“Split This Rock Poetry Festival: Poems of Provocation & Witness” invites poets, writers and activists to DC for four days of poetry and community building starting March 22. The bi-annual event, which features poetry readings, workshops and panel discussions, will take place in various locations in the U Street corridor including Busboys & Poets at 14th and V Streets NW, the Thurgood Marshall Center for Service and Heritage, as well as Hamiltonian Gallery and the African American Civil War Memorial and Museum.
The theme of this year’s festival, “Poems of Provocation & Witness,” refers to poems that look at the wider world and reflect upon injustices in different communities, said Split This Rock Director Sarah Browning. Poems that provoke change and discuss issues of race, class and gender are an integral part of the festival, which is dedicated to Caribbean-American poet and citizen activist June Jordan who passed away 10 years ago.
According to Browning, the U Street corridor is the perfect location for a poetry festival that challenges the status quo. “DC has a rich cultural background and we wanted to both celebrate and promote the history of the area. We wanted to tell stories through a living tradition that is vibrant in the region,” she said.
The connection to Borderstan goes beyond its location. Many of the events feature MidCity writers and are also of local interest. For example, “The Radical Roots of Washington Literature” is a panel discussion led by Kim Roberts and Dan Vera on Saturday, March 24. Their project, DC Writers’ Homes, documents the homes of literary authors who once lived in the DC area, such as Zora Neale Hurston and Frederick Douglass.
Many of the homes are located in the Borderstan area, including Gwendolyn Bennett’s childhood home on T Street NW between 14th and 15th, and Mary P. Burrill’s house on 17th Street NW just east of Dupont Circle.
In addition to focusing on the festival’s theme, the organizers also put a special emphasis on providing more youth programming to reach out to the next generation of poets. “Young Voices for Justice and Peace: Youth Speak Out!,” which discusses social injustices that young people care about, and “25 Years of Youth Poetry Programs in DC: What We Have Learned, Carrying it Forward,” which explores the successes and challenges of youth poetry programs, are just two examples of these youth centered events.
To register for the Split This Rock Poetry Festival 2012, please visit their website. Student rate is $40. Day rates and scholarships are also available.