'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 at Strength of Doves Productions ("a management company representing social justice minded spoken word artists, teaching artists, community organizers, and activists").
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 vibe.
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 to what?
UNH leaves out a snippet from Porsha's Strength of Doves page description: "Black, poet, dyke-goddess, hip-hop feminist, womanist, friend".
I don't believe that "dyke-goddess" is a slightly misspelled reference to Dike, the 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 answer:
“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 women”.)
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.