Giving the marginalized the tools to speak their voices|
The Portland Alliance, April 2005
I am a privileged writer. From being encouraged to write as a child
through state college and with the current support of family and
friends, I’ve easily adopted the moniker “writer” as a part of my
identity. Even so, it has only been in the past two years I've answered
the question, “What do you do?” with “writer” instead of my day job.
I mention this because I want you to consider that if all the privilege
I had throughout my life still left me unsure of my “right” to call
myself a writer until fairly recently, imagine how people far
people less privileged than me must be from realizing their identities as writers.
Local nonprofit Write Around Portland (WRAP) is dedicated to
encouraging and publishing writers who have lacked the support systems
necessary to develop confidence as serious wordsmiths. For six years,
WRAP has been making writing accessible to domestic violence victims,
sexual minorities, people affected by HIV/AIDS, people struggling with
mental illness and more by helping to foster personal and social
connections amongst program participants in community centers,
shelters, treatment centers and prisons.
Each fall and spring WRAP organizes a network of concurrent 10-week
workshops ending with a community reading, and on Jan. 19, I listened
as several writers from Portland's most marginalized communities
delivered readings of poems and stories at In Other Words bookstore.
Every urban bird in the world
may have had to learn first hand
about the solidity of glass
William Temple House NW
This poem appears in the latest WRAP journal, Everyday Revolutions,
available in bookstores around Portland. Another of several short,
quirky slices of poetic wisdom shared at the reading by author
Mitchell, whose writings are reminiscent of postmodernist poet Kathy
Acker: “I'm beginning to believe in myself out of sheer weight.”
I had heard the brutally honest, powerful writings of local
writer Rachel Indigo Cerise Baum before at a Portland State University
Women’s History celebration. At the time I didn't know who she was, so
seeing her rise to speak at the WRAP event was a surprising delight.
True to form, she delivered an emotional wallop of starkly simple and
sincere prose, as in the opening paragraph to “I5 Reno Winter Highway”;
Running I-five, Red Bluff. Guy drives an old Bentley. Resembles Ron
Jeremy. I try to like him and I don't care anymore. “Are you hungry?”
Now my hopes up. His voice sounds kind. He buys me burger, fries, and
I’m nervous when I order the chocolate shake too. Don’t want to push my
luck, ask for too much. That truck driver is out on the highway
somewhere. Two packs of smokes and five bucks.
Rhea Wolf, Program Coordinator for WRAP, announced after Ms. Baum
finished reading that she had received the 2004 Attic/WRAP Writing
Scholarship to take a winter workshop on memoir writing with Ariel
Gore, founding editor of the popular zine Hip Mama. The Attic is a
Portland writer’s workshop and Ms. Baum commented upon receiving the
award, “I remember when I first came to town, I saw info on the Attic
at Powell’s and dreamed that one day I’d be able to study and write
there. My dreams are coming true.”
Besides working to give marginalized people the tools to speak their
voices, WRAP’s mission specifically addresses community building
through the shared experiences of the writing process. Organizing each
workshop series in partnership with social service agencies and
community centers creates not only writers with a greater sense of
themselves, but also writers with a greater sense of their
interconnectedness with neighborhoods and social communities.
WRAP is currently in the middle of its Spring 2005 series of creative
writing workshops at various locations around town. Workshops are two
hours long for ten weeks and are open to low-income adults, people
living with mental illness, people affected by HIV, sexual minority
youth, seniors and other socially marginalized people. Pens, journals,
snacks and bus passes are provided for participants, so if you're not
taking a workshop and have any of these items to donate, please engage
in some post-vernal equinox do-gooding and send them over to WRAP.
Their office is located at 917 SW Oak Street, Suite 406, or you can
check out their Web site for more information on how to participate as
a writer, a resource volunteer, or a time volunteer.
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Published on: 2005-04-14 (949 reads)[ Go Back ]