Dear colleagues, friends, participants, supporters,
I hope you are safe and healthy. With so much going on in our world, the U.S., and here in New York City, I have been thinking often of our participants and community, veterans and civilians, family members and supporters, a diverse and incredible group, individually and collectively.
Voices From War, from inception in 2013, has striven for diversity and inclusivity, to create and maintain a space for voices less heard, considerate dialogue, anti-racist, exploring experiences on the page and in discussion that ring true and experiences we may yet need to work to understand, whether our own or others. Reading and writing and discussion: all rooted in veteran community and civic communication, seeking bridges.
We share in the communal grieving and outrage for the brutal and senseless death of George Floyd in Minneapolis and the moment of reckoning upon us with particular urgency as we grieve so much loss and systemic disrespect for Black lives amidst the legacy of slavery and centuries of racism. In New York City, across the country, and around the world, we have also been grappling with the threat and reality of Covid-19. The new coronavirus has highlighted pre-existing health disparities, has been ruthless across a range of demographics (affecting all of us), and yet it has hit hardest in communities of color.
The pain of George Floyd’s brutal death (and too many others before him) hits hard, inflected with other incidents of police brutality, historic and contemporary racism, and violence targeted against Black people.
In times of national (and international) significance, I am more comfortable behind the scenes, pressing forward with our programming, facilitating discussion, encouraging, sometimes questioning, researching or gathering deeper knowledge, writing — but holding back, preferring to amplify other voices, keep quiet myself. Some of the roots of my own silences rest with my maternal heritage, which put great emphasis on humility (which I also value) and some on a residual survival tactic of staying to the sidelines of direct conflict, watching, waiting, awaiting safety; plus I am largely an introvert. In recent months, I’ve put my head down, working: to move Voices From War to remote workshops, striving to maintain our customary intimacy, community, and depth of engagement; striving to support our instructors through this process and our participants in any way we can; and, also, finishing a master’s program, while, like all of us, worrying too about my family and how to support their needs and safety; and worrying about our city, and the world.
Silence — and Voice.
I entered into the veteran space as an outsider. Not a veteran, with few veteran family members. But my father’s violent death left me with his silences and my own. Finding voice for difficult experiences serves as weapon against their threat, internal and external.
I’ve more recently come to understand how my own optimism— for change, for dialogue and differences bridged, for post-traumatic growth and resilience—is not only hard earned, but also an insistent counterbalance to despair. I mention this here to both express the possibility and importance of being an ally and part of a community that we may not be part of based on experience or birth, but through compassion and intellect we can embrace and advocate for. The more time I spend within or adjacent to the veteran community (which is of course not monolithic), the more I value the incredible diversity within the military and its veterans, representing immigrants as well as native-born U.S. citizens, African-American, Black, Caribbean, Asian-American, Caucasian, Hispanic, Latinx, men, women, transgender, LGBTQ, a wide spread of economic backgrounds, religions, beliefs, and education, including teachers, police officers, intellectuals and laborers, financial analysts, security guards, and health care workers, and more. Of course this means disagreement too, as varied as America.
I want to conclude by sharing a few recent successes from our participants and share what I am reading and re-reading this past week (aside from copious news and on-the-ground reports).
As I mentioned, Voices From War’s programming has been running as usual, though remote through Zoom, since March 11th. It has felt valuable during this difficult time of social distancing to continue to meet each week in the virtual classroom, concluding our 14th season in May. In recent years, we have not offered summer programming. However, we will hold a series of briefer sessions for at least part of Summer 2020, focusing on community, literary conversation, and supporting writing.
Our Summer “Literary Community Hours” will meet for periodic one-hour sessions, welcoming past participants and newcomers, sharing conversation about what we’re reading, writing questions and updates, and a brief free-writing period to keep momentum. Recent participants (the Spring season) have received the Zoom link. Any newcomers are also welcome! Please email to express interest and request the link (email@example.com).
JUNE session dates – Summer “Literary Community Hours”
SATURDAY, June 6th, 12:00 pm-1:00 pm
WEDNESDAY, June 24th, 6:30 pm-7:30 pm
Voices From War
Writing Workshops for Veterans
Poetic Theater is offering a 4-part summer series of writing workshops
To Apply: Veteran Voices
“What I’m reading and re-reading now” (Kara)
Maurice Decaul: “Shush” (audio-video recording)
Kevin Young, Jelly Roll (poetry) & “Blacker Than Thou” (essay)
Jesmyn Ward, ed., The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks About Race
Kenneth Hardy, “The view from Black America. Listening to the untold stories.”
Listening: TED Radio Hour (rebroadcast, 5/29/20), Mayor of Stockton, CA:
“Michael Tubbs: What Does It Take To Transform A Struggling City?”
News: PARTICIPANTS’ PUBLICATIONS (& Media)