The Community Writers Collective is an initiative I’ve been thinking about for a long time, and I’m so grateful to have the space/time in the English Department at the University of Hawai’i to make this happen.
The “Community Writers Collective” believes that creative writers can be a vital component to inspiring, empowering, and nurturing our communities. In turn, we believe that our communities can inspire, empower, and nurture us.
We believe that creative writers will only be relevant in the 21st century if we are relevant to our communities. We believe that creative writing programs will only be relevant if they institutionally support community-engaged initiatives and intentionally train community-engaged writers.
Our method is simple: we ask a community organization, “How can we, as creative writers, contribute?”
With the current political climate here in Hawai’i, the first request was a need for protest signs. This made sense since writers work to harness the power of figurative language, emotive rhetoric, and memorable phrasing (and yes, everyone is a poet at heart).
So today (10/17), the Community Writers Collective conducted our inaugural action by making a handful of “protest-sign poetry” and protesting the inaugural APEC event, which happened to occur at the East-West Center on our campus (if you are not familiar with APEC, please go here).
Here are some of the signs we made. I especially love the sign that quotes acclaimed Pacific scholar and writer Epeli Hau’ofa:
The protest occurred at high noon, as several community groups gathered across the street from the East-West Center. The day started with a powerful speech by one community leader and some protest chanting. Here’s a pic of some of the crowd:
Then we marched to the garden behind the East West Center building, where we stood right outside the windows of where the APEC meeting attendees were eating lunch.
We protest chanted and waved our signs. They ate their lunch and a few of them even took pictures of us. The cops kept us from pressing our voices right up against the glass. Here is my picture of the moment:
Overall, it was an empowering event. And, for the Community Writers Collective, it marked a beginning. Stay tuned for our future actions!