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March 30, 2018

Join the chorus of voices against violence at an upcoming writing workshop!

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I am standing at a podium in a dark room. There is one spotlight shining down on me, blinding me from the audience. I have brought two poems to share tonight. Like the other poets who have read before me and the ones after, we introduce ourselves with only our name and affirm that this reading is for Sandra Bland.  Bland, 28, was found dead in a Texas jail cell three days after being pulled over and jailed for a minor traffic violation. Authorities ruled it was suicide, prompting national outrage.

Ashaki Jackson, author of “Surveillance” (Writ Large Press) reads a selection from “Whereas,” by Layla Long Soldier.  I think of the lines, “Whereas I have spent my life in unholding. What do you mean by unholding? Whereas asks and since Whereas rarely asks, I am moved to respond”.

This series is curated by F. Douglas Brown, winner of the Cave Canem Prize for his book, “Zero to Three.”

Un:Fade:Able is a workshop and poetry program that hopes to keep Bland’s “legacy alive through education, music and poetry, all revolving around topics such as the safety of black lives, the criminal justice system and police brutality.”

Being a part of this program is humbling. After the poems, I sit quietly with another poet and we just let the space and the words envelop us. This communal sharing of pain and hope is palpable, and it brings a physical sense of our issues. The power of poetry to make us understand how victims of violence feel. The great terrible beauty of these words to give weight to issues we know are happening in the world, we see are happening but cannot or will not touch. We leave silent from the reading, wholly renewed and reverent, ready again to work.

There is violence all around us. Outside in our streets. In our schools. Inside in our homes.There is violence in community spaces and in private rooms. There is violence in ourselves. We give it many names: rape, police brutality, mass shootings, domestic abuse, self-injury. We have task forces, response teams, crisis centers, intervention programs, therapy. And we work and work and work toward different solutions. Gun control, police accountability, healthcare reform, mental health intervention. Teenagers participate in townhalls.  African-American community leaders create campaigns. We understand that our lives and our health is at stake, but something is missing.

I think, too, we need to feel. For those of us who have come in touch with violence hand by hand. We need to see them and connect in order to truly understand. In April, Inlandia Institute will be hosting workshops throughout the Inland Empire to highlight the ways violence impacts our communities. From these workshops, we will create a public exhibit of art and poetry. We hope you will join us, by coming to a workshop or sending in your stories, poems, and art. Raise your voice against violence!


This program is made possible by the support and contribution of the Garcia Center for the Arts, and the California Council for the Humanities.

For information about dates, times, and locations for the workshop, please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Here are a couple of my upcoming events. It would be great to see you there.

At 5 p.m. April 4, I will donate 400 poetry books to the Inlandia Poetry Library during the Poets & Writers Literary Roundtable at the Garcia Center for the Arts, 536 W. 11th Street in San Bernardino.

And at 7 p.m. April 5, Literature on the Lawn presents Halt the Assault, an open mic focused on preventing sexual assault. I will be master of ceremonies at the event, which is being held in partnership with the Women Wonder Writers. Join us at the downtown Riverside public library,  3581 Mission Inn Avenue.


This aritcles was originally published by The Press-Enterprise on March 10, 2018



About the Author and workshop organizer, Nikia Chaney:

 Nikia Chaney is the current Inlandia Literary Laureate (2016-2018).  She is the author of us mouth (forthcoming from University of Hell Press, 2018) and two chapbooks, Sis Fuss (2012, Orange Monkey Publishing) and ladies, please (2012, Dancing Girl Press).  She is founding editor of shufpoetry, an online journal for experimental poetry, and founding editor of Jamii Publishing, a publishing imprint dedicated to fostering community among poets and writers. She has won grants and fellowships from the Barbara Demings Fund for Women, and Cave Canem.  Her poetry has been published in Sugarhouse Review, 491, Iowa Review, Vinyl, and Pearl, Welter, and Saranac.


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