OMAHA (CN) – Authors around the nation and world joined the millions of women who protested the incoming Trump administration, organized by a group called Writers Resist, whose events stretched as far as London, Berlin and Hong Kong.
In Omaha and several other cities the events were postponed until Inauguration Day, because of an ice storm that shut down cities across the Midwest.
Writers Resist said its protests were meant to “defend the ideals of a free, just and compassionate democratic society.” The group came together after poet Erin Belieu posted a call to action in a Facebook post six days after the election.
“We will come together and actively help make the world we want to live in,” Belieu wrote. “We are bowed, but we are not broken.”
The flagship event, on Jan. 15, was co-sponsored by the nation’s most prominent authors group PEN America. More than 2,000 supporters gathered outside the Fifth Avenue Public Library, along with former U.S. Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky, authors Cheryl Strayed, Michael Cunningham, Francine Prose, Meg Wolitzer and others.
In Omaha, Belieu’s hometown, the inauguration day event was organized by Matt Mason, a poet.
“I’ve been excited to see the Writers Resist movement spring up so quickly,” Mason said in an interview. “There’s a lot of frustration and a lot of concern about civil liberties, so having a way to focus attention on compassion, equality, free speech, and social justice is something we need and something writers have a history of championing.”
The tone and subjects of the Omaha event were reflective and broad, with writers testifying to their experiences living as a racial minority or homosexual in America, rather than focusing on specific grievances about Cabinet nominations and inflammatory tweets.
But given the dark and combative inaugural address given earlier in the day, and the news that the Trump administration intends to abolish the National Endowment for the Arts, it was hard to ignore the somber response to the incoming administration.
Otis Twelve, a novelist, poet and popular local radio host, read a limerick he wrote about Trump for the occasion, saying that it could have been much “filthier.”
“The art of writing, like any art, is best practiced on the edge,” Twelve said in a more serious moment a few days before the event. “Writers Resist is about this strange edge we find ourselves on in this new era. In a time when truth seems to be devalued, writers can tell the stories of the truth we are in danger of losing.”
Writing as a form of cultural conscience was a theme of the night — along with the expectation that many groups will be looking for catharsis in the coming years.
“Artists have always been the frontline guardians of the freedom of speech,” said Bart Vargas, a visual artist and teacher from Bellevue, Nebraska. “Artists have a great responsibility to their culture and all of humanity to make the works we make. Artists must be the voice of their generation, to make the voices of all heard, not just the voices of those in power, but the voices of all.”
Most of the Writers Resist events were held on Jan. 15 to honor the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. About 80 people attended the Omaha event.