Watching today’s inauguration of Donald Trump, I protest as a writer and staunch defender of free speech: Partnering with a transatlanic team, I published Creativity Is Risky: Free Speech in a Charlie Hebdo World, a multimedia e-zine exploring issues ranging from satire’s democratic purpose to government surveillance.
As such, I was proud to attend the June 15, 2017, PEN America rally at the New York Public Library, one of 50 such rallies across the country under the banner of Writers Resist. PEN America is the largest chapter of PEN International, the oldest literary human rights organization in the world.
Coinciding with the birthday of civil rights icon Martin Luther King, Jr., the event featured readings and performances by some of the biggest names in arts and literature. Former U.S. Poets Laureate Rita Dove and Robert Pinsky, and award-winning authors including Masha Gessen, Laurie Anderson, Rosanne Cash, Jeff Eugenides, and Amy Goodman of Democracy Now read from the U.S. Constitution, Dr. King’s sermons, George Orwell’s 1984, the Federalist Papers, and other selections embodying democratic ideals.
Broadway Kids Against Bullying provided one of the most moving performances of the day given Trump’s bullying of countless journalists and other individuals who oppose him. Their performance of the single “I Have a Voice” is below:
Author and PEN America President Andrew Solomon warned the crowd that threats to free speech could be normalized under a Trump presidency, but that PEN will remain on the side of human rights.
“What is most shocking is not how shocked you are right now; what is shocking is how unshocked you will be in six months time,” he said, quoting a south African friend who lived through Apartheid. “I…declare I will remain shocked, that we will remain shocked.”
He speaks below:
As the rally came to a close, participants and audience members delivered PEN America’s pledge to defend the First Amendment — signed by more than 150,000 individuals, including all past U.S. poets laureate — to Trump’s transition team.
Join the #writersresist #freespeech movement by becoming a member of your country’s PEN Center.
Creativity Is Risky: Free Speech in a Charlie Hebdo World, extensively featuring PEN America, can be found on www.sallyodowd.com.