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A Letter from Founding Director Sarah Browning

My dear comrades in hope,

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 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 appears outdoors while hiking. She wears an orange blouse and smiles toward the camera.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. 

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