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Writing About Racism through Emotion and Image

In conjunction with the St. John's University Art Gallery and Queens Library, Newtown Literary held a creative writing workshop at the Queens Library at Steinway as part of the Big Read program sponsored by the National Endowment of the Arts.

Using Claudia Rankine's Citizen: An American Lyric as a launching point, instructor Nancy Agabian (Me as her again: True Stories of an Armenian Daughter) facilitated an examination of the toxic and pervasive effects of racism. Citizen: An American Lyric, a book-length poem, examines how the relentless racism of daily life renders many of its citizens invisible, as imagined by Ralph Ellison in Invisible Man. Modern racism is Eric Garner and Michael Brown and the Charlottesville March, but it is also the dozens of daily indignities, the casual dismissals and the lived pain of people of color in 21st Century America.

Using images from Citizen and from the poem Let America be America Again by Langston Hughes, writers explored their own visceral and emotional responses to acts of racism experienced, perceived or witnessed, and were prompted to riff off imagery that moved them.

From the Yeh Gallery's press release:

St. John's University and Dr. M. T. Geoffrey Yeh Gallery presents Citizen January, 15 - March 14, 2018 ​

The exhibition features twenty artists whose work illuminates the concerns expressed by Claudia Rankine in her book . ​As part of the 2018 NEA Big Read grant received by St. John’s for Claudia Rankine’s Citizen: An American Lyric, the gallery is presenting the work of twenty contemporary artists that continues and enriches on Rankine’s unique use of contemporary art as part of her narrative structure. Citizen is a multifaceted art and literary project programmed and curated by St. John’s University Art Gallery in collaboration with its English and Art Departments, the Queens Public Library, and the borough’s literary community.

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