An Introduction to Our Cultural Equity Process
October 12th, 2020

Our work at Poets Reading the News and our solidarity with Black Lives Matter and other movements for peace, justice, and equality are fundamentally linked. This cultural equity statement comes from years of inquiry and a deep dedication to transparency around these aims.

Our equity framework takes into account that we all have valuable stories and contributions while also recognizing that participating in the poetry and journalism worlds can come with significant barriers, including financial, institutional, and historical barriers, and that we as an organization have a responsibility to do all we can do to break down those barriers.

Consider this a living document to guide our conversations and path forward, as we are open to making changes that will further support our cultural equity goals. In that spirit, we are open to your comments and feedback. Please email us at editors@poetsreadingthenews.com. We appreciate the concern and passion of our community and are grateful to you for your involvement in this wild dream of a project – uniting poetics and journalism.

In solidarity,

Elle Aviv Newton
J Spagnolo

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Our Mission

Poets Reading the News enacts poetry’s vital cultural function as a means to process and learn about current events.

Our Vision and Platforms

Poets Reading the News nurtures poetic community dialogue, reflection and healing in response to the news through poetry publishing, live events, educational classes, and community building.

Our Cultural Equity Framework

We have long been driven by our support of cultural equity, which we define as embodying the values, policies, and practices that ensure that all people—including but not limited to those who have been historically underrepresented based on race/ethnicity, age, ability, sexual orientation, gender, socioeconomic status, geography, citizenship status, or religion—are represented in our support of poets and arts workers, our development of programming, and our nurturing of accessible, thriving venues for expression; along with a fair distribution of resources. This work has always been integral to our mission and vision, which is fundamentally about healing, dialogue, and reflection. Nevertheless, we know we have a lot more work to do. The actions we have taken in the past have not always been formalized and we have not always offered opportunities for transparency. We have not done all we can to support communities that have been made vulnerable. We will be taking the following actions and keeping you informed of our progress:

1. Publishing

There has never been a place for hate speech or bigotry in the poetry that we publish or in any space that Poets Reading the News hosts, whether that’s behind the screen or in person. While this has always been our policy, we have now made this more transparent wherever we meet and wherever our submission guidelines are listed. We are actively seeking out and uplifting words from poets of diverse backgrounds, including writers of color and Black writers, international writers, poor writers, LGBTQ* writers, disabled writers, and others who can speak directly to their own lived experiences of oppression or marginalization. We consider privilege carefully when reviewing work. We commit to having discussions about privilege and oppression with all editors we work with and will do all we can to ensure that we have an editorial room full of anti-oppressive intellects, and we commit to making more explicit our value system as we onboard new people, including with trainings, discussions and readings.

2. Leadership

Poets Reading the News was founded and has been led by two white people. We acknowledge that leading this organization has been an act of privilege, as we have benefited from the support of our families, our educations, and the institutional inroads that white privilege unfairly allows. We pledge to increase our leadership team with a board that represents our diverse audience. We humbly ask our community to participate with nominations to help us find the right people. We will share a nomination form out soon after releasing this document. As this organization evolves, we fully welcome the input of our diverse community and look forward to learning from the wisdom of an incredible and newly-formed board of directors.

3. Financial Access

Since our founding, we have offered the vast majority of our events for free or with a sliding scale entrance to ensure that nobody is turned away for lack of funds. We come from a history of offering free submissions, and while we have had to migrate to Submittable, a paid platform, we have kept the general fee low. We have also recently added an option for those who need to to access a no-cost submission form, with no questions asked. All submissions get the same treatment by our editors, regardless of the ability to pay.

4. Accessibility

Another point of growth is to make our content more accessible – while we have often offered transcripts and captions for our audio and visual content, we haven’t done so exclusively, and commit to offering more captions. Most of our content is text based, which is accessible to a large audience. As we move to print publishing, we will be able to share the work with a wider audience, as well.

5. Land acknowledgement

We acknowledge that we gather as guests on the traditional land of the Chochenyo-Ohlone people past and present, and honor with gratitude the land itself and the people who have stewarded it throughout the generations. We will now start every event we have with a land acknowledgement, share it online, and also strive to partner with and support indigenous organizations and people.

6. Resource sharing

The main resource we have to share is visibility. We will more readily share our social media platforms with poets and organizations representing communities that have historically been underrepresented in journalistic and poetic venues. We will continue offering Black and Indigenous poets who perform with us an honorarium for their time. We will continue to be creative in the partnerships we form, looking for organizations that are aligned, uplifting, emerging, underrepresented, and truthful voices. We will continue to use all of our platforms, especially the poetry we publish, as an outlet to support the fervent and beautiful social justice movements of our time.