"The history of English is inextricably tied to the history of war, to the history of empire; they cannot be separated. And hence our literature cannot be separated from these histories. Language is one of the most powerful weapons of war. It is also one of the war's first victims."
Here, De-Canon speaks to Anna Vo, musician, artist, zine-maker and publisher, and community organizer of IntersectFest, a festival from artists of color, which is in its third year of programming and takes place this year from December 8-10, at Ford Food & Drink and other locations around Portland.
1) In a few words, what is IntersectFest?
... It is an effort to center the narratives of people of color in Portland, and exhibit the work of artists of color from Portland and elsewhere. It is a refusal to submit to a narrative of whiteness being centered in Portland. ...
A couple years ago, I went to see a reading at Powell’s bookstore on Hawthorne, in my hometown of Portland, Oregon. The reading was for the debut novel of an acquaintance and colleague I’d been in shared circles with for years through an organization called Diasporic Vietnamese Artists Network (DVAN). I also was a contributing writer to an arts and culture blog this novelist had founded.
At Powell’s that night, myself and the friend I’d invited were the only Asian people in attendance and there were not more than fifteen people total in the audience. The novelist, a university professor specializing in topics having to do with cinema and the Vietnam War, showed a montage of clips from famous American movies depicting the Vietnam era, then went on to critique the dehumanizing representation of Vietnamese (and other Asians) in such movies. The scene he read from his novel satirically depicted said dynamics. It was discomfiting, a little, to witness this presentation being given in front of a small crowd of mostly white people, but I was glad to see it being done. ...
Poet and editor Phillip B. Williams answers 4 questions from Shayla Lawson in this recent interview conducted for De-Canon. This is the first of a new series of guest interviews and posts we will be featuring on this blog.
Our August exhibit at UNA Gallery featured 334 books by writers of color, 270 of which were purchased for the collection or donated by authors or presses, and the remaining 64 were loaned to the collection for the exhibit by Dao Strom, Neil Aitken, and another local writer. The following list is not intended to be final or exhaustive, but instead to offer a snapshot as to where we are -- and hopefully inspire others to try some new titles or revisit old favorites. We will continue to add to our archive and will provide updated lists in the new year.
AWP: Compiling a list like this is a big commitment of time and effort. What compelled you to take on this work?
Neil Aitken: In some sense, this felt like the natural next step in the series of posts I’ve been writing and compiling for De-Canon: A Visibility Project. After compiling last month’s list which assembled all the books, articles, essays, and lectures I could find by writers of color on craft, I began wondering how many (if any) of these texts were being used in graduate creative writing classrooms—and who taught in those classrooms?
Tender Table is a series featuring the voices of women of color and gender nonconforming people of color. It is a platform for storytelling and sharing food. The stories told at Tender Table are connected to the food shared at these events.
The urgency to create Tender Table came out of a desire and necessity to have these conversations in Portland, OR (often referred to being very white, a mecca of food appropriation by acclaimed white chefs) and hopefully someday in other cities. I encourage people to learn about the food they love, choose ethically sourced food, reach out and give back to the communities who’ve grown, harvested, and worked to put food in front of us. Many food workers of color work in harsh conditions and/or are not appropriately compensated or protected by their employers. How do we expose it, examine it, and create actions to change that?
Here's the third and final post detailing the graduate faculty writers of color teaching in MA, MFA, and PhD programs in states Texas to Wyoming. As before, if I've missed anyone whose permanent faculty at in a graduate creative writing program, please let me know and I'll add them in. These posts are largely meant to help us all have a better perspective of what's out there, who's teaching where, and where you might go if you're hoping to work with a creative writing mentor who is also POC.