NATIONWIDE: Following President Obama’s State of the Union address last night, the U.S. Department of Arts and Culture (USDAC) is making a conscious effort to connect communities across the country by hosting what they’re calling a “People’s State of the Union Address,” a series of storytelling events led by poets and hosted in theatres, schools and community centers across the country.
More than 150 communities will participate, with those taking part sharing stories and experiences on how the state of the union impacts their own lives. The stories will be collected by a group of award-winning poets, including Margaret Randall, Patricia Smith, Bob Holman, Luis Rodriguez, E. Ethelbert Miller, Claudia Rankine, Joy Harjo and Eileen Myles, among others.
The poets will then use the stories they gather to write a poem each, all of which will be presented during a Poetic Address to the Nation on Feb. 1 during a broadcast from New York City’s Bowery Poetry Club. The event will be led by Holman, who has the marvelous USDAC title of “Minister of Poetry and Endangered Language Protection.”
“We’re holding these events across the country because we believe that democracy is a conversation, not a monologue,” said Adam Horowitz, the USDAC chief instigator, in a statement. “Instead of a speech spoken by one, the Poetic Address is a work of art created by many.”
Communities who have agreed to participate include Salinas, Calif., Chicago, San Antonio, Tex., and Ferguson, Mo., and is the first event in a series of new civic rituals planned by the USDAC. These are crafted in part as a response to recent tensions in communities across America.
“Coming out of a year as divisive as this past one, it is more important than ever that we forge new bonds of empathy by truly listening to one another’s stories,” Horowitz added. “Anyone who wants to take part but can’t attend a story circle is invited to submit a story online during the week of Jan. 23-30.”
The USDAC is the nation’s newest “people-powered” department, committed to harnessing the power of art and culture to cultivate empathy, equity and social imagination. Launched in October, 2013, the USDAC is a growing national action network of artists and cultural organizers.