by Suzanna Urminska and Sam Perduta
Our words carry power—whether as balm or as burnish, our words have the power to come together to form poetry that recalls and reconnects a range of human experiences both personal and political.
This year’s presidential inauguration was made especially memorable when our country’s first-ever Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman recited "The Hill We Climb". Gorman’s presence and poise was made all the more powerful given the long line of poets who came before her – poets whose expressions of hope and reflection are inextricably connected to the commitments for social justice and movement building. Frances Ellen Watkins Harper and Alice Dunbar Nelson are two examples of Philadelphia women who are featured in the Making Her Mark: Philadelphia Women Fight for the Vote exhibit and whose poetry and prose were intertwined with their work as activists dedicated to voter enfranchisement.
Their words will be among those featured on Thursday, April 8 as part of the live digital reading event, Making Her Mark Spotlight: Poetry and Movement Building. In addition to historical poems read by guest readers, we will also feature contemporary Philadelphia poets such as Autumn Konopka, Marissa Johnson-Valenzuela, Angel Hogan, and Maleka Fruean who will share their own pieces on movement building.
Are you interested in sharing your poems that relate to voter enfranchisement and activism? Please email Suzanna Urminska at urminskas @ freelibrary.org by Wednesday, April 7 and include 1-3 original poems along with your name, email address, and phone number to be considered as a community reader. Please note, space is limited and you will be contacted the day of the event if you are selected.
The Literature Department of the Free Library has a vast poetry collection, as well as literary essays and biographical information on poets throughout history. This includes first editions, as well as modern, complete collections of poetry by Frances Ellen Watkins Harper and Alice Dunbar Nelson. Please visit freelibrary.org/lit to see booklists, digital resources, as well as other poetry and literature related events, and please be sure to check out the Making Her Mark booklist in our catalog.
Making Her Mark: Philadelphia Women Fight for the Vote exhibit, is now available for in-person visits at Parkway Central Library’s West Gallery at 1901 Vine Street. Vistors can schedule weekday afternoon walkthroughs of the exhibition free of charge via Eventbrite. Making Her Mark is curated by Jennifer Zarro, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Instruction, Tyler School of Art and Architecture, Temple University, with Suzanna Urminska. For more information, visit freelibrary.org/exhibitions.