Freedom Plow Award for Poetry & Activism
Important Update: Split This Rock will enter a fallow season on July 1, 2021, and all of our external programming and publishing efforts are on pause until April 1, 2022. We’re excited for time to dig into deeper wells of creativity for: 1) expanding the organizations’ capacity for working towards liberation; 2) defining more concretely what working towards liberation means at Split This Rock; 3) increasing the impact of our poetry, resistance, and community building offerings; and 4) more deeply aligning the organization’s mission with its systems, protocols, and practices. Learn more about the inspiration, projects, and goals for fallow season at the News from Split This Rock webpage. Visit the fallow season webpage to explore responses to frequently asked questions. We’re eager to continue engaging with you! To be invited to fallow season community gatherings we’ll be hosting, be sure to complete this online form.
About the Award & Ceremony
The Freedom Plow Award for Poetry & Activism, made possible through the generosity of the CrossCurrents Foundation, recognized and honored a poet or poetry collective doing innovative and transformative work at the intersection of poetry and social change. Our hope was that the prize, like our biennial poetry festival, would become an essential, enduring part of our legacy promoting the growing field of art and social activism on a national level. Also like the festival, the Freedom Plow Award for Poetry & Activism was presented every other year.
Recipients received $3,000, a beautifully designed award, and extensive attention to their work. We celebrated the selected recipient and finalists at a gala ceremony and reading.
The name of the award is drawn from "Freedom's Plow," a poem by Langston Hughes:
The plow plowed a new furrow
Across the field of history.
Into that furrow the freedom seed was dropped.
The name also resonates with “Keep your hand on the plow, hold on,” from the Freedom Song, “Eyes on the Prize.”
Previous Recipients & Projects
The inaugural award was presented in 2013 to Eliza Griswold for her work gathering, translating, and publishing the folk poems of Afghan women, who often write despite great risks to their personal safety. The inaugural ceremony also honored the four finalists: Jorge Agueta, poet and Director of Talleres de Poesia; Elana Bell, poet and educator with Seeds for Peace and Poets in Unexpected Places; Tim Z. Hernandez, poet and creator of "All They Will Call You"; Wang Ping, poet and Director of Kinship of Rivers. Photos and the video slideshow from the 2013 ceremony can be viewed at Blog This Rock, along with a write up on the evening.
The 2017 award was presented to Christopher Soto (aka Loma) for his work supporting queer homeless youth and voices of undocumented poets through his #Undocupoet Campaign. The three finalists, Andrea Assaf, founding Artistic Director of Art2Action; Francisco Aragón, Director of Letras Latinas; and JP Howard aka Juliet P. Howard, founder and curator of Women Writers In Bloom Poetry Salon, were also celebrated and presented during the ceremony. Reflections on the ceremony, with photos and video, are available on our blog.