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Announcing the 2017 Freedom Plow Award for Poetry & Activism Finalists!

For further information:
Sarah Browning, Executive Director
(202) 787-5210,

Announcing the 2017 Freedom Plow Award for Poetry & Activism Finalists!

The 2017 recipient and finalists will be recognized at an award ceremony on April 21, 2017.

Split This Rock, the DC-based national non-profit organization dedicated to poetry of provocation and witness, is pleased to announce that Francisco Aragón, Andrea Assaf, JP Howard (aka Juliet P. Howard), and Christopher Soto (aka Loma) are finalists for the Third Biennial Freedom Plow Award for Poetry & Activism. Made possible through the generosity of the CrossCurrents Foundation, the Freedom Plow Award recognizes and honors a poet or poetry collective doing innovative and transformative work at the intersection of poetry and social change. The award recipient will receive $3,000 and extensive attention to their work.

An award ceremony and reading honoring the 2017 Freedom Plow recipient and finalists will be held on Friday, April 21, 6-9 pm, at the Arts Club of Washington, 2017 I Street, NW, Washington, DC. Tickets to the reception and award ceremony are $25 for general admission, $10 for students, and can be purchased via until April 1, 2017. Light refreshments will be served and ASL interpretation will be provided. The event is co-sponsored by the Arts Club of Washington.

Judges for this year’s Freedom Plow Award are Holly Bass, Dawn Lundy Martin, and 2015 Freedom Plow recipient Mark Nowak. The 2017 award finalists are:

Francisco Aragón / Letras Latinas, the literary arts program of the Institute for Latino Studies at the University of Notre Dame
The depth and breadth of Aragón’s work to support Latinx poetry and poets is vital and enduring. Split This Rock is particularly excited by PINTURA: PALABRA, a project in ekphrasis, a multi-year initiative that encourages new Latino writing inspired by art, above all a Smithsonian American Art Museum traveling exhibit titled ‘Our America: The Latino Presence in American Art.’ The project includes ekphrastic writing workshops; inviting writers to engage with the exhibit; and partnering with literary journals to publish portfolios of ekphrastic writing. Letras Latinas blog, with its insightful interviews with Latinx poets, all available for free, is an inestimable resource for poets. Aragón’s work leverages the university’s resources on behalf of a community of poets viewed as marginal by many publishers, critics, and scholars.

Andrea Assaf / Art2Action
Besides the power and energy of this organization, what struck Split This Rock was a conscious balance between using poetry to tell the stories of Iraq and Iraqis in the war and Arab-American experiences broadly, and the way Art2Action uses poetry as a medium of healing for Iraq war veterans. Producing multimedia and multi-genre performances like the spoken-word opera, Eleven Reflections on September, the organization offers audiences an opportunity to sit with the meanings of September 11, 2001 both in Arab-American communities and our shared history.

JP Howard aka Juliet P. Howard / Women Writers in Bloom Poetry Salon
What strikes us about Howard’s projects is that Women Writers in Bloom Poetry Salon is not just a workshop, but a support system for a community of mostly queer women of color. Howard is a non-stop force for promoting poetry by queer women of color and poets who write it; for instance, in her guest editor role for the issue of Sinister Wisdom Journal, BLACK LESBIANS: WE ARE THE REVOLUTION!

Christopher Soto (aka Loma) / Undocupoets and Nepantla: A Journal Dedicated to Queer Poets of Color
Soto’s work to expand qualification for literary prizes to undocumented writers through #Undocupoets is vital. Calling the publishing industry to account by insisting on space for representation of and by undocumented people pushes our culture to expand its own borders. The journal Nepantla, Soto’s current major project, publishes queer poets of color and calls for dialogue on accountability, inclusion, and representation with its readership and poets.

Split This Rock cultivates, teaches, and celebrates poetry that bears witness to injustice and provokes social and personal change. It calls poets to the center of public life and fosters a national network of socially engaged poets. Its programs integrate poetry into public life and supports poets of all ages who write and perform this essential work. Split This Rock’s intent is that the Freedom Plow Award, like its signature biennial poetry festival, will become an essential, enduring part of its mission to promote the growing field of art and social activism on a national level.

The CrossCurrents Foundation promotes social, environmental, and economic justice, focusing where it believes private funding can make a strategic difference to public education campaigns about critical issues. Effective and socially relevant public art is part of its overall effort to increase civic participation.

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