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The World’s Prophetic Voices

Dave Ransom  |  Issue: November | December 2012
Photo: Mohamed Abd-allah
100 Thousand Mimes for Change—(L-R) Mohamed Yosef, Ayat Mohamed, Tamer Gergs, Amgad Yehya, all members of the Esmo Eh ...? Crew for Contemporary Performance Arts, Cairo, Egypt. Scene from the play, "Mimes 4 Family", 1 of 5 performances for 100 Thousand Mimes for Change.

When two poets in a small California town can spark a weekend of 800 coordinated cultural events in 115 different countries, you know there’s a movement under way.

This is year two of that phenomenon, 100 Thousand Poets for Change, held on and around September 29—and the movement is rapidly breaking its bounds, up from 650 events in 95 countries in 2011.

More, it is morphing into a global gathering of artists of every stripe—musicians, painters, actors, photographers, street performers, and the like—calling for change, for global peace and sustainability.

In Cairo this year, it became “100 Thousand Mimes for Change,” when a mime troupe gave a festival of performances in subway stations.

In Mexico, the Colectivo Contra la Violencia, el Arte brought poetry’s prophetic voice to one of Mexico City’s major subway stops, Pino Suarez.

In Macedonia, the country’s leading graphic artists competed to produce posters for the event—and everybody in the country heard about it.

In Lafayette, La.—deep in Cajun country—people heard from the spoken-word troupe Revolution Theory and the St. Martinsville High School Dead Poets Society.

Organizers in Kingston, Jamaica, named their monthlong observance “Tell the Children the Truth” after a Bob Marley song.

In Trinidad and Tobago they were interviewed on the nightly news. The “mainstream” corporate media in the U.S. ignored it entirely.

Of course, 100 Thousand Poets for Change is part of the global movement of, by, and for people to free themselves from the devastating control of corporate capitalists—the global oligarchy.

Last year’s Arab Spring was a breakthrough event in that movement. Occupy Wall Street has been another. The rise of the Green Party in the U.S. is a third.

But the poets and musicians and artists organizing in 100 Thousand Poets for Change bring a special heart and soul to the movement, giving people a prophetic voice.

Putting on these events in country after country took a lot of work. But getting the ball rolling took very little.

In 2011, upset by the state of the world, California poet Michael Rothenberg put up on Facebook an idea that there should be events by “100 Thousand Poets for Change” held on the same day worldwide.

The idea went viral.

What set Rothenberg off, he says, was “wars, economic collapse, the Gulf Oil spill—and people running around as if nothing was happening.”

Rothenberg and fellow poet Terri Carrión live in tiny Guerneville, nestled among the Northern California redwoods. Together they have been the nexus of the movement, with Carrion hosting a website that listed every event and provided city-by-city links.

They emphasize that the only thing asked of local organizers is that they be for change—for peace and sustainability—and that they act collectively.

“What people see is common ground, a vehicle for change,” they say. “They find their activism as an artist. It empowers them, knowing it’s going on all over the world.”

As tweeter “Azulfugaz” put it, “To imagine a better world is to already start changing it.”

In Italy, hundreds of poets took part—in Genoa, Bologna, Rome. Mexican poets spoke out against the endemic violence, reading not only in the capital city but in hard-hit Juarez and Tijuana as well.

Indeed, there were events under the banner of 100 Mil Poetas por el Cambio in 23 Mexican cities—and in 22 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean as a whole.

In the U.S. events were held in 45 states—in Los Angeles in Spanish as well as English, including readings by the Revolutionary Poets Brigade. In Oakland, ex-Poet Laureate of the United States Robert Hass and Beat legend Michael McClure joined the event.

While 100 Thousand Poets for Change events were originally set for September 29, they are continuing and in many localities are morphing into an ongoing, do-it-yourself cultural movement.

For more information, see: www.100tpc.org

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