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Poetry Insurgency Strikes 3 Events at Once

On the fourth "anniversary" of the War in Iraq yesterday, DC guerrilla poets represented the insurgency in three venues simultaneously: a vigil for fallen soldiers and civilians at Georgetown University; the GPI's regularly scheduled 3rd Monday lyrical ambush in DuPont Circle; and "Reflections in War, Visions for Peace: Artist Perspectives on Four War Years," an event at Busboys & Poets co-sponsored by Iraq Veterans Against the War; as well as Code Pink Women for Peace; DC Poets Against the War; and the Institute for Policy Studies.

At Georgetown University, Guerrillas kicked off an evening boasting strong turnout despite cold & rainy weather conditions during an event held outside. John Baker from George Washington University, who crossed town to raise consciousness at a neighboring university, described the event as "a vigil to honor all of those who have died in the Iraq war, both Iraqi and American." Laila performed Jihad, Mo performed his poem Billy, Kristen sang and played flute on Wade in the Water, and John held it down on the djembe.  John also noted that "there was a lot of media coverage there. We were filmed and interviewed by the student press. All in all, a very successful and meaningful event. Hell, I even got my republican girlfriend to come out!"  [Update: The group was featured on the front page of The Georgetown Hoya, the main campus newspaper, which included a photo specifically identifying Mo in the caption.]

Meanwhile, Jess reported that "the vibe at our regular 7-9pm open mic in Dupont Circle was bumpin'. The GPI grew in ranks as new folks of different strokes raised their voices and hearts to share beautiful rhymes, melodies, and beats with all who passed by. Special shout out to Dori and Keith–two new heads who ripped up the mic rap-style and added a little guitar to the mix. Johanna's drum skills were at all-time high. Big ups to Jess, Damian, Chris Otten, and Lyndi for their freestylin' skills. And we heard some new songs rockin' from Shahid and Jeff, to note just a couple. An extraordinary juggler came out to show off some skills as we jammed the night away together. Special thanks to the man with the plan and the drums in his hands (and a big ol' soccer fan) Chris Menocal for makin' it happen. This was one of the most inspired lyrical ambushes of all time. See y'all out there again on Monday, April 2, 7-9pm."

Finally, at the event at Busboys & Poets, guerrilla poet Cesar Maxit sat on a panel of artists against the war, before Shahid took the stage to host an open mic following the discussion. According to Cesar, "the 7pm panel of artists against the war included an elder working with the Institute for Policy Studies; moderator Melissa from DC Poets Against the War; a mother/son duo (he’s an Iraq vet whose powerful poetry transformed him to a pained vet struggling with suicide and his mother who reads his poetry to Congresspeople); and Andy Shallal, owner & muralist of Busboys & Poets, who spoke about the power of art in history. I explained my background of having been born in Argentina in a democracy and left the hospital under a military dictatorship. I tried to connect the anti-war movement with the anti-militarism movement, making connections to School of the Americas Watch. I showed a "curious george w" mask and outfit that I built, a Pentagon "stop" sign series and a few other large "peaces" and anti-war works that use clever humor for messaging and speak to a youthful urban audience." Cesar finished by asking his co-panelists to hold to their face a series of signs (including a giant "$" sign, a "6" sign and several sniper scope signs doubling as zeroes) depicting how the Pentagon’s $600,000,000,000 budget targets all of us.

The discussion also explored the artists' feelings towards academics disregarding political art as true art. Cesar responded that "art is an expression of life, and that our lives as Americans and Iraqis (to varying degrees) are affected by war and our art reflects that…and who are they to tell the people what art is anyways? One woman in the audience rightly pointed out that all art has political values associated with it and as an example gave Norman Rockwell’s white, middle class, suburban life series."

While hosting the open mic, Shahid was happy to welcome to the microphone guerrillas Cesar and Erica, who tag-teamed an acoustic version of Boom, Kah-Plowee, as well as Damian. In addition, members of DC Poets Against the War; Code Pink; the Hip-Hop Caucus; and Iraq Veterans Against the War all graced the microphone, building an evening of inspired and insightful poetry that sent the audience home energized and excited.

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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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