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Justice Poetry: Readings and Discussion with Claudia Rankine, Dawn Lundy Martin, and Messiah — 2/24/15 *nyc

We have previously extolled the virtues of poet Claudia Rankine and her phenomenal book CITIZEN. Hear her for yourselves!

Public Humanities Initiative Justice Poetry: Readings and Discussion with Claudia Rankine, Dawn Lundy Martin, and Messiah
Tuesday, February 24
6:15-8:00 PM
Schapiro Center, Davis Auditorium
Columbia University
An evening of justice poetry featuring Claudia Rankine, Dawn Lundy Martin, and Messiah Ramkissoon. Poets read from their new and published works related to issues of justice and discuss the events and experiences that inspired them. Monica Miller, Associate Professor of English at Barnard College, opens the event, and a moderated discussion, led by Columbia School of the Arts professor and poet Timothy Donnelly, and questions from the audience follow the readings. Sponsored by the Heyman Center for the Humanities, The Center for Justice at Columbia University, and the Center for Race, Philosophy, and Social Justice.

Participants (Click on the links for bios)




Claudia Rankine


Henry G. Lee Professor of English

Pomona College

Claudia Rankine is the author of five collections of poetry: Citizen: An American Lyric (Graywolf Press, 2014); Don’t Let Me Be Lonely: An American Lyric (Graywolf Press, 2004); PLOT (Grove Press, 2001); The End of the Alphabet (Grove Press, 1998); and Nothing in Nature is Private (Cleveland State University Poetry Center, 1995), which received the Cleveland State Poetry Prize.

Rankine has edited numerous anthologies, including American Women Poets in the Twenty-First Century: Where Lyric Meets Language (Wesleyan University Press, 2002) and American Poets in the Twenty-First Century: The New Poetics (Wesleyan University Press, 2007). Her plays include Provenance of Beauty: A South Bronx Travelogue, commissioned by the Foundry Theatre and Existing Conditions, co-authored with Casey Llewellyn. She has also produced a number of videos in collaboration with John Lucas, including “Situation One.”

Of her book Don’t Let Me Be Lonely: An American Lyric, an experimental multi-genre project that blends poetry, essays, and images, poet Robert Creeley said: “Claudia Rankine here manages an extraordinary melding of means to effect the most articulate and moving testament to the bleak times we live in I’ve yet seen. It’s master work in every sense, and altogether her own.”

In 2013, Rankine was elected a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets. Her honors include fellowships from the Lannan Foundation and the National Endowments for the Arts. In 2005, Rankine was awarded the Academy Fellowship for distinguished poetic achievement by the Academy of American Poets. She is the Henry G. Lee Professor of English at Pomona College.

Her latest book, Citizen, has been shortlisted for the 2014 National Book Award.


Dawn Lundy Martin

Essayist and Poet

Associate Professor

The Writing Program, Department of English, University of Pittsburgh


Black Took Collective

Dawn Lundy Martin, an essayist and award-winning poet, is author of A Gathering of Matter / A Matter of Gathering (2007) and DISCIPLINE (Nightboat Books 2011), which was selected by Fanny Howe for the Nightboat Books Poetry Prize and was a finalist for both Los Angeles Times Book Prize and the Lambda Literary Award. Her most recent collection is Life in a Box is a Pretty Life (Nightboat Books 2015). She wrote the libretto for a video installation opera, titled “Good Stock on the Dimension Floor,” which was scheduled to be featured in the 2014 Whitney Biennial, and is collaborating with architect Mitch McEwen on Detroit Opera House, “a project which stages an opera as a house, the house and its dramas of occupancy, vacancy, demolition, and re-purposing as an opera.” Her most recent essay, “The Long Road to Angela Davis’’s Library” was published on Martin is also a co-founder of the Black Took Collective, an experimental performance art/poetry group of three. She is Associate Professor of English at the University of Pittsburgh.


Messiah Ramkissoon

Poet, Emcee, and Youth Activist

Some might say Messiah Ramkissoon’s success started in his place of birth – Trinidad. Or perhaps it began in the US, in Annapolis then New York City, where Messiah was raised from the age of 11. Maybe Messiah owes his success to The Boys & Girls Club of Greater Washington, where he was named youth of the year in 1999-2000, a recognition that got news correspondent, Tim Russert’s attention and made Messiah the feature of one of Russert’s NBC news retrospectives. Or was it when Oprah took notice and awarded home-schooled Messiah a $25,000 college scholarship, which he used to attend Howard University?

All of these moments were epic, but without a doubt, young, urban America met Messiah on Harlem’s famous Apollo stage in 2005. Only 20-years-old at the time, Messiah performed his poem “Sharika Was a Champ”, a metaphorical fable about the importance self respect and safe sex. With “Sherika Was a Champ”, Messiah blended Hip Hop and spoken word in a way that had not been done before in mainstream Hip Hop. The Apollo audience recognized that something fresh and unique was before them, and responded. He won 3 consecutive shows.

Messiah was not done with television. Following his win at The Apollo, Messiah went on a 5-city tour with Grammy-nominated singer Kelly Price.Their final performance for Price’s “This is who I am” album release celebration was aired on BET Jazz.

In 2008, Messiah won a BET rap contest and opened up for Janelle Monae at the pre-event for the BET awards in LA that year. His performance was aired on BET Jazz. Following his performance at the BET awards, Messiah and director, Ron Brodie filmed “In the AM”. It was Messiah’s first music video and was recorded in Crown Heights, Brooklyn.

2010 was an impressive year for Messiah. In January, Haiti experienced a massive earthquake and Messiah made it a priority to join the platform to assist after the tragedy. Performing at several benefit concerts, he helped raise more than $15,000 for the survivors of the earthquake along with Wale and others at a Howard University concert. When Sudan had their first democratic election in 24 years, Messiah lent his voice to the cause, recording the song and video, “*BeSokta*”, (meaning ‘with your vote’) with Sudanese rappers in an effort to encourage Sudanese citizens to vote. CNN highlighted the making of the video.

Messiah also featured The Floacist from the renowned duo “Floetry” on one of his newest songs, “Tell me What you Want”, and the pair recorded a video for the song, which was directed by Opiyo Okeyo. His new video, “Come Back To Me”, also directed by Opiyo Okeyo, was featured on Vh1 Centric TV site, as well WKYS for Radio One. The song was also recently featured on Soundtrack for the “Milk and Honey” web series starring Lance Gross, Ms. Debbie Allen and directed by Idris Elba.

Messiah has shared stages with Lupe Fiasco, Stalley, Ledisi, Patti Labelle and also performed at Washington D.C.’s National Martin Luther King Memorial Dedication ceremony where President Obama, Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin and many others shared the program. Messiah has been also been serving as performing artist/moderator for the recent sequence of Celebrity Fatherhood panels organized by NBA veteran Etan Thomas and featuring names such as Styles P, Allan Houston and Amare Stoudemire of the NY Knicks. He also won the 2012 HOT 97 Voter Registration Jam performance contest at Lehman College in the Bronx, NY which was co-hosted by famed actress Rosario Dawson. For his fans in the NYC and DC area, Messiah began organizing a monthly live performance called Messiah & Friends which features live canvas painting, body painting, diverse genre vocal performances, a live band and gallery exhibitions.

Besides his love for his art and performing, Messiah has taught poetry at The Duke Ellington School, conducted regular workshops at Luke Moore Alternative High School, and mentored young men incarcerated at the New Beginnings juvenile detention center. He now does mentoring and facilitates cognitive behavior workshops for young men at Rikers Island jail in NYC. He also hosts a monthly talent showcase at Rikers via the arts, coaching incarcerated male writers between ages 16-19.

His album “The Mission Statement Vol. 2”, which is a marriage of rhyming with spoken word complimented by Brave Boi Band’s live instrumentation alongside some amazing vocalistsis, is now available on Itunes, Amazon, and Sony Digital.


Timothy Donnelly

Author, Associate Director of Writing

Columbia University

Timothy Donnelly is the author of Twenty-seven Props for a Production of Eine Lebenszeit (Grove, 2003) and The Cloud Corporation (Wave, 2010), winner of the 2012 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award. With John Ashbery and Geoffrey G. O’Brien he is the co-author of Three Poets, published by Minus A Press late last year. His poems have been widely translated and anthologized and have appeared such magazines as Harper’s, The Nation, The New Republic, and The Paris Review, among others. He is a recipient of The Paris Review’s Bernard F. Conners Prize and fellowships from the New York State Writers Institute and the Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. He is the poetry editor of Boston Review and teaches in the Writing Program at Columbia University’s School of the Arts.


Monica Miller

Associate Professor of English

Barnard College

Professor Miller specializes in African-American and American literature and cultural studies. Her research interests include twentieth- and -twenty-first-century African-American literature, film, and contemporary art; contemporary literature and cultural studies of the black diaspora; performance studies; and intersectional studies of race, gender, and sexuality.

Her book, Slaves to Fashion: Black Dandyism and the Styling of Black Diasporic Identity, was published by Duke University Press in 2009.  It received the 2010 William Sanders Scarborough Prize for the best book in African American literature and culture from the Modern Language Association; it was shortlisted for the 2010 Modernist Studies Association book prize. Professor Miller is the recipient of grants from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation (2012, 2001), the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture (2004), and Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation (2004). She served as a Term Fellow at Institute for Research in African American Studies, Columbia University (2011-13). She was the recipent of the Gladys Brooks Junior Faculty Excellence in Teaching Award, Barnard College (2008).

Her current work inlcudes Affirmative Actions: Ways to Define Black Culture in the 21st Century, which examines very contemporary black literature and culture from five vantage points (the novel, contemporary art, documentary film, museums/archives, and politics) in order to assess the consequences of thinking of black identity as “post-black” or “post-racial;” and Fyra nyanser av brunt (four shades of brown): Blackness, Browness, Diaspora and Belonging, a multi-genre investigation of multiculturalism, integration, and Afro-Swedishness and its relation to theories of diaspora and diasporic belonging. *Supported by a Andrew W. Mellon New Directions Grant, 2012-2015.*


February 11, 2015 - Posted by | ART, CULTURE, LIFESTYLES, opportunity, We Recommend | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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