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Archive for April, 2006

Lyrical Ambushes + Performances + Workshops @ Wells College in Aurora, NY

Saturday, April 29th, 2006

Written by Kristen Arant

We embarked on nearly a half day total of road tripping to bring tools of resistance and inspiration to Wells college in tiny Aurora, NY. On the way there – myself and other members of the early crew (including Laurie Blair and Joe Kennedy) indeed tripped on the sunshine of the day and the ease of leaving early. We stopped for a moment at a grassy area near a sewage plant (of all things) to chat, create a spinning vortex, play leapfrog and do cartwheels – all of which helped contribute to the feeling of freedom upon leaving the sometimes dregs of Washington, DC and arriving on a campus where doors are kept unlocked, minds and voices are freely expressed, and where the students come to class in barefeet and pajamas.

Soon enough, however, we discovered that some of this euphoric freedom was slipping into the past for Wells College students, many of whom were bitterly completing their first year of official co-edness on a campus that had been historically all-female since 1868. Our host, Ednie Garrison, the chair of the women studies department, explained the significance of that transition to the group upon greeting us on Thursday morning. Here we were, 6 men and 2 women of the GPI on a campus dripping with tension around this enormous change. Further, I found out there had been 3 sexual assaults on campus already, even though only 30 men had entered the walls of Wells since the fall. The men, vastly outnumbered and hoping to find their place in the midst of an uprising, seemed mostly to support the women’s expressions of anger and rage against the machine – which in this case happened to be the Board of Trustees – which went about the process of co-edizing the campus with a lack of consideration for the vehement protests of the women who had come to Wells specifically because it offered them the privilege of a single-sex education.

I was surprised at every corner. Surprised that many of the strongest, most outspoken women on campus gave us nothing but sincere hospitality, hosted us right alongside Ednie regardless of our largely male component. Surprised by the fractures in such a small student population – the upper classwomen ranging from resigned to upset to totally pissed off about the change, and the female freshmen taking quite a bit of slack for being the first group of women to be admitted onto a co-ed campus. Most of all, though, I was shocked at the level of maturity of the students. Regardless of the tension, the women treated one another with due respect as far as the eye could see — they seemed to have a reverence for debate, for the power of holding one’s own opinion, and all seemed to at least agree that the BOT went about the change sloppily at best – and at most, with utter disregard for the feelings of Wells students.

The most moving moments of the weekend for me involved seeing these young women in action – they voiced opinions without shyness, expressed themselves (even the quiet ones) clearly and gave me so much hope and inspiration for women’s power. Our first guerrilla event was a workshop on Thursday night that began after Shahid’s parlor talk on free speech vs. hate speech – what an incredible image from the balcony – Mo and I watched a room full of engaged women and marveled at their attention and devotion to the subject matter. Afterwards, Joe Kennedy was hastily setting up for his workshop and, seeing him a little stressed and frazzled, I persuaded him to go outside with me and drum for the sunset over the lake for 5 minutes. On the way out, I touched Christylz and encouraged him to troop everyone outdoors — I could just feel that this was to be an outdoors event. As the sun went down, Joe and I engaged about 5, then 12, then 15 students in a drumming and chanting frenzy that including one student’s reading a rivetting poem on rape and race – Patricia – she’ll never leave my mind – her strength set the tone for what was next. We moved indoors for a poetry workshop where leaders Shahid and Laurie inspired students to write on the co-ed experience. They were more than ready. In less than an hour we produced more than 10 collaborative poems (ie: 1-3 lines written per person and then passed to the next). Each one was a model of strength and expression.

We decided to ambush the next day’s BOT “tea party” with an insurgency.

And we did it!

The stuffy starchy BOT’s thought it was very cute at first to see these women stand on top of a chair and read their poems to the beat of the drums – but soon they were paralyzed by the words:


A trail of hypocrisy
Blazed through this sanctuary
Our history stripped of its safety
Tears for times past that were stolen from me
Trying to force things that will never be
Women learning bout their rights
With Minerva standing watch over our nights
The sycamore tree streching out its braches
Embracing us and our identities
Shattered was the glass that we saw sitting half-empty
And couldn’t wait to fill


I must mention the trust these women showed us, in their tender environment. Not used to being around men, they spent time around our group of mostly men, and I saw my role ironed out neatly which was to support them, encourage them, empower them. But in all honesty I felt some of the men in our group could’ve stepped up to the plate more by backing off more and letting them shine through.

Our performance on Friday night gave voice to 7 young women who chose each to read a collaborative poem from our workshop in front of a live audience of their peers. They were nervous, yet excited and as I went to stage them I could see what it meant for them to give voice to their frustrations. I wanted the men in our group to help clear a path for them, but felt that some of our less professional behavior might have confused them. I can’t say for sure – obviously they were strong – but I was too at that age, yet still wanted to be accepted, wanted to be included, wanted to be liked.

Regardless, I feel we fulfilled a need that was much deeper than what we expected. We stepped in to inspire and hold space for the young women at Wells to have their voices heard. We gave them a piece of knowledge about resistance and art that I know will stay with them. Several of the women plan to create a drum circle, and others want to begin using art and poetry as resistance on a regular basis. I just can’t believe the grace handed to us in this experience.

Upon leaving – again with the early crew which included Joe and myself – we brought the energy of Friday night’s performance into the wilderness, stopping in the vast, dark, starlit night to get out of the car and look around for once. I could barely control my breath or tears – it was the most appropriate metaphor for the entire experience – seeing beyond myself – ourselves – into the light of others.

Notes from Sunday, April 23, 2006

Sunday, April 23rd, 2006

Untitled document

ATTENDEES: Shahid, Damien, Josh, Shahid, Chris, Gustav, Fadi, Jess, Sam, Ellie, JoAnn, Juliana, Mo


Agenda:             Fadi (request help from LB if needed)

Facilitator:            Fadi



Performance @ “Take back the mic” Event at the University of Maryland

Friday, April 21st, 2006

Written by Jessica Philie

WoGPI (the Women of GPI, otherwise known as “GPIGs”) took back the mic at the Feminist Activists of Maryland’s “Take Back the Mic” show hosted by Julie Lipson at University of Maryland, College Park. Students, teachers, parents, and kids filled up a large conference room in St. Mary’s Hall on Friday evening, April 21, 2006, to enjoy a show with cause: the show honored “Take Back the Night,” a campaign that raises awareness about violence against women and furthers women’s liberation, especially freedom of movement; “Take Back the Mic” was also a fund-raiser for the Elise Martin Crosby (EMC) Fund, which provides educational scholarships to survivors of domestic violence in the Washington, DC metropolitan area.

WoGPI had a 15-20 minute set. Cherie Latson kicked it off with “Bitch” (not necessarily its title, but it’s what we remember after we hear it); she had to get some clearance from the parents in the audience to make sure swearing was okay–it really can’t be done without the swearing. So after the “pow! we’re here” start, we heard poems from Laila Sheeren Sakr and Laurie Blair about the struggle for survival in ravished nations and underserved populations, as well as women’s empowerment. Then all of WoGPI present, the three already mentioned and Jessica Philie, Juliana Landim, and Kristen Arant, did their group piece “Fight for Our Rights.”

Previously performed at a February YWDEP fundraiser, “Fight for Our Rights” includes 5-6 voices (with potential to expand) with a drum and speaks to the struggle, frustration, hope, personalities, and determination of women fighting for equal rights. It honored the spirit of the event and made people clap and sing along. Mo Alem and Shahid Buttar of the GPI came out to support. Non-GPI acts of note included an awesome youth jump roping team, a mini open mic featuring an impressive little university jam band (who apparently threw their act together very last minute for the event–very GPI), and Anais Mitchell, a beautiful singer from Vermont.

Julie Lipson is a student at UMD and wrote a thesis about “Take Back the Mic.” She was also the intern for Kristen Arant’s Young Women’s Drumming Empowerment Project (YWDEP). WoGPI had a good time working with her and performing at UMD.

Lyrical Ambush + Performance @ “Spiral” Event in Richmond, VA

Saturday, April 15th, 2006

Written by Damian

I think I’ma chill and just rock with the rhythm
I’m chillin’ in the same pair of denim
I was in when we had first all piled in the SUV
The Confederacy was our destiny
But tryin’ to leave DC
was both ercsome and silly. How many
Guerrillas does it take to get out of the city?
Well, clearly more than five; that’s how many we had.
We cleared our minds when we first got in the van
But damn, that shouldn’t matter; I been crazy for years
So none of us panicked. The van could smell fear
When what should appear? Signs for 395!
I don’t know how we found it, and frankly I’m still surprised
We felt high as gas prices, nice as ice.
Richmond, Virginia: full steam ahead
Munchies of all kinds; all shapes sizes and wrappin’s
Music and the stupidest chattin’
To ever happen
The fact we arrived at all is minor and yet miraculous
Rebel flag in front of us; Heck’s Angels in back of us
That, and more than half of us was burnt to a crisp
But once we got settled, we were ready to spit
The order was me, Gustav, Jeff, and Sha
And on ‘American Dream’ Brendon would guest star
Baby bwoi when it was time, we fell in sinc with the drums
And I was screamin’ ‘Dark Chocolate’ at the top of my lungs
Amongst fire spinners, belly dancers, phantasmagoria
Chillin in the alley, watchin’ for Crown Victorias
Family, it was glorious. I wish y’all coulda seen it.
When I say that, I mean it. You wouldn’t f*****’in believe it
Later in the evening…we got a little mic time
Other cats was spittin’ what I would consider tight rhymes
None of ’em was like mine, but that’s another matter.
When Guerrillas left the microphone, it was in tatters
Shattered to little pieces, but the evening was young
We was all a bit exhausted, but we’d only begun
Riding back to DC was easy, freestylin’
We parted with Brendan, dropped off the SUV at Budget
Guerrilla Road Trippin’: Can’t do nothin’ but love it

Lyrical Ambush @ The Smithsonian and the National Mall

Saturday, April 1st, 2006

Written by Hawah on Saturday, 4/1/06

Today’s insurgency was monumental, pun intended. People were representing from all around the world. There were folks from Korea, India, Canada, Texas, and New York (to name only the ones I had a chance to build with inbetween rhyming sets), all exposed, in-depth to the growing number of guerillas. Why travel overseas to reach out to an international audience, when you can go to the Smithsonian metro stop and meet thousands and thousands, coming from around the globe, to see what truly exists in the heart of babylon. We exist–here–and today was affirmation that OTHERS Need To Hear US, and know that we need not be afraid, to speak… dissent is no longer enough… we must all rise UP… We’re re-writing the books and today TOOK… the museum to the streets.

The DC Guerrilla Poetry Insurgency (GPI) is an anti-authoritarian, collaborative, pro-humanity artists' collective incorporating music, rhythm, spoken word, community and resistance.

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