's March 28 article, "Peeps Show VI: Power to the Peeps" which includes a gallery of other winners plus links to previous contests.


 I've always been fascinated by dioramas, dollhouses and minatures, so, of course, I look forward to the Washington Post's annual peep contest. Besides, the candy's are so-o-o sweet, I can't imagine what else they would be good for. This year things got political when first place went to "OccuPeep D.C." by Cori E. Wright, 38, of Falls Church, VA, who built the entire project to scale after figuring out that "a Peep is 3.5 percent the size of an average man.” She included signs based on those actually there and even a few rats, because after entering for three years, she noticed that "you have to pay attention to tiny details to become a finalist.”


Free Tix to Naomi Shihab Nye & more @ Split This Rock Sun 3/25

Split this Rock says it's offering a limited number of first-come first-served free tickets for the 11:30 am - 1 pm by reading by Naomi Shihab Nye, Sherwin Bitsui, and Kathy Engel in the auditorium at Carlos Rosario International School (1100 Harvard Street NW).

Come early and help plan the 2014 Split This Rock, starting at 9:30 am.


Occupy the Supreme Court with Poetry: Money is Not Speech!

I'll be at the Supreme Court between 4:30 and 5:30. Want to join us on the sidewalk at  1 1st Street NE (between East Capitol and A Street NE).  We'll be performing a group poem of protest at the Supreme Court.

From Split This Rock:

As poets, we believe that only speech is speech, not money. We will join together at the Supreme Court to create a poetic form called a Cento. Please bring a line of poetry, yours or another's, that speaks to any of the following:
◦an idea being drowned out by the noise of paid political advertisements
◦the importance of multiple voices in public life
◦the celebration of all the ways we exercise speech in the public realm: poetry and art, the letter to the editor, the vote, the protest, the prayer.

The line should not exceed 12 words. Write your line on a piece of paper and include the name of the poet, your name (if not using your own work) and your home town. Raise your poetic voice in a true act of free speech!

Feel free to bring a sign, but no poles larger 3/4" around ...

Tonight, from 7:30-9:30 pm the FEATURED READING: Homero Aridjis, Carlos Andrés Gómez, and Venus Thrash in the auditorium at Carlos Rosario International School (1100 Harvard Street NW).


Split this Rock 2012

Photo of poet and activist Sam Hamill from an interview at poet Rebecca Seiferle's (email) bieenial oline magazine, The Drunken Boat.


About to drive into DC to Thurgood Marshall Center for Service and Heritage (1816 12th Street NW) to register for the third biennial Split This Rock Poetry Festival (Poems of Provocation  and Witness) before heading over to a Tribute to Sam Hamill & Poets Against War at the True Reformer Building (1200 U Street NW) with Sarah Browning, Martín Espada, Sam Hamill, and Marilyn Nelson a 2:00 p.m.

Before there was Split This Rock, Sam Hamill brought us Poets Against War. Join us as we pay tribute to this visionary man and the life-changing movement he launched. An outspoken political pacifist, in 2003, declining an invitation to the White House, Hamill founded Poets Against War, compiling the largest single-theme poetry anthology in history, and galvanizing tens of thousands of poets to speak for peace. Sam Hamill also co-founded, and for 32 years was editor at, Copper Canyon Press, one our most influential poetry presses. The author of more than 40 books of poetry, essays, and translations, Sam Hamill is a model for the poet as public citizen. Poets who are activists in Split This Rock and the Poets Against War movement will read their own poems inspired by Hamill, followed by Hamill reading his own poems of provocation and witness.
UPDATE:  On June 19, Blog This Rock posted a transcript of the tribute to Hamill by one of my favorite poets, Martín Espada and another from June 25 with poet and translater William O'Daly.

And I hope to catch the last part of the 11:30 to !:00 p.m. presentation on "Poetry as Activism, Activism as Poetry: Poetic Interventions in the Public Sphere" by Ken Chen, Jennifer Karmin, Philip Metres, Mark Nowak, and Jonathan Skinner in the True Reformer Board Room:

How can poets mobilize poetry as a change agent? These poets demonstrate the ways that the arts can contribute to the defense of the environment, workers, and oppose war. Philip Metres will discuss the ways in which projects such as Peace Show (Cleveland) and the “Stories of War and Peace oral narratives project” have become counternarratives to war. Jonathan Skinner will present how engaged poets have responded to environmental catastrophe, in particular, poets' responses to the 2010 BP deepwater well blowout in the Gulf of Mexico. Jennifer Karmin will present images from her street performances Revolutionary Optimism and 4000 Words 4000 Dead. Ken Chen will talk about his activism and work around the Asian-American Writers workshop. Finally, Mark Nowak’s "Imaginative Militancy and Trade Union Poetics" will examine his collaborations with global trade unions in recalibrating the role of the poetry workshop.
I just wish I could clone myself as there are plenty of other offerings going on simultaneously. For instance, over at Hamiltonian Gallery (1353 U Street NW), a new venue this year, Minnie Bruce Pratt, Lisa C. Moore, and Dan Vera are talking about Political Publishing: Building Community, Solidarity, Liberation

All political liberation movements must struggle to bring forward suppressed ideas. This was true in 1847 when Frederick Douglass first published the abolitionist North Star, and is still true in 2012 as the NYPD arrests the operators of Occupy Wall Street’s livestream. Three publishing veterans will speak about their struggles, strategies, and successes, ranging from the 1970s through today, in bringing political art to public spaces. They’ll ask audience members to share their experiences and new developments in political publishing.
More events follow at various venues with featured evening readings in the auditorium at Carlos Rosario International School (1100 Harvard Street NW).  Tonight's is Douglas Kearney, Kim Roberts, and Sonia Sanchez, to be followed by an open MIC reading at Bus Boys and Poets (2021 14th Street NW at the corner with V Street).

Hope to see some of you there!


Virginia Festival of the Book

Photograph of  Homero Aridjis from City Lights Publishers.


For those of you lucky enough to be in Charlottesville today, may I recommend several events at the Virginia Festival of the Book?

At noon in City Council Chambers (605 East Main Street), Habitat for Humanity of Greater Charlottesville, UVA hosts Architecture prof John Quale  discussing his work on making affordable Prefab Housing. Quale is author of Sustainable, Affordable, Prefab: The ecoMOD Project, due out from the University of Virginia Press April 25, 2012,, ISBN 978-0813931524

Quale and his students at the University of Virginia, working with colleagues in the School of Engineering and Applied Science, and with affordable housing providers, have created four designs for environmentally sensitive affordable dwellings. The houses, built with modular units and/or panelized building components, include a two-unit condominium, a post-Katrina home on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, a historic renovation with accessible addition, and a townhouse configuration that can be replicated and mass-produced for Habitat for Humanity. Each house pays attention to its site and incorporates sustainable materials and systems such as solar hot water, rainwater retention, and strives for zero energy load.
At 2:00 p.m. at the Student Bookstore on campus (1515 University Avenue0 Lynn Coffey (Backroads: Plain Folk and Simple Living), Phil James (Secrets of the Blue Ridge: Stories from Western Albemarle), Paddy Bowman (Through the Schoolhouse Door: Forklore, Community, Curriculum) and Saundra Gerrell Kelley (Southern Appalachian Storytellers) share stories from Appalachia.

At 7:00 p.m. at the The Haven (112 W Market Street), my friend ballad singer Elizabeth LaPrelle, along with her fellow musicians Alexia Smith, James Leva, Danny Knicely and Aimee Curl celebrate the life and music of the late Mike Seeger, along with author  Bill C. Malone (Music from the True Vine).

And I can only see part of this because at 8 p.m.  Rita Dove translates, as Mexican poet and environmental activist Homero Aridjis reads from his work in Spanish at the Harrison Insittute on campus ( 160 McCormick Road.  City Lights Publishers of San Francisco will be publishing the second bilingual edition of Aridjis's poems in November: Time of Angels/Tiempo de ángeles,  (translated by George McWhirter).  In 2010, City Lights published Solar Poems/Los poemas solares by the same translatorHere's an 1998 article by Dick Russell (email), "Poetry in Motion:  Homero Aridjis, Mexico's environmental conscience, fuses literature and activism."


Donate to SAMPLER

Make a tax deductible donation designated for SAMPLER to the Ohio Valley Environmental Coaltion at RAZOO.com


SAMPLER (Southern Appalachian Media Project for Literacy on Environmental Renewal)

Photo of Joaquin Alvarado, senior vice president, digital innovation, American Public Media from the Knight Foundations blog.

February 20-21 I got to attend the 2012 Knight Media Learning Seminar, thanks to a travel grant from the Alliance for Appalachia and housing and wining and dining by friends who teach at Florida International University. I even got to meet DigiDave (David Cohn) after all these years of being friends online.

In preparation for the Seminar, I'd been working on putting together a project I've dubbed SAMPLER: Southern Appalachian Media Project for Literacy on Environmental Renewal.  You can make a tax deductible donation designated for SAMPLER to the Ohio Valley Environmental Coaltion at RAZOO.com  (which takes a smaller cut than paypal or even the non-profit, justgive.org.)

We're working to strengthen regional coverage by creating an alliance of  journalists and citizens to provide in-depth reporting on regional topics including sustainable development and transition from dependence on the mono-economy of coal mining, especially the destructive practice of mountaintop removal, as well as a mechanism to crowd source such efforts and critique coverage that is biased or stenographic.

The Challenge for Information in our Region

Many areas in Southern Appalachia are covered  only occasionally by the national dailies, often with no real feet-on-the-ground understanding of the complexity of local issues.  Regional papers providing balanced coverage tend to cover one state, although the problems are endemic.  Citizens often don’t understand the difference between pr, spin and good journalism.

We plan to do real journalism

We're taking our definition from the Society of Environmental Journalists and want citizens to be able to gain the knowledge they need for meaningful civic engagement and the skills to create and publish  stories, photos and videos of their communities.   Journalists will be able to cover topic they could not address as meaningfully alone. The project will use a website, twitter, facebook and other social media to provide content to national media.

Our Allies

The Alliance for Appalachia (and its twelve member groups) and the Institute for Southern Studies, publisher of Southern Exposure and Facing South have already expressed interest in being our first partners, as has the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues at the University of KY.  In addition to journalists, we plan also to work with  other citizens groups, local libraries, schools and colleges and legacy media organizations.

We are also in the process of applying for associate membership (due to the small size of our budget) in The Media Consortium, whose active projects include funded collaborations on coal, campaign cash and the occupy movement.

Jeff Deal, IT specialist for Appalachian Voices has been helping us with mapping programs.

Existing Resources

Existing projects which can serve as resources/interface include Spot.Us and the  Public Insight Network. We're want to pursue membership in the Investigative News Network and the Society of Environmental Journalists.  We've approached folks at The American Independent and would like to work with the new non-profit taking over NewsTrust, once the transition announced sometime in March.

Tell us your ideas for SAMPLER

Do you have a story you'd like to read about or write?  Do you know of a resource or ally we should contact?  Add something in the comment section to this post or write to CommunityPoweredReporting (at) gmail (dot) com.


Dendron Considers Coal-Fired Plant (again): Short Term Benefits versus Long Term Effects

Photograph of Beth Roach, guest writer for this post.  My friend from Surry  County, Virginia, she is fighting the proposed  coal-fired electric plant in the town there of  Dendron.   She says she was privileged to be born and raised in this special place called Surry, that the ability to explore the wilderness, play outdoor athletics, and swim in the James River strongly influenced her life.  It was such inspiration from her surroundings that led to her career encompassing historic interpretation, environmental education, and natural resource conservation. She descends from the Nottoway Indian Tribe, which she is an enrolled member.


Monday, March 5, citizens in Surry County will again be asking Dendron Town Council to block Old Dominion Energy Coop (ODEC)'s proposed  coal-fired electric plant that will overshadow the tiny town (population 200) at a  time when other states are deciding that new coal-fired plants are NOT a good idea.  As scientist Mark Jacobson  has written:
The best ways to improve energy security, mitigate global warming and reduce the number of deaths caused by air pollution are blowing in the wind and rippling in the water, not growing on prairies or glowing inside nuclear power plants.
And "clean coal," which involves capturing carbon emissions and sequestering them in the earth, is not clean at all....
This follows on a hearing before the Surry County Planning Commission on February 27, which my friend in Surry, Betsy Shephard critiques:

One of the things that came out of last week's Planning & Zoning hearing (besides the fact that out of 350 attendees, only 7 residents spoke in favor of the coal plant....more on that another day), was that finally there would be an official recommendation that the Town of Dendron commission a 3rd party study.
I asked another friend, Beth Roach, who attended the the hearing to write a guest post on what happened.  She says the views expressed here are her own, yet she hopes that many others will consider both sides of the argument and listen to their consciences...and their hearts.

So, I now turn this page over to Surry native Beth Roach..


 All I ask is for them to consider both sides. The powers that be in Surry have made it no secret that they are through hearing arguments and ready to vote, pass, and cash those checks. Numerous testimonies by local residents, environmental non profit groups, and regional neighbors have fallen upon deaf ears. While a lot of locals have been a part of the fight for several years, there are others who are joining the opposition everyday. They are dismayed at the harmful effects that this process - from mountain top removal to coal combustion to fly ash storage - creates. They have difficulty understanding why the decision makers don't take this information seriously. The short term benefits are risks, speculations, projections, and assumptions. The term "state of the art technology" has been ODEC's flagship phrase to assure people that no harmful effects will exceed the government's regulations. This isn't good enough. There are many case studies that disprove this logic. I bet this approach has been used every time a plant has been built. Yet, each plant eventually has its problems. Safety records are well kept secrets; ask anybody who has worked at a power plant. They can tell you that "hiccups" very rarely make the paper. Unless ODEC has some super powered crystal ball with a %100 success rate, they can't forecast the future. Nor does this approach address the known problems associated with the amount of pollution that IS allowed under current regulations. What does it boil down to? We can show empirical evidence about why and how these emissions are so harmful. We can demonstrate how the air, water, and land will suffer throughout time. We can plead by reminding them that we are a part of the same community. That to serve the earth IS to serve man. Yet, we are forced to sit back and watch this coal plant move forward as if this stuff doesn't matter. Is it that more environmental education at a young age is needed? I believe so. An enormous amount of evidence has been presented, yet if people don't have the foundational knowledge of how this relates to the community at large then the evidence won't matter to them. Perhaps they do understand the science and chose to ignore it? I don't have a cure or a lesson plan for that problem. My closing thought comes from my mother, a reading teacher, and my aunt, a media specialist (modern term for school librarian) for Surry County Schools. Both want to share this piece of wisdom from the Lorax to the planning and zoning commission, to ODEC, to the board of supervisors, and to the Dendron Town Council: Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not.