After 13 years of programming and publication, and actively surviving a global pandemic, Split This Rock is entering a fallow season beginning July 1, 2021 and ending April 1, 2022. Fallow land is cultivated land left unplanted for a growing season. To make land fallow is to recognize that soil needs time to rest and regenerate after harvesting abundance. Fallow seasons are about sustainability.
During Split This Rock’s fallow season, staff and board will focus on expanding the organization’s capacity to be fertile and stable ground for working towards liberation, as well as defining more concretely what working towards liberation means at Split This Rock. This time will offer space to tap into deeper wells of creativity so the organization can offer more impactful opportunities for cultivating poetry, building community, and sharpening tools for resistance. Board and staff will have space to more deeply align the organization’s mission with its systems, protocols, and practices. This internal alignment powers our capacity to show up with the greatest integrity in our programs and commitments to community. Some of the projects we will be tending include:
Building strategic plans for Split This Rock’s programming, publications, communications, and other endeavors
Maintaining communication with stakeholders and community members to access valuable input and expertise to help shape Split This Rock’s future offerings
Strengthening the organization’s infrastructure, including significant upgrades to our website, email platform, and donor database
Engaging in consulting processes to guide us in tending to Split This Rock’s internal culture, staffing structure, and leadership model so they more deeply align with the organization’s mission and values
Refining protocols and practices to offer greater support to staff
Formalizing procedures to respond to community needs and current events
Hosting virtual community gatherings to remain tuned in to the needs of those we serve
Continuing fundraising and grant writing efforts to sustain the organization
Split This Rock was born from the brilliant effort, community care, radical imagination, and creative genius of a small group of poet activists with a big dream. That dream has grown immensely since the organization’s founding in 2008, while Split This Rock’s internal resources and staffing level have barely changed – despite efforts to address this challenge. Through facilitated discussion in February and March this year, the organization’s leaders came to clarity that a programmatic pause is needed. It’s time to tend to the field Split This Rock’s founders so tenderly seeded, making sure the soil from which we grow community engagement remains rich. We honor the legacy of our founders and the values that are core to the organization by arriving at this truth: programmatic rest is our bravest political action in this season.
We are being called to more radically embody the interconnected wisdom of the movements that guide us, such as the movements for Black liberation, disability justice, Indigenous sovereignty, and environmental justice. We are grateful for the opportunity to make this bold move – the manifestation of a quiet dream we’ve held in our hearts that allows us to build upon the current health of the organization. As we shared in our staff letter in December 2020, a few of the changes we are committed to at Split This Rock include:
Expanding paid opportunities for artists who teach, publish, and feature at Split This Rock, artists who are largely people of color and often alumni of the Youth Programs
Bringing disability justice principles more fully into the center of the organization’s culture
Cultivating a more supportive and attractive work environment for current and future staff
Adjusting the programmatic load as necessary to match the organization's staffing level
Developing and practicing community agreements that center consent culture and accountability
Though programs will not be hosted during the fallow season, we’re eager to continue engaging with you. You can expect to receive updates on our progress along the way; the first will arrive in August. Fill out this online form to let us know if you’d like to be part of community gatherings we will host to invite your expertise and feedback. Poem of the Week will continue until June 25, 2021, and we hope you’ll keep reading. Visit the fallow season webpage for information about Split This Rock’s programs, ways to contact staff and board during this time, and more.
We believe this is the most courageous and radical work we are called to fulfill. We’ve collected a playlist of poems that are grounding and guiding us in this time, and encourage you to read them below. We are excited about the many possibilities that might manifest and the harvest waiting for us all on the other side of Split This Rock’s fallow season.
Split This Rock is behind the Palestinian community. We mourn the Palestinians whose lives have been lost, whose homes have been destroyed or stolen, whose land is under colonial occupation. Being in solidarity with Palestine is not an act of antisemitism. This is not a conflict, it is genocide. Israel is committing war crimes against Palestinians. This didn’t start last week. It’s been going on for nearly 80 years. We apologize for not saying this sooner: Free Palestine. Free Palestine. Free Palestine.
As part of Split This Rock’s mission to cultivate, teach, and celebrate poetry that bears witness to injustice and provokes social change, we invite you to attend Radius of Arab American Writers (RAWI) Fest where a number of readers and presenters are Palestinian and of the Palestinian Diaspora. We invite you to support their work and hear from them directly. Learn more at RAWI's website.
To learn more about how you can help Free Palestine, check out the following action items and resources recommended from Palestinian community members:
A Message from Interim Executive Director Rasha Abdulhadi
I will be leaving my role at Split This Rock in June. I am grateful to have led with everyone at Split This Rock over the last two and a half years. Some folks may remember that I joined the staff in late 2018 as an interim director—with the expectation even then that an interim role wouldn’t be a halfway thing. It quickly became clear that the transition from a founding director during a time of continued local & national programming, would be more than most folks expect from an interim ED, even before this last pandemic year. It has been an amazing time.
Now that my time is coming to an end, I am honored to have worked with so many amazing people, locally and nationally, during this transformative passage in the life of the organization and in the world. At a time when there is a clear need for change across the whole literary field and in every global structure, I am deeply grateful to have spent the last year with groups of people committed to building practices that match values and commitments. I appreciate having a working home within an organization that embraced change during this portal year rather than defending against it.
As I make plans to shift my own work—back to the South, to organizing, with continued arts and cultural work—I look forward to witnessing, supporting, and learning from the continued transformation work that the community, staff, and board at Split This Rock are leading together.
A Message from Split This Rock's Board of Directors
We, the Board of Directors of Split This Rock, are grateful for Rasha Abdulhadi's service as Interim Executive Director since 2018. In a time of national unrest and an unprecedented global pandemic, their leadership was invaluable.
Succeeding founder Sarah Browning's pioneering effort to build a community of socially justice-inspired poets, Rasha took on an outsized workload beyond the scope of a normal Interim Director, and we were blessed to be held in their capacity and vision. As Split This Rock enters a new era of visioning focused on justice and abundance for our community, as well as strengthening infrastructure and capacity, we will be carrying the momentum Rasha set forward. We know they will continue to have a radical impact on the world and its future.
Please stay tuned for an announcement regarding leadership opportunities with Split This Rock.
Thank you to Rasha for your years of stewarding our community.
Signed, Split This Rock Board of Directors Charles Doolittle, Danez Smith, Dwayne Lawson-Brown, Lauren K. Alleyne, Marlena Chertock, Regie Cabico, Susan Scheid, and Taylor Johnson
Description of Photo of Rasha Abdulhadi: Poet and organizer Rasha Abdulhadi looks directly at the camera. They wear a black fedora and a wine colored blazer and a black and white scarf.
Description of Board Photo Collage: Split This Rock Board members appear in collage above from left to right as follows: Susan Scheid, Regie Cabico, Danez Smith, Charles Doolittle, Lauren K. Alleyne, Marlena Chertock, Taylor Johnson, and Dwayne Lawson-Brown.
Photo of Rasha Abdulhadi by Dina Abdulhadi. Photo of Marlena Chertock by John Consoli. Photo of Lauren K. Alleyne by Adriana Hammond. Photo of Taylor Johnson by Sean D. Henry-Smith.
What we need now is what we've been needing this year and what we've been gathering and making together for many years. Split This Rock's team compiled the resources we've collected from social movements and communities to address the pandemic, uprisings in defense of Black lives, and white supremacist violence. As we prepare for community care, from now to January 20 and beyond, we know our folks will continue to face multiple crises at global, national, and local levels.
We offer these resources in support of anyone seeking personal grounding or working on long-term community safety or emergency plans. These can be used by individuals, friends, pods, families, organizations, classrooms, or communities.
Community Safety Resources: Read, Act, & Connect
Read: Understanding where we are and how we got here
For a projection of contested election scenarios from before November 4, read or listen to "The Election That Could Break America" at The Atlantic's website. Organizers nationwide cautioned us to be ready for rightwing backlash after the election. Please take care of yourself and the folks you're in community with. For background and responses, here is a statement from Chicago organizations, written by Lifted Voices and Black Lives Matter Chicago.
Defund and Abolish: What does it mean to defund police and fund care for people?
Learn more about reform, defunding, and abolition on Critical Resistance's website. Critical Resistance is a national, member-based organization, founded in 1997, that has been led by Black scholars and activists including Angela Davis, Ruth Wilson Gilmore, and others.
"Anti-Asian Violence and Black-Asian Solidarity Today"
A free talk by Tamara Nopper, presented by Asian American Writer's Workshop (AAWW), on "Anti-Asian Violence and Black-Asian Solidarity Today" is available on the AAWW YouTube channel. The video is captioned and has embedded ASL interpretation.
Act: Resources and Tools for safety planning and mutual aid
Emergency Planning for Yourself & Your Folks:
Find a decision tree checklist for preparing for multiple emergencies in the still-relevant community-created "Safety Checklist for November" document. Read and listen to "Planning for Disaster: A Writing Exercise" from Kelly Hayes' Movement Memos podcast. The episode is available online and has a transcript, available at the Truthout website.
Long-term Community Safety Planning:
For a collection of security and safety practices built by years of learning in the streets from Black, Indigenous, and People of Color movements within the U.S., check out Get in Formation at the Vision Change Win website. As you think about how your skills and capacity fit into community work, consider using Building Movement's Social Change Ecosystem Map.
COVID-19 Safety Guides:
Review information from poet and virologist Joseph Osmundson for negotiating safe practices with your household, family, or pod with the Quaranpod checklist. Find practical information for assessing and reducing risk from Covid-19 at the CovidStraightTalk website.
Organizational Safety & Security Infrastructure: Vision Change Win's Community Safety Training series offers organizations the opportunity to develop and deepen their safety and security infrastructure. Learn concrete strategies for identifying and addressing potential risks and developing safety structures that are scaled to the organization’s unique capacity, adaptive to changing conditions, and trauma-informed. For more information, visit Vision Change Win's website.
Resources on Safety for Asian Women & Sex Workers: A list of resources, readings, organizations, and upcoming events and bystander trainings in solidarity with Asian women and sex workers is available at the Barnard Center for Research on Women website.
Connect: Organizations in DC and near you
Mutual Aid Groups:
For a community-based guide for creating neighborhood mutual aid support in your building, on your block, or in your town, check out this mutual aid pod-building document created by Rebel Sidney Black. Whether you can offer support or need it, local food banks and mutual aid funds will be lifelines for millions of people in the coming months. Refer to this article for DC-area mutual aidgroups. To find a food bank in the DC area or near you, visit Feeding America's website.
Take Action to #DefendDC from white supremacist violence:
Join DC residents and organizations calling for Hotels to cancel their reservations and offer paid leave to their staff. Find contact information for businesses, CEOs, and local government officials on the Don't Host Hate resource guide.
Poems in Support of Shared Action
Split This Rock staff offer poem categories in support of public action, grieving, organizing, teaching, or words to start a meeting. In The Quarry, Split This Rock's social justice poetry database, you can find poems by content and author identity.
As the country continues through political, health, and economic crisis while also contending with a persistent and long history of state-sanctioned violence and oppression, we encourage those who visit The Quarry to read and listen to poems on the following themes, tuning in especially to the voices of people of color, LGBTQ people, disabled people, and other people marginalized by society:
Share the Poems Widely and Please Give Credit
We encourage you to use and share these poems widely and ask only that you credit the author and name Split This Rock’s The Quarry: A Social Justice Poetry Database as the source. Please also include a direct link to the database for any reposting of poems. Poets retain all rights to their work. If you want to share a poem from Split This Rock's website for commerical use or republication, please reach out to the poet directly.
Do you have a resource to share? Send a message with a shareable link to email@example.com.
If you have virtual events you'd like to share with the Split This Rock network in the Poem of the Week email newsletter, send us the information via our brief Newsletter Updates Request Form.
If the online form is not accessible to you, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for an alternate method of submission.
Each year we take time to celebrate the poems visited most in The Quarry: A Social Justice Poetry Database. Every list is a way to acknowledge what gets us through challenges, what guides us back to joy and resilience, what connects and affirms us so we continue to show up for one another. In 2020, these reminders are ever more essential. Each week of December this year, we offer 10 Top Poems, 40 in total, to accompany you into 2021. May they be good company now and through the new year!
Top 10 Poems of All Time Ross Gay, Aracelis Girmay, Bianca Lynn Spriggs, Richard Blanco, Saida Agostini, Elexia Alleyne, Kaveh Akbar, Amanda Gorman, Clint Smith, and Fatimah Asghar
10 Top Youth Poems Elexia Alleyne, Marjan Naderi, Taylor Johnson, Kenneth Carroll III, Imani Davis, Lauren May, Ella Jaya Sran, M Kamara, and Maren Lovey Wright-Kerr
Tune in to 10 of the most visited poems since the launch of The Quarry by DC Youth Slam Team alumni, youth poetry contest winners, past afterschool program participants, poetry slam champs, and Teaching Artists of Split This Rock's Youth Programs! Get the full list in the Poems of the Week newslettershared on December 18, 2020 or by visiting the collection in The Quarry.
Top Poems of 2019 Nickole Brown, Gowri Koneswaran, Franny Choi, Shabnam Piryaei, Arisa White, Matt Daly, Jonathan Mendoza, Jessica Jacobs, Deborah Paredez, and Angelique Palmer
Reflect back to poems published in 2019 and take in the 10 most visited that year. Find the full list in the Poems of the Week newsletter shared Friday, December 25, 2020 or visit the collection in The Quarry.
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Header Image Description: A solid black box that includes Split This Rock's red logo at the top, a red ribbon and bow with white accents, and text that says "Split This Rock presents 40 Top Poems From The Quarry: A Social Justice Poetry Database."
In a year when defiantly sharing the critically important truths on our lives, our love, and our resilience has been vital, Split This Rock is delighted to announce its six nominations for the 46th Pushcart Prize. Please join us in celebrating these fierce poets and their incredible words. To access the full poems, visit the 2021 Pushcart Prize special collection in The Quarry: A Social Justice Poetry Database or click the links on the poem titles below.
i grew up with god in my mouth
kept the name between gum & tooth
rolled it around like hard candy
Image Description: The above image is Split This Rock's 2021 Pushcart Prize Nominations announcement which includes the Split This Rock logo and collaged photos of the nominees in two columns with these words between them: Split This Rock, 2021 Pushcart Prize Nominations, and splitthisrock.org. From top to bottom, the left column includes photos of Kyle Dargan, Kimberly Blaeser, and Janice Lobo Sapigao. From top to bottom, the right column includes photos of Cyrée Jarelle Johnson, Mejdulene B. Shomali, and Safia Elhillo.
Photo Credits: Photo of Kyle Dargan by Marlene Hawthrone. Photo of Kimberly Blaeser by John Fisher. Photo of Cyrée Jarelle Johnson by J.D. Stokely. Photo of Safia Elhillo by Aris Theotokatos. All photos used with permission.
Split This Rock is delighted to announce six nominations for the 2020 Best of the Net Anthology. Please join us in celebrating these incredible and necessary poems by reading, listening, and sharing. To access the full poems, visit the 2020 Best of the Net special collection in The Quarry: A Social Justice Poetry Database or click the links on the poem titles below.
do not make me a martyr
make me a history
make me the last one
make me the final name
with all of your might
“Prayer for those who run” by Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha Content Notice: Refers to parental abuse, lgbtqmisia/queermisia & institutionalization
I wish you throwing away the cell the parents bought to track you with.
I wish you the Greyhound,
PATH train, whatever transit you're waiting for
coming on time
and taking you away express with no stops.
to a sudden blue meadow
where the moon tosses light
down on us in
fistfuls, the silent speech of dirt.
Image Description: The 2020 Split This Rock Best of the Net announcement. Nominees appear collaged in two columns with these words between them: Split This Rock 2020 Best of the Net Nominations, www.splitthisrock.org. From top to bottom the poets appear as follows: Left column includes Darius Simpson, Justice Ameer, Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha, Right column includes M Kamara, Natalie Wee, and Noor Ibn Najam.
Split This Rock was founded in fellowship halls and in the streets, and we continue giving attention and solidarity to the streets, to Black organizers in DC and beyond, to the families and communities who are grieving Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, Nina Pop, George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and every Black life taken by a long history of state-sanctioned violence, to lawyers and medics, and those who are sheltering protestors and bailing people out of jail, from Minneapolis, Louisville, Tallahassee, Columbus, Jackson, Los Angeles, New York, Denver, Houston, in major cities and small towns in every state, and to you, wherever you are.
At Split This Rock, we remember that this whole nation is made from stolen Indigenous land and with stolen Black labor. We pay attention to the recent looting of Covid-19 emergency funds -- a looting that represents one of the greatest transfers of wealth in US history and is set to deepen racial inequality for generations. This is the history of looting we remember.
We know that many communities are joining in struggle now. We want to remember that the white supremacist violence visited on so many of our communities goes back to before the founding of this settler colonial nation and that this nation has been anti-Black and anti-Indigenous from before its beginning. We must remember these root causes to really understand the origins of violence against so many of our communities: the escalation of verbal and physical violence visited on Asian American communities during the spread of COVID-19, the cruel disregard for the lives of disabled and chronically ill people during a global pandemic, the genocidal violence against Latinx communities, the continued surveillance and policing of people racialized as Muslim under the Patriot act and the War on Terror, the continued criminalization of all non-white immigrants, legislative and physical violence against women (cis, trans, and nonbinary), the criminal disregard for the ecosystems that sustain us all, and on and on across the frontlines of resistance being held by so many reading these words.
We must remember anti-Blackness and anti-Indigenous violence as root causes in order to protect and nurture each other's liberation. Fannie Lou Hamer, who founded the Freedom Democratic Party in Mississippi when she was excluded from the Democratic party apparatus there, taught us that Nobody is free until Everybody is free.
Our liberation depends on each other.
We invite you to join us to:
Support Black-led Organizations in Washington, DC & beyond
Instead of donating to Split This Rock right now, please give your attention and donations to these Black-led organizations working in literature and community organizing:
What does it mean to defund police and fund care for people?
Learn more about reform, defunding, and abolition on Critical Resistance's website. Critical Resistance is a national, member-based organization, founded in 1997, that has been led by Black scholars and activists including Angela Davis, Ruth Wilson Gilmore, and others.
What We're doing at Split This Rock
We remain committed to actions aimed at undoing oppression. A few of those actions include:
Centering Black voices & reflections on state-sanctioned violence in Split This Rock programs
Reducing social media activity that does not address calls for change, and instead using those channels to amplify the work of Black-led organizing and communities
Continuing our work to cultivate a culture at Split This Rock that confronts & eliminates white supremacist practices, both internally and externally
Continuing to fund programs that feature Black poets and teaching artists and other people of color and that centers their work on all themes
Thank you for the ways you stay connected with and fight for each other's liberation. May we renew our commitment to defend All Black Lives -- including Black women's lives, Black trans lives, and Black disabled lives. May we commit to these lineages of struggle, to each other, and to the land that bears our weight.
Split This Rock is delighted to announce travel scholarship awards to Carmin Wong, leilani portillo, Leticia Hernández-Linares, and torrin a. greathouse. These scholarships, offered for the first time this year in honor of founding director Sarah Browning and with the generous support of her family, support travel and lodging for poets to attend Split This Rock Poetry Festival 2020.
Thank you to everyone who applied! The twenty-two applications we received affirm how needed this funding is. Since January 2019, we've increased scholarship opportunities across all programs--from youth slams to the poetry contest to the Festival. Split This Rock's staff and board are committed to growing the Sarah Browning Travel Scholarship fund as part of this work.
Split This Rock looks forward to welcoming the recipients and all attendees to Split This Rock Poetry Festival (March 26-28, 2020)! For more information about the Sarah Browning Travel Scholarship, please visit Split This Rock's website.
I’ve been so moved and impressed by Split This Rock’s growth and power under Rasha Abdulhadi’s leadership since I passed them the baton almost a year ago. Some of these changes are behind-the-scenes, strengthening systems to ensure Split This Rock’s longevity as a home for activist poets, as a wellspring of hope in these perilous times. I couldn’t be prouder!
When I led Split This Rock, I had many dreams for the work that I could not accomplish, due to financial or time constraints. One was to provide travel funds for low-income poet-activists to attend Split This Rock Poetry Festival. The organization could give out all the scholarships folks requested, but if they didn’t have the funds to travel to DC and stay in our increasingly expensive national capital, they couldn’t attend. It broke my heart when several people scheduled to present at the 2018 fest had to cancel for exactly this reason.
So, I decided to do something about it. I’m excited to join the staff and board of Split This Rock in announcing the Sarah Browning Travel Scholarship Fund. With leadership support from my family, including an incredibly generous contribution by my uncle Charles Browning, we’ve raised $7,000 so far. My goal by the end of the calendar year is $10,000.
Please don’t give to the Travel Fund what you usually give to Split This Rock at year end. The group needs those gifts to support all its regular, kick-ass programming, including the festival itself! But if you are inspired to give more, I’d be honored if you earmarked your additional dollars to the Travel Fund. Imagine the difference it will make! (Also, I’m told by development experts that not many funds are named for women, so I’m tickled that our fund can make a tiny blow to the patriarchy!)
This year has been one of decompression for me, after 16 years of intense organizing (DC Poets Against the War began in 2003). I’m very happily ensconced in Philadelphia now, pursuing an MFA in poetry and creative nonfiction at Rutgers Camden, full time! I miss my huge, raucous DC family, but get down to visit frequently. Wherever you are, wave to me by email at email@example.com or on Facebook or Instagram.
I send love and joy and determination to the gorgeous Split This Rock family everywhere. You inspire me daily.
Sarah Browning is the author of Killing Summer (Sibling Rivalry 2017) and Whiskey in the Garden of Eden (The Word Works 2007). She is a co-founder of Split This Rock and served as its Executive Director from its inception until January 2019. An Associate Fellow of the Institute for Policy Studies, Sarah is the recipient of artist fellowships from the DC Commission on the Arts & Humanities, the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, the Adirondack Center for Writing, and the Creative Communities Initiative. She has been guest editor or co-edited special issues of Beltway Poetry Quarterly, The Delaware Poetry Review, and Poetry magazine. From 2006 until January 2019, Browning co-hosted the Sunday Kind of Love Reading & Open Mic poetry series at Busboys and Poets in Washington, DC. She previously worked supporting socially engaged women artists with WomenArts and developing creative writing workshops with low-income women and youth with Amherst Writers & Artists. She has been an organizer in public housing communities and a grassroots political organizer on a host of social and political issues.