Just a few weeks before his death, Martin Luther King Jr. gave his remarkable “The Other America” speech at a high school in Grosse Point, Michigan. While outright condemning the use of violence as way to achieve social change, Dr. King offered in this speech an explanation for the violent protests of that time: “A riot is the language of the unheard.” For us, (the workshop leaders of NY Writers Coalition, and editors of this blog) it was a perfect statement, pure and unflinching, with as much of a powerful punch today as it had back then. In our (NYWC’s) creative writing workshops for the most silenced groups in our society– in the poorest of neighborhoods in NYC, in homeless shelters and jails, in programs for the critically ill and disabled, for veterans of war and many others, we have seen up close how poverty, racism, discrimination, and bad public policies can undermine communities and oppress individuals. The Narrator was born out of that quote from Dr. King, one night as a few of us workshop leaders sat around the NYWC office discussing the possibility of starting an arts and social justice blog. That quote came up, and we all felt its weight. The language of the unheard – words merging with mission. Made sense to us.
So why blog? Why now? Because this year NYWC’s celebrates its 10th anniversary, and we are so darn proud and happy to have the opportunity to serve the unheard through our unique creative writing workshops, readings and publications that we really just want to shout it out to the whole world. The blog gives us the chance to tell it our way, through reviews, interviews and observations. Our experiences as writers working in the communities has affected how we see things and what we expect from our leaders, our art and culture, and from our own writing. We will also share writing prompts and other inspirations to spark imagination and celebrate the creative life. We hope that writers of all ages, genres, and levels of experience will use The Narrator to connect with themselves as artists and with other communities. Stay tuned as we work out the kinks and conspire to create a blog with daily posts that are meaningful and fun. Thank you to our editors, as well as webmaster Melissa Cahill and designer Ian Robinson for all that they did to get The Narrator going, and of course to our Founder and Executive Director Aaron Zimmerman for his undying belief that everyone has a voice and the right to be heard (even us.)
Have a wonderful MLK Day! It is a day of service, so it might not be too late to get out of your pajamas and go lend a hand somewhere, like these folks right here near NYWC headquarters in Fort Greene, Brooklyn. And if you are staying in and still would like to observe MLK, read “The Other America” speech. And dream.