In a time of political and social tumult, writers in Cedar Rapids and Iowa are joining their voices to a national movement.
Writers Resist, a series of readings featuring local and nationally known writers, will happen in cities across the country Jan. 15, including in Iowa.
Though spurred by the recent presidential campaign and timed in part to the presidential inauguration, the event is not affiliated with any political party.
“No matter how you feel about the outcome of the election, I think people across America are concerned about democracy. There’s almost a crisis of democracy across partisan lines,” said writer Lyz Lenz, who helped organize the Cedar Rapids event. “I think the hope is that it becomes more about celebrating who we have been as Americans and who we can be.”
The Writers Resist idea came from poet Erin Belieu and quickly spread, with dozens of events planned nationwide as well as some globally.
The Iowa events are free and open to the public. The Cedar Rapids event is organized and sponsored by the Coe College Committee on Diversity and nonprofit literary organization The Hook.
The Iowa City event is organized and sponsored by the UNESCO City of Literature and nonprofit literary organization Iowa Writers’ House.
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Writers who will read in Cedar Rapids include Mary Vermillion, Skylor Andrews, Lyz Lenz, David Duer, Rob Cline, Chris Okiishi, Courtney Ball, Zahra Alabdurlrasul and Marianne Taylor. Former Iowa state legislator Tyler Olson will emcee, with a reception hosted by the Coe Committee on Diversity after the readings.
The Iowa City event will feature Iowa’s Poet Laureate Mary Swander, Christopher Merrill, Iris DeMent, Jeff Biggers, Lisa Schelsinger, Kembrew McLeod and more.
Lenz said the event also is timed to coincide with Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday in honor of his legacy of struggle and activism.
“He was such a champion of all those American values we really celebrate — equality and freedom. But there were such violent reactions to him. It wasn’t easy for him to be who he was,” she said. “I think that’s something a lot of people are really feeling — that in America, despite the fact we say we’re a country where people are created equal, we have some deep, deep inequalities, and it is difficult for people to be who they want to be.”
Iowa Writers’ House executive director Andrea Wilson said in a time many Americans see division and distrust, she hopes the event gives voice to the ideals that can draw people together across party lines.
“It’s a return to guiding principles and a reminder of what it is we all hold so dear about being part of this country,” she said. “If everyone can come together and remember what we stand for and what it is that is unquestionable, then we can find a point of departure for future conversations.”
IF YOU GO
Where: Dow Fine Arts Center, Coe College, 1220 First Ave. NE, Cedar Rapids
When: 2 to 4:30 p.m. Jan. 15
Where: Englert Theatre, 221 E. Washington St., Iowa City
When: 4 to 6 p.m. Jan. 15
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