Justice for All or None: A Note on This New Era and Possible Coalition

:– I was at The Women’s March on Washington. I did not wear a #pussyhat. I have since purchased a pussyhat, in pink, from a woman who’s donating proceeds from the hats to PBS and NPR. I will wear it with my #BlackLivesMatter and #LGBTQIA and #EqualRightsAmendment pins. –:

I want all these newly energized liberal-or-progressive-mostly-white women to hear the skepticism we are getting from women of color and lgbtqia folk, especially trans women:

  1. They want us to show up FOR them.
  2. The do not want us to save them, or fix their movements.
  3. They want us to help in the background.
  4. They want us to come to their marches and demonstrations* and risk for them, too.

I have been a feminist scholar all my life, and have been knocking around social justice movements primarily for the last five years or so. I have interviewed many women in the Second Wave and recorded those interviews for posterity (visit Va NOW’s YouTube to watch, they’re rough edits).

What is missing, still, from “white feminism” is deep engagement with the particular issues and experiences of other kinds of women.

We have a huge historical opportunity right now to build coalitions like never before, simply because so many more people are energized and realizing they have skin in the game.

“Intersectionality” is a word requesting this support, this space-making, this basic sharing. “Coalition” is about the strategy for doing that, finding our areas of common concern and really being concerned in common.

I am asking us to do a little learning. To deepen not only your action as a citizen, but to deepen your commitment to Justice for All. This country did not begin oppressing people last year. It started from the beginning. There are good historical reasons for many kinds of people not to trust us white women. Historically, we have ditched on them — every time.

Reading. Do some. There’s more here than a person can do, I know. But, do some. Show up with some education. Don’t ask people in these movements to get you hip, get hip, be cool.

Remember, make space: You get to center your issue and your symbol at your march, at your action. When you show up for others, and when you work intersectionally, the focus can’t stay on you all the time.

* There are huge practical and legal differences between planned and permitted marches compared to direct actions and spontaneous demonstrations. The latter two often involve some kind of not-very-serious law breaking — like blocking a street or highway or entrance to a building, etc. Those actions can result in arrest. Not all activists can be available for that, but we can all be available in support roles that do not risk arrest.

+ Full Disclosure: I’m the Poetry & Social Justice Fellow at Split This Rock and the managing editor of The Quarry.



A Scalia Poem

Hobson’s Choice between a Mare’s Nest
and a Roundmouth

    ~~ A Scalia Dissent Poem in honor of the Marriage Equality Decision, Love v. Beashar

All hollow as my dissent may prove
before this arsy-varsy ballum rancum
calling itself a court so full of bam and apothecary
in defense of taylors, flaybottomists, and all these knights of the rainbow–
I must dampen the horn colic of mollies and their hoydon friends. 

Shabbaroon perhaps, but making of marriage
other than a true swive between a tickle tail and Miss Laycock
is to take a running smobble at the foundation of all known society.
When the Fourteenth Amendment was ratified in 1868,
every State limited marriage to one man and one woman,
and no one doubted the constitutionality of doing so.

For we are a wide land of isolate and self-contained American families,
the source of all our legitimate passing of taxable property,
soul-rending suburban alienation, and socially destructive disfunction.
By this ruling we take that seat of all our highest values,
values we place far above those of mere and mire of the civitas,
and render it queer as Dick’s hatband.

Even a cup-shot cove and a covey all agog to dock
and playing at his gigambobs has more reason
than the riot of havy cavy gamon and patter
produced by this Kit Cat Club formed by my associates.
The world does not expect logic and precision in poetry
or inspirational pop philosophy; it demands them in the law.
The stuff contained in today’s opinion has to diminish
this Court’s reputation for clear thinking and sober analysis.

With a full quaf of Irish assurance The Court has fetched mettle
and decided for the Nation that a man might wrap
himself in something other than a lawful blanket
and call it marriage. These rantipoles can go quiffing rantum scantum,
while their rammish morts might mow all the money
and tuzzy-nuzzy they can find, but you’ve windmills in the head
if you think this doesn’t all come to rumpus and disorder.

This Ominum Gatherum will be Job’s comfort to our good families
as the galimanfrey of a ruling comports with the people’s will
but is followed quick by one that wiffles away  their understanding,
leaving them not only at the mercy of quidnung social engineering,
but at the mercy of a scapegrace collection of screw jaws
who think their packthread so rum they might take a Trickum Legis
and by it erase good and all the sovereignty of the several states.
The opinion is couched in a style that is as pretentious
as its content is egotistic.

The Law should rather assure all the righteous
men singing black psalms, be they nazy flogging cullies,
either lobcocked or docked smack smooth,
but they are still men assured place by fear of force and tradition.

Who ever thought that intimacy and spirituality
(whatever that means) were freedoms? And if intimacy is,
one would think Freedom of Intimacy is abridged
rather than expanded by marriage. Ask the nearest hippie.
Expression, sure enough, is a freedom,
but anyone  in a long-lasting marriage 
will attest that  that happy state constricts,
rather than expands,
what one can prudently say.

But this lot of sauce boxes think consistency of practice
more fair than the voice of a local vote! Today’s decree says
my Ruler, and the Ruler of 320 million Americans coast-to-coast,
is a majority of the nine lawyers on the Supreme Court.
Tantony pig, I’m sure I bear the bell, rounded by prime and prinking
silent flutes and tu quoques. I can only cry in the dark my davy
in prayer that one day, before the reign of Queen Dick,
the people will find a way to replace this feckless and defiant court.

* Liberal borrowing from  The 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue, Fwd. Max Harris, London, Bibliophile Books, 1984.

* Passages hi-jacked from Scalia’s dissent in Love v. Beashar are sourced from Mother Jones.


You Can Support Social Justice and Get Free Poetry at the Same Time!

Hello My People of the Internet —

If you know anyone in the nonprofit world, you know we all hustle for donations, even if we do have a few grants that keep the lights on. And, if you don’t, now you do.

I am asking you to donate whatever feels good to you to Split This Rock. We’re a really small nonprofit. I do masses of work for here for free because I’ve seen with my own self how our work at the nexus of poetry and social justice affects people for the better, moves hearts to open, and generally keeps people’s souls in good working order in these trying and mournful times.

We’re passing a hat for general purposes, but we also have a big biennial poetry festival coming up April 14-17, 2016, so work and expenses do blossom. Major American and international poets from all traditions and backgrounds get together for four days to discuss the poetics of justice on nearly every issue of concern or celebration for communities creating liberation and the full glory of all our human ways of being. Plus, we read and enjoy heaps and piles of bone-shaking poetry.

Like the Poem of the Week we published for Christmas this year by the inimitable Aracelis Girmay, “from The Body of the Black Maria.”

If you want, donation or no, you can sign-up to get our newsletter, and that means you get our Poem of the Week — a free poem every Friday on one of a range of social justice issues — which, would make me happy because I help curate and publish these poems. They all live here: *The Quarry: A Social Justice Poetry Database*. And they are incredible poems, top-of-skull-off poems.

This is by far not all we do. Our monthly reading series brings poets from DC and the whole country

Joy and comfort to you each, and to all your other beloveds, too.
Simone Roberts
Poetry & Social Justice Fellow



Allies, SURJ-Va Offers Action Advice

As you can imagine, there is a flurry of activity happening right now in response to the white supremacist shooting of 5 Black Lives Matter protesters in Minneapolis last night. SURJ has been called in to mobilize white people in this moment. In the last two weeks, we have seen an uptick in white supremacist organizing against Muslims and the movement for black lives. It is crucial that white folks step up and take visible action.

Since Thanksgiving is this week, I know many of you are traveling. If you are staying nearby, and you’re available Friday, please let me know ASAP. We are hoping to form a couple of small groups that can be visible in our community that day.

National SURJ has put together a list of things you can do, wherever you are, in response to the shootings. Please take visible action this week! It’s time to show up!

SURJ Actions in response to MN shootings

This list is evolving…more resources may be coming.

  1. Sign and widely share the SURJ petition

  2. Donate and share the link to the MN bail fund to support the on-the-ground organizing. MN Bail Fund.

    1. Ask your family members to donate to the bail fund at Thanksgiving!

  3. Change your Facebook profile picture to break white silence. You can find your new profile image here.

  4. Go out and recruit new white folks. Many of white folks who have never been engaged in racial justice work have been woken up this week. We want to go find them and invite them into our work!

    1. Identify a public location in your community (coffee shops, libraries). Pick a time and location  

    2. Review the scripts provided below

    3. Gather clip-boards and pens.

    4. Pick a time and go have conversations and sign folks up  

  5. Use the SURJ Placemat to prompt discussion at the Thanksgiving table, and/or ask family members to contribute to the bail fund.

Sample script for canvassing/ talking to folks in public

  • Hi I’m __________ from Showing Up for Racial Justice and wanted to talk to you today about what’s happening with racial justice in our country and just how heartbreaking it is.

    • What do you think about what’s happening?

    • Did you hear about the shootings in MN?

    • What do you think we could do about it?

  • I’m part of SURJ, a local group that’s working to bring more white people into racial justice work and break white silence. Can I take your contact information to keep you in the loop on our work?


Poetry of Solidarity : Reading and Petition for Freedom

Thursday, November 12, 2015 8-10pm

Busboys and Poets

Join us for a night of poetry in protest of restrictions on free and artistic expression in the Middle East and North Africa. The eveninghonors the imprisoned Qatari poet  Mohammed al-Ajami, who is currently serving a 15-year prison sentence for the contents of his poetry.

Attendees will have an opportunity to sign a petition for his release.

Featured poets include Rasha Abdulhadi, Sarah Browning, Zein El-Amine, Amin Drew Law, and Joseph Ross.

This event is co-sponsored with Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain, a non-profit organization that seeks to foster awareness of and support for democracy and human rights in Bahrain and the Middle East; and Busboys and Poets, a community gathering place.

Light refreshments will be provided. This event is free and open to the public.


One Contest, One Festival — Two Ways to Build the Beloved Community

Venus Thrash performs “Uncivil” at the Split This Rock Poetry Festival: Poems of Provocation & Witness 2012.

Annual Poetry Contest

THEMES: Submissions should be in the spirit of Split This Rock: socially engaged poems, poems that reach beyond the self to connect with the larger community or world; poems of provocation and witness. This theme can be interpreted broadly and may include but is not limited to work addressing politics, economics, government, war, leadership; issues of identity (gender, sexuality, race, ethnicity, disability, body image, immigration, heritage, etc.); community, civic engagement, education, activism; and poems about history, Americana, cultural icons. Visit the Past Poetry Contests page to read past winning poems if you are still unclear regarding themes.

Split This Rock subscribes to the Council of Literary Magazines and Presses Contest Code of Ethics. Read it online at our website.

ACCESSIBILITY: If Submittable is not accessible to you, please contact us at or (202) 787-5210 for instructions on how to email your submission to us. It is important that we know about your situation before receiving your mailed or emailed entry. Please allow sufficient time for your submission to be received.

Submission Guidelines:
Submissions need to be received by 11:59pm on November 1, 2015, Eastern Standard Time.

Submit up to 3 unpublished poems, no more than 6 pages total, no more than 1 poem per page, in any style, in the spirit of Split This Rock (see above). Visit Split This Rock’s Submittable page for instructions.

What we mean by “unpublished”: We accept only poems that have not yet been included in a publication with an ISBN number or online via a juried journal or website. If your poem is selected and it is posted on social media, we ask that you take it down prior to our publishing contest results.

More information and to submit is waiting for you at Submittable.


Split This Rock Poetry Festival: Poems of Provocation & Witness 2016 invites poets, activists, poetry lovers, and dreamers to Washington, DC, April 14-17, 2016 for four days of readings, workshops, panel discussions, youth programming, activism—opportunities to speak out for justice, build connection and community, and celebrate the many ways poetry can act as an agent for social change. Split This Rock Poetry Festival is DC’s premiere poetry event and the only festival of its kind in the country, highlighting poets working at the intersection of the imagination and social change.

The poets to be featured are among the most significant and artistically vibrant writing and performing today: Jennifer Bartlett, Jan Beatty, Reginald Dwayne Betts, Regie Cabico, Dominique Christina, Nikky Finney, Ross Gay, Aracelis Girmay, Rigoberto González, Linda Hogan, Craig Santos Perez, and Ocean Vuong. Juan Felipe Herrera, newly appointed Poet Laureate of the United States, will kick off the festival with a special event at the Library of Congress on April 13, and will be part of this gathering of socially engaged poets from his new position as a national spokesperson for poetry. Registration will open in November. Group rates and scholarships will be available. Readings by featured poets will be free and open to the public. More information at: