'Tis a Pun Salad nearly-annual tradition to look at
how the University Near Here will be
celebrating Martin Luther King Day. As I type, UNH's
announcement of the 2017 festivities is
here. It's pretty
sketchy, no mention of the traditional church service, candlelight
vigil, or other activities. As usual UNH's MLK Celebration is held nowhere
near the actual MLK day (January 16 in 2017) or MLK's actual birthday (January
15); the campus is pretty dead in mid-January.
What we have is this year's theme: "Art as Resistance and Remembrance",
and the guests: "Spoken Word artists Janae Johnson and Porsha O." Janae
and Porsha seem to have been picked out of the artist lineup
Strength of Doves
Productions ("a management company representing social justice
minded spoken word artists, teaching artists, community organizers, and
At this point,
I'm already wondering if the MLK Celebration had a budget cut this year.
Here's UNH's description of Janae:
Janae Johnson is a spoken work [sic] poet, teaching
artists [sic], educator, and organizer residing in Berkeley, California. She
is a 2015 National Poetry Slam Champion as as [sic]
the 2015 Women of the
World Poetry Slam Champion. Her work, which is mostly focused on black
queerness and/or black masculinity, has appeared on PBS News Hour and in
Kinfolks: a journal of Black expression.
They'll probably get around to fixing those typos at some point.
This description appears to have been taken (and mangled) from
the Strength of
Doves site. There we get the additional info that Janae "is
committed to creating safer artistic spaces and has little tolerance for
people trying to kill her vibe."
I can sympathize. I hate it when people even try to touch my
When she is not writing poems, Janae is probably making a pineapple
based smoothie, eating a breakfast burrito and/or listening to a Stevie
Wonder song. She also appreciates black musicals. A lot.
She also likes that "and/or" construction. A lot.
How about Porsha?
Porsha Olayiwola is the 2014 Individual World Poetry Slam Champion.
Porsha separates herself from the field of issue-based performance poets
by applying advanced political analysis to examine injustice while
providing perspective on concrete solutions with exciting and accessible
language. A native of Chicago, Porsha now resides in Boston where she
writes and teaches.
Does Porsha really apply "advanced political analysis" in her
poetry? I would
like to see an example of that. But, you know: "advanced" is compared
UNH leaves out a snippet from Porsha's
Doves page description: "Black, poet, dyke-goddess, hip-hop feminist,
I don't believe that "dyke-goddess" is a slightly misspelled reference
Greek goddess of justice.
That aside, you
might ask (at least I did): What's the difference between a feminist and a
"womanist"? As it turns out, there's a well-known
“Womanist is to feminist as purple is to lavender” – Alice Walker.
Ah, that explains it. Sort of. The material at the link goes on to
describe it as feminism that "inclusive especially of Black American
Culture", conscious of the traditional feminist "middle class white
women" roots. (Not to mention “many early so-called feminists supported
racist eugenics initiatives, including sterilization of minority
Bottom line: "womanism" is a branch-off
feminism into which
middle-class tube-tying white women are not invited.
So UNH's 2017 MLK celebration sounds as if it will be mildly
entertaining, but mostly tedious. As usual, I'm not invited; it's a safe
space, and my mere presence might kill vibes.
[Past Pun Salad MLK@UNH coverage:
We skipped reporting the 2008 and 2016 events, because they were