Poetry &: Worker Writers School
Brooklyn Bridge Park, May 1, 2023
Monday, May 1, 2023, 8 pm
Brooklyn Bridge Park
Emily Warren Roebling Plaza
Brooklyn, NY 11201
In celebration of May Day, join us in Brooklyn Bridge Park for an evening of readings and projections with the Worker Writers School and the Illuminator. An organization that promotes poetry by unionized, working-class poets, the Worker Writers School has long been interested in light as an ephemeral publishing medium, a poignant form of public engagement that aligns with the strategies of the art-activist collective the Illuminator. For this event, new cinquain poems, filmed by Betye Arrastia Nowak, will be projected onto the bridge, and poets from Domestic Workers United, New York Taxi Workers Alliance, Street Vendor Project, and more will read their work.
Now a source of civic pride and an icon of the city, the Brooklyn Bridge has a more complicated history as a deadly workplace for low-wage, immigrant workers. The site provides an opportunity on International Workers Day to reflect on how labor struggles have changed today. Here, the projected light poems can be a beacon to passersby, a call to unite, and a guerrilla-like action to inspire connection and change. Harkening back to many artworks, commissions, and special projects in Dia’s nearly fifty-year history, the medium of light itself—in this case, industrially generated and deployed with the backdrop of the Manhattan skyline after sunset—invites a meditation on time.
Combined with a chance to hear from and speak with the poets themselves, this one-night-only event offers a space to assess the impact of our words and actions on the built environment, in dialogue with site workers of the past. This partnership with two worker-run artist collectives—the Worker Writers School and the Illuminator—spotlights the expansiveness and creativity of solidarity.
In case of inclement weather, the reading will take place on Saturday, May 6, 2 pm, in the Dia Chelsea Program Space.
About the artists
Shanika Anderson is a preschool teacher, wife, and mother to a sweet three-year-old boy. An activist, singer, and new participant in the Worker Writers School, she lives in the Bronx.
Thomas Barzey was born and raised in the Bronx and holds a BS in criminal justice from Mercy College, Dobbs Ferry, New York. He has worked as an office assistant, stage manager, and home health aide and is an actor with the Public Theater, New York. He has performed his poems at Berl’s Brooklyn Poetry Shop; Parachute Literary Arts’ Walt Whitman bicentennial celebration, Brooklyn; and the People’s Forum, New York.
Kerl Brooks is a member of Domestic Workers United. She has worked as a code enforcement officer, meter reader, nursery-school teacher, nanny, and home health aide. Originally from San Fernando, Trinidad and Tobago, she resides in Castroville, Texas. Her poems recently appeared in Coronavirus Haiku (2021).
Nelson Estabon Chimilio was born and raised in the South Bronx and has experience in nonprofits, community arts projects, workshop facilitation, and professional development. He has a BA in theater and communications and has performed at Carnegie Hall, HERE Arts Center, Lincoln Center, the National Black Theatre, and Nuyorican Poets Cafe, all New York. His poems have been published in Coronavirus Haiku (2021).
Lorraine Garnett is from Jamaica and lives and works in Brooklyn as a nanny. She has worked as a preschool teacher, afterschool supervisor, and summer camp activities director. Her poems are featured in Coronavirus Haiku (2021), Good Cop/Bad Cop (2021), and I Can’t Breathe: Poetic Anthology of Fresh Air (forthcoming). She has read at venues including the Crush Reading Series at Woodbine, New York; Dia Beacon, Beacon, New York; PEN World Voices Festival, New York; Wizard’s Wardrobe, Albany, New York; and Workers United Film Festival, New York.
Davidson Garrett is a poet, actor, and retired yellow cab driver. A native of Louisiana and resident of Manhattan for half a century, he is the author of two poetry collections and four chapbooks, including his latest book, Cabaletta: Poems of a New York City Taxi Driver (2022). Garrett has been a member of the Worker Writers School for ten years.
Seth Goldman was born in Brooklyn, raised in Queens, and has a bachelor’s degree from City College of New York. He worked as a junior high school English teacher but has spent most of the past four decades as a taxi driver and is a member of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance. Goldman has read his poems at Berl’s Brooklyn Poetry Shop and the Nuyorican Poets Cafe, PEN World Voices Festival, and Union Square Farmers Market, all New York.
Leslie Kaup is a farmer, activist, writer, hospital cook, and executive board member of SEIU Healthcare Minnesota & Iowa. Based in Minnesota, she works a small farm that grows hazelnuts, apples, berries, and mushrooms. In her free time, Kaup works for human rights and environmental justice, plants trees, and writes poems, which she has been doing since childhood.
Christine Yvette Lewis is a leader and organizer with Domestic Workers United (DWU). As a worker-leader and multidisciplinary performance artist, Lewis has pulled from her Calypsonian roots and from skills as a steel-drum player, spoken word artist, author, and poet to share her message and build power. She has spoken out on initiatives like the Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights and has helped organize a partnership between DWU members and the Public Theater’s Public Works productions of Shakespeare in the Park.
Alando McIntyre was born in Kingston, Jamaica, and resides in Brooklyn. He joined the Worker Writers School when he was a cashier at a Golden Krust Caribbean Bakery. He earned his BA in accounting from Baruch College, City University of New York. McIntyre has read his poems at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe and PEN World Voices Festival, both New York. His poems were recently published in Coronavirus Haiku (2021).
Olivia Murphy was born and raised in New York. An actress, musician, and ever a student, she has recently delved into teaching artistry, working with organizations like People’s Theatre Project and Public Works at the Public Theater, both New York.
Kelebohile (Kele) Nkhereanye is a street-food vendor, food-justice activist, community chef, and community leader in Brooklyn. An immigrant from Lesotho, she is a retired New York City Transit Authority station agent, member of Brooklyn Community Board 5, and founder of Soil Afrika Global. She has read at Berl’s Brooklyn Poetry Shop, the Nuyorican Poets Cafe, PEN World Voices Festival, and Union Square Farmers Market, all New York.
The Worker Writers School, founded and directed by Mark Nowak, organizes and facilitates poetry workshops with global trade unions, workers’ centers, and other progressive labor organizations. These workshops create a space for participants to reimagine their working lives, nurture new literary voices directly from the global working class, and produce new tactics and imagine new futures for working-class social change. The Worker Writers School has run workshops with Domestic Workers United (DWU) in New York, National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) in Port Elizabeth and Pretoria, Voice of Domestic Workers (VoDW) in London, Indonesian Migrant Workers Union (IMWU-NL) in Amsterdam and The Hague, and the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC).
The Illuminator is an art-activist collective comprised of visual artists, educators, filmmakers, and technologists living and working in New York. The collective has staged hundreds of projection-interventions in public spaces, transforming the street from a space of passive consumption and transit into a site of engagement, conflict, and dialogue. Its work calls attention to the many urgent crises that confront us, in support of the ongoing struggle for a more just, peaceful, and sustainable world.Audio: Poetry &: Worker Writers School